It is time to dispel the myth that Labour’s ’83 manifesto was too left wing

1983One of the most enduring and longstanding myths of British politics is that Labour lost the 1983 general election because it was too left wing, fighting it on a manifesto that ensured it was unelectable. In words that have become engraved in the nation’s history, Labour’s own Gerald Kaufman described the ’83 Labour manifesto as ‘the longest suicide note in history’, which is how it is still regarded over three decades on.

It is a myth that has been doing the rounds in the context of a Labour leadership campaign that has seen a surge in support and momentum for Jeremy Corbyn on a platform of anti austerity, wealth redistribution, and the role of government that has succeeded in exciting and energising people who’d long become accustomed to a Labour Party that had surrendered to right wing nostrums on the economy, welfare, and foreign policy.

In 1983 Labour put forward a manifesto that drew inspiration and direct lineage from the transformational programme of the 1945 Labour government, the most ambitious of any Labour government ever. Back then, despite the parlous state of an economy exhausted after the Second World War, Labour came to power committed to governing in the interests of a working class that had been accustomed to unemployment, povery, and destitution prior to the war. The subsequent rolling out of the welfare state, NHS, and a commitment to full employment laid the foundations of the most sustained period of economic stability and prosperity in the nation’s history.

It combined investment, planning, and intervention that was a radical departure from the laissez faire policies that had led to the Depression of the 1930s, condemning millions of working families to penury and poverty with little if any prospect of escape.

Likewise, by 1983 working families and communities had suffered the consequences of four years of Thatcherism. The country was mired in recession with unemployment reaching a record 3.2 million, as Thatcher set about decimating the nation’s industrial base in favour of turning a deregulated banking and financial sector into the motor of the economy, in the process ensuring the transferance of wealth from the poor to the rich on a grand scale.

The result was a spike in inequality, crime, and public spending on welfare as tax cuts added further downward pressure on public funds.

In this context, Labour pledged to embark on a programme of investment in industry, eduation, council housing, jobs, and the NHS. Along with an increase in child benefit and pensions and the renationalisation of those state assets that had already been sold off and privatised under the Tories, it offered a truly progressive alternative.

It would be mostly funded by an increase in government borrowing rather than tax increases, on the argument that borrowing to invest in the economy is more productive than borrowing to pay for an over-inflated welfare budget, given the record rate of unemployment that obtained under Thatcher’s government.

The scourge of poverty wages would also be tackled through the strengthening of the Equal Pay Act in consultation and cooperation with the unions. Currency controls would be re-introduced in order to counter currency speculation, thereby guaranteeing the stability of sterling and interest rates.

Rather than focus on the budget deficit a priority would be placed on tackling the nation’s trade deficit, which under Thatcher had regressed to the point where Britain, once the workshop of the world, had become a net importer for the first time in its history, a direct result of the destruction of British industry. Labour’s plan of placing controls on imports and bolstering exports via investment in industry and manufacturing was designed to reverse this trend, creating jobs in the process.

The expansion of democracy was also planned, especially at the local level, which had suffered under the government’s policy of reducing the role and power of local government in its determination to railroad through its structural adjustment of the economy and, with it, British society with minimal opposition.

On defence unilateral nuclear disarmament was a bold initiative designed to tackle the scourge of weapons of mass destruction on the understanding their use could never be countenanced and were a crushing waste of public funds that could be better spent and invested.

The objective of the government’s foreign policy, as set out, would be based on “the urgent need to restore détente and dialogue between the states and the peoples of the world. We will actively pursue dialogue with the Soviet Union and China, and will urge the American government to do so. We will work consistently for peace and disarmament, and devote all our efforts to pulling the world back from the nuclear abyss. Labour will dedicate some of the resources currently wasted on armaments to projects designed to promote both security and human development.

“An essential difference between the Labour and the Tory approach is that we have a foreign policy that will help liberate the peoples of the world from oppression, want and fear. We seek to find ways in which social and political progress can be achieved and to identify the role that Britain can play in this process.”

So why, given the aforementioned, did Labour lose?

There are two key reasons: i) the bounce in personal popularity enjoyed by Margaret Thatcher in the aftermath of the Faklands War the previous year, and ii) the split in Labour’s vote by the breakaway SDP faction.

Mention must also be made of the campaign of demonisation that was carried out in the pages of the right wing popular press against Labour leader, Michael Foot, who was treated disgracefully and venomously by a tabloid press that had fallen behind Thatcher and extended itself in fanning the flames of the reaction and jingoism that had swept the land.

Here it is worth noting that Labour intended to place controls on press ownership, understanding the danger posed by the concentration of newspaper ownership in the hands of a few rich media barons to democracy, thus inviting their enmity.

In an era when social media and the Internet was a distant dream, this aspect of British society was key in shaping public attitudes and opinion.

Taken in the round, the 1983 Labour Party manifesto offered a truly progressive, redistributive, intelligent, and eminently realisable alternative to the cruel and desolate reality of Tory Britain. Defeat in 1983 not only meant another four years of Thatcher, it set in train the process of turning Labour into the Tory-lite party it became.

