Futures of Socialism: ‘Modernisation', the Labour Party, and the British Left, 1973–1997 1009278819, 9781009278812

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Futures of Socialism

The transformation of the Labour Party by 1997 is among the most consequential political developments in modern British history. Futures of Socialism overhauls the story of Labour’s modernisation and provides an innovative new history. Diving into the tumultuous world of the British left after 1973, rocked by crushing defeats, bitter schisms, and ideological disorientation, Colm Murphy uncovers competing intellectual agendas for modern socialism. Responding to deindustrialisation, neoliberalism, and constitutional agitation, these visions of ‘modernisation’ ranged across domestic and European policy and the politics of class, gender, race, and democracy. By reconstructing the sites and networks of political debate, the book explains their changing influence inside Labour. It also throws new light on New Labour, highlighting its roots in this social–democratic intellectual maelstrom. Futures of Socialism provides an essential analysis of social democracy in an era of market liberalism, and of the ideas behind a historic political reconstruction that remains deeply controversial today. Colm Murphy is Lecturer in British Politics at Queen Mary University of London and Deputy Director of the Mile End Institute. He was previously Past & Present Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research. He has published in History Workshop Journal, Twentieth Century British History, and Renewal: A Journal of Social Democracy.

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Modern British Histories Series Editors: Deborah Cohen, Northwestern University Margot Finn, University College London Peter Mandler, University of Cambridge ‘Modern British Histories’ publishes original research monographs drawn from the full spectrum of a large and lively community of modern historians of Britain. Its goal is to keep metropolitan and national histories of Britain fresh and vital in an intellectual atmosphere increasingly attuned to, and enriched by, the transnational, the international and the comparative. It will include books that focus on British histories within the UK and that tackle the subject of Britain and the world inside and outside the boundaries of formal empire from 1750 to the present. An indicative – not exclusive – list of approaches and topics that the series welcomes includes material culture studies, modern intellectual history, gender, race and class histories, histories of modern science and histories of British capitalism within a global framework. Open and wide-ranging, the series will publish books by authoritative scholars, at all stages of their career, with something genuinely new to say. A complete list of titles in the series can be found at: www.cambridge.org/modernbritishhistories

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Futures of Socialism ‘Modernisation’, the Labour Party, and the British Left, 1973–1997 Colm Murphy Queen Mary University of London

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Shaftesbury Road, Cambridge CB2 8EA, United Kingdom One Liberty Plaza, 20th Floor, New York, NY 10006, USA 477 Williamstown Road, Port Melbourne, VIC 3207, Australia 314–321, 3rd Floor, Plot 3, Splendor Forum, Jasola District Centre, New Delhi – 110025, India 103 Penang Road, #05–06/07, Visioncrest Commercial, Singapore 238467 Cambridge University Press is part of Cambridge University Press & Assessment, a department of the University of Cambridge. We share the University’s mission to contribute to society through the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence. www.cambridge.org Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9781009278812 DOI: 10.1017/9781009278829 © Colm Murphy 2023 This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press & Assessment. First published 2023 A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Murphy, Colm (Lecturer in British politics), author. Title: Futures of socialism : ‘modernisation’, the Labour Party, and the British left, 1973-1997 / Colm Murphy. Description: Cambridge, United Kingdom ; New York, NY : Cambridge University Press, 2023. | Series: Modern British histories. | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2022055184 | ISBN 9781009278812 (hardback) | ISBN 9781009278829 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Labour Party (Great Britain) | Political parties – Great Britain – History – 20th century. | Socialism – Great Britain – History – 20th century. | Great Britain – Politics and government – 20th century. Classification: LCC JN1129.L32 M86 2023 | DDC 324.24107–dc23/ eng/20230315 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2022055184 ISBN 978-1-009-27881-2 Hardback Cambridge University Press & Assessment has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

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Contents

List of Figurespage vii List of Tablesviii Acknowledgementsix

Introduction: The Plural Modernisations of the British Left

1

Part I Social Democracy and the Challenge to the Nation State 1 ‘Keynes Is Dead, Beveridge Is Dead’: Modernisation, Globalisation, and European Integration

41

2 Industrial Democracy, Market Socialism, and Stakeholder Capitalism: Modernisation and Socio-economic Democracy

81

Part II  Identities and ‘Modern Socialism’ 3 ‘An Old Working Class May Be Waning, but a New One Is Being Born’? Gender, Labour, and Modernisation

