Former Prime Minister Tony Blair stands behind Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party at the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph in central London, November 8, 2015. 
Toby Melville / Reuters

In 1935, the British journalist George Dangerfield published one of the classic works of twentieth-century history, The Strange Death of Liberal England. In it, Dangerfield charted the rapid demise of the Liberal Party in the United Kingdom in the early twentieth century. The Liberals, formerly one of the titans of British politics, had by the mid-1920s suffered a precipitous decline. By 1922, the party was replaced by Labour as the main rival of the Tories.

Fundamental shifts in party systems are strange and rare things, but they can and do happen. The death of the Liberals in the United Kingdom showed it. Now, a century later, it might be happening again.


The notion that the Labour Party is undergoing major change arose in September 2015, when the party elected Jeremy Corbyn as its head. Corbyn comes from the most radical fringe of the party; in many respects, he had not

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  • ANDREW GAWTHORPE is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Belfer Center's International Security Program at the Harvard Kennedy School.
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