New Labour, new openness?
in The politics of freedom of information
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New Labour’s support for FOI was partially through willing embrace and partially through having it forced upon them. By the 1990s party backing, policy shifts and pragmatic opportunism had pushed the law centre stage.

FOI was partly thrust upon the Labour Party leadership. In the legislature, FOI’s long support in the Labour Party had built into a powerful current of cross-party support. It was also powered by the spread of FOI around the world and, perhaps mostly importantly, by rapidly shifting technology and changing public expectations in the area of information provision.

FOI was embraced by the leadership as very much a product of Labour’s eighteen years of out of power. FOI was an opportunistic policy that served to embarrass the secretive and ‘sleaze’-ridden Conservative government. It also chimed, after the experience of Thatcherism, with a current of Labour Party thought on breaking up power, and locked into a wide-ranging programme of constitutional reforms aimed at redesigning politics. More than this, the idea itself had obtained a powerful magnetic force. It was bound up with Labour’s sense of self and appealed as a policy that symbolised Labour’s radicalism and its new approach towards government and the people.

The politics of freedom of information

How and why governments pass laws that threaten their power

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