Tony Cliff & Donny Gluckstein

The Labour Party

17. New Labour

WHEN this book first appeared in 1988 it was generally accepted that ‘Popular capitalism’ had triumphed. The working class was disappearing and socialist politics were irrelevant. Moreover, many argued that Labour was unlikely ever to get into office. The British Communist Party’s now defunct Marxism Today talked of ‘the development of the Conservative Party into the single dominant party’. [1] The New Statesman added, ‘Socialism died with the Russian Empire [and] the Labour Party has been brain dead; it is time someone switched off the life support system’. [2] But the 1990s have turned out somewhat differently.

The fall of Thatcher and the poll tax

Until the moment she fell in 1990 Margaret Thatcher was regarded as ‘one of the most astute and powerful of contemporary political leaders.’ [3] Five years later Blair was still attempting to follow her by making ‘New Labour’ ‘the true expression of the radical “anti-Establishment” spirit of the Reagan/Thatcher administrations.’ [4] Labour had given Thatcherism a free run and, as the Observer’s editor Will Hutton says: ‘While individual countries may have at least one horror story of radical marketisation similar to Britain’s, only Britain can tell them all ... No Western industrialised country in the twentieth century has been subjected to such fast and excessive marketisation.’ [5] How successful was this for British capitalism?

The economic miracle of a country ranking bottom of the OECD turns out, upon cursory inspection of the mandate reality, to be a ‘gigantic con-trick’ ... They touted the startling improvement in the productivity of manufacturing industry, delivered by the destruction of 2.5 million jobs, and a radical legislative reduction of union power. This improvement, however, amounted to the capacity to produce the same output with one third fewer workers ... Meanwhile Britain’s competitors increased their output by more than half (Japan), one third (USA), or a quarter (Germany) ... From 1979 to 1992 UK GDP had grown by a mere 1.75 percent per annum ... an unparalleled post war disaster in half a century spoilt for choice. [6]

The key long term impact of Thatcher and her successors has meant that between 1994 and 1995 Britain’s standing in ‘world competitiveness’ was 18th out of 48, well below Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan, while it was 21st for ‘domestic economic strength.’ [7]

Thatcher was not brought down by British capitalism or Labour, [8] but by an anti poll tax campaign which saw some 11 million people breaking the law to withhold payment of the tax and a huge riot in Trafalgar Square.

The poll tax symbolised a Thatcherism bloated by easy election victories. Replacing local rates with a tax that had dukes paying the same as cleaners was immensely unpopular. Labour’s response was to review its own policies. Kinnock said this was the ‘precondition for defeating Thatcherism’, requiring ‘socialists to face up to the realities ... To recognise it is not defeatism, accommodation of Thatcherism or collaboration with Thatcherism, it is the opposite.’ [9] Anything else was anathema. So even before poll tax forms were issued in 1988 Kinnock ‘warned that frustration should not explode into futile illegality and so play into the Tories’ hands’. [10] David Blunkett, then Labour’s local government spokesman, insisted ‘we will be successful in removing the poll tax [only] by removing the Government which imposed it.’ [11]

When anti poll tax unions flourished anyway, the Party joined union leaders in the ‘Stop-It’ campaign. This was more concerned with containing non-payment than with overturning the Tories’ legislation. Labour’s stance was tested in the Glasgow Govan by-election where its candidate had pledged non-payment but was rapidly brought to heel by Party HQ. The Scottish Nationalist stood on an anti poll tax ticket increasing the SNP’s vote an astonishing five fold to win from a previous fourth place. [12]

Labour concluded that in future candidates must tow the official line more closely. Changes were made helping Headquarters impose candidates over locally selected ones. [13] By early 1990 Labour was threatening to discipline Tower Hamlets councillors who refused to prosecute poll tax non payers and withdrawing the whip from 16 Liverpool councillors over the issue. [14]

As protests erupted outside town halls Labour ‘launched the second ... phase of its poll tax campaign’. Bryan Gould declared people should protest by joining the Party while the planned 1 April national demonstration was ‘cancelled due to lack of money’. [15] Involvement in anti poll tax unions by Labour’s own membership was minimal reaching just 4 per cent. [16]

On 31 March 1990 an enormous anti poll tax demonstration in Trafalgar Square was attacked by police and turned into a riot in which 340 were arrested. The Home Secretary blamed Labour. Hattersley, Shadow Home Secretary was outraged: ‘The Labour Party condemns, without reservation or qualification, the violence which took place ... no cause can justify such conduct. It is literally intolerable. May I offer the sympathy of Opposition Members to those police officers who were injured [and call] for exemplary sentences for those who were convicted.’ [17] Nevertheless, the result was ‘the most spectacular reversal of a flagship policy ever seen in Britain’. [18]

Incredibly, Blunkett now claimed: ‘It was our campaign and it was our belief in the policies that we were putting forward that ensured that the poll tax eventually met its doom’. [19] The Party turned on those who really beat the tax, arguing: ‘The biggest threat to Labour losing the advantage we currently hold comes from those in our ranks who publicly advocate non payment ... Warrant sales cannot be avoided.’ [20] Hackney, where Labour had 58 out of 70 council seats, issued 40,000 court summonses. Labour even criticised the government for being ‘lazy’ in closing loopholes in rules for prosecution of non-payers. [21] Meanwhile Cherie Booth, £200,000 per annum lawyer wife of the future Party leader Tony Blair (and former Labour candidate herself), demanded a penniless poll tax defaulter should stay in prison. [22] Two thirds of all those jailed had a Labour council to thank. [23]

However, the Glasgow Govan experience was not repeated south of the border. There was no electoral alternative to Labour, so it benefited from the protest vote. The mid-Staffordshire by-election (March 1990) saw Labour’s biggest swing since 1935. In May the Tories suffered their worst local government results ever. [24] The opinion polls between the 1987 and 1992 elections showed rising non-payment and demonstrations boosting Labour’s popularity and destroying the Tories’. This was thrown away partly because Labour collected the tax as viciously as the Tories.

Labour’s Gulf War syndrome

John Major succeeded Thatcher in November 1990, a political lightweight chosen as a compromise leader to keep out Michael Heseltine. Major had been closely involved with the hated poll tax and was suspected of being Thatcher’s puppet. When he took office in November 1990 he and Kinnock were close in popularity ratings. By the spring of 1991 Major’s personal rating was almost double that of Kinnock’s. One reason was the way Kinnock aped the Tories, as was shown clearly in the Gulf War.

War began with Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1991. The US seized the opportunity to tighten its grip on world oil supplies and assert its position as the world’s leading superpower. The US government coordinated an invasion of Kuwait and Iraq by thousands of American and European troops. Anywhere between 100,000 and 250,000 Iraqi troops and civilians were killed, many in the infamous ‘turkey shoot’ of soldiers trapped on the Basra road. Kurds and Marsh Arabs, duped by Allied statements, rose up against the Iraqi regime only to be abandoned. Many died and 2 million Kurds fled into the mountains.

Liberal and even not so liberal opinion was worried by US President Bush’s hectic rush towards military conflict. But the Labour leadership matched every jingoistic statement of the Tory government point for point. Yet an early survey of backbench Labour MPs showed 80 percent against immediate military action, with 25 percent rejecting war outright. [25] Slavish obedience to the leadership outweighed conscience for all but a minority. Labour failed to argue for delaying war. It even avoided calling a Parliamentary debate on policy during the entire conflict. This was unique in British history. [26]

As war approached Labour MPs asked incredulously why the Party was not setting out its own position. Kinnock replied: ‘In the variety of discussions that have taken place some say that I should, as they put it “distance” myself from the Government. I will not distance myself.’ [27] Once the war began Major was subjected to a torrent of Kinnock’s sustained grovelling:

I join the PM in his thoughts for the families ... May I take this opportunity of supporting the feeling expressed by the Prime Minister ... The Prime Minister has been right, both today and on previous occasions ... The Prime Minister gave fair notice to Saddam Hussein. [28]

Kinnock’s position was to the right of Edward Heath, much of the US Congress, and even the Pope. When the Parliamentary Party now discussed the issue, the vote was 5 to 1 in favour of prolonging the slaughter as against a ceasefire. [29] An NEC meeting took the same position but ‘twelve hours after [it] rejected a ceasefire in the Gulf, Bush and his allies declared one’. [30]

Some left MPs did protest [31] and five resigned Labour’s front bench. One said, ‘The vast majority of us are deeply depressed. We feel this is horrendous, the beginning of something dreadful’, while a backbencher described his colleagues’ feeling of ‘guilt and shame’. [32] Largely because of Labour’s position, the British anti-war movement was small, whereas elsewhere vast demonstrations took place, with 400,000 in Algeria, 100,000 in San Francisco and 300,000 in Washington. [33] Bernie Grant blamed the weakness on ‘Labour MPs who lurked in supper clubs and bars mumbling their disagreement, afraid of damaging their political careers.’ [34] The ‘supper club’ was a rallying point for left MPs but when a Daily Mail reporter crashed a meeting, ‘at least three of these brave souls dived under tables in an attempt to hide their identities from the public and, presumably, the leader’s private office.’ [35]

The leadership’s connivance in mass murder was justified by electoralism. Kinnock said: ‘We must save the Party [and] make clear we are not pacifists.’ [36] Yet before the war Labour was 15 points ahead in the polls, after it was 5 points behind. The poll tax dividend had been squandered and the next election probably decided.

The 1992 election

For the 1992 general election policies were comprehensively overhauled. Kinnock scorned ‘those who say they do not want victory at such a price.’ [37] Thirst for office gripped the Party membership: ‘The new generation of younger members was much more self disciplined, business-like and single minded in its ambition for power.’ [38] Labour’s left and right spoke with one voice as never before. As Livingstone put it: ‘If the chief aim is to fight [the Tories] it is absolutely necessary to unite with those who support the general policies of the party leadership in order to do so.’ [39]

The 1992 General Election should have been a gift for Labour. Instead it was:

a remarkable victory for the Conservatives. To win by such a margin of votes over Labour (7.6 percent) was totally unexpected. It was achieved in the trough of the longest depression since the 1930s and at the end of a campaign that had been much derided. It went against the trend elsewhere in Europe, where established government parties were meeting electoral rebuffs. The fourth successive election victory meant that by the end of the new parliament the Conservatives would have been in office continuously for 18 years – the longest period of one party rule since the Great Reform Act of 1832. [40]

The road to defeat in 1992 was laid by Peter Mandelson and Philip Gould’s Shadow Communications Agency (SCA). It began with a presentation to the Shadow Cabinet and NEC by pollsters which ‘exploded on some of those present like a grenade.’ [41] Henceforth, opinion polls were accorded the mysterious power for prediction given to astrologers. The SCA forged ‘an approach to political strategy which has never before been seen – certainly in the Labour Party, and arguably, even in British politics. They wielded policy, politics and image creation into one weapon’. [42] Now, Labour’s values and the people’s values were – abracadabra – identical’. [43] Supporters were told that image was the key and indeed, in 1992:

Labour gained good marks for its campaign. Since 1987 it had dropped virtually all left wing policies and embraced modern campaigning methods even more fully. With the exception of the promise of higher rates of taxation for the better off, it had accepted most of Mrs Thatcher’s achievements in the 1980s. [44]

Even after the event ‘all the surveys ... reported that Labour fought a better campaign than the Conservatives.’ [45]

Labour’s approach foundered for three reasons. First, as Hugo Young admitted ruefully: ‘The opinion poll business has proved to rest on fantasy.’ [46] Second, even if they had been accurate, Labour leaders read polls selectively. On 24 March Labour’s Party Political Broadcast told the true story of two girls, one who received prompt private treatment for ‘flu ear’ while another suffered awaiting treatment under the Tories’ reformed NHS. ‘Even opponents acknowledged that it was superbly done; members of the panel on which it was tested before transmission were said to have been moved to tears.’ [47] The three polls preceding the broadcast put Labour 2.7 percent behind. The three polls after showed Labour gained an average 8.3 percent. [48] So the Party dropped health! ‘Labour’s leaders were themselves scared of the message in the broadcast, nervous of what one insider called its “class war propaganda”.’ [49] Unbelievably they switched, in what was the final week, to promoting Proportional Representation. With pollsters reported the NS the single most important issue with 93 percent of voters backing higher NHS expenditure. [50] Labour concentrated on policies which could hardly have been weaker. This brings us to the third point. Labour policies are not primarily shaped by public opinion. The dictates of capitalism are far more important.

