Professor G. D. H. Cole has described socialism as a ‘broad human movement on behalf of the bottom dog’. British Labour’s distinctive brand of social democracy fits this definition well; born of the need to improve working-class conditions, it has shunned systematised dogma and instead tapped the wells of instinctive human reactions to poverty and injustice. This has been both its strength and its weakness. The lack of a coherent ideology has appealed to the traditional British mistrust of abstract notions, and although Labour’s idealistic element has inspired many of its middle-class leaders, the Party’s success electorally has depended upon its historical identification with working-class interests. Sidney and Beatrice Webb helped, but it was the trade unions that made Labour a major party of state. Ernest Bevin, not Methodism or Marxism, is Labour’s heritage.
KeywordsTrade Union Power Centre Public Ownership Labour Party Socialist Ideology
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