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Fighters and Believers


1:00 pm - November 19th 2009

by Don Paskini    


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At their conference, the Labour Party showed a video of some of Labour’s past achievements. After a grassroots campaign by ordinary members, they decided to re-show it as their Party Political Broadcast.

There’s been dispute about some of the claims in the broadcast doing the rounds of right-wing blogs – there is a ‘no holds barred fisking’ here, though my personal view is that the criticisms don’t stand up to scrutiny.

Would be interested in what people here think of the broadcast, you can see it here. Does it just appeal to Labour activists or to other liberal-lefties? Is this kind of grassroots campaigning something we can learn from? Why on earth did they choose to call it ‘fighters and believers’? And are critics right that Labour should have used this video instead?

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About the author
Don Paskini is deputy-editor of LC. He also blogs at donpaskini. He is on twitter as @donpaskini
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Reader comments


It made me do a little sick in my mouth when I watched it.

Ellie Gerrard may be a little mad, but at least she’s persistent.

I thought it was hilarious. The idea that the modern Labour party stands for anywhere near the set of values that they purport the Labour party did in some of that footage is a joke.

Unfortunately both yours and Sara”s posts split too many hairs, the over-riding truth being that good things have come through commitments by both Labour and Tories over years. It’s disingenuous to use some examples where you started policy without giving credit to Tories that continued it while also claiming credit for continuing policies that have benefited people that were started (or allowed to continue with support) by the Tories.

That’s why the broadcast was laughable nonsense.

I think it is significant that Labour produces a PPB that actually mentions its pre-1994 past.

Its as if after fifteen years of carefully constructing a chasm between ‘New Labour’ and ‘Old Labour’, there is a sudden desire to look back and reconnect with this past. Yes, the gap between past achievements and present ambitions is patent. But putting present ambitions even in the context of the party’s historic objectives and achievements strikes me as an interesting development.

Of course, if all those workers and suffragettes pictured in the video were out there on the streets protesting today, they would all get photgraphed by the police and would be put on a data base as ‘domestic extremists’ – something which our Labour Home Secretary has said he won’t be falling to the floor and clutching his Kleenex over.

So, clearly, some way to go to really, sincerely reconnect with that radical past.

Lee – “It’s disingenuous to use some examples where you started policy without giving credit to Tories that continued it while also claiming credit for continuing policies that have benefited people that were started (or allowed to continue with support) by the Tories.”

In a party political broadcast?? The film was intended as a 5 minute broadcast outlining our history and what the Labour party has to be proud of. It was never intended to be a detailed historical study of great political events so I find it a bit silly that people are treating it as such.

As to whether the modern Labour party stands for those same values, personally I don’t doubt it for a minute.

That other one you link to is much better. Sure, the quality is a bit crap, but that gives it an air of integrity the official one is lacking.

6. Ivan Horrocks

I suppose it depends what audience it’s aimed at. If that’s people with a very limited knowledge of the history of the Labour party and British history in general then I dare say it might be slick enough to win them over. But for anyone who knows a bit about Labour and a bit of social history then this is simply a triumph of spin over reality.

I could find fault at many levels and Stuart has hit two on the head already: the errosion of civil liberties, which means that many of the protests of old that this video laud wouldn’t be possible today; and that ‘new’ Labour tried so hard to disassociate itself from much of this stuff for most of the past 14 or more years.

Add to that the claims for recent ‘successes’: SureStart, sure, but what about the missed child poverty targets; the minimum wage, sure, but as someone who knows of lads in their late 20s with partners and kids to support who still earn less than £6.00 an hour, then lets be clear what the minimum wage is – it’s a poverty wage.

The point is we have to offset the so-called major achievements of new Labour with the failure to tackle more fundamental social and economic issues (where being relaxed about the filthy rich was always going to take us, I’m afraid), and no amount of late in the day (and rather deperate) spin will mask that (and I say that as a life long Labour voter who, as things stand, is at a loss as to what to do at the next election).

Furthermore, it strikes me that if Labour really wants to draw parellels between fundamental actions like support for womens’ right to the vote then a comparable policy it could have been in the forefront of promoting now (i.e. in the Queens speech) would have been to support moves to reinvent and reinvigorate democracy in this country. Belief and trust in which is now at an all-time low (as my students tell me frequently).

Anyway, that’s my two-pence worth.

