Mon May 5th, 2008 at 05:21:20 AM EST
PiGL asked the following question in Jerome's diary Grangemouth Strike - Anglo-disease in action ?
What happened to the Labour Party, anyway? When did it get taken over my Maggie Thatchers more clubbable nephews? I think we should all rue the day that Tony Blair was born. But that of course is a cheap shot at any single poltician, no matter how loathsome. What broader forces acted to bring these men to power?
So what did happen ? I guess the whole story starts with the Winter of Discontent in 1978/9
Diary rescue by afew
The strikes were a result of the attempted enforcement of the Labour government's rule that pay rises be kept below 5%, and began in private industry before spreading to the public sector; many of them seriously disrupted everyday life, causing problems including various food shortages and widespread and frequent power cuts
Whilst the strikes were largely over by February 1979, the government's inability to contain the strikes earlier helped lead to Margaret Thatcher's Conservative victory in the 1979 general election and legislation to restrict unions.
With unions under legislative attack and unemployment rising as Thatcherite policies began to wreck jobs in the old Labour industrial heartlands the party found itself reacting by moving increasingly leftward. This led to a breakaway by a more economically "moderate" group of MPs who went to form the Social Democratic Party.
The 1983 election was less a defeat than a rout. Although Thatcher's economic policies were disliked, her resolute determination during the Falkland's Conflict led to a jingoistic burst of popularity. This coupled with the splitting of the opposition vote with the Liberal/SDP party led to a nadir in Labour's fortunes.
The new leader, Neil Kinnock, knew that Labour were unelectable in their current guise. The policy manifesto of 1983 was widely derided as the "longest suicide note in history" whilst the party were openly penetrated by a shadowy leftist authoritarian group called Militant Tendency who were seeking confrontation with anyone and anything. Their tactics seem to have provided a blueprint for the Islamist group Hisb Ut Tahrir.
Kinnock had to change the rules, effectively introducing show trials, to give the local constituencies the ability to rid itself of these people. But this then led to an examination of policies that shunned anything that smacked of anything remotely leftish. It was an instinctive revulsion of Militant that led to the beginnings of the rightward drift.
Despite all this Kinnock lost the 1992 election and decided that he himself was the final problem to be dealt with and fell on his sword. He was replaced by John Smith, a man of considerable gravitas who rapidly established himself as a PrimeMinister in waiting. The Labour party knew it, the Conservative Pary knew it and the country ached for it. Sadly he died of a heart attack and the country felt a sense of loss.
He was replaced by Tony Blair who completed the purge of leftism and was elected on a platform of Thatcherite excess. Nobody believed it, thinking it was just positioning for the hostile press but, for once, a Labour party actually stuck to their committments and we have the current situation.
This is just my view. I'd appreciate it if others would give their views and corrections.