Posts Tagged ‘David Marquand’

The Progressive Dilemma remains – only sharpened

07/01/2016, 06:43:58 PM

by Jonathan Todd

The reshuffle has done little to dampen perceptions that Jeremy Corbyn is the most left-wing, pacifist and unbending Labour leader ever. Keir Hardie and George Lansbury might compete. Corbyn, nonetheless, is still the most preeminent such leader since Clement Attlee succeeded Lansbury in 1935.

In this sense, the dilemmas posed by the Corbyn leadership feel uncharted. They portend, however, only a deepening of the British left’s core dilemma.

Throughout the period since Labour overhauled the Liberals as part of the duopoly of UK politics, as David Marquand wrote in the second edition of The Progressive Dilemma (1999), “apart from a brief period in the early 1980s, Labour was strong enough to prevent anyone else offering a serious challenge to the Conservatives, but too weak to make its own challenge effective.”

For all the reshuffle’s sound and fury, this position remains, only painfully deepened. Recent analysis by Glen O’Hara and Adam Boulton suggests that Labour remains too feeble to overhaul the Conservatives, while being too electorally entrenched for anyone else to.

Having waded through the evidence on polling and electoral performance, O’Hara concludes at the Staggers that, “the Party is dicing with a double-digit defeat at the 2020 general election.” Equally, however, as Boulton warns (£) in the Sunday Times, “Labour’s core vote is a lot for Corbyn’s internal opponents to walk away from, as some Bravehearts would like, and to form a new party”.


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Sunday Review on Thursday: The Purple Book

15/09/2011, 07:00:29 AM

by Anthony Painter

Breathe in. Hold. And relax.

The Purple Book, published today, after months of political hysteria, is actually a largely constructive and imaginative collection. It is far from being “lazy” and “idiotic” as its detractors claim. This is the progressive Labour – out of political favour for almost half a decade – response to blue Labour. It is much more than that too. And it manages, fairly convincingly, to move on from its New Labour past.

The frame for the collection comes from David Marquand’s Britain since 1918 where he discusses four British democracies. Tory nationalism and Whig imperialism speak for themselves. The other two are the major fault-lines that exist with the modern labour movement: democratic collectivist and democratic republicanism. The former finds expression in the old-style socialism of much of the trade union movement and in traditional (and caricatured) Fabianism.

Democratic republicanism – the belief in individual empowerment, relationships and localism – has rarely dominated. This collection is within that tradition, though it is by no means an exclusively “progressive” way of thinking.

This is a substantive undertaking. The ethos is that of John Milton, Alexis de Tocqueville, JS Mill, GDH Cole, RH Tawney and Amartya Sen amongst others. The qualifying criteria for a chapter in the book seems to be quoting or referencing Tawney. In fact, he could be the book’s co-editor, along with Robert Philpot with Sen occasionally popping into the room to sprinkle in thoughts on “capabilities” and “substantive freedom”.

This is both an internal and eternal feud. It’s easy to argue that the focus should be exclusively on the enemy, the Tories. But this misses the point. Effective armies don’t just strike; they prepare. And this internal battle that Labour is having is part of the preparation. After a while it could become destructive, but for now it’s healthy. (more…)

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A centrist critique of David Marquand’s annual compass lecture

14/02/2011, 03:30:28 PM

by Jonathan Todd

The chair of last Thursday’s annual Compass lecture, Neal Lawson, closed proceedings by asking the speaker, David Marquand, to return in 10 years time, when Marquand will be 86 years old, to reflect upon developments in the intervening period. He also expressed the hope that at this time the respondents to Marquand’s address would be the most powerful people in the land: Ed Miliband as prime minister; Caroline Lucas as chancellor; Francesca Klug as home secretary; and Evan Harris as health secretary.

Earlier, Lawson had praised Marquand for arguing that, as social democracy will never reach its final terminus, the journey towards social democracy is more important than conceiving of its end. “The goal is nothing; the movement everything”, quipped Eduard Bernstein, the grandfather of social democracy, over 100 years ago.

Lawson would doubtless claim that much more openness and collaboration between parties of the left is part of this journey. But his imaging of the 2021 cabinet indicated where he wants this to be heading. It may cause people to wonder what exactly the parties of Miliband, Lucas, Klug and Harris stand for if they agree on as much as Lawson believes. (more…)

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