People aren’t going to support Brown because the Labour movement did good things decades ago, its not going to win anyone over. However, swing voters also aren’t going to be enthused by emotive “I’m a Labour” from the tribalist party hardcore.

Regardless of why the videos were originally made, as PEB’s they don’t fit, its rather hard to see who in the wider public (outside labour supporters) they are for.

4. So what you’re saying is it’s fair game to be misleading in a party political broadcast?

‘Does it just appeal to Labour activists or to other liberal-lefties?’

Glad you put the ‘or’ in there. Obviously it appeals to Labour activists – both of them – but for liberal-lefties Lee sums it up quite well:

‘I thought it was hilarious. The idea that the modern Labour party stands for anywhere near the set of values that they purport the Labour party did in some of that footage is a joke.’

It’s as if they think we’ve all been in cryogenic suspension and missed what New Labour has done for the last 12 years.

10. Leonard Hatred

I accidentally walked into the room with the TV when it was on, and I sort of stood and stared in amazement. Good Lord. All those images of mass social movements, the mention of people standing up for their own rights, as workers, women, and human beings, just adds a stark contrast to what the Labour Party of the last twelve years has been.

As #3 mentioned, we’ve had mass protests and demonstrations along the same lines in the past few years, too. What’s happened? Stop the War was ignored and vilified, climate change and anticapitalist protestors have been beaten and intimidated, SOCPA and the like have tried to curtail the expression of dissent, and many protestors are finding themselves labelled “domestic extremists” for daring to question the status quo. This government would’ve had all the forerunners they’re now so proud of on a database somewhere. Probably it would’ve imprisoned a lot of them, as the powers of the day did. I suppose they don’t even see the irony.

And then they proved the old adage – you wait for a shot of Barack Obama in a modern party political broadcast, then three come along at once.

So, uh, yeah. I hate the Tories, but I hope they landslide the hell out of this shower. Such that we might finally, finally, be able to give the New Labour project the Ol’ Yeller treatment it so thoroughly deserves.

Lee – I’m not married, but I can assure you don’t intend to start beating my wife once I find and tie the knot with that special someone.

No, it’s not ok for a political video to be misleading, but Against the Odds is not misleading. The Labour movement fought for womens rights, they also played a part in organising demonstrations at cable street and they did support the fight against apartheid.

The critics of this video have taken the assertions portayed in the video and assumed different meaning “The Labour movement fought for womens rights..” has become “Gordon Brown single handedly brought about rights for women in this country..” (I exaggerate but you get the point).

If we had suggested that the Tories and the Libs had no right to claim any credit for (say) womens rights then we could be accused of misleading people, but we don’t do that.

11. It is not the politics they talk about that are the problem, it is the assertion. You say that you haven’t suggested that the Tories and Libs had no right to claim credit for those things but you *know* that is bullshit. Maybe not so much on the Lib Dem side but the whole point of that broadcast was to say “Look at what we as a party stand for, this is not what the Tories stand for, how good are we?” I don’t think people are generally as stupid as you think as to try and attribute this to Brown, part of Labour’s problem is we see that the way modern Labour operates is not just down to one man any more.

And, as some of us have said, as if that isn’t bad enough, it’s only really a distant memory of the king of integrity the modern Labour party shows on liberties and rights.

Yes Brown and his failings is one part, but Smith and Reid with their authoritarianism, Johnson with his hypocrisy and lack of respect for scientific debate, Mandleson with his trialless three strikes…we are all capable of understanding the problem is not people but a party.

11. It is not the politics they talk about that are the problem, it is the assertion. You say that you haven’t suggested that the Tories and Libs had no right to claim credit for those things but you *know* that is bullshit. Maybe not so much on the Lib Dem side but the whole point of that broadcast was to say “Look at what we as a party stand for, this is not what the Tories stand for, how good are we?” I don’t think people are generally as stupid as you think as to try and attribute this to Brown, part of Labour’s problem is we see that the way modern Labour operates is not just down to one man any more.

And, as some of us have said, as if that isn’t bad enough, it’s only really a distant memory of the king of integrity the modern Labour party shows on liberties and rights.

Yes Brown and his failings is one part, but Smith and Reid with their authoritarianism, Johnson with his hypocrisy and lack of respect for scientific debate, Mandleson with his trialless three strikes…we are all capable of understanding the problem is not people but a party.

