The UK is going through perhaps the largest retrenchment in welfare programs ever seen in an advanced democracy. Public opinion has also turned against welfare to an unprecedented degree. Until recently, both major parties largely embraced the new settlement, using increasingly harsh rhetoric to describe welfare and its users. This book project asks why these transformations occurred. I argue that the ‘New Labour’ years were most crucial for the long-term trajectory of British welfare provision, and offer an explicitly political and top-down explanation for new Labour’s changes. I emphasize the roles of party competition and changes in the composition of its MPs in driving its decision-making, and the importance of its politicians' rhetoric in re-shaping public opinion. As evidence, the project draws on biographical and historical accounts, rich public opinion data and survey experiments, together with a database that I have assembled of every speech made about welfare issues in the British House of Commons from 1987-2015, which I use to analyse political discourse on welfare provision.
The Political Science Seminar Series is convened by Desmond King and Ben Ansell. For more information on this or any of the seminars in the series, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.