In June 1987 four black Labour MPs were elected. Gary McFarlane recalls this cause for celebration in an otherwise grim night, and looks at the political trajectories of these pioneering politicians.
There are plenty of theories about how Labour managed to lose four general elections in a row to the Tories from 1979 onwards, despite mass unemployment stalking the land and the relentless attacks on working class living standards. Vast swathes of the country became factory-free zones. The working class is disappearing, we were told by the misnamed journal of the Communist Party, Marxism Today. “De-industrialisation”, we were told, meant the only hope for progressives was to band together around the lowest common denominator.
The snap general election called by Theresa May felt to some like an ambush, designed to do maximum damage to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. But the result is not a foregone conclusion, writes Sally Campbell. Corbyn has come out fighting and this is our best chance to kick the Tories.
When Theresa May called a snap general election at just seven weeks’ notice it came as a shock. She had insisted, since her coronation as leader following David Cameron’s accidental self-removal, that she would not call an early election and would instead steer a steady path through the Brexit negotiations until 2020.
Now that Britain’s exit from the European Union has been triggered, there will be a battle over terms. Joseph Choonara assesses the strengths of the different forces at play.
Theresa May has enacted Article 50. Her letter has been despatched, and so the two-year process of Britain leaving the European Union has begun. Where does British politics stand on this occasion? Not quite, perhaps, where some had expected. A few days before the referendum, one left-wing blogger spoke of a Leave vote paving the way for an “incoming government headed by Johnson, Gove, IDS [Iain Duncan Smith], and Farage”. Such claims were commonplace in the run-up to the vote.
The authors discuss the social democratic models in Western Europe, South America and peripheries. The central model in Europe discussed by Max Crook is British social democracy, which championed a mixed economy with the free market dogma of containing inflation through a monetarist economic policy. New Labour saw social democracy integrate the neoliberal economic model.
There is no doubt that the left were in the driving seat at Brighton and exuded a confidence and assurance born from the unexpectedly favourable election result in June and the subsequent turmoil and implosion of their Tory opponents.
It was particularly refreshing that socialist ideas were common currency and openly debated. What a change from the stage-managed PR presentations of recent years.
Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to bow to the demand for tougher immigration controls is a rebuttal, not just of the calls made by right wing Labour MPs such as Rachel Reeves, Chuka Umunna, Stephen Kinnock and shadow Brexit minister Sir Keir Starmer. It is also a rebuttal of Labour’s dreadful past.
In the aftermath of the Brexit vote, 1,000 people met in central London to discuss “post-Brexit alliance building”. The idea — that the only chance to defeat the Tories is to form a “progressive alliance” between Labour, Greens, Plaid Cymru, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP — has become increasingly popular. It was also discussed at the Momentum festival that coincided with Labour Party conference in Liverpool, and is heavily referenced in a Momentum-edited edition of the magazine Red Pepper.
Jeremy Corbyn’s keynote speech to the Labour Party conference was a defiant response to his critics in the parliamentary party who have been doing their best to undermine him since his re-election as leader at the start of the conference.
On education, arms sales, housing and especially on immigration, he offered a refreshingly radical agenda in complete contrast to that of his deputy and chief tormentor, Tom Watson, the previous day.