Hmm, weird double post, sorry

I have a viscreal dislike of anything I suspect of being a PPB, so my judgement may be a a little off.

But it seemed to me that the first half of that broadcast might have been summed up by the slogan “Vote Labour – because We think that we are great”.

If the public agreed, the Tories would not have a double-digit lead in the polls.

11. “The critics of this video have taken the assertions portayed in the video and assumed different meaning”

If it was a video broadcast to the party at the conference than I could agree with that point but you can’t use a short film like this as a party political broadcast and then accuse people of assuming a meaning that’s wrong. If that’s the way it’s interpreted than that is its meaning and that is the most obvious reading.

Honestly it seemed arrogant, reminded me of Labour’s neo-liberal edge and I was disappointed. They should have shown footage of Gordon Brown reading out the list of political achievements at the conference instead because that made me yell triumphantly. We need real, 21st century, positive reinforcement. That’s how they can win the election, not by reminding everyone how much the Labour movement has lost since the 90s.

As an old labour supporter, I see the irony of this broadcast as being the title ‘labourparty’ at the end of the broadcast.
Labour ceased to be a socialist party from the moment clause four was abolished/amended, whatever it decides to call itself now, it certainly is not a socialist party.

Curiously, there’s no mention of Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour government 1929-31, particularly since his working class credentials were impeccable.

Strange, also, that there was no mention of Oswald Mosley – who founded the British Union of Fascists in 1932 – being a cabinet minister in MacDonald’s government until he resigned in 1930 saying the government was doing too little to deal with rising unemployment.

As for Clause 4, Labour’s manifesto for the 1983 election included commitments to take the commanding heights of the economy into public ownership, negotiate withdrawal from the European Common Market, and unilaterally give up nuclear weapons. The Conservatives won that election with a majority of 140 seats but Tony Blair was elected to Parliament for the first time on that manifesto.

I think it is significant that Labour produces a PPB that actually mentions its pre-1994 past.

That’s true.

But it’s also true that many lefties will find it hard to swallow the view that the party actually believes in those values.

Who will it appeal to? I think the PPB has emotional appeal and may appeal to a wider base… especially the demoralised base. it’s better than their output in the past definitely.

This feminist LD member found the video annoying, most particularly on the question of women’s suffrage. The video shows a Suffragette march. These were not Labour organised. Yes Emmeline Pankhurst was ILP, but she became disillusioned with the Labour Party and ended up close to the Tory Party as did Christabel. Sylvia Pankhurst went the other way and became a founder of the Communist Party. I don’t think much of Paskini’s defence of the video on this point. Yes, George Lansbury was an ardent supporter of women’s suffrage, but of the 42 Labour MPs elected in 1910 “only 20 to 25 generally went into the lobby in favour of votes for women”. The Labour Party Conference of 1912 supported women’s suffrage (despite the miners voting solidly against the proposal). However, by this time the WSPU had become extremely suspicious of the Labour Party, and had allies in both the Liberal and Conservative parties; so the relationship between the two movements was tense. One reason for this was Lansbury’s action, which Paskini cites in defence of the video. The fact is that Lansbury’s resignation was formally condemned by the Labour Party, much to the anger and disgust of the suffragettes. [the quote is from Roger Fulford’s “Votes for Women”]

The video does show a clip of the Battle of Cable Street, and I think it is disingenuous of Paskini to deny that the video is (wrongly) claiming that action for Labour just because there are no words saying that.

I find it very surprising that the Labour Party tries to claim any kudos at all for fighting fascism between the wars. This was not Labour’s shining hour. In 1933 George Lansbury, now leader of the Labour Party, reacted to German re-armament by sending this message to his constituency “I would close every recruiting station, disband the Army and disarm the Air Force. I would abolish the whole dreadful equipment of war and say to the world “do your worst”.

The Labour Party founded the NHS. That is its achievement, nothing more. Well done. Pity you couldn’t maintain it better.

I think it is significant that Labour produces a PPB that actually mentions its pre-1994 past.

Its as if after fifteen years of carefully constructing a chasm between ‘New Labour’ and ‘Old Labour’, there is a sudden desire to look back and reconnect with this past.

They’re certainly “look[ing] back“, but I suspect it’s to a time when people voted for them, not the values that won them the votes.