123

4 A Telling Absence: Race, Multiculturalism, and Modernisation

152

Part III The Search for a Modernising Social Democracy 5 ‘A Modern Democracy’: Modernisation, the Left, and Constitutional Reform

193

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6 White Heat to Interactive Whiteboard: Modernisation and Labour’s Economic Strategy

Conclusion: Contested Futures of Socialism in the Late Twentieth Century

229 266

Bibliography278 Index307

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Figures

I .1 Cartoon by Nicholas Garland, 1988 page 7 I.2 Cartoon by Nicholas Garland, 1969 13 2.1 Bryan Gould, David Blunkett, and Neil Kinnock, 1990 110 3.1 Employment rates of working-age men and women 1971–2000136 6.1 Tony Blair’s office, 1995 242 6.2 Education spending as a proportion of GDP, 1980–2010 264

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Tables

3.1 Gender gap in UK general elections, 1974–1997 4.1 1987 Harris poll of attitudes to Labour Black Sections (%)

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page 138 170

Acknowledgements

Over the many years it took to write this book, I have accrued countless intellectual and personal debts. I cannot possibly do them justice here, but in the space I have, I will try. I am, firstly, hugely grateful to those who agreed to be interviewed: Ed Balls, Anthony Barnett, James Curran, John Eatwell, Bryan Gould, Peter Hain, Patricia Hewitt, Neil Kinnock, Stuart Weir, and Robert Worcester. I am also thankful to Lucy Delap, Deborah Mattinson, Nick Pearce, David Ward, and Daniel Zeichner who more informally discussed their experiences. My debts further encompass the archivists at the Albert Sloman Library, Bishopsgate Institute, Churchill Archives, Hull History Centre, the LSE Library, Modern Records Centre, National Archives, and the People’s History Museum. Special thanks must go to Heidi Egginton, Andrew Riley, and Darren Treadwell. I must also thank Nicholas Garland and Anthony Messina for permission to reproduce a cartoon and a table, respectively, and Bill Morris and Bianca Todd for permission to consult Morris’s and Ron Todd’s papers. This book simply would not exist without the financial and institutional support of Queen Mary University of London, the Past & Present Society, and the Institute of Historical Research. I am similarly indebted to the editors of the Modern British Histories series and to Cambridge University Press, especially Liz Friend-Smith, for their advice and guidance. I am also grateful to the organisers and participants of conferences and seminars at which I gained invaluable early feedback: (in 2018) a Queen Mary-Basel exchange, the NACBS in Providence, RI; (in 2019) the Royal Holloway Modern British History Postgraduate seminar, the Ex Historia conference at Exeter, the History of International Thought conference in Manchester; (in 2020) Queen Mary’s Modern British History webinar, the Britain at Home and Abroad IHR seminar, the online Modern British History Workshop; (in 2022) the Mile End Institute ‘Breaking the Glass Chamber’ Conference and the NACBS in Chicago, IL. I am indebted to the generosity of friends and colleagues who read the draft material of highly variable quality (though all mistakes remain my own): Steve Bentel, George Evans, Dan Frost, Nick Garland (not the ix

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cartoonist), Holly Higgins, Farah Hussain, Lyndsey Jenkins, Ben Jackson (Oxford), Richard Johnson, Tom Kelsey, Ellie Lowe, Leah Murphy, Emily Robinson, Karl Pike, Max Shock, Peter Sloman, Alfie Steer, Jim Tomlinson, Rob Waters, and Jake Watts. I am also very grateful to the anonymous peer reviewers for their perceptive comments and suggestions. Jon Lawrence, who gave early encouragement to this project, deserves special thanks, as does Martyn Frampton, who gave comments on an earlier draft of the whole book, as do Claire Langhamer and Matt Kelly, who were hugely supportive while I was at the IHR. Just as important were the many, many friends and colleagues who scrutinised my project over pints in the Lord Tredegar, conference teas, or coffees in the British Library, including Lindsay Aqui, Emma Barrett, Ben Bland, Ed Brooker, Lise Butler, Ed Caddy, Richard Carr, Tom Chidwick, David Cowan, James Ellison, Ben Jackson (Birmingham), David Klemperer, Evelien Lemmens, Hannah Mawdsley, Rohan McWilliam, George Morris, Sam Pallis, Dave Saunders, George Severs, Ed Sugden, and Emily Vine. Throughout this project, I have been privileged to have been supported by Patrick Diamond, Robert Saunders, and Matthew Hilton, and more recently by Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite and Stephen Brooke. All have been invaluably generous with their time, attention, and insights and I could not be more grateful. I owe an incalculable debt of gratitude to my parents, Muireann and Steve, and my siblings, Leah and Dónal, for their advice, insights, love, and support (and for giving me much-needed perspective). I wrote an early draft of what became this book during the first coronavirus lockdown of 2020, which I spent living with Fran, John, and Nathan Shaw. I am deeply grateful to them for their hospitality and insights. The final debt I owe is impossible to describe. I simply offer my love and gratitude to Imogen – for everything.

