New Labour, Old 'New Liberalism'?

Barry Doyle reflects the reinvention of Labour as ‘New Labour’ in the political sphere.

The British Labour Party is currently reinventing itself as 'New Labour', and though journalists have greeted this reinvention with shock and surprise, it is, in fact, a rather common occurrence in British politics. Labour has experienced comparable overhauls in 1918 and 1964 and the Tories in 1924, 1947 and 1975, yet it is the New Liberalism of the Edwardian period which has most captivated the political historian of modern Britain.

Since the publication of Peter Clarke’s Lancashire and the New Liberalism in 1971, a heated debate has raged over the importance to the Liberal Party of the new set of ideas developed by the 'two Hobs' – L.T. Hobhouse and J.A. Hobson – and popularised by David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill. In particular, historians are keen to establish whether a form of Progressivism had triumphed as the dominant ideological position within the Edwardian party and if so, whether this was a sufficient change to ensure a future for Liberalism.

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