Posts Tagged ‘Thatcherism’

All Labour members should watch the Wilderness Years, particularly those thinking about voting for Jeremy Corbyn

15/07/2015, 06:21:14 PM

by Frederick Cowell

In late 1995 the BBC produced an incredible four-part documentary entitled Labour the Wilderness Years. All Labour party members should watch it, particularly if the party is contemplating electing Jeremy Corbyn as leader.

What makes it an astonishing documentary is that by 1995 the Tory government were exploding – in the summer of that year Major had infamously resigned and fought and leadership battle with John Redwood as the Conservative parliamentary party fell apart. Off the record briefings given to Hugo Young between 1995 and 1996 showed that top ministers knew that a Labour party led by Tony Blair was about to annihilate them. Yet this documentary was produced and it told in excruciating detail Labour’s long civil war after its 1979 defeat. What makes it wonderful is that is a documentary told without out the subsequent teleology of Blair and his victories. This makes it the most vital piece of political introspection ever produced.

Listen to Roy Hattersley’s doom laden assessment of the period after 1979 – “for a number of years the Labour party was in opposition to itself” – and you get a sense of just how disastrous things became. The divisions were so bitter during those years that the party ceased to be a meaningful force in British politics.

It is Peter Shore’s assessment at the start of the first episode, that the Labour party must take “responsibility for its own failure” and he was clear that Thatcher and Thatcherism, was a result of the Labour party being ridiculous. This is perhaps the most damning verdict. Shore was a veteran left-winger but even he could see that the endless internecine warfare had created a world where Thatcher was free to win election after election by essentially being the only meaningful political choice on offer. As Hattersley continued, “we must feel some guilt” about not coming to the assistance of the most disadvantaged in society.


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Milburn vs. Milburn: Round III

16/08/2010, 01:15:50 PM

In round three, Mark Watson fires a volley for the greater good and Paul Smith hits straight back with a large helping of  ego and delusion.

The best thing for the country is what’s required

The only thing you can be sure of in Westminster is that things are never going to be quite the same again. The Lib Dems are in power but sharing with Conservatives. Prescott is in the House of Lords, but following Frank Field and John Hutton’s acceptance of advisory positions to the current incumbents comes the completion of the triumvirate of ex-Labour ministers working in the current administration, with the addition of former cabinet minister Alan Milburn as social mobility tsar. 

Alan Milburn knows his social mobility bag; he has first hand experience. Gordon Brown thought so much of this arch-Blairites position that he appointed him to advise his government on the subject, although the subsequent binning of his proposals in file 13 confirmed to many the view that this appointment was simply a concession to the Blair wing of the party. 

Whilst criticising this appointment as a sell-out, amongst other things, many Labour figures are approaching the subject from a sectarian position and missing the point. It seems as though the underlying narrative of the detractors is that the well-being of the country comes second to the lines in the party sand.  Labour only want social mobility sorting if they are the ones to sort it out – so why didn’t we?  There is no doubt that Milburn is one of the premier social mobility minds, so why shouldn’t the country benefit from what he has to say, regardless of his allegiance.


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