Jeremy Corbyn in 2015 represents not only a change in direction for Labour but for the country as a whole. It is why they fear him, and why the forces of hell have been unleashed to try and stem the groundswell of support his campaign has unleashed.

Where Tony Blair is the poster child of Labour’s loss of principles and integrity, Corbyn offers the chance of making it a party and an institution to be proud of again, thereby reigniting belief in a politics shorn of callous indifference to suffering and injustice.

62 comments on “It is time to dispel the myth that Labour’s ’83 manifesto was too left wing

  1. JOCK MCTROUSERS on said:

    Very well said John. And it’s worth repeating for the umpteenth time that Michael Foot in the 1983 election got more votes than any Labour Party since, or maybe even any government!

    Socialism (lite, anyway) is not an extremist ideology, but represents what most people actually want, though they’ve been deprived of a name for it by the capitalist media and the surrender of the social democratic (supposedly) parties. In most of his recent books and talks, Noam Chomsky, repeatedly hammers home the point that the US electorate are way to the ‘left’ of the political parties, that socialist ideas – like the main one, that the state is primarily to look after the majority – are what most people believe. There are few even economists who would dispute that there are natural monopolies – power, telecommunications, water, education, health, postal deliveries, road, rail – which are best run by the state, because they’re inevitably bailed out by it. Most people I meet these days now seem aware that many of our ‘privatised’ services are now owned by foreign states, providing a tidy income (following the tidy income provided for the politicians who arranged it) for those foreign states. Even Tories support re-nationalisation of the railways, and the preservation of the NHS.

    There’s an excellent video on youtube showing the gap between how people believe wealth is distribute, how they think is fair for it to be distributed, and how it actually IS distributed. You can imagine (I’ll try and find a link if anyone wants). Most people think a little reward for initiative or invention is a fair and good thing (me too), but not past the point where private accumulations of capital corrupt democracy… There’s a GENUINE third way in there somewhere – one you could vote for, one that wouldn’t involve mass die-offs as we all returned to cottage industry or whatever, one that’s REAL and attainable.

    The rest of the Labour Party ‘contenders’ have compromised so much with the agenda of the rich, one that has to be based on double-speak and lies, have indulged in such prolongued contortions to pretend that the interest of the rich (whose support they want) are the same as ours, that they can no longer think or talk straight (even Owen Jones) …

    Jeremy Corbyn is just SANITY 101, basic reality, plain talking. Support him for the sake of our mental health as much as anything!

  2. Doug on said:


    It’s also worth pointing out that in constituencies where the Labour candidates were dyed-in-the wool socialists, their vote was generally better than those of right wing backsliders.

  3. Karl Stewart on said:

    Very well said John.And it’s worth repeating for the umpteenth time that Michael Foot in the 1983 election got more votes than any Labour Party since, or maybe even any government!

    Except for the general elections of 1945, 1950, 1951, 1955, 1959, 1964, 1966, 1970, 1974 (Feb), 1974 (Oct), 1979, 1987, 1992, 1997, 2001, 2005, 2010, and 2015, in all of which Labour won more votes than they won in 1983.

    In 1983, Labour had some great policies, and apart from unilateralism their policies were popular.

    Unfortunately, Michael Foot was the worst leader the party ever had. He was clearly not well, he was embarrassingly absent-minded, would lose his way in the middle of a speech, and was not particularly principled either.

    Just a couple of examples of Foot’s lack of principle such as his initial response to the Falklands crisis was to make a speech of such jingoism that challenged Thatcher to “deeds not words”, basically goading her to war, and his disgraceful public attack on Tatchell gave the green light to the rabid right-wing media to destroy him in the by-election.

    With a different leader, Labour could have won that year, but Foot’s hapless leadership condemned us to Thatcher’s vicious second term.

  4. jock mctrousers on said:

    Karl Stewart: JOCK MCTROUSERS:
    Very well said John.And it’s worth repeating for the umpteenth time that Michael Foot in the 1983 election got more votes than any Labour Party since, or maybe even any government!

    Except for the general elections of 1945, 1950, 1951, 1955, 1959, 1964, 1966, 1970, 1974 (Feb), 1974 (Oct), 1979, 1987, 1992, 1997, 2001, 2005, 2010, and 2015, in all of which Labour won more votes than they won in 1983.

    Are you sure about that Karl? Maybe it was the percentage of votes cast? Excuse me if it turns out that’s just one of these factoids, but I’ve seen something similar quoted so often I feel there must be something in it.

    I agree with you about Foot’s personality – he wash right, but he was the wrong man. Max Hastings (then Evening Standard editor) said of Ian Duncan Smith’s Tory Party leadership, ” this turnip makes Michael Foot look like Spartacus”. I know that Ed Milliband had a lot to contend with but the net effect again was to make Foot look like Spartacus. The new contenders make Milliband look like Spartacus , apart from Corbyn.

    It feels foolish to expect the appropriately-initialed JC to be our Messiah, but he looks like the Labour Party’s last chance.

  5. Karl Stewart on said:

    Yep, Foot polled fewer Labour votes than any post-WWII election – he was just so embarrassingly useless.