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Introduction: The Plural Modernisations of the British Left

This book is deliberately limited to what I believe would be an achievable package of modernising reforms capable of being carried out in the lifetime of one Parliament – Ken Livingstone, 1989.1

In the last few years, as you all know, the party has made great strides in its modernisation – Clare Short, 1992.2

I also think, if I may use the word that has been slightly overused in the Labour party recently, modernise (LAUGHING) I apologise for that  … I think it’s an important part of modernising our country, ­modernising its attitudes and modernising its culture – Tony Blair on equalising the age of consent, 1993.3

In 1992, a prominent Labour Party politician published a book, ­Diffusing Power, that tried to redefine British socialism. Writing soon after the party crumbled to a fourth consecutive general election defeat, and the resignation of its longstanding, battle-scarred leader Neil Kinnock, this MP demanded bold changes for ‘the 1990s’: [A]fter the huge upheavals in the political and economic climate of the 1970s-80s, the left, unlike the right, had not reinterpreted its core message in forms and structures that made sense in the transformed landscape … The left could no longer survive, especially with young voters, as the proponent of a benevolent and bureaucratic Welfare State, hostile to individual freedom. Nor could it take refuge in the old nostrums of nationalisation or import controls which seemed Canute-like to be vainly resisting a more interdependent economic order.

1 Ken Livingstone, Livingstone’s Labour: A Programme for the Nineties (London, 1989), viii. 2 Labour Party, Report of the Annual Conference of the Labour Party 1992 (London, 1992) [hereafter: Conference, year], 75. 3 ‘Transcript of Speech by Tony Blair to Stonewall Reception at the Labour Party Conference’, 27 September 1993, London School of Economics (hereafter: LSE), HallCarpenter Archives (hereafter: HCA/)Ephemera 1337.

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An appeal to global economic interdependence, broadsides against bureaucracy and nationalisation, and a stress on ‘individual freedom’ – this was surely penned by a rising young ‘moderniser’, Tony Blair or Gordon Brown, soon to take over the party and announce the birth of ‘New Labour’? Except these are the words of veteran left-wing Labour MP Michael Meacher.4 This revisionist tone may at first seem strange. If Meacher is remembered for anything, it is for being Tony Benn’s ‘vicar on earth’, as Kinnock had once derisively put it.5 In other words, Meacher was closely associated with the politician popularly remembered for his contempt for ‘weathercocks’ that tilt with the winds, reverence for enduring, ideologically constant ‘signposts’, and who has more recently been linked with ‘nostalgia’.6 Obituaries following Meacher’s death duly emphasised his Bennite radicalism in the 1970s, his attacks on the ‘modernisers’ of New Labour in the 2000s, and his nomination of Jeremy Corbyn, a devoted follower of Benn, for the 2015 leadership election.7 The specialist academic literature has recognised a more complex reality. It has correctly highlighted Meacher’s bitter split with Benn during the 1980s as an important factional buttress for Kinnock’s transformative leadership.8 Nonetheless, Meacher is not conventionally described as a ‘moderniser’, unlike his contemporaries Kinnock, Blair, or Brown. Our historical antennae should quiver, therefore, when we read Meacher calling himself a ‘moderniser’ publicly and proudly. In 1988, four years prior to his bold attempt to update socialism, Meacher published a Guardian article after Benn challenged Kinnock for the leadership. He not only criticised Benn’s doomed bid as divisive but also framed the contest as ‘essentially a debate between the modernisers and the fundamentalists’, and unsurprisingly placed himself in the former camp. Yet, Meacher’s ‘modernisation’ looked strikingly different to the vision that New Labour later famously championed. In his 1988 article, he suggested that ‘modernisers’ would support ‘extending collective 4 Michael Meacher, Diffusing Power: The Key to Socialist Revival (London, 1992), vii–viii. 5 Tony Benn, The End of an Era: Diaries, 1980–90 (London, 1994), 318 [25 September 1983]. 6 Hansard House of Commons Debates (hereafter: HC Deb) sixth series, vol. 264 (16 October 1995), c. 27; Richard Jobson, ‘A New Hope for an Old Britain? Nostalgia and the British Labour Party’s Alternative Economic Strategy, 1970–1983’, Journal of Policy History 27:4 (2015), 670–694, at 674–675. 7 Gavin Hyman, ‘Meacher, Michael Hugh (1939–2015)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 11 January 2019; Andy McSmith, ‘Tony Benn’s “Vicar on Earth” Who Finally Died Serving under a Labour Leader He Loved’, The Independent, 21 October 2015 [www .independent.co.uk/news/people/michael-meacher-tony-benn-s-vicar-on-earth-whodied-finally-serving-under-a-leader-he-loved-a6702711.html]. This and all subsequent hyperlinks are live as of August 2022. 8 Eric Shaw, The Labour Party Since 1979: Crisis and Transformation (London, 1994), 36–40.

