Thursday, 30 April 2009

Eighty Years On?

The first Lib Dem Commons victory since the Twenties? What, so every Home Office or Treasury Bill failed when Roy Jenkins was Home Secretary or Chancellor of the Exchequer? Every Education Bill failed when Shirley Williams was Education Secretary?

Somewhat ironically considering that John Cleese used to do Party Political Broadcasts for the SDP, there is now something of a "don't mention the War" attitude to that party. Could it be because, when so many of today's media grandees were Communists or Trotskyists and entirely open about it, the SDP was trying, however imperfectly, to provide a home for those whom they had driven out of Labour?

And the SDP was very imperfect. Apparently unable to see that the unions were where the need for a broad-based, sane opposition to Thatcherism was greatest, it was hysterically hostile to them, and instead made itself dependent on a single donor, later made a Minister by Blair without the rate for the job. It had betrayed Gaitskellism over Europe, betrayed Christian Socialism (and, lest we forget, Gaitskellism) over nuclear weapons, adopted the decadent social libertinism of Roy Jenkins, and adopted the comprehensive schools mania of Shirley Williams.

But even so.


  1. A mixed legacy surely.
    Yes Labour lost its "soul" and became "New Labour".
    But it did actually make Labour re-think itself and at least offered IN THE END an alternative (in personnel if not policy) to Thatcher/Major.
    Now the Tories have done the same.

    Politics without Soul...Stalinism. Fascism.

  2. No, I'm afraid that New Labour, far from being a rethinking in the light of things like the SDP, was simply the completion of the process that drove them out in the first place.

  3. But David, the SDP were about abandoning socialism as an aim - and what what the first thing Blair wanted to talk about when elected? Scrapping Clause 4!

  4. Clause IV didn't say anything, anyway. It certainly didn't mention public ownership, about which Labour (apart from the recently concluded period of outright hostility) has always been strictly pragmatic.

    Like the Tories, in fact, who pragmatically nationalised electricity. Even Thatcher once nationalised a small bank.