Labour’s vote did rise – by 3.5 percent – during the election. Given the poll tax fiasco and recession this is not surprising. Labour’s 11.5 million votes were 3 million fewer than the number of summonses and warrants issued to poll-tax non-payers, a group the Party assiduously avoided courting. The social composition of its vote also changed. Amongst the unemployed Labour’s share actually fell as compared to 1987, and its share of the poorest and most numerous social grouping (D/E) remained completely static. With the Financial Times, of all papers, calling for the Tories’ defeat, Labour’s greatest gains were made at the top end – the smallest and wealthiest group A/B. [51]

Until 1974 supporters strongly identifying with Labour always exceeded those of the Tories. The Wilson/Callaghan government broke the bonds of loyalty and Kinnock had done nothing to restore them. [52] Yet the leadership blamed defeat on its tax proposals. An authoritative study shows ‘there is very little evidence’ for this. Those who intended to vote Labour but changed their mind were not ‘particularly adverse to high taxation, rather they seemed to be people who had relatively little faith in Labour’s ability to improve services like health and education ... taxation may actually have lost the Conservatives some votes between 1987 and 1992.’ [53]

In the fourteen general elections since 1945 Labour had only done worse in 1983 and 1987. The abandonment of one principle after another, its Gulf War policy and so much more had been designed to win this election. The interests of millions of workers were, win or lose, being betrayed by the Party they hoped would help them. This was not the conclusion the Labour leadership drew. After the election it rounded on the trade unions.

The mines tragedy

Electoral defeat brought a leadership context. Rule changes in 1988 [54] meant no left wing candidate was able to stand for the first time since the 1930s. The choice was John Smith or Brian Gould. In a Financial Times poll of businessmen Smith was a more popular choice for Chancellor than the Tories’ Norman Lamont. Gould was famous for his ‘leapfrog over Thatcherism’ speech. [55] Smith won with 91 percent.

Labour had based its strategy on the disappearance of class as a political issue. In October 1992 this non existent force suddenly reappeared at centre stage and since then, in opinion poll terms, Labour has never looked back. Michael Heseltine’s plan to shut 31 pits created a massive protest. Two enormous demonstrations on Wednesday 20 and Sunday 25 October, numbering nearly a quarter of a million between them, marched through London. The Sun’s headline was ‘Is Major a goner?’ [56]

The labour movement had slowly recovered confidence since the defeats of the mid 1980s. There had been no comparable setbacks since then, while the poll tax movement’s spectacular demolition of Thatcher showed Tory vulnerability. However, the mines movement differed from the anti poll tax movement. Labour had not been able to derail non payment since this had in large part been organised on a localised basis at a grass roots level. Defending the pits however demanded a collective centralised leadership. Demonstrations, important as they were, would not be enough. Mass strike action was necessary.

Two months before the threatened closures Labour’s energy spokesperson told the NUM ‘in a speech ringing of defeatism’ that ‘the cards are heavily stacked against keep coal in the public sector.’ [57] Still, the TUC and the Labour Party had the potential to force the government into headlong retreat. Tories and Labour alike realised this. Ex-Tory Minister, Cecil Parkinson, admitted on TV ‘The government seems to have lost control’, [58] while David Blunkett for Labour boasted: ‘I could have asked for a general election. Maybe we’d have got one as well.’ [59]

At first Labour treated the issue as a TUC matter while the TUC insisted that, with the support of dissident Tory MPs, the Parliamentary Labour Party would save the day for the miners in parliament. When protests grew:

John Smith did turn up at the big rally in Hyde Park. His absence would have been embarrassing ... he urged the ‘public’ to keep up the pressure. As mining communities were attacked during the winter and spring he said nothing. He did not even reply to the NUM’s appeal for support for a one day strike. He addressed the Confederation of British Industry conference and ... caused his audience to laugh nine times. [60]

No further national demonstrations were countenanced and the movement was dissipated in regional events.

Labour says Parliament is the proper place to achieve progress yet its performance here was pathetic. It weakly accepted vague promises from Heseltine that if the Labour chaired Select Committee on Trade and Industry produced a unanimous report on the pits he would adopt it. Such compliance would have been unique in select committee history. [61]

In February 1993 the eagerly awaited report appeared. Twenty of the 31 pits were still to close. After months of prevarication Labour MPs were too demoralised even to vote against Heseltine when he ignored the committee’s findings. In the NEC report to Labour’s 1993 conference the mines merited half a page, the witch-hunt against the Labour left filled three. The New Statesman concluded: ‘Here, out of the blue, was an opportunity not given to oppositions even one in a decade. A monumental gaffe by government, which had the burghers of Cheltenham marching in the streets and Catholic priests pronouncing anathema in the pulpits.’ The Party’s failure showed ‘inertia, amounting to almost intellectual and political paralysis that appears to have seized Labour.’ [62]

In the months afterwards there were a spate of industrial struggles on the railways, at Fords, amongst firefighters and at the Timex factory in Dundee. The period since then has seen a continuing slow and patchy revival in the working class movement, the victory of the railway signal workers in 1994 being a prominent example.

However, the pattern seen in the pit closures has been repeated a number of times. Though Labour has sought to distance itself from unions, the symbolic relationship between the Labour and union bureaucracies continues. One sign of continued Labour influence on the levels of class struggle has been shown in a survey showing that in a sample of 500 strike ballots two thirds produced ‘yes’ votes but in only 82 did action occur. In 1995 massive votes for industrial action in the NHS, which saw even the Royal College of Nurses abandoning its no strike status, were side tracked by hope that a Labour government would repair the damage inflicted by the Tories. As the next election nears the union bureaucrats resist action every more strongly. In early 1996 an important strike of Liverpool dockers sacked for refusing to cross picket lines has been shamelessly abandoned by the Transport union. Blair is aloof from the trade unions yet uses his links with the union leaders to quell discontent. A direct example was when ‘Senior Shadow Cabinet members’ warned train drivers against striking on the day of the Littleborough and Saddleworth election. [63]

One Member One Vote (OMOV) – Weakening the union link

The links between trade unions and the Labour Party continue to be an important issue for socialists today. Together, the trade union bureaucracy and the Labour Party weave reformism out of a blend of working class and capitalist class influence.

Union class consciousness is very durable. Despite the pressure of capitalist ideas the daily experience of exploitation, the permanent trench warfare over conditions and pay provides a social reality at odds with the dominant ideology. Even at times of defeat like the 1980s, when many felt impotent in the face of the bosses and their legal system, class distinctions between boss and worker were self-evident. Despite all the bureaucratic obstacles in the way of its expression, this consciousness does influence the Labour Party via its union connection.

Apart from this connection the PLP is far removed from working class influence. The ballot box has no connection with the workplace while MPs work within the constraints of Parliament, an institution deeply imbued with capitalist tradition. Thus, in the battle between working class and ruling class ideas the PLP is influenced more by capitalist pressure than unions.

The individual membership of the Party is both numerically smaller than the unions and less rooted in immediate class experience. It is therefore more volatile. Until recently it was mostly left of the unions because it drew general political conclusions from the experience of the class. Today, with a membership which lacks roots in key areas of class organisation, much of the membership generalise from electoral defeat to draw right wing conclusions. Falling levels of activism further this process. Activists may be involved in debate, demonstrations and campaigns. Passive members, by contrast, are more easily influenced by right win ideas, a rightward shift that moving away from links with trade unions is likely to accentuate.

The process of weakening union links began in earnest after the 1987 defeat. Kinnock clearly outlined the intentions of the strategy when he said Labour governments ‘have to go against the unions in the national interest, so why shouldn’t the Labour leader in normal party matters?’ [64]

By the early 1990s policy making, which used to take place in Labour’s NEC (which includes members elected by union votes at conference) had been informally transferred to policy review committees and then to the Shadow Cabinet. The unions also agreed to reduce their share of votes in leadership elections from 90 to 50 percent.

Defeat in the 1992 election brought a carefully prepared ambush of the unions. Tom Sawyer of NUPE (forerunner of Unison) writes: ‘I was immediately overwhelmed with requests to offer my opinions on Labour’s links with the trade unions - an issue which had hardly featured in the election. This was puzzling at first ... I now understand that there were influential people in the party who are prepared in the event of defeat, for a concerted attack on the trade union link.’ [65]

One ‘influential’ person was Blair. Without consultation, he had already withdrawn Labour support for the union closed shop on the grounds that the European Social Charter gives the right to ‘join or not to join a union’. [66] Blair allowed the Tories to sweep away the closed shop, but there is still no right to join a union. ‘Blair’s coup’ targeted something which one biographer says: ‘inevitably appeals to the party’s instinct for archaic forms of solidarity’. [67] This action led some to see Blair as a future contender for the leadership. [68]

After the election Blair was determined ‘to strike instantly’ [69] believing that ‘if Labour loses the next election it will be the fault of Bill Morris’ and the other union leaders. [70] This is quite simply wrong. In 1992 only 4 percent of voters gave unions as a reason for not voting Labour, while 20 percent mentioned Kinnock. [71] Opinion polls showed rising support for trade unions. Those opposing further anti union legislation easily outstrip Labour’s share of the vote, while a massive 79 percent in 1992supported giving workers more say in running their work. [72] Popular opinion was not driving the campaign against union links forward. Again it was the pressure on the Labour leaders to appease the ruling class.

