• Hi Guest!

    The costs of running this forum are covered by Sea Lion Press. If you'd like to help support the company and the forum, visit patreon.com/sealionpress

Labour and the EEC in the 1970s

Simon

Oblivious
Suppose for moment that the Conservatives had won the 1964 general election with say a ten or so seat majority, enough to last them the parliament. This pretty much guarantees a Labour victory come 1969 with a large majority and another in 1974 or whenever likely with a reduced one.

What I was interested in was what would Labour's–or more like the various groups with Labour and their supporters–attitude be to the idea of the UK joining the EEC? In our timeline it was Heath and a Conservative government that took us in whilst it was Wilson–who campaigned for Yes–and a Labour one which held the 1975 referendum on membership. Here it's Labour who are in charge when De Gaulle resigns and Pompidou takes over which opens the window of opportunity for Britain to successfully apply for membership.
 

Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
Labour's got a lot of eurosceptics at this point and the late-60s Tories may have tried & failed again to get in, so Labour's government likely won't try: it's too divisive and why bother, when you might still get rejected and look like a failure? (And the PM may be eurosceptic themselves) The EEC then becomes a Tory & Liberal cause to bash Labour with.
 

Elektronaut

Inclusive Gratuity
Wilson almost certainly carries on, and if he wins in 1969 then there's probably going to be another attempt at entry.

I don't think it matters if the Tories make a second attempt around the time of Wilson's OTL attempt, there's too many structural factors pushing towards both parties attempting entry under mainstream leaders, like the economic background and a pro-entry political class coming of age; but Home and Maudling may not even attempt it given both were pretty equivocal and had been part of Macmillan's government, and if there's any vocal support for the US on Vietnam then De Gaulle's attitude would be visible a mile off.

So you'd have the better part of a decade between tries, most like, and with De Gaulle out of the way by the time of the new government, so there'd very likely be another try. But it might result in another Non just through lack of effort and application and eurocredentials, which is what some think might have happened had Wilson won in 1970 or Maudling had won out over Heath. Unlike Heath neither of them really gave a damn about the issue in of itself at best in terms of entry, and could come off as outright eurosceptic at worst.

So this lessens the chances of entry, but even if it does happen us entering under Wilson's sceptic transactionalism would be a difference from OTL.
 

Simon

Oblivious
Wilson almost certainly carries on...
Sorry, yeah. I meant to add that I expected Wilson to carry on as leader since he would have only been in post for eighteen months or so by the 1964 general election but forgot to. Even in Labour's factionalism I don't think anyone would be able to reasonably argue that it was all his fault, especially if they majority is barely in double figures.
 

Makemakean

Mr Makemean
Pronouns
Logical, unlike those in German
Sorry, yeah. I meant to add that I expected Wilson to carry on as leader since he would have only been in post for eighteen months or so by the 1964 general election but forgot to. Even in Labour's factionalism I don't think anyone would be able to reasonably argue that it was all his fault, especially if they majority is barely in double figures.
By that point in history, Labour had only won an election three times (1929, 1945, and 1950), so it really would have been a little awkward to go ”this fellow ain’t winning us elections, throw him out!”
 

Simon

Oblivious
By that point in history, Labour had only won an election three times (1929, 1945, and 1950)...
With the first of those creating a minority government and the third having a wafer thin majority. The only thing that would play against him would be the, as I understand things, pre-election expectations that a Labour victory was likely – and even those can be waved off.
 

Elektronaut

Inclusive Gratuity
With the first of those creating a minority government and the third having a wafer thin majority. The only thing that would play against him would be the, as I understand things, pre-election expectations that a Labour victory was likely – and even those can be waved off.
I might be wrong, but I think the Tories can win the small majority you describe while Labour still wins the popular vote. That on the back of a fiftyish seat advance, together with the much lower pressure on leaders of this period noted above, should be more than enough to keep Wilson in the leadership. Assuming it's Home still as PM, I think Labour and Wilson would also have been seen to very much won the campaign given how awkward Home performed.
 

OwenM

The patronising flippancy of youth
Moderator
Location
Colwyn Bay/Manchester
Pronouns
He/him
With the first of those creating a minority government and the third having a wafer thin majority. The only thing that would play against him would be the, as I understand things, pre-election expectations that a Labour victory was likely – and even those can be waved off.
Gaitskell had in 1959 with the same applying, though he probably had a stronger position in the PLP.
 

Thande

UP THE WORKERS & Ukrainians
Published by SLP
Gaitskell had in 1959 with the same applying, though he probably had a stronger position in the PLP.
Yeah, that's a good point - nowadays 'party leader survives after leading party to its third consecutive loss in seats' would sound peculiar to us (insert joke about American Democrats here) but times were different.
 

