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Keywords:

  • New Labour;
  • political economy;
  • financial crisis;
  • British social democracy

This article traces the roots of ideas currently influencing the Labour party relating to the role of the state in Britain's political economy, exploring the trajectory by which such ideas have entered contemporary debate and how they continue to shape the party's agenda. Subsequent sections explore diverse interpretations of New Labour, the economic legacy of the Blair and Brown governments, the re-imagining of British political economy undertaken by Labour under Miliband's leadership, and the interlinking ‘progressive dilemmas’ that have so far emerged. The article concludes by suggesting that the ambitious rediscovery of interventionism will only be realisable if Labour confronts historical dilemmas relating to the structure and efficacy of the British state. Such a confrontation requires serious engagement between the doctrines of British social democracy and the overlapping and interlinking narratives of liberal political thought.