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In 1998 at the direction of the Government, an 'on-line think tank' called Nexus initiated (within 'on-side' academic circles) a series of debates on the Third Way, involving Anthony Giddens; David Marquand, Julian Le Grand, Professor of Social Policy at the LSE; and the Directors of the Institute for Public Policy Research and the Fabian Society. The founder of the network was Neal Lawson of the lobbying firm LLM Communications. It also had a journal associated with it, titled Renewal. It seems that Nexus ceased to exist in 1999, although its email log still remains.[1]

Nexus was held up as providing a 'tested model of how intellectuals, academics, social entrepreneurs and policy experts would assist the development of the public policy of centre-left governments.'[2] 'But it is the Internet that has proved the best medium for academic feedback on new Labour's progress.' wrote Brian Brivati in 1998. Nexus was characterised breathlessly as 'the most interesting by far and away' example. 'Headed by David Halpern at Cambridge and Stuart White at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it now has on-line policy forums through which it has just conducted a debate on The Third Way which was submitted to the prime minister. Nexus offers a direct line for good ideas to reach into the heart of government, and other channels may soon be open. Rich debates are developing and academics are leading many of the discussions.'[3] All very hopeful. It was also hyped by Andrew Adonis - who went on to become an adviser to Blair and then a member of the House of Lords - as 'a fierce Internet debate' which has 'been raging' on this issue, 'hosted by Nexus, the nearest thing there is to a New Labour intellectual forum. Its leaders are due to make a 'third way' presentation to Mr Blair when it is complete.'[4]

One of the organisers, David Halpern of Nexus, a network of leftish academics, insisted that a seminar of this kind could have been rambling and undisciplined if they had not hit upon the novel idea of opening a Third Way website and inviting interpretations of what it means. Some contributions suggested that academics who generally support the Government do not like the sound of the Third Way. One, who was not invited to Downing Street, described it as 'vaguely mystical'. Journalist Peter Kellner suggested that 'mutualism' might be a better word. Others do not like the implication that all political ideas which predate the rise of Blair's arrival are being implicitly thrown away. Academic and former Labour MP David Marquand suggested that a third way need be nothing more than a revised social democracy, in the tradition of the Social Democratic Party which he helped found in 1981. Blair answered skilfully by making conciliatory remarks about a 'modernised' social democracy. Neal Lawson, one of the participants, said: 'There were lots of very sceptical academics there, but you know what Blair is like: he is so bloody disarming that it was very positive really.'[5]

Even its founders now look back on this with a little embarassment. 'There was a well-attended symposium, hosted by Renewal, where Blair debated with a cross-section of the British centre-left intelligentsia. That gave rise to the brief flourish of Nexus--the virtual think-tank that searched in vain for the third way. Blair's very brief flirtation with stakeholding and longer but no morefruitful grasp of a third way encouraged the view that the search for the 'big idea' might actually produce something radical and useful.'[6]

So Nexus soon deteriorated to extinction. One more confirmation of the vacuum in Third Way thinking, and the inability of its proponents to apply its ideas to concrete social realities.[7] Paul Thompson and Neal Lawson wrote an obituary in 2007:

Renewal supported Blair's candidacy and early policies because only he had 'the language and the image to reach out beyond Labour's core support'. We supported the symbolic change for Clause Four--'a poor clause and a poor cause' as another editorial putit. 1996-97 was something of a honeymoon period between the journal and the new leadership... The promise of a new politics had yet to be seriously tested. We preferred to give the benefit of the doubt. Just prior to the 1997 election we asserted that, 'there are still plenty of cynics around who claim that Labour's commitment is skin deep and that once the Party gets its hands on the levers of parliamentary sovereignty and the quango state, we will see a modified version of business as usual'. Woops--not our most prescient judgement.[8]