    It was in the same general election that Corbyn stood for election in Islington North for the first time and increased the Labour majority.

  6. jack ford on said:

    If Denis Healey had been Labour leader rather than Foot he might have been able to beat Thatcher. She certainly wouldn’t have had the landslide.

  7. Andrew on said:

    jack ford,

    Benn had many qualities but was too divisive within the party. The split would’ve been even worse. Benn was a great man but not a unifier.

  8. JOCK MCTROUSERS on said:

    Karl Stewart,

    I’m not that experienced with the world of elections statistics, but a few searches revealed nothing to contradict what you say, Karl, so thanks for correcting the unexamined assumption at the base of my political philosophy.

    Memory can be deceptive but I’m still sure that I’ve read somewhere some impressive statistic about Foot’s performance. Maybe it was that if you add in the SDP, had they not left, it was the biggest Labour vote ever…. but that doesn’t really help does it?

    But the rest of what I said still stands, and I’m in agreement with the others here who feel that the problem (apart from SDP treachery) was the man not the program. I remember being at a rally in Hyde Park where Foot was introduced as ‘impressive’… and I thought, ” No, nice wee guy, but…”

  9. Vanya on said:

    Let’s not forget that the sabotage from “our own side” was not entirely down to the SDP and nor was it all external.

    Right wingers split in a number of constituencies where a left candidate had been selected and stood as independents under a number of flags.

    In fact, in the subsequent election, Frank Field in Birkenhead told neighbouring constituents in Wallasey to vote SDP because the Labour candidate (a former shipyard worker at Cammell Lairds in Birkenhead) was too left wing for his liking. No action was taken against him btw.

    And I seem to remember James Callaghan, former leader, going on national TV not long before the election to rubbish the position on nuclear disarmament.

    As for the “longest suicide note in history”, I was once told that Sir Gerald pinched that from Herbert Morrison, who was referring to the manifesto during the 1951 election (in which btw Labour received the highest number of votes ever, before or since).

    Funnily enough Kaufman is now one of the better Labour MPs, (rated by none other than George Galloway), and one of the 48 who voted against the Welfare and Work bill last week.

    He wouldn’t nominate JC though 🙁

  10. Karl Stewart: In 1983, Labour had some great policies, and apart from unilateralism their policies were popular.

    Shall we say instead that Labour’s position on unilateralism was ahead of its time? After all, Tory policy on welfare reform is popular, according to the polls, but we wouldn’t dare suggest that Harman is right to tail it because of its popularity.

    Karl Stewart: Unfortunately, Michael Foot was the worst leader the party ever had.

    I’d say both Ramsay MacDonald and Tony Blair were worse, if we are talking principle. Foot was a democratic socialist who was leader of the party at a time when it was engaged in an internal battle with Militant. No leader would have been able to lead effectively under those circumstances.

    Karl Stewart: Just a couple of examples of Foot’s lack of principle such as his initial response to the Falklands crisis was to make a speech of such jingoism that challenged Thatcher to “deeds not words”, basically goading her to war

    The war was popular, esp with Argentina being led by a right wing military junta at the time. I’m not sure many Labour voters would agree that Foot’s support for military action equated to a lack of principle. Sometimes hindsight can distort the reality of events as experienced at the time they occurred.

    As for his attacks on Tatchell, this is the first I heard about those. Any more details. I did know he was attacked disgracefully during the by election, by I thought this was the work of Simon Hughes.

  11. IIRC, Foot was set up over Tatchell. PT had written some article for Labour Briefing calling for “extra-parliamentary action”. After PT had been selected for Bermondsey, some Tory MP got up in the Commons and asked MF if he was aware that one of his candidates had called for “anti-parliamentary action” and would he disassociate himself etc. etc. MF took the bait and disassociated himself and the party – without having actually read the piece, trusting a Tory’s misrepresentation of it. Then he had to backtrack when he was actually shown PT’s article, which didn’t contain anything particularly objectionable by the standards of Labour writing in those days.

    The whole episode showed MF as inept and out of his depth.

    I also recall the enthusiasm on some of the left when Michael Foot was elected leader – at last, someone who supports our policies is in charge! History can repeat itself…

  12. Sam64 on said:

    I think there’s enough in the above to resist any notion that the early 1980s – when I was just coming into left wing politics – were in any sense a golden era for the left in recent British history. They weren’t.

    Yes, the 1983 Labour Party Manifesto was perhaps the most radical in its history, but it was also a very bad document. I once heard tell, I am not sure how true it was, that a right wing Birmingham MP Goldwing (Goldsomebody) who subscribed to the Kaufman line, had charge of the committee writing it in the run up to the 1983 general election. Because he was both convinced that Labour would loose the election and preferred that prospect to it winning – that’s just how internecine things were in the early 1980s – he opted to throw everything into the mix to make it a kind of left wing morass. His hope was a resounding defeat for the left and resurgence for the right. I seem to remember – it’s funny how things stick in your head – that one of the Tory newspapers said of the LP manifesto that on a dull day it was difficult to tell the difference between the CPGB Manifesto and the Labour Party one – except that the CP Manifesto was neater, crisper and a good deal better written.