@20: “Sylvia Pankhurst went the other way and became a founder of the Communist Party”

Compare:

“Julie Gottlieb’s Feminine Fascism would disabuse them. Its brilliant analysis of the place of women in Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists does much to change our preconceptions. Where women played comparatively little part in the fascist movements of other European countries, more than 25 per cent of the BUF members were women, many of whom were prominent in the movement’s activities. All this, despite the macho image, so similar to that of continental fascism, displayed by the leader and by so many of his acolytes.”
http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storyCode=157840&sectioncode=6

After the franchise was extended to all adult citizens in 1928 for the 1929 general election, some more-or-less prominent suffragettes moved to join the British Union of Fascists following its foundation by Mosley in 1932. Julie Gottlieb names: Mary Richardson, Norah Elam (Mrs Dacre Fox), and Mary Allen.

This is trivia but, the youngest Pankhurst sister – Adela went to Australia where she was first a founder of the Australian Communist Party, got expelled for some reason, and then formed the extreme nationalist “Australia First” party. I can’t remember the exact details, or find a source, but I’m fairly certain she and her acolytes set of in a ship for Japan at the beginning of the war, to make peace, and she had to be brought back and interned. Quite, quite loopy.

However, another suffragette leader Mrs Pethick-Lawrence became a Labour MP. I see that Wikipedia lacks a full biography for her, which is shameful given that she was one of the first women MPs. Somebody should remedy this.

Sorry, my error. Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence stood, but did not get elected. Her husband did become an MP. She still deserves a fuller entry in Wikipedia.

What happened to JK Rowling??

I’ve just watched the video again and noticed that one of the early clips in the piece is of a NUWM (National Unemployed Workers Movement) march. The NUWM was a Communist Party front — nothing to do with the Labour Party.

18
Labour’s 1983 manifesto did indeed commit to taking public ownership further, however, clause four was ammended in 1995 in which the meaning became more fuzzy and no direct reference was made to public ownership.. This became known as Labour’s clause 4 moment, where all reference to the past was deleted, and New Labour emerged. The right-wing press have, over the years, suggested that the conservatives needed to have their own ‘clause four moment’ in order to make them electable. As I have already mentioned, the irony is, Labour’s past is now being used in this broadcast, although the fight for women’s sufferage is a lot older than the Labour Party and the Pankhursts.

28. Stuart White

I didn’t ‘read’ the message as saying that the Labour Party itself did all of the things referred to in the video, but more that it is historically a product of the same radical culture as the suffragettes etc. Its an evocation of a political milieu or culture of which the LP is one expression.

Historically, this is surely right.

Right now, however, there is obviously a huge gap between the LP and the radical culture of the ‘fighters and believers’. Looking ahead, the LP needs to build its bridges back to this culture (and give up any hope or pretention that it can somehow monopolise the representation of this culture). And a key first step in doing this is for LP members to be much more vociferous about the government’s collusion in the intimidation and degradation of today’s protestors.

“I find it very surprising that the Labour Party tries to claim any kudos at all for fighting fascism between the wars. This was not Labour’s shining hour. In 1933 George Lansbury, now leader of the Labour Party, reacted to German re-armament by sending this message to his constituency “I would close every recruiting station, disband the Army and disarm the Air Force. I would abolish the whole dreadful equipment of war and say to the world “do your worst”.”

What you don’t mention (what a surprise!) is that Lansbury was effectively ousted from the leadership because of his position on such issues. I also note that you don’t mention DLG’s little trip to see a certain little man in the new Germany – hmm…

“What you don’t mention (what a surprise!) is that Lansbury was effectively ousted from the leadership because of his position on such issues. I also note that you don’t mention DLG’s little trip to see a certain little man in the new Germany – hmm…”

No, but I’m not trying to steal the history of the Communist Party of Great Britain and the Feminist movement, and Anti-Apartheid to invent a past that the Labour Party doesn’t actually have.

But if that’s all you’re doing… why the (inaccurate – far more so than anything in the video/broadcast/whatever) attack on Labour’s general antifascist record in the ’30’s (using Lansbury as cover)? If all you care about in this instance is the honour of the CPGB (I’ll refrain from making any obvious jokes here) then that was absolutely unnecessary.

