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Labour Left What Ifs

Elektronaut

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Agreed on Shore. Had he taken a run earlier in the 1970s at some point, he would have had a better shot at the leadership for a number of reasons - the most pertinent of which is probably his more straightforward ideological tendencies. Knowing where a candidate stood was integral - as attested by Bryan Gould in his own memoirs (which doesn’t mention an offer from Smith, but that logic of dropping from the leadership race does come up in advice to Bryan from Kinnock and multiple other sources) - to courting MPs’ support during the campaign. Ambivalent older MPs and uninitiated new MPs could be swayed to almost any candidate so long as they had proven momentum and a position from which to reach out across the party - any candidate of eclectic opinions faced being pilloried from all sides and never gaining momentum because they’re always tripping over themselves to make their case for the leadership.
I get the feeling that his weird melange of positions would not have been half as much a series of liabilites in the sixties as they were by 1980, because a lot of them weren't activated as litmus tests by then to the same degree. Like, him being an anti-marketeer, him being a prices-and-incomes industrial modernisation union bugbear etc.

Born twenty years too late?
 

Comisario

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I get the feeling that his weird melange of positions would not have been half as much a series of liabilites in the sixties as they were by 1980, because a lot of them weren't activated as litmus tests by then to the same degree. Like, him being an anti-marketeer, him being a prices-and-incomes industrial modernisation union bugbear etc.

Born twenty years too late?
Oh, most definitely. Had he been around he same age as Crossman/Greenwood/Castle, he would have shone through as a leading left-wing light come the battles of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. Being about fifteen years younger than them meant he hit his peak when Wilson was already solidified as the “Bevanite” who could reach across the party, the Labour left was either co-opted and neutered or excluded and shunned, and there was no way to get ahead without being “Wilson’s man” or being his implacable opponent.
 

AlfieJ

left labour poster on here
But Foot only stood because an awful lot of people on the left were firmly convinced Healey was unbeatable against anyone else.

As I said when this issue came up on the other place, whereas Foot was very much a unity candidate, I think Shore was equally alienating to just about all wings of the party. Though his 1983 run was not a serious one, he still came behind Heffer even in the PLP section...
Yeah I'm not arguing against that I'm just giving my thoughts on what would have happened if Shore had won.

I don't think its necessarily sewn up for Healey anyway due to the personality problems that cost him it in OTL. But I do agree that Foot was obviously the stronger candidate from a unity position.

And yeah you are right the 1983 run wasn't a serious one, and the fact Kinnock basically had the whole thing locked down before even announced his candidature probably skews the results somewhat.
 

AlfieJ

left labour poster on here
End of the day I think the limited data available really clouds what we can really find out from a lot of these results, particularly at the grassroots level.
 

Comisario

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Reading Gould’s memoirs and it appears that Roy Hattersley was the main obstacle to Bryan being appointed Shadow Chancellor.

Bryan got an offer of Shadow Trade and Industry, Kinnock told him to think on it, and thus Gould reckoned that his best shot at the job - which he did want, though not as much as John Smith drunkenly claimed on the Parliament terrace - was to make his case. He did so, which Neil apparently quite respected, and Neil assured that the job would more than likely be his (but that he wanted to make an offer to John Smith as well). Consulting with Hattersley, Neil learned that Roy refused to let go of the Shadow Chancellorship if it meant that Gould would get the job - which would completely fuck up Neil's plans. Not wanting to majorly piss off Hattersley, Neil caved and told Bryan that he'd have to take Shadow DTI instead (where he would appoint a young Tony Blair as his spokesperson on the City).

This book also informs me that Gould first took notice of Blair in 1983... at a meeting of Peter Shore supporters.
 

AlfieJ

left labour poster on here
Reading Gould’s memoirs and it appears that Roy Hattersley was the main obstacle to Bryan being appointed Shadow Chancellor.

Bryan got an offer of Shadow Trade and Industry, Kinnock told him to think on it, and thus Gould reckoned that his best shot at the job - which he did want, though not as much as John Smith drunkenly claimed on the Parliament terrace - was to make his case. He did so, which Neil apparently quite respected, and Neil assured that the job would more than likely be his (but that he wanted to make an offer to John Smith as well). Consulting with Hattersley, Neil learned that Roy refused to let go of the Shadow Chancellorship if it meant that Gould would get the job - which would completely fuck up Neil's plans. Not wanting to majorly piss off Hattersley, Neil caved and told Bryan that he'd have to take Shadow DTI instead (where he would appoint a young Tony Blair as his spokesperson on the City).

This book also informs me that Gould first took notice of Blair in 1983... at a meeting of Peter Shore supporters.
What the fuck is going on
 

Nomad

Well-known member
I have a question which I have encountered when sketching out various scenarios and probably fits in on this thread; for various reasons, the Labour left was considerably weakened in the New Labour years, which meant that the intake of left wingers into parliament was considerably reduced during this period, and the leading figures within that faction have been basically unchanged since the 1980s. If the left remains a somewhat significant group in the PLP through the late nineties and early 2000s, who from that wing might we see make it into parliament who didn't IOTL and emerge as leaders of that faction in place of Corbyn, McDonnell, Abbott, etc?
 

