New Party Conference

The New Party in Perspective

Dr Matthew Worley

Round Table Discussion

Sir Oswald Mosley's New Party of 1931 was – in the grand scheme of things – a very minor player in Britain's political history. Its existence was short, its political impact negligible, and the part it played in the career of its most famous founder was overshadowed by events either side of it. Indeed, it is probably no exaggeration to say that the New Party was an abject failure in almost every sense.

Electorally, its candidates finished bottom of the poll in all but one of its 25 contests. True, Allan Young in Ashton-under-Lyne in April 1931, as well as Mosley in Stoke and Sellick Davies in Merthyr during the general election of October that year, received respectable votes. Yet, they still lost; indeed, each came last (James Stuart Barr – in Gateshead – had the distinction of actually finishing above a National Labour candidate). Put bluntly, the public rejected the New Party outright.

Linked to this, but in broader terms, the New Party obviously failed politically. Mosley's objective of drawing together young radicals of all parties – alongside those 'young of mind' – came to nothing. As is well-known, only a handful of those who formed part of Mosley's circle prior to the New Party's formation in February-March 1931 actually joined with him in his new venture, and only a very few erstwhile MPs and prospective candidates came to him thereafter. The bright young things in the Conservative Party quickly fell into line once Mosley stopped just talking after dinner and few drinks about fascist coups and actually took a step towards realigning party political patterns in Britain. Similarly, anyone worth their salt in the Labour Party knew that no-one loves – and everyone hates – a splitter. Accordingly, and especially once the New Party's intervention into the Ashton by-election revealed that its presence was more likely to win rancour and rejection than converts to the Mosley 'plan of action', the New Party was pretty much washed up as an viable political alternative from the outset. Although Mosley sought to rebrand the party as a 'ginger group' during the general election campaign of October 1931, the early political shortcomings of the party – exacerbated by the defection of John Strachey and others in July – were clearly apparent by the latter half of the year, despite the fact that the crisis predicted by Mosley had by this time actually come about. Far from being in a position to influence the political response to the events of mid-to-late 1931, Mosley found himself isolated and seeking to reassert his and his party's political identity from beyond the political mainstream. The press ignored Mosley unless fisticuffs graced a party meeting; both the Tory-dominated National coalition and Labour ceased to regard the party as a relevant foe, while simultaneously recasting and absorbing certain aspects related to Mosley's initial programme for their own ends

As this suggests, perhaps, the New Party was also an organisational failure. The party was overwhelmingly top-heavy, being centred on Mosley's office in Great George Street. No constitution was drawn up. Rather, a party executive – or council – met regularly to direct party policy and activity, alongside a wider National Council that was supposed to report back to Mosley and confer on the party's progress. In practice, Mosley held court with whoever was in favour, and the party executive had all but merged into the national council by the second half of 1931. Although a rather ramshackle, but evidently apparent, London apparatus was appointed on the eve of the party's formation, this was extended in only ad hoc fashion around the country. While regional organisers were appointed, they had little to play with and soon began to irritate the party leadership with their demands for funds and a say in party direction. For Mosley, party machines were a curse on politics; the New Party was geared far more towards winning over influential opinion to woo an electorate that, in Mosley's mind, was malleable in the face of newspaper headlines and a dazzling bit of Mosley-esque repartee. Unfortunately for him – and fortunately for us – the New Party had neither the financial nor the necessary press support adequate to mount any campaign capable of mobilising public opinion in such a way and, in any case, the British people had slightly more about them than Mosley seemed to envisage.

Intellectually, the question of the New Party's 'failure' is perhaps less clear-cut. Ultimately, of course, both the public and what can be loosely described as the establishment rejected Mosley's worldview and his politics. However, there is no doubt that the New Party programme was based on at least two predominant issues of the time – economic policy and the processes (or future) of parliamentary democracy – and that Mosley and Strachey were towards the front in such debate. They were not alone; and it would be wrong to say, for example, that Keynes' economic theories or the adoption of economic planning as a staple part of the political lexicon were due to the intellectual prowess of those associated with the New Party. Nevertheless, Mosley and others in the party contributed to an intellectual current that later bore fruit over the 1930s and after. Their criticism of the prevailing economic policies of the treasury and their general appraisal of international economic development was not without foundation; aspects relating to the party's programme were adopted by both the Labour Party and the National government, even if in diluted or somewhat different form. Even Mosley's corporatism was – in some ways – an extreme variant of a conception being discussed across the political spectrum. In the event, however, both Mosley and Strachey moved beyond simple reformism towards, respectively, the politics of fascism and communism. The New Party had adopted the corporate state and declared itself 'fascist' by 1932. More to the point, therefore, Mosley's (and, indeed, Strachey's) understanding of both the economic problems of the 1920s and the shortcomings of democracy were valid to a degree, but both were drawn ultimately to conclusions and political choices, or solutions, that fell into that rather overflowing dustbin of history. In short, another failure.