    Then, as indicated, there was a polarisation within the Labour Party. It was vicious. Vanya mentions Wallasey CLP above. I remember hearing of a fist fight between a Socialist Organiser (I think Jeremy Corbyn was close to them in that period) activist and a right wing stalwart at a Labour GMC. The principal effort for many Labour activists in that era was not campaigning for the Party but plotting, stereotypically but actually in a smoke filled room above a pub, to take on the right in some Labour forum, get a left wing resolution passed etc. On one level, this was perfectly understandable given the behaviour of the right and the record of the preceding Callaghan government, but in other respects it was indefensible. The antics of the Militant Tendency (yes, many excellent socialists amongst them) typified this, e.g. refusing to participate in the LPYS branch I was in at the time because they didn’t control it, then, when they’d recruited enough members in the area, taking it over lock, stock and barrel one evening.

    Whatever the personal characteristics of Michael Foot, he had a hopeless task, getting it in the neck from both left and right of Labour. And he was crucified by the right wing press and the Tories – although I think there was some research in April, May that found Miliband actually got it worse this year.

    Finally, I think the 27.6 % Labour received, with a decline of 9.3%, was the lowest post War – after 4 years of Thatcher’s offensive in which approximately a 1/3 of industrial jobs disappeared. And whilst it is true that Labour increased its vote in some areas, caution is needed. It is always said, for instance, that Labour’s vote increased with left wing (in some cases Militant) candidates in Liverpool – where there was/is visceral hatred of Thatcher and what she’d done. That was true in some constituencies, but not all in 83 – in one of two the Tory vote stood up pretty well.

    The period from 1979 to the defeat of Benn in the deputy leadership contest Sept 81 was one of ascendency for the left in the Labour Party and British politics. But it turned sour after that and 1983 marked a crushing defeat. I think the attempt to salvage something from that period is legitimate, but it’s best to tread carefully.

  13. Vanya on said:

    #15 I think I know who that fight was between.

    In fact the candidate I referred to was close to Socialist Organiser.

    I had those same experiences with Militant, seeing it from the inside for 2 years and then from the outside.

    In fact I remember with deep embarassment being in Colchester Labour club on the night of the 1983 election with some other Militant members, being ecstatic about the results in Liverpool Broad Green and the various council seats in Liverpool and talking about how it was going to be the Petrograd of Britain, even though it was clear how badly Labour was doing generally.

  14. Sam64 on said:


    Yes, I used to know the lad in question – the candidate, not the GMC brawler – quite well, a likeable Camel Laid spark from the NE: Lol Duffy – I am always wary about naming names as I don’t use my full one, but it’s a matter of record that he was the LP candidate in Wallasey 1983 (and 87) and part of a SO group there, later expelled.

    Last I heard he was running a bar in Southern Spain. Say hello from Sam if you’re in touch with him by any chance.

  15. Vanya on said:

    #17 I’m not in touch with him. I knew him through other people in the Labour Party in the Wirral. Definitely one of the better members of that particular grouping, politically and personally in my opinion.

  16. Sam64 on said:

    There was a post up here a moment ago about the late John Golding MP. Seems to have been taken down, i.e. deleted. Can’t see why, informative but not controversial in any way.

  17. John Grimshaw on said:

    Yep Sam I can see nothing controversial. A standard model right wing LP man and TU bureaucrat. His writings were published and entitled “Hammer of the Left – my Part in Defeating the Left”. So no false modesty there then. He was either a Led Zep fan or liked Spike Milligan or both. Apparently he has the all time record for longest speech in Parliamentary history. Eleven hours and fifteen minutes in a committee filibuster designed to delay a vote on creating BT.

  18. Sam64 on said:

    John Grimshaw,

    Ye somebody else corrected the name and gave a bit of info on Golding yesterday evening. Nothing controversial but, as occurred to me, afterwards, they also said something about Corbyn and Soggy Orgi, i.e. controversial in present circumstances, presumably why they had the comment deleted.

  19. It was me that posted the comment discussed above. I didn’t make any accusations or say anything too controversial but asked if anyone else had ever heard a political rumour that I referred to. If it was something criminal or libellous fair enough, but I don’t think it was.

  20. Bmcc on said:

    WTF – why u geezers discussing how many angels can fit on the pin of a needle,
    VOTE FOR JC & DI and fight for socialism

  21. lone nut on said:

    For those who bemoan the Labour Party’s increasing isolation from its natural constituency, it might be thought that the replacement of a former dock worker with deep roots in the traditional Bermondsey working class by a flakey middle class faddist like Tatchell was a reminder that this thing cuts both ways, and the far left was in many ways even more complicit in the process than the traditional right. I would also take rather a nuanced view of Tatchell’s complaints about smear campaigns, given his subsequent history of smearing those who don’t share his enthusiasm for “human rights” imposed by imperialist gunpower as apologists for terrorism, not to mention his matchless talent for hysterically denouncing the “shameful silence of the left” over some issue he has himself only discovered in the last five minutes.

