With half the newspapers in the land pronouncing the death of New Labour following last week’s crushing defeat in the Crewe and Nantwich by-election, the party desperately needs some new ideas. One suggestion comes in the new issue of Prospect from Philip Collins, a former speechwriter to Tony Blair, and Richard Reeves, author of a recent biography of John Stuart Mill.
The Labour party has two contrasting political traditions, say Collins and Reeves. One, the centralising, Fabian tradition, tends to see a problem and then to assume a policy solution. The other—the “radical liberal” tradition as exemplified by the likes of Leonard Hobhouse and Lloyd George—is closer to Isaiah Berlin’s notion of “positive liberty”: it sees the role of the state as providing not the “absence of restraint, but the presence of opportunity.”
Now that the big division in British politics is between not left and right, but between liberal and authoritarian, it is the latter tradition of liberalism, say Collins and Reeves, that the party must focus on if it is to regain the trust of voters. This implies a number of policy changes in areas like the NHS, taxation and the environment. You can read the full treatment here.