Because of this, the New Party's place in history has, at best, been seen as a brave but extremely flawed folly. Robert Skidelsky's analysis perhaps best represents such interpretation. More usually, it has come to be seen simply as the personal folly of Mosley. Impatient at the rest of the political establishment for failing to catch up with his estimation of the world around him, Mosley founded a party in which he was the pivot, and which fairly seamlessly drifted towards the fascist leadership principle. For historians of British fascism, the New Party was thus a stepping-stone – or chrysalis, as David Lewis puts it – along the path to Mosley's forming the BUF. It was, in other words, the proverbial straw the broke the camel's back, serving to fully disillusion Mosley with regard parliament, the existing electoral system, the established parties and the British labour movement. The New Party was his last attempt to play the game, it failed, and so tougher measures were required.

For Labour historians, the New Party has become little more than a footnote to Mosley's and Strachey's (first) time in the Labour Party. Despite the fact that much of the early New Party membership came from the ILP, and despite the fact that New Party policy was conceived and, in part, drawn from Labour precedents, little interest has yet been shown towards assessing these continuities, links and overlap between designated left and, eventually, right. Similarly, for historians of the Conservative Party, the New Party - if mentioned at all -is used mainly to add colour to the internal dissatisfaction of certain party members towards Baldwin's leadership after the 1929 election defeat. This is understandable, given that the relatively obscure Bill Allen was the only Tory MP to defect and more significant challenges to the Tory leadership were then on-going. Even so, I think it fair to say that the New Party has not enjoyed extensive historical attention from historians of Britain's principal political parties.

Now, it is easy to justify such treatment. In terms of mainstream party narrative, and with regard the story of fascism in Britain, the New Party was indeed but a bit-player. More than that, it is quite easy to turn the New Party into something of a political joke. A quick glance at the articles on public school education in the pages of Action, or the pictures of Mosley standing alongside the boxer Kid Lewis in an attempt to substantiate the party's supposed synthesis of brain and brawn, are faintly ridiculous.

Despite, too, those infamous obituaries to Mosley that drew attention to the power of his oratory and recast him as a 'lost leader', it is clear that many of those who turned up to hear New Party speakers, whether it be Oswald, Cynthia or other lesser – yet supposedly influential – lights, such as Harold Nicolson or the BBC's former chief engineer Peter Eckersley, did so for a bit of pre-pub entertainment. Much of the heckling recorded in newspaper reports on the New Party was based on making fun of the speakers' accents and class. For others, and without wishing to draw too close a parallel with today's celebrity culture, it was a chance to see the rich and famous up close.

To all this we may also add that the party's attempt to compete during the 1931 general election led the party to present candidates of a somewhat unusual stripe. Richard Wallhead, the ILP MP for Merthyr, called the New Party a 'travelling circus', and it may be that many of the party's ambassadors appeared rather eccentric in 1931. Let us take as an example the enigma that was Eric Rider Troward. Troward stood as the New Party candidate for Reading in October 1931, and his background and character suggest he was someone who saw in Mosley what he wanted to see in himself – adventurous, aspirational and dynamic. Though it would be wrong to say he was typical of those who joined the New Party in 1931, he was certainly of a type drawn to Mosley.

Troward was the son of Judge T. Troward of the Indian Civil Service and was described in the local papers as being a 'freelance journalist, an air pilot, and the head of an engineering firm in Birmingham'. In fact, he wrote articles for women's cookery magazines under the name of Janet Cunningham and had behind him a string of short-lived – and largely unsuccessful – business ventures. In 1914, Troward had eschewed his training at the bar to volunteer for service in the Great War, during which he served briefly in the fifth Wiltshire regiment before being invalided out of service. He was later charged with continuing to wear his uniform having resigned his military position. From here on, he became an enthusiastic motorcyclist, but in 1925 was imprisoned for fraudulently using monies belonging to a motorcycle co-operative scheme. During the 1926 General Strike, he sought to halt what he regarded as impending red revolution by taking charge of a fleet of milk floats. In 1930, Troward married a woman from Reading and subsequently moved to the town; he applied and was accepted as a New Party candidate the following year.