Elektronaut

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I have a question which I have encountered when sketching out various scenarios and probably fits in on this thread; for various reasons, the Labour left was considerably weakened in the New Labour years, which meant that the intake of left wingers into parliament was considerably reduced during this period, and the leading figures within that faction have been basically unchanged since the 1980s. If the left remains a somewhat significant group in the PLP through the late nineties and early 2000s, who from that wing might we see make it into parliament who didn't IOTL and emerge as leaders of that faction in place of Corbyn, McDonnell, Abbott, etc?
New Labour certainly went to considerable lengths as far as promoting their people and 'managing' selections, but you're over-emphasising how much of an effect it had on the Campaign Group, and its status pre-New Labour. The Campaign Group was always at the margins pretty much since the Bennite/Tribunite split happened. New Labour definitely borked the candidacies of some individual hard left figures, but it wasn't due to that there was a 'considerable' reduction in hard left MPs; they never had such a presence. I'll leave the strange internal workings of the Campaign Group to the Labour posters, but in a New Labour-less scenario I still think the figures you mention, well ensconced in safe seats, would be prominent.
 

Meadow

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I have a question which I have encountered when sketching out various scenarios and probably fits in on this thread; for various reasons, the Labour left was considerably weakened in the New Labour years, which meant that the intake of left wingers into parliament was considerably reduced during this period, and the leading figures within that faction have been basically unchanged since the 1980s. If the left remains a somewhat significant group in the PLP through the late nineties and early 2000s, who from that wing might we see make it into parliament who didn't IOTL and emerge as leaders of that faction in place of Corbyn, McDonnell, Abbott, etc?
Martha Osamor was spiked by Kinnock in 1989, so not quite New Labour, but she is an obvious candidate who For Want Of A Windbag, could have been shadow foreign secretary right now. Though at 78 she might be a little old. She's been nominated for the Lords by Corbyn, incidentally.

('Hilariously', the candidate Kinnock et al replaced her with in 1989 was a woman by the name of Kate Hoey.)
 

Nomad

Well-known member
New Labour certainly went to considerable lengths as far as promoting their people and 'managing' selections, but you're over-emphasising how much of an effect it had on the Campaign Group, and its status pre-New Labour. The Campaign Group was always at the margins pretty much since the Bennite/Tribunite split happened. New Labour definitely borked the candidacies of some individual hard left figures, but it wasn't due to that there was a 'considerable' reduction in hard left MPs; they never had such a presence. I'll leave the strange internal workings of the Campaign Group to the Labour posters, but in a New Labour-less scenario I still think the figures you mention, well ensconced in safe seats, would be prominent.
I wasn't necessary saying that the hard left's decline was purely down to New Labour- it probably had a lot to do with other factors, like a considerable swing to the right in politics as a whole making their ideas appear a bit redundant. If there had been no Thatcher/Thatcherism, or we had some other PoD which avoids the left becoming so discredited, then I think it's possible we might see them preserving the level of influence they had in the post war years- ie as a significant faction which produces a handful of cabinet ministers, but is still very much in the minority within the party. From what I gather, something similar to this existed within the PS when they have been in government in France.
 

AlfieJ

left labour poster on here
Another thing to consider is that without New Labour a lot of people seen as lefties who signed up would probably have stuck to their traditional views (Patricia Hewitt, Charles Clarke, Jack Straw, Margaret Beckett standing out) and may well have still risen to prominence ATL. Meanwhile, other left-wing stalwarts who are no longer about would probably have had more of a look in to high office - Tony Banks, Bernie Grant and Jo Richardson spring to mind.
 

Elektronaut

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Hewitt and Clarke were members of Kinnock's inner circle and were really deep modernisers even then, so they're probably the least likely people to get with the program, being personally invested in modernisation. I'm also doubtful about either of them even getting into parliament without New Labour, particularly if Kinnock becomes PM, they may just end up as permanent staffers and maybe eventually ministers in the Lords. Same goes for Alan Johnson if he's not parachuted into Hull West. His career cap might be as General Secretary.

Straw was also agitating for further modernisation under Smith.

The person most constitutionally prone to doff his cap to whatever the party leadership tends towards in this period is probably actually Blair, who always tended to defer to the establishment.

Some people's desire for plus ultra modernisation would melt with a pre-New Labour party getting into power but I think the formative experiences of a lot of people would stay with them, and it may not necessarily be the people you would assume.
 
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Simon

Oblivious
Something I've been wondering about but that happens if Corbyn doesn't stand in 2015? Apparently it was something of Buggin's turn with the the usual suspects on the left of the party declining due to either having run in the past or for health issues and telling Jeremy it was his turn in the barrel. If for whatever reasons he says no thanks who gets put up instead? That of course leads into the other major question of would another candidate be able to tap into the support and succeed like he did?
 

