'I read David Marquand's The Progressive Dilemma on holiday after I left Millbank, before starting at the IPPR. It describes the intellectual and ideological space I want to work in. Through fascinating stories of key figures in the history of the Liberal and Labour parties, Marquand brilliantly highlights the dilemmas and failings that lie behind 20th-century progressive politics in the UK. It is an essential read for anyone who wants to understand the British centre-left and its leaders.
Marquand tries to link radical liberal politics of empowerment and civic renewal with traditional social democratic concerns for planning and equity - the central challenge facing a Labour second term.
All of us on the left grew up believing in social justice, but this book makes clear that radical politics is also about decentralising power and engaging people in the process of change. As one would expect, there is more here about failure and its causes than about answers. But, for those who think politics has become dull and irrelevant, it reminds us that the big questions are as important today as ever.