Not surprisingly, Troward brought to politics the same attributes he had brought to his civil life, revealing in the process the distance travelled by the New Party since its split from Labour. His first speech to the Reading electorate was described by the local paper as largely incomprehensible, during which he spoke of Britain being on the 'verge of a devastating fire'. Having recently visited Spain, he drew comparison with the 1931 Spanish revolution, foreseeing 'machine gun posts on the house tops [of Reading], of cavalry charging through Broad Street'. This was met with a shout of 'Don't talk rot', only for Troward to court his electors further by telling them that living in Reading for twelve months had put 'nine years on his life'. 'When I was asked to stand as a New Party candidate', he continued, 'I asked to be given the sleepiest, the most old fashioned, the most correct, the most proper town … Sir Oswald said, "you had better take Reading"'. Not surprisingly, Troward received another barrage of abuse for this, leaving the stage as an argument broke out in the crowd, thereby detracting from his own presence. From here on, the campaign revolved around Troward's description of Reading as 'sleepy', with his opponents appealing to the 'wide awake' and audiences refusing to sit down at New Party meetings in case they were accused of lethargy.

According to Troward, the New Party was a bulwark against revolution: a movement to prevent a 'massed attack by the unemployed on the people with property'. Rather fittingly, after gaining just 861 votes, Troward apparently suffered something of a nervous breakdown. Not only was he charged with giving false information to secure a driving licence, he was summonsed for failing to declare his election expenses to the returning officer. On such a basis, it seems, was the New Party's Britain to be built.

And yet, despite all of this, it would be wrong to assume that New Party's failure thereby makes it irrelevant. Indeed, the party is actually a rather useful means by which to explore a number of themes and issues relevant to gaining an understanding British politics between the wars.

As Michael Biddiss put it in The Age of the Masses, 'prevalent error may be not infrequently more accurately representative of an age than ultimately more profitable ideas'. This, to some extent, has proven the case with regards Mosley's prominent place within Daniel Ritschel's and, less overtly, Richard Toye's histories of the planning debate in Britain over the 1920s and 1930s. Notably, too, Philip Williamson's history of the national crisis and national government fleetingly makes a similar observation. As such, I wish to use the rest of this paper to outline a few of the ways by which the New Party can shed light on important aspects of British history. Some are general and some particular; but in each instance, meaning and understanding are provided by the utilisation of the New Party experience.

1) Let us begin with fascism. This, obviously, is what Mosley is most renowned for, and it is in such a context that the New Party has received most attention. Given the programmatic nature of Mosley's fascism, continuities from the New Party's A National Party and the ideas developed by him in the Labour Party (and before) have been regularly poured over, if more at a personal than a party-political level. Yet, the New Party raises many more questions in relation to both British fascism and fascism abroad. With regard the former, the nature of the BUF's fascism differed notably from its precedents, the British Fascists and the Imperial Fascist League. Indeed, the definition of fascism – which is so much an intellectual industry nowadays – was very much a contested issue in the 1920s and 1930s. With regard the New Party, Mosley had embarked on a rather different path to reach a slightly different end to others who held hard to the fascist label. The New Party, moreover, was not just an important stage along such a journey, it was the organisation in which Mosley had to untangle and define his political impulses, influences and objectives. The term 'fascist' was applied to the New Party from the outset, and Mosley wrestled privately and, from October 1931, publicly with the application of such a term.

Similarly, from an international perspective, the 'New Party-stage' along Mosley's path to fascism may well serve as a useful comparative component with regard the emergence of fascisms elsewhere. Existing comparisons do not do this beyond brief reference to aspects of New Party policy. Yet, the party was also important in shaping Mosley's political method, and it would be interesting to view this formative phase in the evolution of British fascism in relation to elsewhere. Although this would not help us define irrefutably our 'fascist minimum', it could at least contribute towards our understanding of how fascisms were formed and cultivated. Was the New Party alone in acting as a 'chrysalis' for fascism, or did other fascist leaders and movements have similar experiences?

