Letter: Taking liberties

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The Independent Culture
Sir: If Ken Livingstone (Comment, 13 January) wishes to accuse Philip Gould of "a complete ignorance of British history" he should brush up on his own history first.

Arguing that the Liberals were in decline from the 1850s, and seeing the 1886 split as sealing the party's fate, reckons without the landslide of 1906, and the radical government it ushered in. True, there was a dramatic split in 1886, but the party recovered completely.

It is an oversimplification to say that the Liberals were a party of classical laissez-faire capitalism. Again, Ken Livingstone overlooks the party's reforms from 1906 on issues such as pensions, which most historians agree amounted to the foundation of the welfare state. Later, in 1928 it was not laissez-faire capitalism but creative government action in areas such as public works that Lloyd George promoted in an attempt to conquer unemployment.

Dr RICHARD GRAYSON

Director

Centre for Reform

London, SW1

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