When Hitler took power in 1933, Labour’s leader was George Lansbury, a pacifist who wanted to disband Britain’s armed forces. Lansbury was not forced to resign on this issue, as you allege.

Two years later, in 1935 Italy invaded Abyssinia. Most of the Labour Party supported the National Government’s imposition of economic sanctions, but Lansbury did not. He tried to resign, but his followers would not let him go. The situation was not resolved until the party conference at the end of the year when Lansbury was replaced by Attlee. When the Spanish civil war started the Labour Party approved of the policy of non-intervention. Those individual party members who went to fight in Spain did not do so with the Labour Party’s blessing or support.

Meanwhile, Britain was failing to re-arm. Prime Minister Baldwin perceived the public mood as against re-armament and apparently thought that if he moved towards re-armament he would lose the next election to the Labour and Liberal parties. Britain started re-arming only after the election in 1935. The Parliamentary Labour Party did not stop voting against re-armament expenditure until 1937.

Also in 1937 a United Front against fascism was proposed by Stafford Cripps and the Labour affiliated Socialist League, to include the Communist Party, Labour Party and ILP. Stafford Cripps was told that if he and his supporters continued to act as a pressure group for the United Front, they would be expelled.

And also in 1937 Churchill (remember him?) started talking to other like-minded Conservative, Labour and Liberal MPs concerned about foreign policy.

By 1938 there was a Liberal/Labour Popular Front against fascism, but the Labour Party was still split.

Here endeth the history lesson. All of the major political parties in the UK failed to deal adequately with the rise of militaristic nationalism and fascism. It is easy to be critical with hindsight, but they were only reflecting the public’s understandable mood of pacifism following WW1. It is also understandable that the Labour Party was more infected by the pacifist mood than the others. However, as I stated above, this was not Labour’s shining hour, and I ask you, what record of fighting fascism are you referring to?

“Meanwhile, Britain was failing to re-arm. Prime Minister Baldwin perceived the public mood as against re-armament and apparently thought that if he moved towards re-armament he would lose the next election to the Labour and Liberal parties. Britain started re-arming only after the election in 1935.

That claim leaves a misleading impression of events.

This following is start of the Guardian’s report of 4 March 1935 on the Baldwin government’s rearmament White Paper:

“In a major reversal of rearmament policy Britain today announced new expansion plans for its army, navy and air force. The plans, in a defence white paper, are to demonstrate that Britain does not take lightly Germany’s continuing rearmament.

“The white paper calls for an enlarged fleet, improved defences for warships against air attack, more aircraft for the RAF and new coastal and anti-aircraft defences. The emphasis on air defence follows fears that Britain is an easy target for cross-Channel air raids. . . ”
http://century.guardian.co.uk/1930-1939/Story/0,,126998,00.html

“The fact is that the rearmament programme was seriously begun under Baldwin, pushed along more slowly than Churchill wanted, but more quickly than the opposition advocated. Defence spending, pegged at about 2.5 per cent of GNP until 1935, increased to 3.8 per cent by 1937.” (Peter Clarke: Hope and Glory: Britain 1900-2000 (Penguin Books))

At the general election on 14 November 1935, the Conservatives won with a landslide. Only 154 Labour MPs were returned – against 432 Conservatives – and George Lansbury, the Labour leader, lost his seat. Attlee, his deputy, was elected as Labour leader in his place. That election was the last at which the winning party attracted more than half the total votes cast.

This webpage yields insights into the beginnings and pace of German rearmament with Hitler as Reich chancellor since January 1933:
http://web.jjay.cuny.edu/~jobrien/reference/ob90.html

And? Nothing you’ve written above contradicts what I wrote. I ask you again. What was the Labour Party’s record of anti-fascism between the wars that you think I’ve maligned?

“What was the Labour Party’s record of anti-fascism between the wars that you think I’ve maligned?”

You left an impression that the Baldwin government was more tardy in starting a commitment to rearmament than in fact it was.

Ernest Bevin, who became foreign secretary in the Attlee government after the war, made clear his opposition to Lansbury’s pacifism:

“During the 1930s, with the Labour Party split and weakened, Bevin co-operated with the Conservative-dominated government on practical issues. But during this period he became increasingly involved in foreign policy. He was a firm opponent of fascism and of British appeasement of the fascist powers. In 1935, arguing that Italy should be punished by sanctions for her recent invasion of Abyssinia, he made a blistering attack on the pacifists in the Labour Party, accusing the Labour leader George Lansbury at the Party Conference of ‘hawking his conscience around’ asking to be told what to do with it.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Bevin

Attlee, who became Labour leader after the 1935 election, was not a pacifist and more-or-less went along with the government’s rearmament programme.