The union/Labour link is maintained principally through union leaders and some resisted the erosion of their influence. Ron Toddof the Transport Union lambasted Labour’s ‘modernisers and reformers with sharp suits and cordless telephones’, reporting ‘a certain middle class embarrassment in some circles at the idea of belonging to a movement which remains dominated by working-class organisations. They need our money and our strength, but they resent our power.’ [73] As the offensive intensified after the 1992election an exasperated Morris, Todd’s successor asked, ‘Has Labour got a death wish? ... the whole issue of Labour’s future has been reduced in a few short weeks to the trade union problem.’ [74]

It was at Labour’s 1993 Conference that key decisions were taken. The Party leadership wanted parliamentary candidates selected by individual members only (one member, one vote – OMOV). Local trade unions would lose their 40 percent vote. Ins electing the Labour leader union participation would be cut to one third. The debate lasted throughout the spring and summer of 1993. The media warned that Labour was unelectable without OMOV and then conducted polls designed to show that people were more likely to vote Labour if OMOV were adopted. As Tribune pointed out: ‘One might as well ask if people are in favour of free ice cream and chocolate’. [75] The label ‘one man one vote’ was a misnomer. John Edmonds of the GMB pointed out it meant ‘denying union levy payers any say ... OMOV means a narrower franchise. Fewer people will be consulted and fewer people will vote.’ [76] Morris added that the proposals for electing the leader ‘would make each MP’s vote equivalent to that of more than two constituency parties. Less than 300 Labour MPs would have the same share of the vote as more than 200,000 individual members ... What the modernisers really want is: one MP loads of votes’. Their decision would carry as much force as that of 4 million trade unionists. [77]

In the end Conference approved OMOV (along with a special membership rate for trade unionists to join locally) by the narrowest of margins. To win this Smith was forced to announce his conversion to ‘the goal of full employment – at the heart of Labour’s vision’. [78] John Prescott cashed in his left wing credentials calling on delegates to ‘give us a bit of trust’. [79] Still it required strenuous arm twisting and sharp practice to get OMOV through. For example, 750 delegates at the postal workers’ union conference voted by a majority to reject Smith’s scheme but at Labour’s Conference the 19 delegates voted in favour. The MSF was committed to opposition, but a secret meeting from which a left wing delegate was excluded chose to withdraw its 4.5 percent from the anti OMOV camp. OMOV passed by a 3.1 percent margin.

The union leaders could have sunk Smith’s plan, but they had an Achilles heel. They need the goodwill of the Party leadership in the event of a Labour government. That is why 80 percent of them supported OMOV. [80]

How has OMOV affected the union/Labour link? Trade unions still have connections via affiliation to CLPs, individual membership, NEC elections (12 seats), Labour conference and other channels. The Party is financially dependent on union support (£4.7m out of the £8.8m total in 1993). Blair wishes to mirror Bill Clinton’s Democrats, but Clinton raised more corporate cash than the Republicans. Despite its efforts, Labour’s leaders have not managed to win major sponsorship from big business and as one union leader nicely put it – ‘No say, no pay’. [81]

So OMOV does not represent a final break with the unions, tough the link is weakening. For example, in 1985 Labour had 98 workplace branches. Today they have all but disappeared. [82] The decline of channels for working class influence encourages further capitulation to ruling class ideas making it easier to cut influence again, and so on. The stampede to the right has been less restrained as a result.

New Labour’s new members

OMOV raised the issue of Labour’s dwindling membership, which was 261,000 in 1992, just 60,000 more than the Liberals. The fiction of OMOV democracy required constituency members. There was also convincing academic evidence, after yet another election defeat, that local canvassing actually wins votes, up to 5 percent more. [83]

The problem for Labour Party leaders was political volunteers working without the lure of expense claims and Parliamentary salaries might actually be socialists. If the membership were expanded it must be tamed and neutralised. So the witch hunt against left wingers in the party was stepped up. In 1990 the Socialist Organiser grouping was exiled followed by the Militant organisation in Liverpool, including 29 sitting councillors. At the 1991 Conference 200 more were suspended and threatened with expulsion. Meantime, ‘Young Labour’ was being ‘sanitised to death.’ [84] Ken Livingstone described the tactics as ‘completely Stalinist’. [85]

Within local Parties debate and discussion involving activists were replaced by ballots of the whole membership. Since half the membership hardly attend meetings and less than a third attend frequently [86] this abolished informed collective debate.

The passive, depoliticised individual membership now adumbrated would not be obliged to do anything quite so heavy as attend branch meetings, participate in debates, and resolve to support candidate Y or policy Z in the light of collective discussion. Rather, drawing a residue of political activists, they would ratify by postal ballot, in the privacy of their own homes, the will of a more centralised leadership which had already arrogated powers to screen parliamentary candidates. Under the guise of extending democracy, the leadership was further circumscribing it ... Apparent decentralisation of power concealed actual centralisation of sovereignty. [87]

OMOV was presented as bringing Labour closer to its supporters. In fact its membership had drifted away from the voters. As a study by Seyd and Whiteley showed though once composed largely of ordinary workers it was now dominated by well intentioned professionals. Whereas 57 percent of Labour voters were industrial workers, only 26 percent of members were in this category. The ‘salariat’ gives Labour 14 percent of its total vote but formed 49 percent of its membership. [88] Household incomes revealed the same pattern. In 1990 6 percent of Labour voters earned more than £20,000 per annum, among members it was 30 percent. [89] It was claimed Labour’s activists were unrepresentative extremists while right wing policies matched the general membership’s views. In fact, even in the ‘new model party’ members’ views were left of the leadership. A full 68 percent were for unilateral disarmament; a massive 92 percent thought taxes should be increased to spend more on services [90] and 71 percent favoured more nationalisation. The remoulding of the membership did not eliminate left wing ideas but ensured passivity. In 1990 20 percent reported being more active over the last five years; 43 percent were less active. [91]

In this context it was now safe for the leadership to expand Party membership to undercut union influence. By April 1995 the figure reached 320,000 having grown 93,000 in a year. [92] Although one quarter of the intake were trade unionists [93], the head of Labour’s membership team calls them ‘non-political people’. [94] One activist remarked: ‘There are people becoming members who would actively dislike the idea of socialism’. [95] The Financial Times concurs: ‘The types of people who have joined the Labour Party, self employed, small business people, young men and women, are not interested in that old Labour message.’ [96] Interestingly very few of the new members pay the full £18 annual subscription, the proportion of all members doing so having fallen from 48 percent in 1993 to 40 percent in 1995. Since the party spends more in servicing the passive members than they contribute, the unions are subsidising the reduction of their own influence. [97] Even given all of this it is still probable that many new members joined because their hatred of the Tory government outweighs the effects of Labour’s shift to the right.

The Labour left’s manic depression

These changes in the composition of the party has affected the Labour left. In 1981 Tony Benn received 81.1 percent of the constituency vote in the campaign for party leader, in 1988 it was 18.8 percent. [98] In 1989 Ken Livingstone lost his seat on the NEC, and in 1993 Benn was ousted after three and a half decades on that body. Until then ‘constituency parties’ representatives on the NEC, first elected by constituency delegates in 1937, [were] consistently and overwhelmingly on the party’s left’. [99] By the 1990s the left were a minority, though the right has not succeeded in wiping it out, with Dennis Skinner and Dianne Abbott retaining seats in 1995 while ‘moderniser’ Jack Straw lost his. Labour’s left has proved relatively powerless against the leadership’s right wing authoritarianism.

A sign of the reformist left’s disintegration was the closure of much of its press: News on Sunday (June 1987); New Socialist and Labour Weekly (Oct 1987); Marxism Today (December 1991); the Socialist (June 1992); Spare Rib (February 1993). This leaves the newly launched Red Pepper and Tribune, its circulation down to 5,000 from a high of 40,000. The fate of the Tribune Group exemplifies the trend:

Its once passionate and well attended weekly meetings had dwindled to directionless once-a-month gatherings attended sometime by as few as four or five MPs... Only a few years before it had been touted as the new powerhouse of the PLP but it was now an irrelevance, without ideology or purpose, eviscerated by the disease of leadership loyalty. [100]

Sometimes the situation is acknowledged. Skinner says: ‘The elimination of alternative viewpoints within the Labour Party is now more thorough than it has ever been ... We have a small group of people at the top of the party controlling everything and putting a firm stop to any dissent.’ [101] Benn thinks ‘Socialism has been explicitly repudiated ... People who have given their life to the party are wondering whether it actually is in terminal decline’. [102]

When Smith was elected in 1992, Livingstone wrote: ‘The triumph of the right is now complete. They control every lever of power in the party’, [103] while the election of Tony Blair topped even this as ‘the most extreme right wing leader’ the Party ever had. [104] Hain described power as ‘centralised to an unprecedented extent’. [105] Finally, in 1993 Clare Short predicted: ‘We have two years at most to flush out the modernisers ... If we do not achieve this, then the electorate will have a choice between the new Labour SDP and the Liberal Democrat’s, with little difference between the two. But time is running out and the prospects do not look good.’ [106]

Yet tied to reformism, for the Labour left hope springs eternal. In 1994 ‘the best Labour Conference for some years’ was held, according to Livingstone. [107] (This was the one preceding abolition of Clause 4.) Although the left are a beleaguered minority on the NEC ‘the votes for the left candidates increased’. [108] Hain says the challenge to Clause 4, ‘has clearly put the cat among the ideological pigeons and, not before time, injected new vigour into the debate about the nature of socialism ... This should be welcomed.’ The left should be ‘engaged constructively with Blair’. [109] Hain’s ‘engagement’ took the form of a book which starts with the libertarian tradition dating back through Kropotkin, the Russian anarchist, to the Diggers and Levellers, and ends saying ‘Governments have to save capitalism from itself.’ [110] Thus, Labour ‘will need the backing of the unions, especially when carrying through economic policies which require a switch from consumption to investment and from real wage increases to job creation’. [111] Short, her two year deadline of flushing out modernisers due, writes; ‘Tony Blair has a remarkable ability ... Anyone who indulges in split and public rows ... should never be forgiven ... We now have a duty that all of us must rise to. Blair cannot do it without us and we cannot do it without him.’ [112]

The evolution of Labour policies

We have already shown that Thatcher failed to win the ideological argument by 1987. [113] Since then, far from the trend of public opinion following the Labour leadership to the right, it has been clearly in the opposite direction, as the following survey shows:

Views on major political issues since 1979 [114]

Percentages in:







Are you in favour of:




Spending more money to get rid of poverty?












Having no stricter laws against trade unions?




More money being spent on the NHS?