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bargaining’ by ‘requiring workforce ballots on issues like takeovers or trade union recognition’.9 Key policies in his 1992 book included a devaluation of sterling and repatriation of overseas investment to ‘reindustrialise Britain’.10 Needless to say, these jarred with the positions of other self-proclaimed ‘modernisers’, like Blair and Brown, and clashed with Labour’s emerging platform. Meacher’s use of the term ‘modernisation’ reminds us of its pervasiveness in twentieth-century British politics and its seductiveness for politicians. Commentators in the 1960s and 1970s used it to describe Harold Macmillan, Harold Wilson, and Edward Heath’s attempts to ‘modernise’ Britain’s economy and society.11 In this sense, ‘modernising Britain’ remained an important part of political debate throughout the late twentieth century, especially in a burgeoning literature on arresting the country’s supposed ‘decline’.12 However, in the 1980s and 1990s, ‘modernisation’ also became a popular synonym for reforming the Labour Party – its policies, organisation, symbolism, and ideology – as it underwent a dramatic transformation. Suffering a succession of bruising electoral defeats from 1979 onwards and faced with claims of revolutionary changes sweeping across the developed world, left-wing thinkers inside and outside Labour were never far from anguished debates over the party’s place in ‘modern Britain’. Because Labour’s transformation became known as ‘modernisation’, political scientists today understand it as a ‘distinct form’ of party revisionism that, as Kate Dommett puts it, establishes a ‘clear link … between modern conditions and change’.13 In this vein, ‘modernisation’ resonated for elements of the Conservative Party in the early twenty-first century, after Labour’s 1997 landslide victory and return to government.14 Yet, Meacher’s proud self-identification as a ‘moderniser’ also neatly illustrates an unaddressed historical problem. In histories of Labour’s transformation, the terms ‘modernisation’ and ‘moderniser’ are ubiquitous. Even the titles of relevant studies refer to ‘the modernisation of the Labour Party’.15 However, in this otherwise rich scholarship, 9 Michael Meacher, ‘…and the Real Challenge’, Guardian, 28 March 1988, 34. 10 Meacher, Diffusing Power, 155, 163–164. 11 Glen O’Hara, Governing Post-War Britain: The Paradoxes of Progress, 1951–1973 (Basingstoke, 2012). 12 Jim Tomlinson, The Politics of Decline: Understanding Post-War Britain (Harlow, 2000). 13 Katharine Dommett, ‘The Theory and Practice of Party Modernisation: The Conservative Party under David Cameron, 2005–2015’, British Politics 10:2 (2015), 249–266, at 250–251. 14 Ryan Shorthouse, Kate Maltby, and James Brenton (eds), The Modernisers’ Manifesto (London, 2014). 15 Christopher Massey, The Modernisation of the Labour Party, 1979–97 (Manchester, 2020).