2) Going the other way, the origins of the New Party and the political trajectories of a significant number of its early membership lead us back to the Labour Party. As such, a focus on the New Party and its members provides means of exploring themes of political identity and party loyalty. Certainly, Mosley cut a rather unusual – but not wholly distinct – figure in the Labour Party, and his relationship with others in the party, from MacDonald and the PLP through the trade unions and into the ILP and the constituencies, tells us much about Labour's values, outlook and character in 1920s Britain. Likewise, his departure – and the antipathy caused by it – reveals much about the nature of Labour's appeal and the construction of those class, community, political and personal loyalties that tied members into the party. In this, the contrast between the perspectives of the proletarian Nye Bevan and Joe Batey with those of the more well-heeled John Strachey, Mosleys and Robert Forgan on the founding of the New Party is obviously informative. Evidently, the party – and its socialism – could mean different things to different people at different levels within (and without) the party, and the New Party experience serves as a useful case-study of the tensions that could exist within Labour. Linked to this, the rather different responses of the ILP and the Labour NEC to the New Party are similarly instructive. Where the NEC immediately moved against the New Party, ambivalence existed in sections of the ILP, both towards the New Party's policy and its relationship with socialism and socialist movement.

3) A more obvious – and already stated – reason to give due attention to the New Party is that its programme tapped into important economic and political debates in the 1920s and into 1930s. Mosley and Strachey were early converts to J M Keynes, whose analysis of the post-war economic situation and suggestions for monetary reform they tried to cast onto already established liberal-socialist thinking. As such, they were important voices in favour of the overturning of economic orthodoxy in Britain between the wars. Moreover, they were to the fore in giving substance to the initially vague notion of economic planning implicit in Labour's early socialism, to which Mosley added the concept of 'insulating' the national economy via developing the home market, encouraging greater economic interdependence with the empire (something the TUC were also positing) and, eventually, the corporate state. Come 1931, and the New Party was thus one of many 'groups' – for want of a better word – seeking to plan and realign Britain's economic mechanisms.

4) Not dissimilarly, Strachey and Mosley both engaged in the on-going debate as to the worth, consequences and processes of parliamentary democracy in the wake of the Great War and 1918 Representation of the People Act. Such debate obviously stretched from the outright bigoted and hostile to those wishing to extend democracy ever further into the workshops and communities. In particular, the debate often revolved around the nature (and viability) of the 'party system' as much as it did parliamentary processes and the extent of the franchise. Arguably, this contesting of Britain's then-existing political forms reached a peak in 1931, into which the New Party's proposals for executive government and a limit on the role of the Commons were deliberately placed. Indeed, Mosley believed this was the most appealing aspect of his party's programme come the general election of 1931. The party's film, Crisis, made much of dozing MPs and irrelevant parliamentary debates ensuing as the dole queues lengthened; the slogan of transforming parliament from a talk-shop into a workshop was among the most prominent on New Party addresses.

The existence and extent of such discussion, combined with the fact that coalition governments ruled for the majority of the interwar period, has now led some historians to raise questions as to the stability of Britain's political structures between the wars, and to challenge the rather Whiggish conception of an evolving party system that neatly absorbed a largely new and expanding electorate. Looked at from this perspective, British politics appears to have been in far more of a state of flux – or realignment – than has usually been presented. The New Party, then, fits quite neatly into a more contested and contingent vision of interwar history, with Mosley targeting (and sometimes winning the support of) those alienated or unable to find a convivial home within the mainstream parties. That he and others failed – and that the party system undoubtedly won out – suggests we should not overstate any sense of fragility within Britain's polity. Nevertheless, there was between the wars, as there is now, a concern about political disengagement, non-participation and disillusionment that the New Party noted and theoretically tapped into, albeit unsuccessfully.

5) Linked to this, the New Party's formation and development, combined by the disparate interpretations of its policy and purpose evident inside and out of the party, should perhaps lead us to query those all-to-easy to labels of 'left' and 'right'. For Mosley, the New Party synthesised the 'best' elements of both in order to form a party in the political centre or 'above' party. While in the Labour Party, Mosley had been regarded by some – especially Tory opponents – as being on the left of the party; yet, his talk of empire and tariffs led us to place him on the right. Once the New Party was up and running, then the party was accused of existing on all points across the political spectrum depending on which paper or whom was making the comment. Now, and please excuse my tentative tone here, perhaps it is time examine the ways in which such vague political labels were applied and understood.