  22. Karl Stewart on said:

    lone nut: the replacement of a former dock worker with deep roots in the traditional Bermondsey working class by a flakey middle class faddist like Tatchell

    If by “former dock worker with deep roots in the traditional Bermondsey working class” you’re referring to the former Bermondsey MP Bob Mellish, then I think you might be mistaken.

    My understanding was that Mellish had already announced that he wasn’t going to seek re-election and had voluntarily decided to step down as an MP at the end of the 1979/83 Parliament in order to take up a paid position with the London Docklands Development Corporation.

    Apparently he didn’t like Tatchell and didn’t want Tatchell to be selected as a candidate, but I don’t think the two were in direct competition for the nomination as such.

  23. Vanya on said:

    #28 That was my understanding, although the issue of the LDDC was more complicated, as the position was initially unpaid, and the whole question was a political one, this being one of Mellish’s differences with the Labour Party and the left.

    Also I don’t think Mellish in fact worked on the docks, although his father did, and he was initially selected for the seat as a result of the support of the T&G branch representing the local dockers.

    Lone Nut does have a point however., Mellish’s apalling right wing politics notwithstanding.

    Mellish btw was one of the right wingers who split and stood as independents that I referred to above.

  24. Sam64 on said:

    lone nut,

    I don’t really understand what you’re talking about. You mean Tatchell’s principled and brave (he’s taken a few hidings) opposition to homophobia where ever it takes place, including Putin’s Russia and Mugabe’s Zimbabwe? But then perhaps you’d agree with Neil Kinnock’s view on on the ‘flakey middle class faddist’ Tatchell: he couldn’t tell a witch from a fairy.

  25. lone nut on said:


    No, I’m talking about stuff like his statement after the 7/7 bombings. “We are witnessing one of the greatest betrayals by the left since so-called left-wingers backed the Hitler-Stalin pact and opposed the war against Nazi fascism. Today, the pseudo-left reveals its shameless hypocrisy and its wholesale abandonment of humanitarian values. While it deplores the 7/7 terrorist attack on London, only last year it welcomed to the UK the Muslim cleric, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who endorses the suicide bombing of innocent civilians. These same right-wing leftists back the so-called ‘resistance’ in Iraq. This ‘resistance’ uses terrorism against civilians as its modus operandi – stooping to the massacre of dozens of Iraqi children in order kill a few US soldiers. Terrorism is not socialism; it is the tactic of fascism. But much of the left doesn’t care. Never mind what the Iraqi people want, it wants the US and UK out of Iraq at any price, including the abandonment of Iraqi socialists, trade unionists, democrats and feminists. If the fake left gets its way, the ex-Baathists and Islamic fundamentalists could easily seize power, leading to Iranian-style clerical fascism and a bloodbath. I used to be proud to call myself a leftist. Now I feel shame. Much of the left no longer stands for the values of universal human rights and international socialism”.
    Also his use of the libel laws to silence critics of the ‘gay imperialist” agenda, as highlighted by Andy right here., My view of him is that he’s a tiresome attention seeker with a scarcely veiled pro-imperialist, pro-militaristic, pinkwashing, whiteskin privilege agenda. As far as I know that wasn’t Kinnock’s take on him.

  26. lone nut on said:

    Francis King,

    No, obviously Tatchell’s statements in relation to Catholicism are as demented, ignorant and fact free as any of his views on Islam or the far left, so can be added to his rap sheet – obviously a commitment to a fundamentalist secularism is generally a key component of the Decent Left’s make-up, and provides a flimsy cover for its racist bigotry. I am sure in any case Tatchell’s anti-Catholic views did not meet a particularly warm welcome from the Bermondsey working class, and were doubtless a factor in his catastrophic defeat.

  27. Sam64 on said:

    lone nut,

    OK Lone Nut, it’s clear that Peter Tatchell has really got your goat – like you loathe and despise the man.

    Actually, although I can see where he’s coming from, the Tatchell quote above is OTT, and is, as such, irritating. And the use of legal action to silence critics, though I haven’t looked into it and there may be 2 sides or at least more to the issue, is repressible. This is, though, Peter Tatchell: over stretching legitimate points, going too far and, yes, drawing attention to himself. But you know what, I like Peter Tatchell: a bit of a political gadfly, outspoken, opinionated, not scared of getting up the nose of whatever establishment you care to mention, including left and gay. An Anglo-Australian eccentric, a force for good all in all, who has always lived in modest circumstances and put his life quite literally on the line in confronting homophobic thugs.

    But I doubt we’re going to agree, so it’s perhaps best to leave it there.

  28. Karl Stewart on said:


    I like Tatchell too. Top guy even though I sometimes disagree with him politically.

    He was someone who stood up bravely to homophobia back when most of the left (not all, but most) found the issue embarrassing and avoided it.

    The fact that gay equality is now a mainstream position is due largely to the courage of people like Tatchell. Totally deserves our respect and admiration.

  29. Jeremy Corbyn is now the 5/4 favourite to be the next Labour leader. Interestingly he is still 20/1 to be the next PM. Make of that what you will.