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‘modernisation’ is used in ways that obscure as much as illuminate the past. Historians and political scientists routinely describe as ‘modernisers’ the party faction that created ‘New Labour’ in 1994, or alternatively label as ‘Labour’s modernisation’ a specific set of reforms and policy changes begun by Kinnock and continued by his successors. As Meacher’s writings indicate, the concept of ‘modernisation’ resonated for other actors, beyond the usual suspects of Kinnock, Blair, and Brown. Equally widespread was the urge to ‘update’ or ‘revise’ socialism in response to structural change, whether it be economic, sociological, geopolitical, or cultural in nature. It is also clear that, across these different attempts to define ‘modernisation’ and ‘modern socialism’, their meaning varied considerably. All this suggests that historians need to reconsider the role of ‘modernisation’ in contemporary Labour history to fully grasp the origins, direction, and legacies of the party’s transformation. In this book, I will uncover the plural, contested, and evolving meanings of ‘modernisation’ and ‘modern socialism’ on the British left over the late twentieth century and assess their impact on the trajectory of the Labour Party. I will demonstrate that a diverse ecosystem of left-wing intellectuals and strategists all explained Labour’s apparent failures in office in the late 1970s, and repeated election defeats from 1979, by diagnosing the party as out of touch with the ‘modern world’. I will scrutinise how they conceived an array of apparent structural transformations, such as globalisation, the ‘new working class’, deindustrialisation, and the rise of post-1968 liberation movements. From these analyses flowed competing suggestions of how Labour should ‘modernise’ itself to regain power and use it effectively. I will demonstrate that these multiple understandings of ‘modernisation’, though originating from both within and without the party, shaped Labour’s reformation. I will also show that, at key moments, some modernisations overwhelmed others, defining Labour’s agenda as it approached its 1997 ascendancy and era of dominance. This book thus provides a new history of the reinvention of British socialism and social democracy over their troubled late twentieth century. It recovers plausible alternative agendas for a ‘modern socialism’, such as a Eurosceptic national strategy of reindustrialisation, a transnational Eurosocialism, a decentralised neocorporatism, and a challenging project for gender equality. After Blair entered Downing Street, these agendas were often neglected. Alternatively, they were mischaracterised as ‘Old Labour’, dogmatically attached to dated socialist principles. Yet, at different moments, influential thinkers and politicians developed sophisticated arguments in their favour as explicitly ‘modern’ programmes. As well as reconstructing forgotten alternatives, the book offers a contextualised account of the rise of New Labour itself, which stresses its origins

https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009278829.001 Published online by Cambridge University Press

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from within the left rather than outside it. New Labour’s invocation of globalisation, its disruptive constitutional reforms, and its obsession with education are all much better explained when situated within this fertile wider debate over ‘modern socialism’. Overall, this book offers a new historical account of ideological and political change on the British left. But its findings also have implications for broader historical debates about Britain in the last decades before the millennium. They challenge depictions of the late twentieth-century left as a doomed victim of ‘Thatcherism’ and ‘neoliberalism’. They instead depict a dynamic socialist and social-democratic political culture, creatively responding partly to Margaret Thatcher and the market turn, but also to other transformative forces of the late twentieth century, including deindustrialisation, constitutional agitation, and popular individualism. The left’s reinvention, moreover, has generated enduring institutions, forces, and ideas that still shape Britain today. This introduction begins by recounting the conventional staging posts of Labour’s transformation between the 1970s and the 1990s, and by surveying the existing academic literature. Despite their merits and the important differences between them, books on Labour in the late twentieth century tend to identify or assume one single process of ‘modernisation’ and discuss one small group of ‘modernisers’, which obscures the diversity and creative ferment of the left. I then outline the alternative approach of this book, which recovers multiple and competing discourses of ‘modernisation’. By scrutinising the sites, networks, and practices that structured the political culture of the British left, the book also traces the varying influence of these different visions of modernisation on the Labour Party. The introduction then discusses how this not only provides us with a new history of the British left and the intellectual origins of New Labour but also throws light on broader narratives about Britain in the last decades before the millennium. It concludes by introducing the chapters. The Standard Outline of ‘Labour’s Modernisation’ It is not difficult to find robust disagreement within the highly politicised academic literature on the history of the Labour Party.16 Yet, since the 1990s there has been a broad, if tacit, consensus on the narrative outline of ‘Labour’s modernisation’ in the late twentieth century – a narrative that, despite some revisions, challenges, and nuances, still shapes the 16

John Callaghan, Steven Fielding, and Steve Ludlam, ‘Introduction’, in idem (eds), Interpreting the Labour Party: Approaches to Labour Politics and History (Manchester, 2003), 1–8, at 1–2.

