In August 1892, Keir Hardie took up his seat in Parliament as the first independent Labour MP. Hardie’s world was a bleak one of factories, cities, fledgling trade unions and manual work. Today, over a century on, the computer terminal has replaced the cloth cap and the party leader, Tony Blair, is on the verge of becoming the first Labour Prime Minister for nearly 20 years. This work traces the development of the Labour Party and explores the lives and careers of the individuals who shaped it — Hardie, who left school at eight; vain and handsome Ramsay MacDonald; pedagogic Clement Atlee and avuncular Jim Callaghan — and analyzes recurring and contentious issues such as defence, the economy, welfare and Europe. At a time when a new Labour is resurgent in Britain under Blair’s leadership, this assessment discusses how the current party directly stems from its past.
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