If a week is a long time in politics, a century can seem surprisingly short. With uncanny timing, the centenary of the death of Keir Hardie, Labour’s first leader and arguably its most towering figure, falls at the end of this month, on the very weekend that Labour delegates will gather in Brighton for this year’s annual conference, the first under the party’s new leader.
Hardie has long been claimed by all wings of the party. Possibly the most unlikely endorsement came from Peter Mandelson who suggested, back in 1992, that Hardie would have felt “rather pleased” with New Labour’s changes. In his failed bid for the Labour leadership in 2010, David Miliband made a far more cerebral case for Hardie as a self-help, rather than a statist, socialist. And earlier this summer, in this paper, Alan Johnson invoked the “pragmatism” of Labour’s first leader in support of the candidature of Yvette Cooper and New Labour’s record in office.
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