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most recent books and documentaries on Labour’s contemporary history.17 Existing accounts usually begin with the derailment of Harold Wilson’s National Plan after the 1967 devaluation, the ‘rise of the Labour left’ in the 1970s, and the party’s fracturing over the question of activist democracy. Scholars situate these struggles within a wider context of 1970s ‘crisis’ – high inflation, spending cuts, liberation movements, and trade union unrest – and use them to explain the Labour’s eviction from office in 1979 by Margaret Thatcher’s rejuvenated Conservative Party, its schism in 1981, and its disastrous electoral rout under Michael Foot in 1983.18 It was during these upheavals that, famously, left-wing intellectuals and writers at Marxism Today, Eric Hobsbawm and Stuart Hall, warned of existential threats to the British left. Building on his studies of Antonio Gramsci, Hall identified an emerging ideology of ‘Thatcherism’, which combined authoritarian populism and free-market capitalism.Though it built on pre-existing forces, like those associated with Enoch Powell, Hall believed that this ideology was reaching hegemonic status by the late 1970s.19 Hobsbawm, meanwhile, increasingly despaired of the troubled Labour Party. Even at the height of trade union mobilisation, Hobsbawm perceived a faltering ‘forward march of labour’ in 1978, suggesting that the apparent strength of class politics was illusory and obscured social transformations, with dangerous consequences for the Labour Party’s electoral health and the labour movement’s social power. The subsequent ability of Thatcher’s Conservative Party to win considerable support among many working-class voters (often dubbed the ‘new working class’), and the birth of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1981, gave his analysis credence.20 Both Hall and Hobsbawm were outside voices, but as scholars like Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite have shown, they were influential ones. Indeed, Hobsbawm’s analysis was read closely by allies of the Labour leader Neil Kinnock, who took office after Labour’s historic 1983 defeat.21 17

For recent books, see n42 and n45. Its endurance can also be seen in the recent BBC documentary Blair & Brown: The New Labour Revolution (2021). 18 Patrick Seyd, The Rise and Fall of the Labour Left (Basingstoke, 1987); Stephen Meredith, Labours Old and New: The Parliamentary Right of the British Labour Party 1970–79 and the Roots of New Labour (Manchester, 2008). 19 Stuart Hall, ‘The Great Moving Right Show’, Marxism Today (January 1979), 14–20. 20 Eric Hobsbawm, ‘The Forward March of Labour Halted?’, Marxism Today (September 1978), 279–286. See also Eric Hobsbawm, ‘Labour’s Lost Millions’, Marxism Today (October 1983), 7–14; Eric Hobsbawm, ‘Snatching Victory from Defeat’, Marxism Today (May 1987), 14–18. 21 Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, ‘“Class” in the Development of British Labour Party Ideology, 1983–1997’, Archiv für Sozialgeschichte 53 (2013), 327–363, at 336–338. Patrick Diamond, The British Labour Party in Opposition and Power: Forward March Halted? (London, 2021), 24–26.

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Figure I.1  Nicholas Garland, ‘Near Miss’, The Independent, 9 February 1988. Garland contrasts Kinnock’s modern aircraft (a jumbo jet) with Benn’s outdated alternative (a biplane) and signals divergent political fates. Obsolete transportation was a longstanding trope in Labour’s political culture: Harold Wilson once criticised Labour’s organisation as a ‘penny farthing’ in the 1950s. © Nicholas Garland. Supplied by the British Cartoon Archive, University of Kent.

Faced with these claims of structural change and right-wing hegemony and following one of Labour’s worst electoral defeats in its history, Kinnock decided that the party must adapt to survive. Not only was it locked out of power, but in 1983 it had narrowly avoided being replaced as the main opposition party by the SDP-Liberal Alliance.22 Therefore, ­Kinnock increasingly argued that Labour had to ‘modernise’ its organisation, its policies, and its ideology. ‘Modernisation’ became a key theme of Kinnock’s leadership, strongly shaping his portrayal in wider political culture (see Figure I.1). Accounts of modernisation thus give extensive attention to Kinnock’s leadership from 1983 to 1992.23 Progress was initially slow, due to Kinnock’s tenuous hold over the party and derailments like the epic, gruelling miners’ strike of 1984–1985. Yet, gradually, Kinnock’s allies began to seize control of the party’s organisation. 22 Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher, British Electoral Facts, paperback ed. (London, 2009), 50. 23 Martin J. Smith, ‘Neil Kinnock and the Modernisation of the Labour Party’, Contemporary Record 8:3 (1994), 555–567.