Taking all this a little further, a focus on the New Party likewise offers a useful means of examining aspects of Britain's changing political culture between the wars. Jon Lawrence's recent article in Past and Present

alongside his debate with Martin Pugh over BUF violence – is very informative in this regard, demonstrating how there was a notable shift away from the assertive and irreverent demonstrations of popular feeling evident at political meetings in the period up to the Great War, towards an expectation that the newly-enfranchised public should demonstrate more peaceable, rational and unassertive behaviour. Again, Mosley appeared, in 1931, to have his finger on the pulse of a salient political debate - that of the right to 'free speech' and this changing attitude towards behaviour at public meetings. But, as usual, Mosley's solution was misguided, in that he sought to 'meet violence with violence' and so pushed against the grain of cultural political change.

The New Party is interesting here because it was in 1931 that Mosley first began to utilise stewards to 'protect' his meetings, following the rough passage received by New Party speakers in March and April 1931, most famously on the polling day of the Ashton by-election. Mosley, of course, was ill during March 1931, and so it was his wife Cynthia, John Strachey, Bill Allen and Robert Forgan who initially bore the brunt of any abuse hurled towards the platform. So the story goes, Mosley responded to communist-sponsored violence and Labour-inspired rowdiness first by forming a group of stewards (his Biff Boys), and then by cultivating a youth movement to provide shock troops in readiness for the impending advance of communist revolution. Truth is, a look at these early meetings reveals any disruption to be relatively mild – especially if compared with events then going on in Germany, or those in Italy immediately after the war. True, there was a fair bit of heckling at the early New Party meetings, a full on fight broke out in Dundee between two ladies on the balcony, and the mood at the Ashton by-election polling day was ugly – although the confrontation was purely verbal and suggestive rather than physical. But it was prior to the full-blown disorder in Glasgow and Birmingham in September and October 1931 – themselves not the 'norm' in terms of New Party's election meetings – that Mosley formed a uniformed defence force to accompany him to the platform. Of course, to have simply appealed for free speech would have demonstrated a weakness on Mosley's part – something that did not fit neatly into his masculine self-identity. He had to act, personally, in the face of opposition. Alongside many Tories, too, Mosley sought political capital by aligning such rowdyism to the 'foreign' influence of Bolshevism, especially as his worldview came to see the on-going crisis as paving the way for a battle between communism and what he called 'its opposite reality', meaning fascism.

Less excitingly, perhaps, the New Party's approach to disseminating its message also revealed it to be at once embracing modernity whilst relying on the traditional. In this case, the use of film, loudspeakers, fledgling attempts at political spectacle and talk of radio broadcasts were all very well, but the party mainly appeared via old-fashioned platform meetings and the press. There was even a summer fete at the Sitwells' Renishaw Park in Derbyshire. The party notably eschewed the heavy-on-the-shoe leather approach of cultivating a dues-paying membership, door-to-door canvassing, and local party organisation based within the community. Even when Mosley did recognise the need for some sort of grassroots organisation, he did so via the youth clubs that paved the way for the overtly militarised Blackshirt movement in the BUF.

7) The more general political and organisational approach of the New Party provides a seventh useful portal into interwar Britain. As I've just noted, Mosley rejected the formation of a party machine based on mass membership and participation. Rather, he sought to cultivate influence through the press (appealing to Beaverbrook and Rothermere), intellectuals in the broadest sense of the term (Wells, Shaw and Keynes), politicians (Churchill and Lloyd George), industrialists (Morris), and through personalities such as sportsmen like Kid Lewis and Peter Howard, or via established local figures of repute such as doctors, solicitors and military men. Even the Prince of Wales was supposedly tapped for support. In so doing, the New Party experience raises questions as to where power was located – and where it was perceived to be located – in British society between the wars. This, in some ways, links up with debates surrounding Beaverbrook and Rothermere's press campaign against Baldwin's leadership of the Conservative Party. Certainly, it may be argued that Mosley spent far more effort appealing to – and dining with – influential opinion than he did trying to properly convince the electorate. As such, beyond the centralised chain of command within the New Party, its political strategy and mode of organisation was very much out of step with then current political forms, be they democratic or not. That said, looked at from another angle, such an approach did feed too into an evolving political climate in which proto-think tanks such as PEP (which itself had an internal debate as to whether it was a party or an opinion-maker) were developing.

A more general use to which to put the New Party relates to the question of aspiring 'third' parties, or parties split from mainstream parents, the subject of two recent radio series hosted by Shaun Ley.

