The future of the left since 1884

Onwards and upwards – Vol 1

The first online instalment of Onwards and Upwards, a celebration of 140 years of Fabianism originally published in the Spring 2024 Fabian Review. Featuring Keir Starmer MP, Sadiq Khan, Stella Creasy MP, Sara Hyde and Vince Cable.



Fabianism in government

Keir Starmer MP

In the 140 years since the Fabian Society was founded, it has driven the fight for justice, progress and equality. To that end, Fabians and Fabian principles have always been at the heart of the proudest moments in Labour’s history – building a new Britain out of collective sacrifice in 1945; modernising an economy left behind by technological change in 1964; renewing a crumbling public realm in 1997.

Today, the Labour party looks towards a future with challenges both new and familiar, determined to achieve the long-term change desperately needed to transform the lives of working people. I hope and know that the Fabians will be alongside us again in our mission for a decade of national renewal.

Keir Starmer is the Labour MP for Holborn and St Pancras and the leader of the Labour party

Sadiq Khan

At this milestone, we recall what binds us as Fabians. We believe in the power to accomplish together what we cannot accomplish alone. We are reminded that our tradition succeeds when we are proud and progressive, when we look to the past for inspiration and approach the future with optimism.

We remember how the early Fabians were among the first to champion the universal right to a living wage, treatment when sick and a secure income when disabled or aged. And how those principles became policies when a transformational Labour government – led by a member of our society, Clement Attlee – emerged from the ruins of war.

I joined the Fabian Society 30 years ago because its values reflected my own. As mayor, those values have been the foundation on which I have governed. Our forebears maintained the cause of nourishing our children – and from City Hall, we have now fulfilled that commitment. For the first time ever in London, every child in a state primary, on every school day can sit down with their classmates and share a nutritious meal. Universal free school meals prove that while our society is 140 years old, the ideals on which it was fashioned still hold the power to improve lives.

Let us make this anniversary year one to remember – with City Hall, a host of Whitehall departments and 10 Downing Street all occupied by Fabians. And together, in the true spirit of Fabianism, let us strive to do better than the generation that came before and leave something better for the one after.

Sadiq Khan is the mayor of London


The Fabian Society: personal journeys

Stella Creasy MP

Nearly 30 years ago, I exploded with delight at being asked to make a cup of tea for Neil Kinnock. I found a phone box, rang my mum and dad and told them why being the first Fabian intern was the best choice I had ever made, even though it meant moving to London, taking terrible temp jobs – the post was unpaid – and learning to read the tube map. If you received a Fabian mailout in 1996 with blood from a papercut on it, chances are it was stuffed by me in the dark of the Cole Room whilst reading back issues of the Fabian Review. I loved every minute of my time answering the phone – even the day Paul Richards’ pamphlet declared we should become a republic and we were inundated with calls demanding all of us be sent to the tower for treason.

The Fabians were at the heart of bringing together those who would form the 1997 government – as I added milk and sugar to those cups of tea I listened to Chris Smith, John Reid and Robin Cook argue, I met a young David Miliband and an even younger James Purnell, and even managed to dance with Mo Mowlam at party conference. Simon Crine, Glenys Thornton, Giles Wright, Deborah Stoate, Ian Corfield, Stephen Twigg, Clair Wilcox, Stephen Pollard and Tina Howes, who held the place together, each displayed boundless kindness and patience when dealing with an overexcited 18 year old soaking up their shared passion for social justice and organising conferences.

To a man and woman, everyone who walked through the door of Dartmouth Street was determined to achieve a Labour government – and determined that it should change the course of history. To be there provided a political education second to none. Now, three decades later, technological progress means interns to stuff envelopes are no longer needed; but the value of such a political space endures. Here’s to the next 140 years.

Stella Creasy is the Labour MP for Walthamstow

Sara Hyde

It is an honour to chair the Fabian Society as we celebrate our 140th anniversary and at this exciting time for the Labour movement. Much of my political journey has been shaped by the Fabians and especially Fabian Women’s Network (FWN). A decade ago, I was a Labour party member whose activism mostly manifested in feminist organising and frontline work in prisons and in my local community. But then I joined the Fabians and accepted a place on the FWN mentoring scheme, which was a life-changing experience. With the expert guidance of Caroline Adams and Christine Megson, and mentored by Diana Johnson MP, I quickly grew to understand the opportunities for change for the communities I cared most about through structural, political means, and through thoughtful, evidence-based policies and ideas.

I joined the FWN committee and was able to learn from an array of impressive women, including FWN’s founder, Seema Malhotra MP. They were patient with this political neophyte, nurturing my evolution into a policy person and, ultimately, politician. I would not have stood for the London Assembly, parliament or council without these sisters championing me. I have met lifelong friends here who keep me accountable to the FWN principles of sisterhood, solidarity and service. Thank you to the Fabians and to FWN for shaping me and for being the home of brilliant, world-changing ideas and the future of the left since 1884. Happy anniversary.

Sara Hyde is chair of the Fabian Society and a former chair of Fabian Women’s Network

Vince Cable

People may not see Liberal Democrats and Fabians as natural bedfellows – or perhaps they do – but I am indebted to the Fabian Society for the intellectual stimulus it provided when I was a member and for helping those of us on the centre-left to debate and sort out our ideas.

The late 60s and 70s were a period of political ferment on the left. The two Wilson governments had created high expectations of change in Britain’s ossified institutions and sluggish economy, and then disillusionment when the change was underwhelming. Britain’s future was defined as European. Conservative social values were being displaced by liberal ones. Britain was facing up to a future of racial diversity and divisive debates about immigration. Trades unions were sufficiently powerful to be able to cause great disruption, but were in structural decline along with manufacturing industry. A younger generation was caught up in idealistic and angry debates about South Africa and Vietnam.

The Fabian Society was a great place to debate these big issues. Argument was tolerant and opinions eclectic. Some of the best minds in the Labour government came to conferences to engage and argue. It was tragic when the wave of militancy sweeping through the party in the late 70s led to the schism and the creation of the SDP. Fabians, I recall, were deeply split and there was a move, unfortunately unsuccessful, to act as a bridge between divided social democrats.

My two Fabian pamphlets – one on Kenyan Asian immigration; one on (and against) import controls, protectionism and the Alternative Economic Strategy – are amongst the publications I am proudest of.

Sir Vince Cable is the former leader of the Liberal Democrats


Illustrations: Matt Holland

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