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They also expelled Trotskyist entryists in groups like Militant Tendency. Kinnock’s 1985 conference speech condemning Militant-controlled ­Liverpool city council is a staple in histories of 1980s Labour.24 Kinnock’s reforms initially created a sophisticated electioneering operation, including extensive use of opinion research and marketing and a new red rose emblem, replacing the red flag. However, following a third defeat in 1987, Kinnock and his allies concluded that the party’s policies needed a radical overhaul. Consequently, they launched a sustained ‘Policy Review’ from 1987 to 1991, which mobilised key powerbases of the party behind a deliberate, almost ritualistic process of symbolic, ideological, and political revisionism.25 A key aim was to win over the ‘new working class’, which had, Kinnock argued, enjoyed increasing affluence on the back of the credit and consumption boom stoked by the Thatcherite Chancellor Nigel Lawson – symbolised in the apocryphal docker who had bought his council house, drove a new car, and took holidays to Marbella.26 It was during this Review that ‘modernisation’ became a widespread term for all-encompassing party reform and a key concept for Kinnock’s leadership. In 1989, the Review significantly moderated Labour’s policies on public ownership, and ditched unilateral nuclear disarmament, withdrawal from the European Community, and the restoration of all trade union rights abolished by Thatcher.27 In 1990, the party leadership accepted the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (and thus exchange rate stability and low inflation) and toned down Labour’s attacks on the City of London.28 By 1992, Labour’s formal policy platform was much more pro-market than it had been in the 1970s. Though Labour strategists often dropped policies like unilateral nuclear disarmament, the nationalisation of banks, and European withdrawal due to perceived electoral toxicity, they also increasingly understood these policies as out of date with an emerging new world, transformed by the advances in multilateral disarmament, financial globalisation, and the accelerating momentum for further European integration. Indeed, the broad strokes of the Policy Review seemed 24 James E. Cronin, New Labour’s Pasts: The Labour Party and Its Discontents (Edinburgh, 2004), 261–262. 25 The classic journalistic account is Colin Hughes and Patrick Wintour, Labour Rebuilt: The New Model Party (London, 1990). 26 An example made by the Transport and General Workers’ Union’s Ron Todd, subsequently used by Neil Kinnock in his 1987 conference speech [www.britishpoliticalspeech .org/speech-archive.htm?speech=193]. 27 Shaw, Labour Party Since 1979, 84–106. 28 Mark Wickham-Jones, ‘Anticipating Social Democracy, Preempting Anticipations: Economic Policy-Making in the British Labor Party, 1987–1992’, Politics & Society 23:4 (1995), 465–494.

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to dovetail with geopolitical  trends. Over  the 1980s and 1990s social democrats across Europe and Australasia embraced ‘neo-revisionism’, and, from 1989, one of the ­biggest monuments to twentieth-century collectivism, the Soviet Union, spectacularly crumbled.29 Despite their efforts, Labour lost the 1992 general election to John Major’s (briefly) revitalised Conservative Party. A dismayed Kinnock resigned, and Shadow Chancellor John Smith, an experienced lawyer and centre-left Scottish MP, succeeded him. Under Smith’s leadership, modernisation became an organisational issue once more. In the teeth of vocal opposition, Smith introduced ‘one-member-one-vote’ to parliamentary candidate selections, overhauled the leadership electoral college, and reduced union voting power. His overall aim was to decrease trade union influence on Labour, as the trade union link was deemed to be an electoral liability.30 Accounts usually now jump to the sudden death of Smith in 1994, and the coronation of Tony Blair as the modernising candidate for leader after a backroom deal with his close ally Gordon Brown.31 Blair’s leadership embarked on a series of symbolic reforms that James Cronin has described as a Kulturkampf on the party’s past.32 He declared a ‘New Labour party’ and rewrote the party’s constitution, which had endorsed the ‘common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange’ since 1918 (Clause IV part 4). Blair and Brown also further overhauled policy. They disavowed increases in direct taxation, culled remaining commitments to nationalisation, and focused on ‘welfare to work’ schemes, public services investment, constitutional reforms, and the minimum wage. With this deliberately cautious platform, and on the back of a media-friendly election campaign, Blair’s modernised Labour Party was propelled into Downing Street in a landslide victory, 18 years after its last stint in power.33 This familiar sketch of Labour’s ‘modernisation’ still possesses explan­atory power, especially its emphasis on the pressures of electoral banishment and Thatcher’s radical iconoclasm. However, it harbours an important weakness. Existing accounts usually present ‘modernisation’ as a broadly coherent, singular process of party change, driven by a small 29

