ACADEMICS met Tony Blair this week having already set the agenda for a unique Downing Street seminar examining the scope for a third way between right and left in British politics.
More than 25 academics met the prime minister and his senior policy advisers yesterday to try to provide definitions for a way between the free market and socialism. The seminar was the result of collaboration between Downing Street and the policy and ideas network Nexus.
Those attending the seminar were armed with the precis of an earlier Internet debate organised by Nexus. The two-week debate generated 500 pages of text, which was summarised to form the agenda for the meeting.
Stewart Wood, research fellow in politics at Magdalen College, Oxford, and a director of Nexus, said that three substantive questions emerged from the Net debate.
The questions centred on the feasibility of new forms of state, new divisions between, or reformed conceptions of, individual and state responsibilities, and the democratisation of the state through decentralisation.
Dr Wood said: "There are benefits for both the government that is open to outside influence and for academics to contribute to an important debate."
Until now, he said, the third way had been defined by what it is not, in terms of the political right and left, rather than what it actually meant. Dr Wood said that one of the aims of the seminar was to examine the political and philosophical basis for the third way as advocated by the government.