by Frederick Cowell
“Michael there are people who are going out to fight the election who won’t be coming back….” Gerald Kaufmann said “I implore you stand aside from the leadership.” Michael Foot listened carefully and then somewhat apologetically lent forward in his chair and said, “I’m sorry Gerald I just can’t do that.”
It was February 1983 – four months later went down to its second largest General Election defeat in history. From Attlee in 1954 to Brown in January 2010 the same conversation has been had – ‘we’re going to lose, your leadership is taking us there.’
History creates odd prisms through which to view things. It is hard to remember that there was once a Post-Miliband – Pre-Corbyn period in the Labour party. But that period was an attempt to confront the conversation that has dogged Labour’s history.
Less than 10 days after the 2015 general election the Labour leader in the House of Lords said that party needed a break clause with their new leader in 2018. A day later the Guardian called for a two-year interim leader and suggested Alan Johnson for the role.
Alastair Campbell warned a week later that he would step in and remove any failing leader after three years and although this provoked a scornful reaction from John Prescott, Campbell stood his ground.
“If only the rest of Labour wanted to win as badly as he did” tweeted the FT’s political correspondent Jannan Ganesh.