The 1992 election study concludes: ‘There has been a considerable amount of evidence in recent years suggesting that, rather than being converted to the tenets of Thatcherism, many of the electorate have actually been moving to the left.’ The issues included unemployment, nuclear weapons and privatisation where ‘there were modest but statistically significant moves to the left.’ [115]

Labour’s policies have gone from being based on genuine reformist principles (such as unilateralism, universal welfare), through Kinnock’s Policy Review to consciously occupying right wing Tory territory. Below are a few examples. As far as possible we let Labour speak for itself:

Unilateral disarmament

In 1988 we noted Kinnock making ‘a move to multi-lateral nuclear disarmament.’ [116] Now Labour appears to have abandoned disarmament altogether. Financial prudence is demanded for social spending, but the £22 billion Trident project is not questioned:

We stand four-square by the notion that, whatever is required to defend Britain, Labour will provide ... Obviously it doesn’t make sense for us to give up a capability that we are unique in NATO in providing ... I would not scrap [Trident, though] it is difficult to argue out a particular role for [it]. We just need it there as a standing reminder. [117]

Blair complains the Tories spend too little on arms. ‘It would be an abdication of Labour’s duty if we did not point out that these cuts will weaken Britain’s operational capabilities.’ [118]

Along with this goes a disgusting nationalism. Straw is ‘reclaiming the flag’ from ‘the grotesque caricature of England that is the National Front.’ How? ‘English patriotism has for too long been corralled. We should stop apologising for being English. Feeling pride in one’s country should not make one into a jingo.’ The Union Jack flew over the first concentration camps, over the slave ships and the violent conquests of the largest Empire in world history. [119]


In 1991 Labour condemned Tory policies of selection, testing and school opt outs as fostering:

a privatised divided education system, in which a few get the cash, while for the rest it is second best. The Tories are creating a system so offensive to the values of justice and fairness that they have been condemned by the heads of both the Anglican and Catholic churches. [120]

Blair seeks to change these labour opinions. The ‘old’ (1991) Labour attitude to education, he said, ‘typifies the reasons why the left has been losing general elections for the last 16 years instead of winning them.’ [121] In December 1994 Blair, who sets so much store by the local community, applied to send his son eight miles to London Oratory, a non-union opt out school, headed by a former advisor to the Tory Education Minister, which has been criticised by the Catholic education service for its over rigorous selection of pupils. [122] Blair was ‘aghast’ when he discovered Labour’s General Secretary relaxed about sending his children to a local school: ‘The Blairs were apparently asking [him] the sort of incredulous questions about life in an inner city “comp” that used to face nineteenth century explorers when they came back from overseas with tales of the strange things that the natives did in the jungle.’ [123]

To cover the Blair family’s tracks Labour’s Diversity and Excellence document invented ‘foundation schools’ (opt out schools by another name) operating with ‘a fair admissions policy’. [124] ‘On tests one MP declares: ‘It’s not good enough to bang on about socio-economic background ... By measuring outcomes we can define which schools are performing well and which are performing badly.’ [125] With this in mind Blunkett encouraged the NUT to abandon opposition to tests and league tables because ‘a Labour government would keep the tests and continue to publish results’. [126]

Roy Hattersley, hardly a man of the Labour left, concludes:

The Labour Party will, in effect, repudiate the principle of comprehensive education [and] cannibalise one of the most discredited policies of the Government ... The grant maintained idea is one of the Government’s major policy failures. Despite escalating bribes, less than one school in 20 has chosen to leave the maintained system. Yet Labour has chosen to breath life into the corpse. [127]

Even in opposition these policy somersaults have a direct impact. When, in 1995, almost half the secondary school governors were considering whether to set illegal budgets Labour rushed to oppose this. By 1996 the Tories planned to expand selection by schools because Labour had taken over so many other Tory education policies like closing failing schools. [128] Two weeks later Harriet Harman sent her child to one of the most selective schools in the country.

Law and order

Since 1988 there have been numerous revelations about miscarriages of justice – the Guildford Four, Maguire family, Birmingham Six, Broadwater Farm Three, SAS executions in Gibraltar the murder of Joy Gardner and more. Police largely stood by as racist attacks doubled between 1989 and 1994. Labour should have lambasted the Tories, pointing out the social deterioration behind the crime figures.

Yet Blair made his reputation outflanking the Tories right. ‘The Tories have given up on crime’ [129] he argued and went on ‘Labour is the Party of law and order in Britain today’. He added: ‘We need to be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime.’ [130] While the first phrase obviously is the Tory agenda, the second appears to criticise a society where, it has been clearly demonstrated, increases in unemployment lead to rising crime rates.

But Blair meant something else. He was stealing Major’s ‘back to basic’ campaign. Blair’s ‘causes of crime’ were ‘our disintegration as a community, with standards to sustain a community. [131] According to Blair this was not caused by mass unemployment or a slashed welfare state, but a failure to ‘demand responsibilities’. [132] His ‘cure’ – stop and search powers to the police, prosecuting parents for truanting children, custodial sentences for youngsters and condemning single parents because ‘it is best for kids to be brought up in a normal, stable family.’ When Major said, ’we should forgive a little less’ Blair told the police, We do not excuse and we do not ignore ... speak the language of punishment.’ [133]

What did the Tories make of this? Chris Patten, former Conservative Chairman, said: ‘I find myself in complete agreement with somebody like Tony Blair’. [134] Norman Tebbit added: ‘you have to approach from a direction which some might say is almost Labour Party direction.’ [135]

As with education, Labour’s right wing policy statements allowed the Tories to move much further than they had dared before. The Criminal Justice Bill was ‘designed to be so unpalatable to Labour that it would force Blair to oppose the Bill at the very time he was trying to convince people that Labour was now tougher on law and order than the Conservatives. [136] This Bill, said the Observer, ‘will cause more miscarriages of justice, the jailing of harmless demonstrators and, in tenser parts of the country, the transformation of the police into something like an occupying army.’ [137] Save the Children Fund said that jailing young children contravened the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Michael Mansfield, QC, warned: ‘The police are to be given another weapon with which metaphorically to beat even more confessions out of people.’ [138] Labour quibbled over parts of the Bill and then abstained.

Labour’s Frank Field called for identity cards and ‘a core SAS style anti-fraud officers’. [139]

The National Health Service

In 1991 Kinnock slammed Tory health policies:

Their hospital opt outs will create, and are intended to create, a health service consisting of trading units. Their GP contract system will create and is intended to create, a market place of haggling doctors ‘buying and selling patients’ ... This process is called privatisation. At the next election the British people will be deciding whether they keep the National Health Service ... Those who vote Labour will be voting to build up the NHS. [140]

In future there will be no such choice. The Tories have closed one third of beds since 1979 and one in eight hospitals [141], but in 1995 Blunkett said there were ‘too many beds’. Launching Renewing the NHS Blair added, ‘We are not reversing all the Conservative reforms’. Labour will merely ‘discourage the signing’ of long term contracts for private run hospitals. The ‘buying and selling’ purchaser-provider split at the core of marketisation is virtually retained and there is ‘no absolute commitment’ to abolish GP fundholding, merely a plan to phase it out. [142] Patricia Hewitt, Blair’s adviser, was a member of the Healthcare 2000 committee whose report favours ending the universal health service free at the point of delivery. [143]

Poverty and the Welfare State

In 1990 Michael Meacher criticised Thatcher’s claim that ‘all people on all incomes have increased their standard of living’: ‘Tell that to the 150,000 homeless people in London and the beggars.’ [144] He continued that with the ‘scrounger myth [the Tories] hope to turn attention away from the fact that benefit levels themselves have hit an all time low.’ [145] Between 1979 and 1992 the real income of the wealthiest 10 percent (including housing costs) rose 62 percent. The poorest 10 percent saw an 18 percent fall. [146] A 1995 report showed wealth inequality in Britain to be the second worst among the developed countries. Only New Zealand was worse.

Labour’s response? A Commission for Social Justice headed by Sir Gordon Borrie, QC, who said: ‘I have a substantial house in the country and a rented flat in the Temple. I belong to a couple of clubs where the subscriptions are quite high and have enjoyed a high public salary.’ [147] He cited his qualification for the Commission as ‘being uncommitted to either side of the universality or means testing debate.’ Others on the Commission included two founders of the SDP and Liberal Democrat advisers. [148] The results of the Commission have been described in the following terms:

The extent of the common ground between the Tory left and ‘New Labour’ is remarkable. The Commission argues that people should be able to use the money spent on their benefits as a subsidy with which to attract potential employers; the government is already running a pilot scheme. The Commission urges that unemployment benefit, income support and family credit be reformed to encourage part time work and to encourage people off welfare into work; the Chancellor has already signalled that this will be a key theme in next month’s budget. And the Commission argues that the married couple’s tax allowance and mortgage interest tax relief should be phased out gradually; this is already happening. [149]

Labour has dropped its 1992 pledge to restore income support to 16–17-year-olds. With the Party adopting US workfare schemes these 250,000 young unemployed would no longer be entitled to full benefits but earn them. [150] This threat has been extended, with plans to cut 40 percent of benefit from other ‘work-shy’ young people. [151]

Major caused outrage saying beggars were ‘an eye-sore which must be swept from the streets’. [152] So Straw followed: ‘Aggressive begging, along with graffiti’ and, in some cities ‘squeegee merchants’ are responsible for ‘intimidation and bullying on the streets.’ [153] This earned him the nickname ‘Jackboots Straw’ at the 1995 TUC where an FBU delegate declared ‘I’m not saying Straw is a fascist – yet – but he is heading down a road with very dangerous company.’ [154]

Minimum wage

This is ‘one of the few distinctive policies’ Labour has, says the Financial Times. [155] The 1992 manifesto pledged a rate of half median male earnings, at that time £3.40. Today the figure is nearer £4.15. By 1995 Blair would not set a rate until ‘after the election’ [156] to be calculated by a committee including businessmen, on the basis of ‘economic ... as well as social justice considerations.’ [157] Bill Morris of the Transport and General Workers’ Union has likened the involvement of businessmen in setting the minimum wage to ‘putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank.’ Harriet Harman has subsequently promised the CBI that 18–24 year olds would get a lower rate minimum wage and ‘very young ; workers’ wouldn’t be covered at all. [158]

Full employment

Although full employment was destroyed under Labour, it was axiomatic that this was its policy. Then Kinnock’s review document Opportunity Britain made it ‘an objective’. By 1993 Gordon Brown was going ‘beyond traditional notions of full employment. In the new world our aspiration must be full and fulfilling employment through work and training’. What the party has in mind is to ‘Replace redundancy with the prospect of new work through training.’ [159] Blair puts ‘the notion of full employment within a bigger notion, that of a cohesive and united society.’ ‘Focus on the quality of the jobs created’, he pleads. [160] What a disgraceful end to a policy.


Reformism has always sought to redistribute crumbs from the capitalist table. In 1990 Labour had changed, but Smith, no left winger, still told Conference:

we do insist that the minority who received an enormous bounty from Mrs Thatcher should pay their fair share. [Applause] [And] because of the vital importance of our public services we cannot promise cuts in income tax ... or cut back on education and training, on research, [on] our health service. [161]

In 1993 the richest 10 percent of the population paid 34 percent of income in taxes, the bottom 10 percent paid 46 percent. [162] The share of national output taken by tax puts the UK low down at 17th out of 24 major economies according to the OECD.

