In the early twentieth century, new mass media—popular newspapers, radio, film—exploded at the same time that millions of Britons received the vote in the franchise expansions of 1918 and 1928. The growing centrality of the commercial media to democratic life quickly became evident as organizations of all stripes saw its potential to reach new voters. The new media presented both an exciting opportunity and a significant challenge to the new Labour Party.
Laura Beers traces Labour’s rise as a movement for working-class men to its transformation into a national party that won a landslide victory in 1945. Key to its success was a skillful media strategy designed to win over a broad, diverse coalition of supporters. Though some in the movement harbored reservations about a socialist party making use of the “capitalist” commercial media, others advocated using the media to hammer home the message that Labour represented not only its traditional base but also women, office workers, and professionals. Labour’s national leadership played a pivotal role in the effective use of popular journalism, the BBC, and film to communicate its message to the public. In the process Labour transformed not only its own national profile but also the political process in general.
New Labour’s electoral success of the late twentieth century was due in no small part to its grasp of media communication. This insightful book reminds us that the importance of the mass media to Labour’s political fortunes is by no means a modern phenomenon.
This is a very original and important book. Beers argues strongly against the conventional view that the Labour Party was reluctant to exploit the modern media, especially commercial media, and that such reluctance was a major impediment to the Party’s growth. She makes the convincing case that Labour was quick to take up modern media, ‘capitalist’ or otherwise—a readiness which was an essential element in the creation of the broad-based democratic electorate that gave the Party victory in 1945.
Beers offers a compelling analysis of the development of the Labour party’s media strategy from the early days down to its great electoral victory of 1945, and sets it very effectively within the context of the mass communications revolution of the first half of the twentieth century. This outstanding book will appeal to anyone interested in the history of the Labour party and the media.
- 272 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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