Geordie

"One of popculture's most iconic men"
Published by SLP
Pronouns
he/him
I might be wrong, but I think the Tories can win the small majority you describe while Labour still wins the popular vote.
If Labour get done by a "wrong winner" election for the second time in just over a decade, are we likely to see calls for electoral reform grow in the party? I don't know enough about internal Labour dynamics to know which factions might adopt it as a particular totem, and if they'd be likely to be in a position to do something about it when they got back into power, but it certainly bears thinking about.
 

Alex Richards

A musical Hubble Space Telescope
Patreon supporter
Published by SLP
Location
Derbyshire
If Labour get done by a "wrong winner" election for the second time in just over a decade, are we likely to see calls for electoral reform grow in the party? I don't know enough about internal Labour dynamics to know which factions might adopt it as a particular totem, and if they'd be likely to be in a position to do something about it when they got back into power, but it certainly bears thinking about.
Depends I think. If the Bennite left start talking a lot more about the need for Proportional Representation we might see the right wing of the party taking a very 'it's fine we'll get in next time' approach in reaction.

On the other hand Roy Jenkins is already an MP so there's a decent chance it could be that side of things who start up on the idea first, probably talking to the Liberals as well about it.
 

Makemakean

Mr Makemean
Pronouns
Logical, unlike those in German
If Labour get done by a "wrong winner" election for the second time in just over a decade, are we likely to see calls for electoral reform grow in the party? I don't know enough about internal Labour dynamics to know which factions might adopt it as a particular totem, and if they'd be likely to be in a position to do something about it when they got back into power, but it certainly bears thinking about.
I very much wonder. The Labour Party were carefully pro-electoral reform in the 1910s, but by the time they had displaced the Liberals as one of the two main parties, these calls died quickly. Clement Attlee was personally very much opposed to proportional representation, famously in one debate saying that he would prefer a pure, unhindered Conservative government that was able to implement their entire manifesto, than one that was tempered by a coalition with the Liberals.
 

Elektronaut

Inclusive Gratuity
If Labour get done by a "wrong winner" election for the second time in just over a decade, are we likely to see calls for electoral reform grow in the party?
I suspect Labour's OTL nineties toe-dipping was something which was only enabled by decades of Liberal-third party revivalism. It's an anachronistic issue for this period, really. Similar to how devolution was forced by the early seventies and 1974. The Labour generation in place, as noted above, is generally instinctively hostile to electoral reform.
 

Makemakean

Mr Makemean
Pronouns
Logical, unlike those in German
OTL Benn was very un-keen on PR - given this is Benn we're talking about, I can see him being so TTL but it feels like that would go along with things making him less "leader of the left".
He was in favour of some odd electoral reform scheme designed to guarantee a perpetual 50/50 ratio in the House of Commons of male and female MPs, though, but I've never had a look at the details of it.
 

Makemakean

Mr Makemean
Pronouns
Logical, unlike those in German
In brief, he proposed each constituency have two MPs, one male and one female.

As far as I can see, two elections, one an all-male ticket, and one an all-female ticket.

I leave estimates of how workable that is to people who know more about these things than I do.
It curiously very much in line with the idea of mirror representation which John Stuart Mill held up as the ideal to which one ought to aspire, that is, that the House of Commons should always be a perfectly proportional reflection of not just all political sentiments, but also of people from all walks of life present in the country.

That said... I'm generally not particularly fond of this idea of dividing up people into different broad constituencies, because what usually happens when you do that is that there is nasty polarization between those constituencies.
 

Makemakean

Mr Makemean
Pronouns
Logical, unlike those in German
I don't know if it what tends to happen, but I can certainly see that if someone is elected as (in this case) the male (or the female) representative for a constituency, there will be a tendency for them to regard themselves as the male/female representative respectively, and therefore tend to represent men/women respectively, and assume that the issues of women/men are for the other MP.

However, I rather suspect that the chances of Benn getting anything approximating that through as so small as to be regarded as a digression.
The question I have about the implementation of such a scheme is how it would affect electoral outcomes.

Specifically, if I don’t recall wrongly, the Democrats in the United States tend to lose the popular vote among men even when they win elections, and that the last time they actually won a majority of the male vote was in 1964.

If one were to do a first order approximation, say, merge constituencies in the way that @Thande did for Thandean representation to get down to half as many constituencies, make them dual members, and adjust the votes among the men and women in accordance with how they differ from the national trend...

Should be perfectly possible to do ”Bennite Representation”...
 
Top