The Progressive Dilemma and the social democratic perspective
in Interpreting the Labour Party

This chapter considers the notion of the 'progressive dilemma' as outlined by David Marquand in his collection of essays. It outlines the social democratic perspective, and characterises the outlook of those described as social democrats. The Progressive Dilemma is taken as the exemplar of a wider 'social democratic' interpretation of the Labour Party. The party was tied too closely to the group and to the industrial trade unions to construct a long-term socially diverse anti-Conservative coalition. The confining 'structure and mentality' of the unions meant, therefore, that the Labour lacked the necessary political imagination to sustain itself in office. Here the progressive alliance's very heterogeneity was seen as giving it a further advantage over its 'labourist' successor. According to Marquand, the Labour should have emulated the model established by the Liberal-led Edwardian 'progressive alliance'.

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Interpreting the Labour Party

Approaches to Labour politics and history

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