Labour and Cultural Change

Labour and Cultural Change

Labour and Cultural Change

Labour and Cultural Change

Synopsis

This book is the first in the new series The Labour governments, 1964-70 and concentrates on Britain's domestic policy during Harold Wilson's tenure as Prime Minister. The book deals, in particular, with how the Labour government and Labour party as a whole tried to come to terms with the 1960s cultural revolution. It is grounded in original research, takes unique account of responses from Labour's grass roots and from Wilson's ministerial colleagues, and constructs a total history of the party at this critical moment in history. Steven Fielding situates Labour in its wider cultural context and focuses on how the party approached issues such as the apparent transformation of the class structure, the changing place of women, rising black immigration, the widening generation gap and increasing calls for direct participation in politics.

Excerpt

Before the Labour Party entered government in October 1964 its leader, Harold Wilson, raised hopes of creating a 'new Britain', based on furthering the 'white heat' of technological change and aiming to pursue egalitarianism at home and abroad. in June 1970 Labour was ejected from office having lived up to few of these aspirations. Most analysts of the party's period in power consequently characterise it as a miserable failure. the majority focus on the Labour leadership's lack of ambition and reserve much of their censure for Wilson's strategic shortcomings. Present-day 'New' Labour, for which the 1960s are clearly an embarrassment, effectively endorses this glum assessment.

The three volumes in this series tackle different aspects of the 1964–70 Wilson governments' record and assume contrasting approaches to their subjects. Each, however, benefits from access to recently released government files housed in the Public Record Office, as well as other documents lately made available to historians. Together the volumes constitute the most complete record of these governments currently obtainable. While not denying Labour in office was a disappointment when measured against party rhetoric, the authors assume a more nuanced view compared with most previous accounts. in particular, they highlight a wider range of reasons for the governments' relative lack of achievement. If the disposition of Labour's leaders played its part, so did the nature of the party, the delicate state of the economy, the declining place of Britain in the world order and the limited ambitions of the British people themselves.

In testing some well entrenched assumptions about these governments in light of new evidence, the authors dispute their status as the black sheep of Labour history and establish some new perspectives. in this respect, these volumes therefore mark an important stage in the permanent revisionism to which all historians should subject the past. It is hoped they will encourage more research on Labour's period in office and challenge their overly grim reputation among both academics and lay readers alike.

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