Speak for Britain!: A New History of the Labour Party
Appearing at a critical juncture in the history of the Labour Party, Speak for Britain! provides an original and challenging interpretation of Labour's evolution from its sectional trade union origins to its present status as a national governing party. Making use of a wide range of primary sources as well as constituency party records that reveal the dynamics of membership recruitment and the adoption of candidates, Martin Pugh challenges many traditional accounts written from the perspective of the national leadership. Controversially, he argues that Labour never entirely succeeded in becoming "the party of the working class." Rather than converting the whole working class to Socialism, it skillfully adapted itself to the variations in local and regional political cultures by making use of Victorian Liberal-Radical traditions in some areas and employing a populist Tory brand of politics in others. Moreover, the character of the party was shaped by the recruitment of many of its influential leaders from middle and upper-class Conservative backgrounds. Speak for Britain! charts Labour's rise to power by re-examining the importance of the First World War, the General Strike of 1926, Labour's breakthrough at the 1945 general election, the influence of post-war affluence and consumerism on the fortunes and character of the party, and its revival after the defeats of the Thatcher era. Finally, in a fresh assessment of Labour in government since 1997, Martin Pugh shows how the party became marginalized and emasculated by Tony Blair's presidential style of government. He also reveals one of the party's enduring weaknesses: the tendency to choose the wrong leaders—and then to hang on to them for too long.