Britain's political development and electoral system has ensured that such ventures have consistently failed to disturb significantly the political establishment beyond, of course, Labour's historic eclipse of the Liberals. Again, the New Party provides a useful case-study as to how and why such initiative should fail amidst an array of organisational, financial, practical, political and cultural factors. Much has been written about why political extremism – fascism and communism – failed in Britain, but what of new and splinter parties that posited more moderate ambitions? Leaving aside the detail of political programmes, how typical was the New Party experience; how does it compare with that of, say, the SDP? What motivates people such as Mosley to take such a step; what political lessons should and do we learn from such ventures – both as historians and electors?

9) Back to interwar period, and with due recognition to Martin Green's 1977 Children of the Sun, the New Party's emphasis on youth ties the party into the wider cultural politics of the generation that fought in and came of age after the Great War. Indeed, the aesthetics, language and vision of party were very much a product of this time. The search for – and the unquestioned need for – a new and modern approach to rebuilding Europe after the war, the belief in science, the search for order and solution, the rejection of the 'old gang' and the 'old ways' were all – very obviously – themes that cut across the Europe way beyond the New Party. One could even 'get all Freudian' and point to the number of New Party members and sympathisers who rejected their family father-figures as they sought to construct a world in their own image. Whatever, Mosley and his circle reflected and sought to tap into distinct cultural currents of the time.

10)Finally, the New Party was comprised of far more than Sir Oswald Mosley. The party attracted an array of people to its ranks and, subsequently, included under its banner a number of political and cultural traditions. For many, the party marked a port of call on political trajectories that diverged to points across the political spectrum. Others, including Keynes to a significant extent, adhered broadly to the party's outlook and basic raison d'etre without ever committing to it. As well as Mosley, Forgan and Allen who continued into the BUF, the party founders included Strachey who left to align with the CPGB and Allan Young who stayed truer to the New Party's centrist objective by working for Harold Macmillan. Similarly, Harold Nicolson later went on to become a National Labour MP in Leicester. Beneath these executive members, however, there existed men and, far less visibly, women who also passed through the party ranks from and towards very different political opinions and solutions. This, indeed, may lead us back to Wallhead's travelling circus, but – at the risk of great simplification – it is possible to discern various 'types' attracted to the New Party. First of all, much of the early party's support came from members of the Independent Labour Party dismayed at MacDonald but not enamoured with the Maxton alternative. Amongst such members were long-time Labour members, as well as intellectual types such as the philosopher Cyril Joad, who brought with him almost proto-hippie ideas on vegetarianism and naturism. Notably, most of the erstwhile ILP recruits came from non-proletarian, or were in non-proletarian, professions. It was from the more cerebral corners of the socialist movement that the New Party won support, who tended towards a top-down socialism geared more to directing that emancipating the workers – your mini-Bernard Shaws if you like, The party obviously included many who retained personal loyalty to and admiration for Mosley, such as Young and Nicolson, as well as members of his social circle whose adherence to the New Party in total was hard to define. Osbert and Sachie Sitwell may fall under this bracket, perhaps. Over time, once the party became known as anti-communist and the empire side of its programme was underlined, so the party began to attract former Empire Crusaders and dissident Tories. Oxford university – no doubt partly due to Nicolson's connections – also provided a source for the Mosley's stewards. More intriguing were those who passed through the New Party on an on-going party hop in search of a congenial political home. Some, like the former Communist, socialist and Liberal Jack Jones, signed up for work and payment. Others, like Herbert Hodge, seemed genuinely convinced by Mosley's programme and left only once the conversion to fascism was complete. Finally, of course, the party eventually attracted proto-fascists and British Fascists won over to the Mosley creed. Thus, OMS veterans like Peter Cheyney and Rider Troward came on board. Ultimately, the party attracted the politically homeless, or political drifters, in search of a cause and commitment to which to attach their allegiance. It was, of course, amidst such opposites and contradictions that the seeds of the New Party's failure were evidently sowed. Yet, the party figured – often tenuously, briefly or abstractedly – in the lives of many well-known and important figures of the interwar period.

And so, to sum up, the New Party was a political failure of the first order, but an intriguing one. Within its brief history, there exists drama, informative political experiences, the seeds of British fascism and even a form of celebrity politics. The party was very much a product of its time and tells us much about it. For all its inadequacies, it serves as a useful way-in to aspects of British society, politics and culture between the wars.

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