Was New Labour a hegemonic project? (3rd year dissertation)
My politics dissertation focused on the Labour Party during the so-called ‘New Labour’ period. I was seeking to answer the question, ‘Was New Labour a hegemonic project?’. My central thesis was that New Labour is often pigeon-holed as ‘neo-liberal’, or ‘Thatcherism with a human face’, and that this is unfair. In fact, a number of New Labour’s policy positions, as well as their general ethos and intentions, marked a demonstrable and marked shift from the Thatcher era. Similarly, their changes shifted the political paradigm and, for example, forced the Conservative Party under David Cameron to take up a number of policy positions which had been pioneered and embedded by Tony Blair’s Labour governments. I received a mark of 68 for this piece of work.
My tutor wrote:
‘Overall, there is much that impresses in this dissertation. It has a clear (and contestable) central argument, it is very well written and logically structured, it draws on an extensive literature and – impressively – on four interviews with well-known commentators. It shows good understanding of the topic and makes a plausible and cogent case’.
In what ways were western influences significant in the demise of communism in Poland?
This essay, totalling 4,000 words, was written as one of two assignments for the module, ‘Eastern Europe in Transition’. I sought to assess the impact of western leaders – namely Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher – , the Vatican and Pope John Paul II, and the Helsinki Agreements. These influences were significant in a number of ways, but most significantly, they added legitimacy to the Polish opposition, and conversely undermined the ailing and virtually non-existent legitimacy of the Polish regime. As part of my research, I corresponded via email with Sir Bernard Ingham, Margaret Thatcher’s Press Secretary during most of her time as Prime Minister. His insights were fascinating.
I achieved a mark of 80 for this piece of work.
Did the Polish communist regime collapse in 1989 because of a crisis of legitimacy?
This piece of work was a 2,500 word essay, and formed the second assessment for the module, ‘Eastern Europe in Transition’. I draw upon the work of two political scientists to make my case: Leslie Holmes and Jan Pakulski. I define the terms ‘legitimacy’ and ‘conditional tolerance’ and assert that the Polish regime collapsed not because of a crisis of legitimacy – they never had it in the first place – but the erosion of conditional tolerance and the accompanying decline of elite self-legitimacy.
I achieved a grade of 78 for this piece of work. My tutor’s comments included, ‘This is an excellent, really thoughtful, well researched and tightly argued essay’.