  30. Sam64 on said:

    The bookies don’t tend to be wrong – as I’ve discovered numerous times over the years. However, the Guardian estimate yesterday put it, their estimate, Corbyn to win at 51% to 49% in the second ballot, Cooper, not Burnham, having come second, in the first ballot.

    What would have been the odds 6 months ago of Labour having no seats in Scotland and Jeremy Corbyn being leader?

  31. John on said:

    I am now convinced that Jeremy will win. The Unison endorsement reflects an unstoppable momentum, palpable if not tangible, is for me more convincing than the opinion polls. The political ground has undoubtedly shifted.

    More evidence came for me with a call I received earlier this evening from the Yvette Cooper campaign, inquiring as to my voting intentions. When I told the girl on the phone I was voting for Corybyn she divulged that this is what every other call had returned.

    Just think of it: this most assuming of politicians, an avowed socialist who has spent his entire parliamentary career, going back three decades, on the backbenches ploughing a lonely furrow as an in a party whose leadership and PLP had scorned the very word ‘socialist’. This man is on the cusp of becoming the leader of the opposition.Remarkable.

    If only I’d had the foresight to put 20 quid on him at the start when he was 2 or 300-1.

  32. John: If only I’d had the foresight to put 20 quid on him at the start when he was 2 or 300-1.

    I put a fiver on him at 100/1. Had a tenner in my account, wish I’d put it all on now. Will post a screenshot of my receipt and winnings if and when the time comes to celebrate!

  33. Andy H on said:

    I’m afraid I can’t share all your enthusiasm for Jeremy Corbyn to win. As I said in the other thread, being the leader of a party is more than having the right policies – you need to have the right qualities as a person to bring people with you and I just don’t see any evidence of them so far.

    Take a look at the SNP – a huge part of their success over the last few years has not just been down to having policies that people like, it has been driven by two exceptionally gifted politicians – Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon. Contrast that with Milliband, who didn’t do a very good job as leader (people really didn’t trust him from what I can see in the polls after the fact) and lost an election he really should have won, or nearly won and ended in coalition.

    A leader needs to be able to navigate the contradictions in a broad based party (such as the labour party is) and in the country. To win he is going to need to convince people who voted Tory in May that they should vote for him as PM – I’m not in any way arguing that means adopting Tory policies like the other three, but he does need to convince people that left wing policies can work, and it is not going to screw things up.

    Take as a case study my sister in law and her husband. Both self employed working class (hairdresser and carpenter) people and new parents. They voted Tory (I think for the first time), because they did not trust Labour to run the economy – pure and simple. They don’t like austerity, they don’t like cuts in services, they don’t like the Tories in general but they saw the risk of another recession (that hit them both hard) as outweighing that. Corbyn has to convince people like my sister in law that radically different policies will work, and not screw things up for them. Do you really think that he will be up to the job? I really don’t.

    I’m not sure what the alternative is however – maybe Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper could be dragged leftwards?

  34. JOCK MCTROUSERS on said:

    Andy H,

    I’m not surprised; I encounter this attitude a lot myself. Why? Because that’s what the Labour Party tells them – ” We’re just the same as the Tories but we’re less competent economically because we admit we overspent, even if that wasn’t completely the cause of the ‘ financial crisis’… ”

    Great sales pitch! Great strategy! Or maybe you could wonder if the Labour Party deliberately THREW the election? Conspiracy theory? If they didn’t they might as well have done, and the non-Corbyns are just queueing up to do it again.

    Meanwhile, further to what I said about Michael Foot earlier, here’s a more realistic but positive assessment from Keith Flett in last Wednesday’s Morning Star (this is the sort of thing that I admit got a bit inflated in my memory):

    ” Foot won 8.4 million votes in 1983, achieving 27.6 per cent of the poll — which was on the low side. Labour has often topped 10 or 11 million votes in general elections, occasionally even more. It is worth reflecting however that in 2010 Labour got 8.6 million votes and 29 per cent of the poll and did just a little bit better in 2015.

    … The reasons for Labour’s failure in 1983 have been pinned on the manifesto dubbed “the longest suicide note in history.”

    It was a manifesto of the left. Its focus on managing the British economy and tackling high unemployment hardly seems that controversial now. Rather it was the attacks on it by Margaret Thatcher and those who had split to form the SDP that framed it as a “suicide note.”

    Thatcher, who banged on in much the same way as George Osborne does about absurd comparisons between individual household borrowing and the national debt, attacked the manifesto because it openly said that money would need to be borrowed to stimulate economic recovery. New Labour got around this charge of economic mismanagement in 1997 by saying it would stick to Tory economic limits.

    Other bits of the manifesto now seem to be amazingly good sense. For example, it says the banks will need to be regulated to make sure they lend and invest. It also proposed to set up a foreign investment unit to keep an eye on what multinational companies operating in Britain were up to.

    The defeat of 1983 was the product of a historical context that does not exist in 2015. Corbyn’s policies are not those of 30 years ago. “

  35. Vanya on said:

    JOCK MCTROUSERS: the Labour Party tells them – ” We’re just the same as the Tories but we’re less competent economically because we admit we overspent, even if that wasn’t completely the cause of the ‘ financial crisis’… ”

    Great sales pitch! Great strategy!