Labour’s 1992 manifesto called for top rate tax at 59 percent. The following year this was dropped. ‘Labour is not against wealth, nor will we seek to penalise it,’ said Brown. As for public spending commitments – ’There are none’. [163]Blair feels ‘there are top rate tax payers now who are hardly in the super rich bracket and I think we’ve got to be extremely sensitive to them.’ [164] In his News of the World column Blair wrote: ‘if someone goes on to be wealthy, then good luck to them’. He went on to commiserate with ‘Middle England’ who ‘have suffered the real burden of tax increases.’ [165] Labour outflanked Tory income tax cuts in the November 1995 budget. Unlike them Labour’s tax cuts ‘would apply to all taxpayers.’ [166] A lower starting rate for income tax was Brown’s ‘main ingredient in efforts to cut welfare costs and persuade claimants to take low paid jobs.’ [167]

Labour’s economic strategy

Since Dennis Healey in the 1970s ended Keynesian policies and set the scene for Thatcherism, the overlap between Tory and Labour strategies has been extraordinary:

In the run up to the 1992 election, the Tories forecast a PSBR [Public Sector Borrowing Requirement] of £28,000 million. We said that, by an amazing coincidence, that was exactly the PSBR we would have as well ... [168] Well, said the Tories after the election, it might have to be a bit higher – perhaps £37,000 million. That’s exactly the figure we have arrived at too, we said ... Hang on a minute, said the Tories, it will have to rise to perhaps £50,000 million. Just what we thought, we said. [169]

Is this really the voice of an effective opposition?

Labour’s only disagreement with the Tories (or rather one wing of the Tories) was ‘Labour’s total endorsement of European monetary union, the exchange rate mechanism [ERM] and the concept of a single central bank.’ Alas, ‘they were being more Thatcherite than the Thatcherites.’ It was a ‘me too, only more so’ approach. [170] Labour got its fingers burnt when the pound crashed out of the ERM in September 1992.

Since then it has been so cautious that Ken Clarke, Tory Chancellor mused: ‘I must be the first Chancellor who has a shadow chancellor who is not criticising what I am doing. Gordon Brown’s problem is he thinks what I am doing is working. He has not, for some time, opposed anything I have done.’ [171] What could Brown say? ‘If the Tories take on our agenda, it’s a recognition that the political argument is moving in our direction.’ And what is that direction? (Readers might like to swap the words ‘Conservative’ and ‘Labour’ in the next Brown quote. The result is a typical speech used by Tory politicians against Labour for the last 90 years.

Labour will be tougher on the causes of inflation than the Conservatives ... And it’s right that we should be tough. The war against inflation is a Labour war. It affects pensions and those with savings, it damages investment and therefore jobs. [172]

So Labour refuses to solve the poverty, homelessness and welfare cuts the Tories have created either through taxing the rich, or by borrowing.

Tory anti union laws

While Blair praises the insight of Thatcher’s ideology, as one writer puts it: ‘none of this ramshackle ragbag of half-cock theories and accidental wheezes, could possibly have “seen off socialism” on their own ... we may be getting closer to the true murder weapon when we turn to Lady Thatcher’s onslaught on the trade unions.’ [173] The anti union laws have been flouted on many occasions, but they remain simultaneously a shackle and an alibi the inaction of union leaders. Even Blair once recognised that restriction of ‘secondary’ (i.e. solidarity) action was ‘a draconian limitation on effective industrial action.’ [174] Prescott expressed the general viewpoint in 1989: ‘It all has to go.’ [175]

What is the situation today? The 1995 TUC Conference defeated a motion for repeal of ‘all anti trade union laws’. Blair told the TUC: ‘We are not going back to the old battles. I will say now that there’s going to be no repeal of all Tory union laws ... Ballots before strikes are here to stay. No mass or flying pickets. All those ghosts of times past, they are exorcised.’ [176] When the Tories, following Blair’s ‘stakeholder’ speech, wondered if it meant more union power. Brown rushed to deny Labour would ‘extend union rights’ beyond the minimal ones in the European Social Chapter. A perplexed commentator concluded that ‘Labour would prefer to upset the unions rather than the CBI.’ [177]

Racism, immigration and asylum

The unpopularity of the Tory government means that whipping up racism to try and win votes is an option they seriously entertain. Yet Shadow Home Secretary Jack Straw asserts that ‘it should not be possible to insert a cigarette paper between the government and the Labour front benches over immigration’. [178] The Labour left’s response to rising racism, attacks and murders was to support an organisation called the Anti Racist Alliance (ARA). Much time was spent denouncing the other much larger anti racist organisation, the Anti Nazi League, as an SWP front. The election of a BNP councillor in Tower Hamlets in September 1993 raised the profile of racism and racists everywhere. The turning point in their fortunes of the Nazis came on 16 October 1993 when 60,000 demonstrators marched on the BNP’s headquarters in Welling, south east London. That day ARA also held a demonstration, many miles away in Trafalgar Square, attended by 2,000 people and Labour’s high dignitaries. Not long afterwards ARA imploded in disarray.

The Tory government has now turned its attacks on to refugees. As we write it is introducing a spiteful Bill which will undoubtedly prevent many escaping death from murderous regimes abroad. The furthest Labour has dared go is to suggest, respectfully, that a Committee be appointed to look into the question. When the Tories decided to deport a Saudi Arabian democrat who sought asylum, in order that the government could secure lucrative arms contracts with the Saudis. Jack Straw was asked if he would have done the same thing. He answered: ‘That’s not a decision which I can take’. On the moral question of deportation to win arms sales. Straw commented, ‘You’ve obviously got to take account of that consideration in the world in which we live.’ [179]

Tony Blair and Labour

This book began with a quote from Lenin noting that workers support Labour but it is ‘led by reactionaries and the worst kind of reactionaries at that, who are quite in the spirit of the bourgeoisie.’ [180] Blair is the purest expression of this. No other leader matches his career: son of a Tory councillor, educated at Edinburgh’s premier public school, then Oxford; first links with top Labour echelons made as legal adviser for witch hunting Militant; becomes ‘leadership material’ when he dumps the closed shop; becomes publicly known when calling for children to be jailed; first act as Labour leader – abolition of Clause 4.

Commentators of all types agree that there is something incongruous about Blair heading a movement composed largely of working class people. John Sopel writes: ‘As he stands before an audience of Labour activists and union fixers, the pre-eminent feeling is that he is not one of them.’ [181] Lawson says: ‘I was always slightly surprised that he was in the Labour Party at all. He is quite definitely the least socialist leader the Labour Party has ever had.’ [182] Ken Coates, Labour MEP feels Blair ‘does not begin to understand the mentality of the party which he has been elected to lead.’ [183] According to Rentoul his modernising trend ‘did not arise from a social movement outside the party, or from the grass roots or the unions within it. It was synthesised by the Parliamentary leadership.’ [184] So Blair doesn’t fit, yet he is perfectly appropriate in a ‘capitalist workers’ party’.

Blair has many admirers. Thatcher is one: ‘He is probably the most formidable leader ... since Hugh Gaitskell. I [do not] see a lot of socialism in Mr Blair’. [185] To the Daily Telegraphs editor he is a ‘proper Tory Prime Minister in waiting.’ [186] Alan Clark, far right ex-Minister, says ‘virtually single handed [Blair] has transformed the Labour Party into a credible political party.’ [187] The Sunday Times’ Martin Jacques praises his ‘deep hostility towards labourism – towards the culture of class’. [188] The Economist appreciates this ‘presidential style candidate: nice man, nice wife, nice kids, good on telly’. [189] It added that ‘Scrapping Clause 4 is the start ... but what a good start.’ [190] Murdoch ‘could even imagine supporting’ him and Roy Jenkins thinks he is ‘the best hope for social democracy’. [191]

Blair is a great admirer of US President Bill Clinton, whose disastrous administration has nourished the rabid right of Newt Gingrich’s Republicans. Clinton stood as a ‘New Democrat’, Blair as ‘New Labour’. Clinton appealed to ‘the forgotten middle class, who work hard and play by the rules’, Blair appeals to ‘middle income Britain, who work hard and do well.’ [192] Clinton would ‘offer more opportunity to all and demand more responsibility for all.’ [193] Blair: ‘We give opportunity, we demand responsibility.’ [194] But if Blair was ‘Clinton with his flies done up’ [195], he has now learned from the American’s failures. An Independent editorial entitled Tony Blair’s Newt Labour concludes ‘he has anticipated many of the popular themes that have characterised the recent success of Newt Gingrich and the US Republicans, and is now seeking to capture them.’ [196]

Blair’s other idol is Thatcher who, his ‘Chief of Staff’ confirms, ‘is his model. And she once said that her single greatest success was the change she had brought about in the Labour Party. That’s also Tony Blair’s job – in reverse, of course.’ [197] Blair says ‘The new right had struck a chord. There was a perception that there was too much collective power [union influence – TC/DG], too much state intervention and too many vested interests’ [unions, again!] [198] ‘I believe Mrs Thatcher’s emphasis on enterprise was right. She was thoroughly determined and that is admirable.’ [199] He is nostalgic about ‘the Thatcher administration [which had] a very strong sense of what they wanted to do with the country and that’s what we’ve got to communicate.’ But isn’t Labour left wing and the Tories right wing? ‘The terms left and right have become, in many ways, meaningless within the Labour Party.’ [200] New Labour’s objectives ‘should and will cross the old boundaries between left and right, progressive and conservative.’ [201]

Obviously Blair’s popularity is not confined to the right. After all the Labour Party elected him over Margaret Beckett and John Prescott in July 1994. But caution needs to be exercised here. Though Blair campaigned with the entire press behind him, his share of the vote – 57 percent – was not remarkable, especially compared with his predecessor’s 91 percent. The comparative distribution of Blair’s votes was notable – 61 percent of MPs, 58 percent from the constituencies, just 52 percent from the trade unionists. [202]

There have been periodic murmurings against Blair. For example, Richard Burden, MP, not noted as hard left, protested at Labour’s Littleborough by-election leaflet which said: ‘The choice is therefore between the Liberal Democrat and his views on drugs and hefty tax increases and Labour’s local candidate ... raised here in the Pennines and committed to Tony Blair’s New Labour.’ Burden condemned such ‘political amorality in which anything goes.’ Labour was ‘a ruthlessly effective electoral machine ... rather than a radical party with a definable ideological base ... with immense pressure on everyone to fall into line in the interests of unity and not jeopardising electoral chances.’ [203] Blair had to fight hard to avoid commitment to a specific minimum wage rate. Jack Dromey, Blairite challenger to Bill Morris in the T&G leadership election was defeated and Blair had to tell the T&G conference that they would not have ‘an armlock on Labour or its policies.’ For his part, Morris warned that unions would not accept ‘a minority relationship’ with Labour. [204]

Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to under estimate the ‘Blair effect’. This was reflected in the row over Clause 4.

Back to the pre 1918 era?

Though adopted to head off revolution [205], Clause 4 also represented a break with the Liberal Party. In 1995 it symbolised what remained in Labour of the idea of socialism. Of course, the Party had largely ignored Clause 4 and by 1995 had dropped commitments to renationalise any industry. Ambiguous about the railways, the only firm nationalisation target is private prisons ‘when their contracts expire’. [206] Since contracts last up to 25 years this might take some time.

