RESEARCHERS in Huddersfield have helped to put New Labour’ record under the microscope.

A team of researchers, mainly based at Huddersfield University, reviewed the success of Tony Blair and his ministers in delivering “social justice”.

The result of their efforts comes in a new book – Redefining Social Justice – with the subtitle New Labour, Rhetoric and Reality.

The book is edited by Valerie Bryson, emeritus professor of politics at the university, and Pamela Fisher, who lectures in sociology at Liverpool University.

The book acknowledges a raft of positive changes during the Blair years, such as the minimum wage, policies to help disabled people gain employment and improved race relations.

But most contributors also detected flaws in New Labour’s approach – with its emphasis on the virtues of consumer choice, the introduction of a market-based system in the public sector which created problems in fields such as education and healthcare and the state’s expanding role in surveillance and “social engineering”.

In addition to Prof Bryson, contributors from Huddersfield University included Prof James Avis, who specialises in post-compulsory education and training; Dr Ruth Deery, reader in midwifery and Dr Chris Gifford, head of criminology, politics and sociology.

Others from the university were Lesley Jeffries, professor of English language; Prof Jim McAuley, a political researcher with a specialism in Ulster politics and society; Dr Catherine McGlynn, a senior lecturer in politics; Dr Peter Sanderson, head of the department of community and international education; and Dr Paul Thomas, senior lecturer in youth and community work.

Among their contributions, Prof McAuley and Dr McGlynn’s chapter dealing with Ulster noted that early reviews of the rise of New Labour made little or no reference to Northern Ireland as central issue.

But they argued that Tony Blair’s “skilful diplomacy and unflagging commitment” to restarting negotiations in Ulster were key factors in securing a peace accord which officially brought to an end one of the bloodiest conflicts in post-war Europe.

The book is published by Manchester University Press, priced £60 hardback or £14.99 paperback.