Richard Jobson
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Revisionism and the battle over Clause IV, 1951–63
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This chapter assesses the political significance of Labour’s nostalgia in the 1950s and early 1960s. During this period, leading revisionists within the party, including Hugh Gaitskell and Anthony Crosland, argued that Labour’s attachment to the past was negatively impacting on its electoral fortunes. They stated that Labour’s continued commitment to widespread public ownership (as envisaged in Clause IV of the party’s 1918 constitution) was the product of nostalgia for a bygone era and that it left the party out of touch with modern developments. This chapter shows that these claims contained a great deal of merit. More specifically, it demonstrates how the party’s resistance to Hugh Gaitskell’s attempt to revise Clause IV in 1959-60 was defined by its nostalgic impetus. Gaitskell’s failure in this area was indicative of the continued strength and resilience of the party’s nostalgia.

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