Starting with the formation of what was to become the Labour Party, Andrew Thorpe charts the movement's history right up to the resignation of Tony Blair in 2007. This is a masterful book, written in a clear and easy prose. He structures the book well, devoting a chapter to each period Labour were in office. Thought has gone into what to include, given this is a gerneral overiew of a 100 years of politics. I believe he has done a great job in this regard and you come away feeling you understood why Labour won or lost each general election. The main part of the book is 300 pages. There is also a detailed 31 page bibliography suggesting further reading for each chapter. He has really drawn upon a great depth of knowledge to create this book. It is also categorised well. There are 3 appendices too. The percentage and share of the vote won 1900-2005, the list of Labour leaders, and a full list of the cabinet members of each Labour government. For a medium length overview it couldn't be much better.
This is a good, up-to-date survey written by a leading scholar on the subject. As a relatively short book, however, it is designed as an argument as much as a narrative. And the argument seems to be that Labour falls into trouble whenever "moderates" - those who believe in making a liberal capitalist economy work, so that the fruits of progress can be shared among all levels of the population - are confronted with "economic crises" that bring unemployment and/or recession. The author seems rather disappointed that Labour has never made, and probably never will make, a serious attempt at introducing a full-blooded socialist system. Hmm. The 1964-70 Wilson governments were pretty disastrous, as the author concedes, but how much worse would they have been if there had been a push for "socialism"? His conclusion - surely right - is that the Labour governments with the best record are those of Attlee from 1945 to 1951. Yet Attlee and his colleagues were themselves, to a large degree, "managers of capitalism". So the book's overall argument is a bit inconsistent. Even so, a recommended read.