Posts Tagged ‘second general election’

Where does idealism stop and pragmatism begin?

16/01/2012, 07:30:58 AM

by Kevin Meagher

For all the talk about the font size and just how luminescent our mea culpa on the deficit should be, there is a bigger question stalking the Labour party: where does political idealism end and pragmatism begin? How is the balance to be struck between what Labour wants to do and what it has to do?

On this wheel the party always breaks. It’s been the same since Ramsay McDonald’s great betrayal of 1931, when he led breakaway Labour MPs into the national government to enforce Sir George May’s disastrous austerity package during the depression.

The same drama played itself out under Clement Attlee, when rearmament costs saw charges imposed for false teeth and spectacles, besmirching Aneurin Bevan’s idealistic vision of a free NHS. He promptly resigned from the cabinet, beginning a decade-long cold war with his arch-pragmatist rival, Hugh Gaitskell.

Most damagingly, the IMF-inspired austerity package, that James Callaghan’s government was forced to swallow during the financial crisis of the mid-seventies, saw Labour’s entire programme junked; precipitating the internal war that would rip the party to pieces during the early 1980s. (more…)

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