Posts Tagged ‘1992 general election’

The reverberations from April 1992 still ring out

05/04/2013, 01:44:11 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Next week sees a grim anniversary for Labour people of my generation. Losing the general election on 9 April 1992 was a gut-wrenching experience and the memory is seared into our collective minds. A government long in the tooth and mired in a recession of its own making couldn’t win a general election, we confidently told ourselves. Only it did.

The argument about how Labour “snatched defeat from the jaws of history” in 1992 is well rehearsed. Neil Kinnock wasn’t trusted. The Sun and the right-wing press were unrelentingly hostile to Labour; and John Major was a newish face who was worthy of a second chance, voters felt.

But a loss is a loss and Major’s unexpected victory had as big a psychological effect on the Labour party as Ramsey McDonald’s ‘betrayal’ for establishing the National Government had on earlier generations.

It seems another age given the three election victories the party would go on to win, but there was serious talk Labour was completely finished after its record fourth defeat. As Tony Blair put it in his autobiography, ‘A Journey’: “The party had almost come to believe it couldn’t win, that for some divine or satanic reason, Labour wasn’t allowed an election victory no matter what it did.”

This defeat and the self-loathing which followed, paved for the way for New Labour’s decade of iconoclasm. Dumb before the shearer, the party more or less acquiesced as reform after reform to party structures and policy were pushed through. As the late Tony Banks succinctly put it, “my constituents will eat shit to get a Labour government.”

But 1992 represented a triumph for Conservative politics too. A party that held its nerve in the face of massive odds prevailed. Just two years previously the poll tax riots were in full swing and 18 months earlier they had dethroned Margaret Thatcher. However their instinct to fight to the bitter end was rewarded with victory. The Tories’ iron nerves triumphed yet again.

So is history going to repeat itself? Will the Tories’ 2015 campaign plan simply re-run 1992?


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