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  • Published: 2 May 2024
  • ISBN: 9780241394236
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 560

The Searchers

Five Rebels, Their Dream of a Different Britain, and Their Many Enemies




The untold story of British politics in modern times, through the triumphs and disasters of its five most radical figures

In the great revolutionary year of 1968, Tony Benn was a respectable Labour minister in his forties, and he was restless. While new social movements were shaking up Britain and much of the world, Westminster politics seemed stuck. It was time, he decided, for a different approach.

Over the next half century, the radicalized Benn helped forge a new left in Britain. He was joined by four other politicians, who would become comrades, collaborators and rivals: Ken Livingstone, John McDonnell, Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn.

For Andy Beckett, the story of these admired and loathed political explorers - both their sudden breakthroughs and long stretches in the wilderness - is the untold story of British politics in modern times. As he reveals, their project to create a radically more equal, liberal and democratic Britain has been much more influential than electoral history might suggest, and can be seen from the shape of our city life to the causes of our culture wars.

For their many detractors, this influence was and remains dangerous: a form of extremism that must be stamped out. But as these five searchers believed, in politics there is no total victory - nor total defeat.

  • Published: 2 May 2024
  • ISBN: 9780241394236
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 560

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Praise for The Searchers

PRAISE FOR PROMISED YOU A MIRACLE: Lively, provoking, bracingly anti-nostalgic

Hilary Mantel

An anthology of an age . . . A book that offers so much pleasure and insight.

Ian Jack, Guardian

Intelligent, entertaining, readable, convincing and timely. It is history well told and properly done.

Daniel Finkelstein, The Times

Andy Beckett’s compelling history of the five politicians who made that movement in Britain… Beckett tells a good human story about five politicians he rightly identifies as more easily mythologised than understood, and more often than not derided and excluded by their colleagues… Neither left nor right are honest enough often enough about these people, and more’s the pity: understanding what they have achieved requires the sort of untypical, bracing honesty that Beckett applies so artfully here, having spent plenty of time listening and speaking to these politicians — as too few of his journalistic colleagues have… The Searchers should be studied closely by anyone with a stake in British politics

Patrick Maguire, The Times

An absorbing history of Labour’s radical left

Jason Cowley, The Guardian

This is a premier account… a group biography of how ‘five heretics’… came out of the politics of the 1970s to upend the politics of the 2010s… Beckett is funny on the own goals and gaffes of a wide spectrum of the British media during years that they did not understand… There is no shortage of bleak lessons for the Left whilst reading The Searchers, but some causes for hope

Fergal Kinney, Tribune

Vividly detailed and often gripping

Joe Moran, The Guardian

A breath of fresh air: a vivid eye for detail meets narrative pacing that seems effortless... As a character study, and as an evocation of Britain in the last century, it would be worth reading even if you had no particular interest in the subject matter...a masterclass in teasing out complex stories of simultaneous failure and success

Morgan Jones, LabourList

A sympathetic and absorbing political history

New Statesman

At times, [Beckett's] evocation of the 1980s is so vivid that one can almost hear Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ playing in the background as one turns the pages

Literary Review