Labour History Review

'A paper not so much for the armchair but for the factory and the street': Fenner Brockway and the Independent Labour Party's New Leader, 1926–1946

Labour History Review (2010), 75, (2), 208–226.

Abstract

In 1926 the weekly journal of the Independent Labour Party (ILP), the New Leader, welcomed a new editor. Fenner Brockway was an experienced journalist, a committed socialist, and devoted to the ILP. His appointment was a consequence of a more militant left-wing outlook gaining prevalence in the party, careful political manoeuvring, and a desire to communicate the necessity for socialism to the ordinary working class. Until 1946 Brockway worked tirelessly on the New Leader, combining this with several other party roles and external commitments. This article scrutinizes the nature of the paper under Brockway's editorship, which has previously been cursorily dismissed as a failure and disappointment. It examines the format and content of the paper, its function within the party, staffing, circulation, and distribution. Despite the decline of the ILP, it is argued that Brockway delivered a newspaper which met the requirements of the party at the time. Further, it demonstrates that, despite the drastically decreasing party membership in these years, the New Leader consistently broadcast the ILP's message to a wider audience than previously thought. Finally, this article contributes the first account of Brockway's New Leader and a detailed provenance for a journal which has regularly been utilized as a source by historians of the ILP and of the wider labour movement.

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Author details

Kent, Hazel