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History of Labour Party explored in new book

The current battle for the leadership of the Labour Party is in full swing with televised show downs between the candidates hitting the airwaves.

A new edition of ‘A History of the British Labour Party’ written by a historian at the University of Exeter has recently been published.

The book brings up to date analysis of the party, examining both Gordon Brown's period in office and the Labour Party under the leadership of Ed Miliband.

Professor Andrew Thorpe's study has been the leading single-volume text on the Labour Party since its first edition in 1997 and has now been thoroughly revised throughout to include new approaches. The fourth edition of the book covers the party's history, from 1900 to the eve of the 2015 general election and examines the reasons for the party's formation, and its aims.  It also analyses the party's successes and failures, including its rise to second party status and remarkable recovery from its problems in the 1980s.

The main issue which is on most Labour supporters and politically minded people’s minds is about leadership which is discussed in the book.  There is a strong focus on key individuals such as Blair, Kinnock, Wilson and Atlee looking at the main events and personalities of the Labour Party during this period. It also traces the continuities in the party’s history as well as the changes.

Professor Thorpe said:“My research offers insights into aspects such as the quality of leadership in the Labour Party – why some leaders like Blair, Wilson and Attlee were able to win elections but others like Brown and Kinnock were not.  Labour’s repeated difficulties in regaining power after periods of opposition, which again have come to the fore with the disastrous result in this year’s General Election, are explored in the book.

He added:“I have looked at the geographical base of Labour’s support, with weakness in southern England – very notable in 2015 – a particular theme. The book also focuses on the questions of left versus right.  Socialism and trade unionism also feature prominently: the importance of the unions, as a positive force but also, potentially, a problem in terms of image – as seen in recent years – is also discussed.”

The new leader of the Labour Party will be announced at a specially convened conference on 12 September – the nominees are: Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Jeremy Corbyn and Liz Kendall.

Date: 18 June 2015

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