Stateless

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Something I've been wondering about but that happens if Corbyn doesn't stand in 2015? Apparently it was something of Buggin's turn with the the usual suspects on the left of the party declining due to either having run in the past or for health issues and telling Jeremy it was his turn in the barrel. If for whatever reasons he says no thanks who gets put up instead? That of course leads into the other major question of would another candidate be able to tap into the support and succeed like he did?
John Cryer avoiding election as Chair of the PLP would mean he was available, and he's younger than Corbyn.
 

Nomad

Well-known member
Something I've been wondering about but that happens if Corbyn doesn't stand in 2015? Apparently it was something of Buggin's turn with the the usual suspects on the left of the party declining due to either having run in the past or for health issues and telling Jeremy it was his turn in the barrel. If for whatever reasons he says no thanks who gets put up instead? That of course leads into the other major question of would another candidate be able to tap into the support and succeed like he did?
Maybe no one, maybe a more confrontational figure like McDonnell tries and fails to get on the ballot paper. Corbyn's personality was a big part of the reason why he succeeded where others failed. Owen Jones said that in the event that no left winger got on the ballot, he and Jon Trickett were planning a 'not the Labour leadership election' tour which would have all the trappings of a leadership campaign except from a candidate. That might have the potential to attract more interest than the actual leadership contest, which would be quite embarrassing for the candidates actually running, and maybe revive the Labour left on a more limited scale.

Another possibility is Trickett himself. As a member of the shadow cabinet, he was by all accounts the best qualified of that faction to run, and was lobbied to do so, but I don't think he wanted it. If he ran, I think he would get on the ballot, and I think he would be just as likely to win as Corbyn if he made sure to tone down his euroscepticism (people say Corbyn is a leaver, but Trickett genuinely is) and quits the Shadow Cabinet in order to vote against the welfare bill (which he didn't IOTL). Of course, the referendum would probably blow his leadership to pieces one way or the other, but if that wasn't happening, I reckon he'd be better than OTL Corbyn, at least to start off with.


Or maybe it is someone from the new intake, like Clive Lewis-I can remember that I heard this idea bandied about at the time or shortly after Corbyn put his name forward-the received wisdom was that a left winger would never be elected, but a strong performance from a newcomer could put them in a position to win the leadership the next time there was a vacancy. I still think Lewis would have won in such a scenario, perhaps by even a bigger margin than Corbyn. Whether he is more or less effective than Corbyn as leader would be interesting to see.

I'd also suggest Katy Clark in some universe where Labour has managed to hold onto Scotland.
 
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AlfieJ

left labour poster on here
Without Corbyn, and if they were able to get any candidate together at all, it would have been Trickett. The story goes he was by far the favourite going into the initial meetings that started the campaign, only for Corbyn to later emerge as he was seen by many in the PLP as a nice bloke who could probably win sympathetic nominations far easier than a more serious political contender like Trickett.

However, it is worth baring in mind that despite 2007 and 2010, the SCG was still pretty used to not fielding candidates from their own ranks, but instead courting the soft-left. Jon Lansman actually toyed with the idea of supporting Angela Eagle in a leadership bid (which is fantastic given hindsight) and a few others on the periphery of the movement were also supportive of backing Keir Starmer.


On a separate point - and to revive some of the debates that were had previously on this thread, the Benn Diaries around 1992 and 1994 make frequent reference to the fact that Livingstone, much to the dismay of Benn himself, was pitching himself as the new leader of the Left within the PLP. In fact, his 1994 bid for the leadership was such a maverick move that by all accounts Corbyn didn't actually know that Livingstone was putting him forward as his deputy until after the press heard. This probably goes someway to reveal just how divided the SCG was during that period.

Benn and most of the SCG by all accounts also voted for Smith in 1992, which does once again highlight the unique connection Smith had to the Labour Left.
 

OwenM

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Jon Lansman actually toyed with the idea of supporting Angela Eagle in a leadership bid (which is fantastic given hindsight) and a few others on the periphery of the movement were also supportive of backing Keir Starmer.
In the deputy leadership contest at the time, Angela was very much seen as the one pandering to Corbyn supporters on the right, as well.
e.
 

Time Enough

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I’m bringing this thread back because I wanted to contemplate a point and this seemed better than spamming the Labour Party Thread in Pub, anyway.

So two questions;

One if Tony Benn hadn’t been selected in 1984 for Chesterfield (a very real possibility due to the fact that the major reason Benn was selected was due to a passionate campaign by a Ex-Communist in the area) who would inevitably become the leader of the Left? I’m guessing probably Heffer or Skinner, though that makes me wonder how that would effect the SCG and such in the long run, probably less likely to see a properly mounted 88’ leadership challenge, though maybe a Deputy one would occur?

Two, in a scenario where Labour does a bit better in 1983 (ala @Callan Plus Debris or Healey takes change in early 83’ etc.) and Benn disappears into the back after losing his seat/losing the 83’ leadership, who would come to lead the Left? If the swing is enough, I could see Ken Coates getting in Nottingham South and becoming a Labour Left Leader because of his history and he seems rather capable.

I know these are similar questions but they are different enough to at least provide some discussion.
 
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