This (inspiring) biographical note about RJ Mitchell, the designer of the famous Spitfire fighter, gives insights into the timing and scale of work on significant rearmament projects for the RAF, although we might note that the Spitfire was initially a private venture by Supermarine.

“Mitchell devoted most of 1935 to work on the Spitfire”
http://freespace.virgin.net/john.dell/spitmich.htm

By Peter Clarke’s account in his history of Britain in the 20th century, rearmament spending was increasingly skewed towards the RAF, for air defences, and then the Royal Navy, with the army left very much as Cinderella. The lack of equipment for the army and its poor preparation for fighting became evident with the performance of the British Expeditionary Force in France leading up to the Dunkirk evacuation between 26 May and 4 June 1940.

In retrospect, we have good reason to value the decisions to give spending priority to air defences. Few recall nowadays, that Britain’s resident population of 40 millions in 1940 was almost exactly half that of the combined populations of Germany and Austria.

After the war, Von Rundstedt, c-in-c west in the German high command at the end of the war, was asked by Soviet interrogators to say which was the decisive battle of the war. To their disgust, he said: The Battle of Britain, and he was correct. Had Britain been neutralised by whatever means, Germany would not have faced the continuing threat of a second front entailing the commitment of all the military resources for its western defences.

I don’t think I did give a misleading impression of Baldwin’s commitment to re-armament. I said 1935. So did you. However, Baldwin was the Conservative leader of the National Government, and so I’m blowed if I can see the relevance of this to the question of the Labour Party who, as I’ve already stated, continued to vote against re-armament expenditure until 1937.

Bevin was not the leader of the Labour Party between the wars. His personal record on opposing appeasement was honourable, as was that of other individual politicians in the Conservative and Liberal parties, but they were in the minority until 1939.

This stuff ain’t controversial you know? Instead of looking at web pages you should try reading a few history books. At a time when European history seems to be repeating itself, combining economic crisis with a rise of extreme nationalism and disillusionment with social democracy, anybody who is politically involved has a duty to understand what went wrong last time. What isn’t acceptable, is for the Labour Party to forget its own history and substitute a fantasy history of a radical tradition it does not have, which is what that video is.

Bob B are you going to continue cutting and pasting irrelevant quotes from random history web pages or are you going to answer my question?

@38: “Bob B are you going to continue cutting and pasting irrelevant quotes from random history web pages or are you going to answer my question?”

Don’t be silly and offensive. Your post created a misleading impression of the Baldwin government’s decision on rearmament, which went back to the white paper published in March 1935 and set in train a series of resource allocation decisions in rearamement which significantly shaped Britain’s diplomacy vis-a-vis Germany and subsequent war effort.

Lansbury, the Labour leader until the 1935 election in November, became notorious for his personal commitment to pacificism but other high-profile figures in the Labour movement didn’t share his commitment, hence the very personal attack on him by Ernest Bevin, who was a leading personality in the trade union movement at the time – if you check out his Wikipedia entry. The frequency with which histories of the period quote Bevin on Lansbury suggest that Bevin’s comments at the Labour Party conference struck home and left a lasting impression with his audience.

My quotes of history were to allow readers to assess the history sources for themselves.

If they wanted to show the historic roots of New Labour why not just show clips of Margaret Thatcher?

@40: “If they wanted to show the historic roots of New Labour why not just show clips of Margaret Thatcher?”

New Labour was mostly a (successful) marketing gimmick.

Neither Harold Wilson nor James Callaghan were enthusiastic about nationalising more industries – and recall that the Heath government had nationalised Rolls Royce plc in 1971 for thoroughly pragmatic reasons.

Unlike Tony Blair, neither Wilson nor Callaghan were unilateral nuclear disarmers and nor were they committed to withdrawing Britain from the European Common Market.

The New Labour initiative was really about returning the Labour Party to where it had been rooted before the influence of Bennery and the Militant Tendency gained the ascendancy those factions did achieve by the early 1980s.

The Labour setback at the 1983 election and the growing electoral success of the Social Democrats were sufficients jolts to prompt rethinking.