Blair wanted new Labour ‘liberated from our history’, replacing socialism with ‘social-ism’. Clause 4 represented ‘a party born out of the trade unions and formed largely to represent people at work’. Blair insisted this was ‘too narrow ... I want Labour to be a party which has in its membership the self employed and the unemployed, small business people and their customers, managers and workers.’ [207] Blair summarised his alternative in these terms: ‘Social-ism ... is not about class or trade unions, or capitalism versus socialism. It is about a belief in working together.’ [208] One Blairite put the abolition argument more crudely: ‘We are dealing with a romp of people suffering final withdrawal symptoms, who have not yet come to terms with the fact that we are a social democratic party.’ [209]

New Labour is in fact very old, pre-1918 Labour. But abolition of Clause 4 does not simply return the Party to its past. At that time Labour was led by convinced reformists who feared including socialism in the constitution because most workers were still wedded to Liberalism. Today we have the reverse, a leadership which has abandoned reformism and is attempting to stifle such aspirations in a working class wedded to reformism. It is true that when in office. Labour’s practice has been as right wing as it is now. At such times it was, in effect, the prisoner of the ruling class. Blair’s Labour Party is different. It has moved dramatically to the right in opposition. Moreover, Labour Prime Ministers tried to excuse their betrayal of policies by pointing to special circumstances – the ‘bankers’ ramp’ of 1931,the ‘gnomes of Zurich’ in the 1960s, or IMF in the I970s. By contrast Blair revels in following openly capitalist policies.

So scrapping Clause 4 was not updating the Party image, but an attempt to ideologically break with reformism. Blair’s campaign coincided with Thatcher’s aim as divulged to the Sunday Times in 1994: ‘her ultimate ambition was to destroy a socialist Labour Party and replace it with a British-style Democratic Party. Britain would then have two parties committed to the success of capitalism: the Tories in the anti-state role of the American Republicans, opposed by a Labour Party backed by the unions but free of left wing dogma.’ [210] In terms of ideology Arthur Scargill’s comment was deadly accurate: ‘Clause 4 is what marks out the Labour Party from the other major political parties in Britain. Without Clause 4 the Labour Party is indistinguishable from the Liberal Democrats and the Tories.’ [211]

Blair’s new clause promotes: ‘A dynamic economy ... in which the enterprise of the market and the rigour of competition are joined with the forces of partnership and co-operation to produce the wealth the nation needs.’ [212] Market enterprise and rigour mean a world in which 820 million people, 30 percent of humanity, are idle (according to the ILO), in which children starve in the midst of plenty. It means the untrammelled power of a tiny minority and their grotesque wealth over the exploited and oppressed majority. Yet the new clause was adopted at Labour’s Special Conference on 29 April 1995 by 65 percent.

A full 90 percent of constituencies were in favour, but only 54.6 percent of the unions. In analysing these results we are beset with contradictions. The first indications, in a Tribune poll of constituencies, was that 60 out of 62 had decided against scrapping Clause 4. [213] These decisions were made by activists. A typical viewpoint was reported in the Independent: ‘Our party leader’s nickname – Tory Blair, is now looking less like a joke.’ [214] On the other hand, in the 500 constituencies which had postal ballots, just 3 voted to retain Clause 4. [215] The average vote per constituency was just 200 people, or 47 percent of the full membership. [216]

The distinction between passivity and activism was shown in Blair’s own Sedgefield constituency, where 25 voted for Clause yet 200 turned up to hear Scargill defend it. A survey by Seyd and Whiteley compared their 1990 findings with 1992 data. The proportion of members rejecting the idea that ‘the production of goods and services is best left to the free market’ was rising (from 60 to 63 percent), while the number wanting more privatisation was static at just 2 percent. [217] A recent survey of new members published in Red Pepper shows the following ambiguous picture:

Survey of new Labour members [218]







Don’t know

Should Labour set a rate for
the minimum wage before
the next election?




Do you feel positive towards
the left wing of the party?




Do you think unions should be
more active in the party?




Did you support the change to
Clause 4?



The unions told a similar story. Blair’s special conference preceded those of all Labour’s affiliated unions except USDAW. The 9–1 pro-abolition ballot in the UCW union was conducted by sending out forms with the union journal; 83 percent did not vote. A random sample of 4,000 AEEU members yielded an 11–1 result. [219] The Transport and General, however, had conducted its own consultative exercise, and at a preliminary meeting only 7 out of 75 delegates backed Blair. Unison cast its 11 percent for Clause 4. [220] The press made much of the difference between unions which used postal ballots and those which decided at meetings. But what shaped the decisions of each? In the former, the chief source of information and advice came from the likes of the Murdoch press. By contrast, union meetings involved informed discussion.

What of the public? Again the evidence is paradoxical. Opinion polls are moving against the market and privatisation. When Tory plans to levy full VAT on fuel were beaten (December 1994)

Labour had an average 32 percent lead. The start of the Clause 4 debate caused this lead to plummet 14 points. [221] Blair’s plan seemed a vote loser. At the same time most people said their vote would not be influenced by scrapping of Clause 4, though 24 percent (three quarters of them Tories) said they would look on Labour more favourably. [222]

When newspaper calls for abolishing Clause 4 grew to a frenzy Blair’s move gained support (though when it was explained what the clause meant opinions were less favourable). The eternal refrain was heard – Labour must move right to be electable. Left winger Dianne Abbott described the atmosphere – Blair’s new version was ‘a lot of tosh’, but ‘if the leadership asked for a vote on the healing powers of cabbage it would get it.’ [223]

The Clause 4 issue reveals the contradictions of Blairism. Other events pointed the same way – the poor showing of some modernisers in NEC and Shadow Cabinet elections, and the disgust at Blair and Harman flouting education policy. Both Blair’s biographers pinpoint the phenomenon in the same terms. Rentoul writes: ‘Many Labour Party members voted for him because they thought he could win, not because they believed in what he was doing.’ [224] Sopel agrees: ‘There was a schizophrenia in the mind of many Labour activists that while they voted for Blair because they knew he stood a better chance than anyone else of winning the next election for Labour, they didn’t actually like his approach to policy.’ [225] Even Blair’s inner circle recognises that new Labour ‘is not yet a cohesive integrated political party sharing the same political ideology.’ [226] A GMB delegate to the 1995 TUC put the situation very clearly:

I know it sounds silly, but I often voted against the way I felt because I do believe there is a bigger issue of having to get a Labour government. I’m not sure about standing up to Blair. You may think I am a coward, but I can tell you I’m boiling angry at what this government has done. I’ll support anyone who does fight. I’m itching to get Labour into Downing Street so we can begin piling on the pressure for more change than Blair is proposing. [227]

What is happening? Firstly, there is intense hatred from vast sections of the population for the Tories’ policies. This, above all, has given Labour consistent poll leads, in spite of Blair adopting these self same Tory policies. But, if ‘New Labour’ is riding high in the polls then this apparently confirms Blair’s indispensability. But 1992 was a warning. Blair may be grabbing disillusioned Tory voters while Labour supporters have no electoral alternative. Yet this is a short term, high risk strategy. If the Tories can appear to overcome their worst problems, then Tory voters will return to their natural home in droves. Blair treats his own party in such a cavalier fashion that it may provoke splits. But even if the party stays united until the election frustration is likely to explode afterwards.

This raises a second issue. If, as we have argued, Labour reflects the conflicting pressures of the ruling class and working class, and if there has been a modest revival in working class confidence and ideological shift to the left, then why does Labour not reflect this? The counter pressure of capitalism has also grown. Thatcher’s direct offensive had to be abandoned after the poll tax but the ideological offensive was given added weight by the ‘fall of Communism’. In previous times the Labour leadership attempted to balance the interests of workers and the system. Now this seems an even more impossible task because of the void separating simple reformist demands (for a job, decent pay and conditions, and basic public services) and the system’s insistence on higher exploitation and cost cutting at all levels.

Thirdly, Labour’s structures, sclerotic at the best of times, are now even less responsive to working class pressure due to weaker union links and an anaesthetised membership. The ideological gulf between the Party leadership and the day to day experience of supporters is much wider. Although not a fully representative sample, compare Blair’s vision of New Labour (‘one nationism’, tilted as much towards small business and managers as workers) with candidates for the various parties in 1992 (see table below).

Distribution of selected occupations of 1992
election candidates








Company executives




Legal profession




Company directors








Armed services








White collar workers




Skilled workers












Total number of candidates




Unlike the other two parties, 356 of Labour’s candidates were union sponsored. It is such facts which explain why, in spite of any number of prawn cocktail offensive, £500-a-head banquets and pro-business lunches, Labour remains the second eleven team for British capitalism.

Thus despite all the changes since 1988 labour is still regarded as a working class party (despite its record). In March 1995 the Tories reached a record low point in the polls. When MORI asked if Labour would ‘help to improve your standard of living?’ those in the poorest social groupings, C2s and D/E answered positively, scoring +16 points. By contrast groups A/B and Cl were −23 points against. Questioned about whether Labour would keep its promises the working class groupings showed +10, the upper groups polled −21 points. [229] These results have little to do with the reality of the Labour Party, but everything to do with its perception. At the moment the reality and the perception do not enter into direct conflict. A small incident showed this will not always be the case – the strong reaction in broad Labour circles to Harman’s sending of her child to a selective grammar school.

Tension between Blair and the social reality of Labour’s support is great, but the bonds of mutual dependence are also strong. Blair cannot do without the votes of workers or the cash of the unions. On the other hand, many Labour supporters have been convinced that Blair alone can win the next election. The strength of such bonds mean reformist alternatives to Labour face major obstacles.

A similar situation defeated the ILP in the 1930s and Militant in the early 1990s. In the latter case, Leslie Mahmood’s candidature in Eric Heffer’s old seat of Walton, gained 6.5 percent. This was a good base for revolutionary policy of intervention in the daily struggles of the working class. A reformist perspective demanded that the seat be won, and compared with the right wing Labour candidate’s 53 percent the result was a disaster.

Announcing the formation of a Socialist Labour Party in early 1996, Scargill has sensed the deep unease felt in broad Labour circles about Blair. This does not mean there is much room for a second reformist party in Britain. The SLP did save its deposit at the Hemsworth by election, but it is clear in this case too that the first past the post system hampers any challenge to Labour from the reformist left. Meanwhile, the wish to remove the Tories, shared by trade unionists from rank and file to bureaucracy, means the unions are unlikely to support a competitor to this Party.

Many Labour supporters are extremely angry with what the modernisers have done to Labour policies, but it will take a change of circumstances to release this anger. This may occur before an election, but it is certainly likely after the election of a Blair government when the hopes meet the real New Labour party in head on collision.

Until that time the sharp edge of conflict between New Labour and the needs and aspirations of workers is to be found on the industrial scene. Those workers who do not accept a revolutionary alternative to electoral politics will wait for the election of a Labour government, even though there is rising anger over the way Blair is behaving on education, the minimum wage and much more. However, the immediate problems of the workplace cannot be ignored for that long and here the battle is joined between a union bureaucracy anxious to do nothing to rock the boat for Labour, and the needs of ordinary workers in their day to day defence of jobs, pay and conditions. The effect of New Labour is seen here at its clearest.