    Spot on!!!

  36. Andy H on said:


    It’s about being able to convince people of that. Lots and lots of people, including people that labour have to get voting for them next time in order to kick out the Tories have to be convinced that this will work. Im not arguing that this is a reason not to propose the policies Corby talks about but that you have to have a leader and others in the party that can explain and convince people that it will work. It really is not enough to simply expect people to fall in line with what you think is a good idea – you have to have someone that will convince others of that. If corbyn can’t do that it really doesn’t matter how great the policies are. I don’t see him as the right person – nothing to do with his political position

  37. JOCK MCTROUSERS on said:

    Andy H: It really is not enough to simply expect people to fall in line with what you think is a good idea – you have to have someone that will convince others of that. If corbyn can’t do that it really doesn’t matter how great the policies are. I don’t see him as the right person – nothing to do with his political position

    Well, the alternative is the already tried and failed option of one of 4 varieties of ” vote for us: we’re just like the Tories but less competent”, to which the electorate rightly replied ” what the fuck for?”

    But if you think Corbyn’s politics are ok, but he’s not the guy to do it. well at least he could get those policies into the public forum and may our Sir Lancelot (or even Arthur himself) will rise to our cause…? That seems to me the minimum attitude to Corbyn that could be described as positive – have you got a better idea?

  38. Vanya on said:

    The thing is Andy H, whatever you think about the electability of Jeremy Corbyn I can guarantee you 100% that not one of the other candidates has a cat in hell’s chance of winning an election, merely on the superficial personality-based theories of what makes a good leader, let alone the fact that their whole strategy is based on the belief that desperation is attractive.

  39. Hello I am a first time commenter, congratulations on the Blog, good work!

    Here is a comment I posted to an anti-Corbyn person on the Guardian, who seemed to be an honest Labour supporter but believed Corbyn was unelectable, using precisely this 1983 argument.

    “I don’t think it’s as simple as you say, only 25% of the adult population voted for the Tories, why chase that old, white, middle class, diminishing demographic when there are 75% of people out there who rejected this?

    EVEN IF you could get elected on that basis with one of these candidates (which I very much doubt – Andy is the only semi plausible one and a nice guy who I personally like but I don’t see him as PM in a million years)…then what kind of government are you left with? One even worse than Blairism, imposing the Tory cuts and xenophobia while pandering cravenly to the super rich?

    No thanks that would not only be the death of Labour on a PASOK/PSOE scale, but also a tragedy for the working people of our country, which personally I don’t want to collaborate with.

    So yes I think that left ideas can have more traction today than in 1983 our country is much more cosmopolitan and globally there is growing resistance to this clapped out neoliberal economic model.

    Second young people today are nowhere near as captive to the media as back in 1983 or even 15 years ago when I was an adolescent. Today we have the big advantage that we can get our information directly to people and by pass what right wing media say – they still influence their ‘true believers’ but less and less the general population amd the young. Of course this only works if you actually have an alternative message in the first place and if you are prepared to take them on – something the SNP have shown and something which Ed M only realized on the eve of the election and therefore too late to make a difference.

    So true I am speculating, but then again you are asking me to predict the future and to read the minds of “the public”, which neither you or I can do. But this is how I see it.”

    By the way there is of course nothing wrong with being white and middle class, you could say I am that myself, my point was just that the Tories DO NOT represent a wide cross section of the population just a committed 25% hardcore of “true believers” concentrated in Middle England, and that those who say we should chase that vote are leading us down a Lib Dem Dead End.

    By the way I am following your Blog on Twitter, again good work! 😉

  40. Andy H on said:


    No I don’t have a better idea. Corbyn could be a John the Baptist figure I guess and you are right about getting the ideas and policies discussed and out there. And as vanya says the others are certainly not going to win either

  41. Karl Stewart on said:

    Hi Tim, excellent point – it’s also worth reminding the Red Tories that Corbyn has increased the Labour majority from 4,000-odd to over 21,000 since he first stood for his seat. He’s factually way, way more electable than any of the other three leadership candidates.

    And if people respond by saying: “Oh well, that’s rock-solid Islington North,” then it’s worth reminding them that it was Corbyn who made Islington North rock-solid. It hadn’t been a rock-solid Labour seat before his time – 4,000 is not a rock-solid majority, but 21,000 is.

  42. Andy H,

    In the first instance, Labour needs to work out what it is for. What is its underlying political philosophy? In what direction does it want to take the country? What political values inform its policies? How and why is it different from the other parties on offer? What sort of people are its core supporters, and what does it need to do to retain their support? Two decades of focus groups and triangulation, of concentrating above all on “electability” in the short term, have left the party hollowed out and disorientated. They have allowed the political agenda in England to be set by the Tories, because a formerly left party which is constantly trying to take the “centre ground” will find that that “centre ground” is continually slipping away to the right. In Scotland, the results of neglecting the core supporters and chasing the “centre” have been even more disastrous. Triangulation is a trick you can only pull once…

    If JC wins, I don’t expect anything miraculous. But if it leads to Labour rediscovering some kind of sense of purpose, that may be one of the necessary conditions for its recovery.

