The reforming Liberal Governments of 1906-14 helped lay the foundations of the British welfare state; amongst other achievements, they introduced old age pensions, national insurance and the principle of graduated taxation. Underpinning these political achievements lay the school of thought known as the “New Liberalism”.
New Liberal writers such as Green, Hobhouse and Hobson advanced the philosophical underpinnings of the Liberal Party onwards from Gladstonian individualism, developing the concept of community and drawing attention to the need for positive action to redress social and economic inequalities. Yet theirs was still identifiably a liberal and non-collectivist approach, stressing the need for participative reformism, rather than seeking to impose reforms from above.
Was Tony Blair’s “new Labour” Party adopting this agenda? Or were the Liberal Democrats the true inheritors of the New Liberalism?