Break the Shackles of New Labour

You will find below a challenge to youth workers and management thrown down by Bernard Davies. It first appeared in a shorter version on the pages of Children and Young People Now at

It begins:

As youth workers struggle with their target-driven ‘agendas’, they can take heart from the gathering backlash against the New Labour ‘project’ for public services– and the high powered names it is attracting. Over a year ago Sir Brian McMaster, in sub-titling his report on excellence in the arts ‘From Measurement to Judgment’, pointed to a need to ‘move away from “top-down” targets’. More recently, BBC Reith lecturer Michael Sandel concluded that the era of ‘market triumphalism‘ now ended was far too dependent on a ‘market-mimicking calculus’ whose assumptions were ‘no better than a hunch’.

In response I mused: It will come as no surprise that I endorse Bernard’s succinct summing up of the contradictions now faced by youth workers and their management. What is now more interesting than further analysis from such as myself is the continuing and overwhelming silence of those within youth work still wedded to the target culture. Who is willing from within the ranks of the Youth Work bureaucracy to step forward and defend the selling of its soul to the ideology of the market?

Breaking the shackles of New Labour’s policy

Comments and criticisms of Bernard’s piece warmly welcomed.


  1. very iteresting to hear a voice which is going against the flow of many recent years. As a yth worker for over 30 yrs i have come out of the target driven rat race to form a charitable project which will work with small numbers and not be target driven. I am rejecting the prevailing culture and still struggle i feel on my own with the mass consciesness of the crazy business model and capitalistic market driven culture which is obsessed with money and power. There is a growing subculture of people who, lik ethe hippies of old have turned away and almost dropped out of the race. Turning to more important relational lifestyles and issues involving green, simple and sustainable caring lives. From small coops and gorilla gardenning to faraging and care farming. From?lets schemes ,eco warriors. shouldnt we as yth workers be enabling young people to question the political fundementals? All the time? If only by our own example of living?

    • Forgive the belated reply. Chris. I’m in Sheffield in November. Will try to find you. I know Stocksdale from my race walking days! I’m up for a bit of political fundamentalism!

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