  43. Hi Vanya, Karl, thanks for your replies. 🙂

    Yes I will be taking a regular look here, now following SU on twitter also. 😉

    Great points Karl about the electability, I’m often lost for words when armchair commentators who have never won (or predicted) an election in their life can claim with certainty the result in 2020. Did these same people predict a Tory majority in 2010 or an SNP whitewash in Scotland? If so I didn’t hear from them.

    I have no doubt JC is the man to rebuild Labour with a team of passionate young MPs around him, principled young people like Kate Osamor and Richard Burgon to name but 2, both of whom voted against the Tory welfare bill. I’m not saying he will or won’t win in 2020 or even whether he will rin as leader or whether someone else developed under him may run.

    For me 1.) JC has more proven experience at winming elections than any of those running against him and 2.) Anyone journalist or politician claiming to know what will happen in 2020 is lying, they arw simply covering their ideological gripes against JC with claims of “pragmatism”. Tony Bl*ir said it himself, he would rather lose on a centre right programme than win on a centre left one…these people are centre right ideologues NOT pragmatic progressives.

    For me the objective now is to rebuild Labour as a social movement which can provide a coherent programme to speak to the majority who are not only not seeing the benefit of the supposed economic growth claimed by Osborne and Co, but are in fact paying the price for it. As it is growth for those at the top coming sirectly from our pockets, in terms of pay cuts, job losses, VAT tax hike, draconian cuts to the public services we depend on, etc. This is without even mentioning “systemic” threats such ax our disastrous foreign policy leading the world deeper into disaster, climate change, the unsustainable financial bubble which is only storing up worse economic crises for the future…

    Not only is JC the best candidate in the race to answer these questions, he is the only one who is proposing solutions rather than proposing measures which will make these problems even worse!

    This is NOT 1983 we CAN speak to the majority about these issues and win…especially the youth who are free of the 1980s Thatcherite prejudices, which back then were brutal but worked at revitalising the system, but which today are even more brutal, and cannot resolve the systemic problems either.

    Well, rant over! 😉

  44. Tim:

    Great points Karl about the electability, I’m often lost for words when armchair commentators who have never won (or predicted) an election in their life can claim with certainty the result in 2020. Did these same people predict a Tory majority in 2010 or an SNP whitewash in Scotland? If so I didn’t hear from them.

    Tory majority 2015 this should say…

  45. jock mctrousers on said:

    Great rant. Tim! Except for this:

    Tim: Thatcherite prejudices, which back then were brutal but worked at revitalising the system

    Thatcher did NO GOOD! Don’t give them an inch!

  46. jim mclean on said:

    jock mctrousers:
    Great rant. Tim! Exceptfor this:

    Thatcher did NO GOOD! Don’t give them an inch!

    Yup but she was following on from Callaghan who got into bed with the IMF. This allowed Healey a free hand and could be seen as, if not the birth of the New Labour Project, at least the conception of the idea. Austerity was born in76 and labour have never ben able to get a grip of it since. Just thoughts about Labour and monetarism and how Labour will prioritise the needs of the market so as to keep the majority of the working class in work, dole queues being part of that deal.

  47. jim mclean on said:

    jack ford:
    Ken Clarke says Corbyn might win a general election

    In 1983 Labour got 27% of the vote. The current government is ruling with 36% against Labours 30%. The only thing, apart from the Tories of course, that can stop Corbyn is the splitters. Not a right and left thing, but a right and wrong thing. If JC wins I would like to see Labour march in Scotland with Corbyn speaking in George Square, not only an alternative to austerity but to nationalism, which has mined the nihilistic bent off our youth.

  48. jock mctrousers:
    Great rant. Tim! Exceptfor this:

    Thatcher did NO GOOD! Don’t give them an inch!

    You’re right Jock I meant to say from the capitalist point of view i.e. rebuilding it over the impoverishment of the majority, but it was not very well expressed.

  49. When the election was called, I would say that a Labour defeat was pretty much inevitable.

    However, the scale of that defeat was far from inevitable. I remember just how incompetent and shambolic its campaign was. A defeat by six or seven points was perfectly possible. Much of what I have written here was also true of George McGovern’s 1972 presidential election campaign.

    McGovern publicly supported his running mate, Senator Eagleton, and then reversed his position and he was dropped.

    When he died in 2007, it was revealed that Eagleton was the source of a damaging quote that had been used against McGovern. Without these problems, McGovern could have been a much more viable candidate (and would have lost by a much narrower margin).

    Back to Labour, the Guardian once did a book review, I think it was, and it looked at John Golding MP. It claimed that Golding allowed a lot of left wing policies to go through into the 1983 manifesto because he knew Labour was unlikely to win and so the policies could be blamed for the defeat.

    When the media report these two landslide election defeats, these things are never mentioned.

    Hope this helps.

  50. jim mclean on said:

    Eagleton was also being treated for depression and the accessing of his health history and publication of confidential files and the associated stigma damaged the campaign. Even in Labour today the inferrance that Gordon Brown was being treated for depression from the Blairites shows that little has changed..