Lobby scandal

Lobbyist Neal Lawson is under pressure to resign from the influential think-tank Nexus, which he set up after working on Mr Blair's General Election campaign. Nexus is so highly regarded in Downing Street that two months ago it staged a seminar at No 10 on fu-ture Government policy. But board members fear their independence could be tainted by the involvement of Mr Lawson, said to have boasted about his access to Ministers and their aides. He heads Lawson Lucas Mendelsohn - one of the New Labour lobbying companies embroiled in the 'Cronygate' affair - and Nexus members are seeking an emergency meeting to discuss his future with them.
The fresh row comes as Mr Blair faces questions in the Commons next week over the roles of at least two of his special advisers and their links with lobbying companies or industrialists. Mr Lawson was said last week to have boasted: 'We can reach anyone. We can go to Gordon Brown if we have to.' A former researcher for the Chancellor before the Election, Mr Lawson is a cofounder of Nexus through which he is involved in setting up policy seminars, including one at Downing Street in May on Mr Blair's 'third way' vision for future Government policy.
Mr Blair later publicly praised Mr Lawson's efforts as 'an important contribution to that project'. But there are fears that the work of a policy group, with top-level access to Downing Street and Ministers on the basis of its academic integrity, is incompatible with the interests of a commercial outfit taking fees for inside knowledge. A former director of a company which had dealings with LLM said last night: 'They always used their links with Nexus.' Sarah Atkin, a senior board member of Nexus, said: 'We must ensure at all times that a clear distinction is maintained. There should be no danger of Nexus being perceived to be used to promote commercial interests. 'It would be highly unethical for anybody to use the organisation and its connections to Downing Street to pitch for business. It is not to be used as a stepping stone to a glittering career. 'Anyone doing so should do the decent thing and resign.' But an LLM spokesman said: 'We definitely have no commercial links with Nexus.' And the firm's two other heads, Ben Lucas and Jon Mendelsohn - both former Labour aides are said to have no formal connections with the policy group.[9]
Jack Straw was greeted at the Nexus conference by his old adviser Ben Lucas, now a partner in Lawson's lobbying firm. Lucas and a colleague suggested to our man, who was posing as an executive seeking favours, that they could get in with the Government by following the example of Tesco which had given A12 million to Peter Mandelson's Millennium Dome.
And then . . .? we asked.
'This Government likes to do deals,' Lucas said.
Lucas made deal-making a lot easier before he moved into lobbying. He chaired the Labour Co-ordinating Committee in the mid-Nineties. This Blairite group rubbished John Smith for wanting to give workers employment rights, opposed the renationalisation of the water companies and helped persuade the party to support the Private Finance Initiative which will result in the public paying a fortune for the services of cor-porations for decades to come.
On the Nexus website there was a photograph of the scandal-hit Lucas sharing a joke with Straw. It was mentioned in last week's Tribune newspaper and readers were told where to find the revealing shot on the internet. Within hours the photo was removed; air-brushed from history.[10]

Lobbying firms

Former lobbying firms

References, Resources and Contact

For more details see William Clark The Tainted Word Variant, No. 13.




  1. It is here:
  2. Review The New Hard Politics, Workers Online, Extracted from For the People - Reclaiming Government (Pluto Press) - Edited by Denis Glover and Greg Patmore
  3. BRIAN BRIVATI Friends of Blair; Perspective The Times Higher Education Supplement March 27, 1998 SECTION: Issue 1325, Pg.20
  4. ANDREW ADONIS 'The middle of the road is a dangerous place' The Observer March 8, 1998 SECTION: The Observer News Page; Pg. 23
  5. ANDY MCSMITH Third Way? Which Way?; Inside the workathon The Observer May 10, 1998, SECTION: The Observer News Page; Pg. 23.
  6. Renewal March 22, 2007 Over and out: reflections on an extended conversation with New Labour; Editorial; Labour Party BYLINE: Thompson, Paul; Lawson, Neal SECTION: Pg. 1(6) Vol. 15 No. 1 ISSN: 0968-252X
  7. Geoff Andrews Technocrats or Intellectuals?; Third Way Debate Summary can be found here. Their own figures say that it got 140 postings by 45 people.
  8. Renewal March 22, 2007 Over and out: reflections on an extended conversation with New Labour; Editorial; Labour Party BYLINE: Thompson, Paul; Lawson, Neal SECTION: Pg. 1(6) Vol. 15 No. 1 ISSN: 0968-252X
  9. Chris Mclaughlin Cronygate: New sleaze row rocks Downing Street MAIL ON SUNDAY July 12, 1998, SECTION: Pg. 2
  10. NICK COHEN Hold on a minute: Just don't call Derek a Tory The Observer July 12, 1998 SECTION: The Observer News Page; Pg. 32
  11. Register Entry for 30 November 2010 to 28 February 2011 APPC, accessed 28 January 2015