As for why Labour didn’t win the 1992 election after a stint of rethinking:

“Worcester has no doubt that it was the Sheffield rally, just eight days before polling day. On the eve of the rally, three polls came out, showing a seven-point lead, a six-point lead and a four-point lead for Labour. That day, Labour peaked.”
http://www.newstatesman.com/199812110020

To get a flavour of why the Sheffield rally generated such an adverse reaction, try this video report:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TOgB3Smvro

Bob B

This is my last post on this subject. I’m sorry if you were offended by my suggestion that you do some reading, but I still urge you to do so.

History is not like a game of fantasy football. You do not retrospectively get to choose your dream team Bevin was not leader of the Labour Party between the wars. Lansbury was the leader until the end of 1935 and even under Attlee the Labour Party voted against rearmament until 1937. Even if you want to play fantasy football, frankly you lose. You choose Bevin. I can trump you for the Liberals with Archibald Sinclair, who though a leader of a rump of 25 was firmly against appeasement and worked closely with Churchill. And of course the Tories win with Churchill himself.

There are several clips in the video which, far from being “an evocation of a political milieu or culture of which the LP is one expression” as Stuart White says in his comment, are demonstrative of the Labour Party’s failure between the wars. Frustrated by the Labour Party’s failures and indecisiveness a significant minority of working people and left leaning intellectuals rejected the Labour Party and were drawn to the parties of the far right and left. The clips showing the Communist NUWM demonstration, the (again Communist organised) Battle of Cable Street and Mosley, are all filmed records of Labour’s failure.

The video is historically illiterate nonsense. However, as a LD member I’m all for the second video. The confused gent at the end who appears to think it is 1945 and he’s just been demobbed should get my party a substantial number of votes.

@42: “History is not like a game of fantasy football. You do not retrospectively get to choose your dream team Bevin was not leader of the Labour Party between the wars.”

I thought that was crystal clear from Bevin’s biographical details in Wikipedia. However, he was the leader of the T&GWU, Britain’s largest trade union at the time, and a dominating figure in the trade union movement. His personal attack on Lansbury at the Labour Party conference in 1935 evidently had wide resonance as shown by the many citations of it in the histories of the period.

As for the Labour Party being indecisive, there were only 154 Labour MPs left in Parliament after the election rout of November 1935, which the Conservatives had won with more than half the total votes cast, an outcome that is difficult to quibble about.

I believe Peter Clarke’s well-reviewed history: Hope and Glory (Penguin) should sort out any residual uncertainties for readers. The references above to RJ Mitchell – designer of the Spitfire at Supermarine – make clear that much work for rearmament was already progressing behind the scenes as early as 1935 and Baldwin’s government defined its own position on rearmament quite unequivocally in the White Paper of March 1935.

I thought my many postings here had previously demonstrated that defending the history and image of the Labour Party has never been part of any personal brief. What I am concerned to do is make clear that the Conservative government became committed to rearmament early in 1935, regardless of George Lansbury’s pacificism or equivocation on the part f the Labour Party.

The politics of “the left” generally in the late 1930s was thoroughly murky. News of the colossal death toll from famine in the Ukraine in 1932/3 had leaked out. Orwell had blown the whistle on the executions in International Brigade during the Spanish civil war in his book: Homage to Catalonia – he and his wife had escaped across the frontier into France just ahead of an arrest warrant issued by the Republican government. The spectacle of dedicated Communists in the Soviet Union making ludicrous confessions in the Moscow show trials of 1936/7 and their subsequent executions was widely reported.

But let’s be clear, assessments of the Nazi government in Germany among senior Conservatives in government in the late 1930s were far from monolithic. Some, like Lord Halifax, an advocate of appeasement, were sympathetic – as was Britain’s ambassador to Germany in 1936/7:
http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/~pv/munich/czdoc07.html

One early decision of Churchill on becoming PM in May 1940 was to order closed a diplomatic channel for communicating with the Nazi German government via Sweden, which remained neutral throughout WW2 – see Lukacs: Five Days in London: May 1940 (Yale UP). Alan Clark, one of Mrs T’s ministers, made a retrospective case for reaching a peace settlement with Germany in 1940.

Btw what video clip are you referring to? And I’ve never played football in my life, nor do I follow the game.


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