Prospects for a Blair government

We can take an educated guess as to the features of such a government. Labour is in power at local government level across most of the country. The policy of the ‘dented shield’ – the Kinnockite strategy of obeying Tory legislation but attempting to ‘protect’ Labour supporters – meant, by 1990, jailing many Labour voters for not paying the poll tax. A recent New Statesman article invites us to ‘Meet the new model Labour councillor’:

Efficiency is his favourite word; his slogan ‘quality services’. Performance indicators make his day ... He is definitely middle-class, though class, for him ‘isn’t an issue’ ... What our councillor will not tolerate is any cosying up to the unions, whom he refers to as ‘special interest groups’. (He flies into a rage when union delegates criticise the council at local party meetings). He freely admits to being more concerned about the council tax-payer than the council worker. [230]

In 1992 50,000 local government jobs disappeared, many in Labour authorities. In September, Newham Labour council became the first to use Tory anti union laws against its workers. Other councils followed. Sefton, with all committees chaired by Labour, took Unison to the high court for striking. In 1993 Sheffield council extracted a 3 percent wage cut ‘to save jobs’, but still lost 2,000 that year. In 1995 the same council tried to cut library workers’ pay by 7 percent but was beaten back. Meanwhile, Liverpool’s ‘New Labour’ council sent scabs against residential workers opposing wage cuts there.

It is possible that working class discontent such as occurred around the mines in 1992, may force Labour to take on a more left wing stance before the next election. An ill defined minimum wage and ‘windfall tax’ on utilities profits may be supplemented by more radical sounding measures. The ability of Labour to speak left when it suits should never be underestimated. But even in these circumstances, would Labour be different in national rather than local government? Twelve years of Labour rule in Australia have produced a drop in real wages of 30 percent, along with the most savage union busting operation in the country’s history against building workers. In Spain the government of Felipe Gonzales, the Blair of his day, produced 20 percent unemployment, the highest in Europe. Only one third of these unemployed receive state benefits. New Zealand, where the Labour government embraced the ‘rigours of competition’, alone outstrips Britain in terms of wealth inequality.

British Labour only announces what policies it has abandoned. Blair says he has ‘the guts, the decency, the honesty to tell it to people how it really is, to not make promises we can’t deliver.’ [231] We know ‘how it really is’ – mass unemployment, poverty and decaying services. But Blair’s Labour is ‘liberated from particular policy prescriptions’ [232] and so how he would deal with this reality is left unsaid. Some papers have drawn their own conclusions. The Independent comments: ‘So Blair – a Labour leader – seeks to inherit the radical mantle that Margaret Thatcher’s Tory successor let drop’. [233] The Financial Times agrees that the next Labour government will be a ‘third Tory party’ offering ‘policies any One Nation Tory could support with a strong heart and a clear conscience.’ [234]

How might Labour relate to the key social groups? Blair told the TUC: ‘We have an obligation to listen, as we do to the employers. You have the right to persuade, as they do.’ [235] He has given a clue as to which he will find most persuasive. Blair’s government will encourage ‘a true meritocracy’ [236] since, ‘the country needs entrepreneurs and people who can go out and make an awful lot of money,’ [237] while the rest will face: ‘Ever more intense competition, ever more creative innovations and ever more advanced skills have made insecurity at work a permanent feature of life.’ [238]

If Blair’s close ally Peter Mandelson is anything to go by, the sort of policies that will be followed could include:

coalition with the Lib Dems; ... abolition of universal child benefit; ... ‘workfare’ programmes for the unemployed and single mothers; ... no-strike deals in the public sector; ... major emphasis on private pensions ... all schools to be free of local authority control. [239]

A favourite theory of Labour lefts like Ken Livingstone is that rapid disillusionment with a Blair government will lead to a dramatic swing to the left in the party such as occurred in 1931 and 1979. However, it is important to notice how short term these swings were. The longer term effect was quite the opposite – a major shift to the right caused by disillusionment and the desire to win back office at any cost.


By the end of 1995 it seemed Labour and Tories had mimicked each other to a Parliamentary standstill. The Economist was amazed to witness that ‘Blair went so far as to steal the Tories ancient ace, the patriotic card ... By the end Mr Blair’s colleagues were not the only ones who must have been wondering what the Tories had left to throw at them.’ [240] Austin Mitchell, MP, warned that the electorate will be furious to discover that ‘Tory Tweedledum’ has merely been replaced by ‘Labour Tweedledee’. He adds: ‘To come to power with not an idea in our head on how to face the crisis which will hit us is to invite disaster.’ [241]

Labour needed an idea of its own and came up with ‘stakeholding’ which Blair set out in Singapore in January 1995. Stakeholding, says Will Hutton, whose book The State We’re In seems to be the idea’s source, puts ‘red water’ between Labour and the Conservatives. [242] Its redness is doubtful. Hutton’s argument is for a modernised Keynesianism which makes no pretence at being socialist. In his chapter entitled Stakeholder capitalism Hutton says ‘the object is to keep the merits of private ownership while reshaping the way it works.’ [243]

In fact, like Labour confronting Keynesianism in 1931, whenever Labour has been pressed to back the stakeholder theory with detail it has ran for cover. The CBI asked for assurances that the new slogan would not strengthen workers’ rights. Labour rushed to agree. The party had already promised to introduce the European Social Chapter (including some rights to union recognition) and a minimum wage so nothing had been added by the stakeholding policy, since ‘all the history shows, if you pass roles and regulations to try and force someone to change their culture, it doesn’t work.’ [244]

Blair’s choice of Singapore as venue was not accidental. He had come to study a country where ‘there are restrictions on individual rights, the banning of labour organisations, tight controls on the press and the subordination of citizens rights to internal security.’ [245] The political system of the so called Asian tiger economies has been aptly described as ‘Happy face fascism’. South Korea, for example, locks up more trade union leaders than any other country. Blair showed particular interest in Singapore’s welfare system which he says ‘has certainly done the job’. The Guardian noted ‘the irony of British politicians coming back to study a savings system first conceived by Singaporean British colonial rulers [which is] designed to look after the needs of the workers when they retire in a [society] that offers no social security benefits or subsidised health service.’ [246] The Economist thinks ‘There is indeed much to be said for such a system, which amount to abolishing the universal state pension, but it wonders if ‘Mr Blair could convince his party that scrapping Britain’s biggest universal benefit was what they meant by social cohesion and the stakeholding economy.’ [247]

Blair’s stakeholding is based on faith in ‘a cohesive society, one nation’. [248] He has made the ‘moral assertion that individuals are interdependent, that they owe duties to one another as well as themselves ... the belief that only by recognising their interdependence will individuals flourish, because the good of each does dependent on the good of all., that the good society backs up the efforts of the individuals within it.’ [249] This exciting new idea turns out to be strangely reminiscent of the speeches of Lord Salisbury, who, in 1880, professed his belief in:

a homogeneous people. It is only a people who in the main are agreed – who upon deep questions that concern a community think with each other, who have sympathy with each other, and have common interests ... it is only people who have these conditions of united action who can have any prospect of prosperity and success. [250]

Lord Salisbury was a Victorian Tory Prime Minister, a ‘self-proclaimed enemy of democracy’ who described socialists as ‘looters’. [251] Blair’s New Labour reeks of very old one nation Toryism.

None of this solves the basic contradiction that will face Blair if he is elected. What will happen when the millions who for years have been gritting their teeth and containing their pent up anger, find Blair carrying on with more or less the same policies as the Tories? How will they feel when the massive gap between rich and poor grows under market conditions, when people still die because there are no available NHS beds, the school roof continues to leak, and the boss still treats them with contempt?


1. Tricia Davies and David Green in Marxism Today, February 1989.

2. B. Anderson in New Statesman and Society, 3 May 1991.

3. Stuart Hall and Martin Jacques, Marxism Today, quoted in Socialist Review, December 1990.

4. Blair’s speech to News International Management, quoted in Independent, 17 July 1995.

5. W. Hutton, The State We’re In (London 1995), p. 18.

6. G. Elliott, Labourism and the English Genius: The Strange Death of Labour England? (London 1993), pp. 116, 118.

7. Guardian, 6 September 1995.

8. It is true that the Tories were, and are, hopelessly split over Europe but Thatcher had been flexible enough in her approach to sanction entry into the European Exchange Rate Mechanism and to sign the Maastricht Treaty, both important steps towards the sort of European Union she so detested. Equally her successor has survived Tory internal divisions on the issue.

9. Tribune, 17 June 1988.

10. Tribune, 5 February 1988.

11. D. Blunkett, Labour’s local government spokesperson in Tribune, 7 April 1989.

12. D. Butler and D. Kavanagh, The British General Election of 1992 (Basingstoke 1992), p. 318.

13. Heffernan and Marqusee, Defeat from the Jaws of Victory (London 1992), pp. 265–77. Labour’s memory is long. Five years after the demise of the poll tax it is still deselecting candidates such as Liz Davies in Leeds North East, who had connections with non-payment. One local voter commented: ‘I like the fact that she especially went the whole hog against the poll tax. Without people like her we’d still be paying it.’ Independent, 17 July 1995.

14. Tribune, 23 February 1990.

15. Our emphasis, Tribune, March 1990.

16. According to Seyd and Whiteley, p. 92. A larger number, 42 percent, agreed that the ‘Labour Party should support individuals who refuse to pay the Poll Tax, though 44 per cent disagreed.’ Seyd and Whiteley, p. 231.

17. Hansard, 2 April 1990.

18. Butler and Kavanagh, p. 10.

19. Report of Ninetieth Labour Party Conference 1991, pp. 211–213.

20. Brian Weddell, Lothian Regional Councillor in Tribune, 21 September 1990.

21. Guardian, 5 February 1992.

22. Independent on Sunday, 22 January 1995.

23. Heffernan and Marqusee, p. 314.

24. Butler and Kavanagh, 1992, p. 10.

25. Reported in New Statesman and Society, 18 January 1991.

26. The only debate in opposition time between December 1990 and the war’s end in February 1991 was SNP initiated. R. Heffernan and M. Marqusee, p. 192.

27. Hansard, 15 January 1991.

28. Hansard, 17 January 1991 and 21 January 1991.

29. Reported in Tribune, 22 February 1991.

30. Heffernan and Marqusee, p. 201.

31. The highest vote against the government on a procedure motion was 57 MPs. Heffernan and Marqusee, p. 193.

32. New Statesman and Society, 25 January 1991.

33. Socialist Review, February 1991.

34. Tribune, 22 February 1991.

35. Heffernan and Marqusee, p. 136.

36. Heffernan and Marqusee, p. 194.

37. Speech to 1988 Labour Conference quoted in C. Hughes and P. Wintour, Labour Rebuilt, The New Model Party (London 1990).

