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Keywords:

  • progressivism;
  • liberalism;
  • Liberal Democrats;
  • Labour Party;
  • Nick Clegg

Britain's Liberal and Labour Parties have long identified themselves with the progressive tradition, but have often disagreed about what progress means. This paper examines British Liberals' efforts to critique state socialism during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s and to articulate an alternative vision of progress based on wider property ownership, competitive markets and consumer choice. Although this vision sharpened the Liberal Party's political identity, it did little to improve its electoral fortunes, and gave way after 1959 to a more social liberal approach which overlapped with the thinking of Labour revisionists. The paper concludes by considering how much scope still exists for the contemporary Liberal Democrats to offer a distinctive progressive vision.