Looking back at the commentary of the time is instructive.Many accused both me and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of acting like conservatives, and we were told our reforms would never work. The right wants austerity; the old left resists the necessary structural reform.
It was the first time anyone could recall that a Democrat U. president and progressive left European politicians had come together on the same platform to celebrate what we had in common.
So there we were late at night in the sumptuous Florentine surroundings, where the very walls and paintings were suffused with political history, debating political ideas—actually, a new political idea.
However, over time as the institutions of collective power grew and ordinary people became payers of tax, it became plain that the state could also abuse power, spend unwisely, and be a vested interest standing in the way of necessary change.
Likewise, the civil society counterparts of the state—trade unions—could do the same.
Blair became leader of the British Labour Party in July 1994 following the sudden death of his predecessor, John Smith.
Under Blair's leadership, the party won a landslide victory in the May 1997 general election, ending 18 years of government by the Conservative Party.
But it accepts as a reality that for the original goals of progressive politics to be achieved, we have to reform the way that collective power, including state power, operates.
We have to make sure the state, if it spends, spends wisely; that services are run for the benefit of those who depend on them; that issues like crime, seen as the preserve of the right, are taken seriously by the left; and that we are the champions of a competitive and entrepreneurial private sector, as well as organized labor.
It is great that Third Way ideas are back in vogue. Virtually wherever I go in the world from Latin America to the Far East, Third Way thinking is getting a hearing.
This is for a very simple reason: It speaks to the critical balance that most sensible people want to strike in public policy.