38. Hughes and Wintour, p. 195.

39. Tribune, 15 June 1990.

40. Butler and Kavanagh, p. 269.

41. Hughes and Wintour, p. 54.

42. Hughes and Wintour, p. 183.

43. Hughes and Wintour, p. 195.

44. Butler and Kavanagh, p. 275.

45. Butler and Kavanagh, p. 249.

46. Guardian, 11 April l992.

47. Butler and Kavanagh, p. 177.

48. Details in Butler and Kavanagh, p. 136.

49. Heffernan and Marqusee p. 312.

50. A. Heath, R. Jowell and J. Curtice, Labour’s Last Chance? The 1992 Election and Beyond (Aldershot 1994), p. 285 and p. 14.

51. Source, MORI, quoted in New Statesman and Society, 17 April 1992.

52. Labour’s Last Chance?, p. 287.

53. Labour’s Last Chance?, p. 292.

54. See Heffernan and Marqusee, p. 103.

55. ibid., p. 386.

56. Sun, 17 October 1995.

57. New Statesman and Society, 17 July 1992.

58. Panorama, Monday, 2 November 1992.

59. Quoted in Socialist Worker, 7 November l990.

60. J. Pilger in New Statesman and Society, 17/31 December 1993.

61. New Statesman and Society, 11 June 1993.

62. New Statesman and Society, 11 June 1993.

63. Independent 14 July 1995.

64. Quoted in Socialist Worker, 2 October 1993.

65. Fabian Review, July 1992.

66. .J. Sopel, Tony Blair: The moderniser (London 1995), p. 111.

67. Our emphasis. J. Rentoul, Tony Blair (London 1995), pp. 206–7.

68. ibid.

69. Rentoul, p. 252.

70. Quoted in Socialist Worker, 13 May 1995.

71. New Statesman and Society, 4 September 1992.

72. Labour’s Last Chance, p. 285.

73. Tribune, 7 October 1988.

74. New Statesman and Society, 17 July 1992.

75. Tribune, 17 September 1993.

76. Tribune, 4 June 1993.

77. Tribune, 30 July 1993.

78. Quoted in Rentoul p. 332.

79. Rentoul, p. 339.

80. See the New Statesman and Society poll in S. Platt and N. Mann, Chipping away at the block vote, New Statesman and Society, 4 September 1992. Interestingly it was some of the larger unions that perhaps feel less dependent on Labour that were most resistant to OMOV, like the T&G and GMB.

81. Tom Sawyer, quoted in Independent, 2 June 1992.

82. Heffeman and Marqusee, p. 155.

83. P. Seyd and P. Whiteley, Labour’s Grass Roots (Oxford 1992), p. 198.

84. Tribune, 6 May 1990.

85. Guardian, 24 March 1990.

86. Seyd and Whiteley, p. 89.

87. Elliott, p. 144.

88. Seyd and Whiteley p. 73.

89. Seyd and Whiteley, p. 39.

90. Seyd and Whiteley, p. 46–7.

91. Seyd and Whiteley, p. 89.

92. New Statesman and Society, 28 April 1995.

93. Peter Coleman, Labour Party Director of Organisation in Tribune, 31 March 1995.

94. New Statesman and Society, 28 April 1995.

95. BBC TV, On the Record, 18 December 1994.

96. Financial Times, 22 May 1995.

97. New Statesman and Society, 28 April 1995.

98. Hughes and Wintour, p. 92.

99. Seyd and Whiteley, p. 24.

100. Heffernan and Marqusee, p. 135.

101. Tribune, 19 August 1994

102. Tribune, 8 April 1994.

103. New Statesman and Society, 31 July 1992.

104. New Statesman and Society, 27 May 1994.

105. P Hain, Ayes to the Left (London 1995), p. 234.

106. Tribune, 3 September 1993.

107. Tribune, 14 October 1994.

108. Guardian, 18 February 1996.

109. Our emphasis, Tribune, 16 June 1995.

110. Hain quoting Ralph Miliband approvingly, p. 219.

111. Our emphasis. Hain p. 239.

112. Tribune, 21 October 1994.

113. See pp. 379–381. [Chapter 16]

114. Labour’s Last Chance, p. 285.

115. Labour’s Last Chance, p. 196.

116. See p. 387. [Chapter 16]

117. David Clark, Labour’s defence spokesperson in New Statesman and Society, 12 November 1993.

118. New Statesman and Society, 29 July 1994.

119. New Statesman and Society, 24 February 1995.

120. J. Straw, Ninetieth Labour Conference, p. 58.

121. Tribune, 21 October 1994.

122. Rentoul, p. 419–420.

123. Sopel, p. 279.

124. Blunkett, Tribune, 23 June 1995.

125. Margaret Hodge, in Tribune, 29 July 1994.

126. Reported in Guardian, 19 December 1994.

127. Independent, 22 June 1995. An example of current ‘policy-making’ procedure is illustrated by the fate of one mild proposal – VAT on private school fees. When Blunkett mentioned this agreed position Blair ‘read the riot act’ and Blunkett was accused of ‘making policy on the hoof’, Guardian, 3 January 1995. In fact, Brown as shadow Chancellor had abandoned the idea and not bothered telling the education spokesperson.

128. Radio 4’s summary of the situation, 5pm News, 6 January 1996.

129. T. Blair, Why crime is a socialist issue, in New Statesman and Society, 29 January 1993.

130. Sopel, p. 164.

131. ibid.

132. ibid.

133. Sopel, p. 158.

134. Sunday Times Magazine, 10 April 1994.

135. BBC TV, Panorama, 9 May 1994.

136. Sopel, p. 166.

137. Quoted Socialist Worker, 23 April 1994.

138. Guardian, 23 June 1994.

139. New Statesman and Society, 7 July 1995.

140. Ninetieth Labour Conference, 1991, p. 134.

141. Hain, p. 95.

142. [Note missing. – MIA]

143. Independent, 30 June 1995.

144. Eighty-ninth Conference, 1990, p. 64.

145. New Statesman and Society, 31 January 1992.

146. Hain, p. 83.

147. New Statesman and Society, 5 February 1993.

148. Tribune, 22 January 1993.

149. Independent, 30 October 1994.

150. Socialist Worker, 4 June 1994.

151. Times, 24 November 1995.

152. Socialist Worker, 4 June 1994.

153. Independent, 7 September 1995.

154. Quoted in Socialist Worker, 16 September 1995.

155. Financial Times, 19 July 1995.

156. Guardian, 3 March 1995.

157. Guardian, 16 July, 1995.

158. Financial Times, 19 July 1995.

159. Our emphasis. G. Brown, Harnessing the Workforce, New Statesman and Society, May 1993.

160. New Statesman and Society, 15 July 1994.

161. Eighty-ninth Annual Conference of the Labour Party, p. 29.

162. S. Jenkins, Winners and Losers, A Portrait of income distribution during the 1980s (Rowntree Foundation), 1995.

163. Quoted in New Statesman and Society, 20 August 1993.

164. Our emphasis. New Statesman and Society, 15 July 1994.

165. News of the World, 28 August 1994.

166. Times, 20 November 1995.

167. Times, 21 November 1995.

168. Phrase used by Gould, Tribune, 7 May 1993.

169. Tribune, 7 May 1993.

170. I. Aitken, Labour’s Chance to Score in New Statesman and Society, 17/31 December 1993.

171. Quoted in New Statesman and Society, 9 June 1995.

172. Quoted in P. Anderson, Safety First, New Statesman and Society, 9 June 1995.

173. I. Aitken, Killer Insincts, in New Statesman and Society, 15 October 1993.

174. Quoted in J. Sopel, p. 55.

175. Labour and Trade Union Review, December 1989. Quoted in Rentoul, p. 395.

176. Quoted in Independent, 13 September 1995.

177. BBC1, Morning News, 18 January 1996.

178. Socialist Worker, 11 March 1995.

179. Guardian, 17 January 1996.

180. Our pp. 1–2. [Introduction]

181. Sopel, p. 3.

182. Quoted in Rentoul, p. 163.

183. Daily Telegraph, 13 January 1995.

184. Rentoul, p. 231.

185. Sopel, p. 239.

186. Quoted in Tribune, 5/12 August 1994.

187. Quoted in Tribune, 11/18 August 1994.

188. Quoted in New Statesman and Society, 17 June 1994.

189. Economist, 21 May 1994.

190. Economist, 29 April 1995.

191. Tribune, 5/12 August 1994.

192. Rentoul, p. 276.

193. Quoted in Sopel, p. 144.

194. Sun, 3 March 1993.

195. Sopel, p. 143.

196. Independent, 17 July 1995.

197. Quoted Rentoul, p. 453.

198. Quoted Sopel, p. 208.

199. Sunday Times, 23 April 1995.

200. Interview in New Statesman and Society, 15 July 1994.

201. T. Blair, Let Us Face the Future – the 1945 Anniversary Lecture, Fabian Society pamphlet no. 571 (London 1995), p. 14.

202. Details in Rentoul, p. 404.

203. New Statesman and Society, 11 August 1995.

204. Financial Times, 11 July 1995.

205. See our pp. 72–74. [Chapter 3]

206. Guardian, 8 March 1995.

207. Blair, Let Us Face the Future, pp. 12–13.

208. Rentoul, p. 424.

209. Quoted in Socialist Review, February 1995.

210. Quoted in Hain, p. 41.

211. Quoted in Socialist Worker, 25 February 1995.

212. Rentoul, p. 461.

213. Reported in Socialist Review, February 1995.

214. Independent, 13 September 1995.

215. Sopel, p. 297.

216. Socialist Worker, 29 April 1995.

217. New Statesman and Society, 9 December 1994.

218. Red Pepper, February 1996.

219. Economist, 13 January 1995.

220. Socialist Worker, 25 February 1995.

221. Guardian, 18 January 1995.

222. Sunday Times, 15 January 1995.

223. Observer, 30 April 1995.

224. Rentoul, p. 402.

225. Sopel, p. 271.

226. Leaked memo by Philip Gould in Guardian, 12 September 1995.

227. Quoted in Socialist Worker, 23 September 1995.

228. Figures from Butler and Kavanagh, p. 226.

229. Times, 23 March 1995.

230. K. Milne, New Statesman and Society, 4 February 1994.

231. Independent, 13 September 1995.

232. Quoted in Rentoul, p. 400.

233. ibid.

234. Financial Times, 27 June 1995.

235. Independent, 13 September 1995.

236. Independent, 17 July 1995.

237. Times, 18 September 1995.

238. Independent, 17 July 1995.

239. This is an outline of a book Mandelson is writing, as summarised in The Observer, 24 December 1995.

240. Economist, 7–13 October 1995.

241. Guardian, 29 December 1995.

242. Guardian, 17 January 1996.

243. Hutton, p. 298.

244. Alistair Darling, quoted in Guardian, 18 January 1996.

245. Walden Bello of the Centre for the South, summarised in New Statesman and Society, 10 March 1995.

246. Guardian, 8 January 1996.

247. Economist, 13 January 1995.

248. Singapore speech, quoted in Economist, 13 January 1995.

249. Blair, Let Us Face the Future, p. 12.

250. Quoted in M. Pearce, G. Stewart, British Political History, 1867–1990, p. 90.

251. ibid., p. 84.

Last updated on7 January 2017