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Are the 1930s the true historical parallel for Labour today?

The 1980s are more frequently cited, but with care, lessons can be drawn from the interwar period

By Colm Murphy  

George Lansbury—an ascetic, dissenting leader with a strong sense of his own conscience. Photo: PA Images

As Labour’s leadership contest drags on, the temptation to revisit the party’s past is powerful. One place to look is its “wilderness years” of 1979-1997. Yet, Labour has a longer history, and the troubled 1930s are especially riven with striking parallels. Perhaps, then, mournful Labour members seeking inspiration should return to this grim decade?

After all, the 30s opened with an economic catastrophe, swiftly followed by a near-fatal election defeat. Labour had the misfortune to find itself in government when the reapers of the Wall Street Crash and Great Depression crossed the Atlantic. Buffeted by the whirlwind, Labour’s prime…

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