Stephen Driver and Luke Martell, New Labour, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, 2006), 43; Donald Sassoon, One Hundred Years of Socialism: The West European Left in the Twentieth Century, revised ed. (London, 2010), 692–693, 702, 730–733. 30 Lewis Minkin, The Blair Supremacy: A Study in the Politics of Labour’s Party Management (Manchester, 2014), 83, 102. 31 Driver and Martell, New Labour, 10–12. 32 Cronin, New Labour’s Pasts, 4. 33 Richard Carr, March of the Moderates: Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, and the Rebirth of Progressive Politics (London, 2019).

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group of political actors across the 1980s and 1990s, l­eading inexorably towards the ‘rise of New Labour’. There are, naturally, ­differences in each retelling. Some scholars offer parallels with the early twentiethcentury ‘progressives’ or with mid-century Gaitskellites to give New Labour some social-democratic precedent, albeit with a parallel recognition of changed economic, social, and cultural circumstances.34 Others highlight more negative parallels with past Labour leaders, to support Ralph Miliband’s famous Marxist critique of ‘­parliamentary socialism’.35 Others still accuse New Labour of breaking so fundamentally with Labour’s past moral critiques of capitalism that they ensured it ‘lost its soul’.36 Different aspects of Labour’s transformation also gain more or less attention depending on the author. Christopher Massey and Meg Russell highlight organisational reforms, factional power struggles, and the role of the ‘soft left’ in allowing Kinnock to control the party.37 Eric Shaw emphasises both organisational politics and a new generation of marketing and opinion research consultants.38 Alan Finlayson takes this latter aspect a stage further, using ‘New Labour’s marketing’ as ‘one way into an analysis of New Labour as a whole’, and he also focuses on Blair’s rhetorical use of ‘modernisation’ to ­critique his ‘project’ as fundamentally anti-political.39 ­ Others stress ‘preference accommodation’ and the ‘politics of catch-up’ with Thatcher and her government’s agenda, largely to suggest that the Labour Party ­capitulated to ‘Thatcherism’.40 Despite this rich theoretical and interpretive diversity, most accounts tend to focus on a broadly similar set of policy, organisational and symbolic changes. Moreover, with some exceptions, they either dub these changes as ‘modernisation’ or refer to their supporters as ‘­modernisers’.41 They commonly share an analytical focus on a usually small group of 34

Steven Fielding, The Labour Party: Continuity and Change in the Making of “New” Labour (Basingstoke, 2003), 28–30, 57. Tudor Jones, Remaking the Labour Party: From Gaitskell to Blair (London, 1996). 35 David Coates, ‘Introduction’, in idem (ed.) Paving the Third Way: The Critique of Parliamentary Socialism (London, 2003), 1–5, at 2; Leo Panitch and Colin Leys, Searching for Socialism: The Project of the Labour New Left from Benn to Corbyn (London, 2020). 36 Eric Shaw, Losing Labour’s Soul? New Labour and the Blair Government, 1997–2007 (London, 2007), 206–207. 37 Massey, The Modernisation of the Labour Party; Meg Russell, Building New Labour: The Politics of Party Organisation (Basingstoke, 2005). 38 Shaw, Labour Party since 1979, 124–152. 39 Alan Finlayson, Making Sense of New Labour (London, 2003), 31–32, 41, and passim; Alan Finlayson, ‘Tony Blair and the Jargon of Modernisation’, Soundings 10 (1998), 11–27. 40 Colin Hay, The Political Economy of New Labour: Labouring under False Pretences? (Manchester, 1999), 76–105. 41 Richard Hill rejects ‘modernisation’ and prefers the term ‘renewal’: Richard Hill, The Labour Party and Economic Strategy, 1979–97: The Long Road Back (Basingstoke, 2001), 16.

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‘modernisers’, centred initially around Kinnock’s office and then a parliamentary faction that crystallised in the early 1990s: Kinnock, Blair, Brown, and their confidants Charles Clarke, Philip Gould, Patricia Hewitt, Peter Mandelson, and Tom Sawyer.42 This usage of ‘modernisation’ and ‘moderniser’ is conventional, even for scholars who consciously argue that this faction appropriated the language of ‘modernisation’ to frame party debates in terms favourable to them, by marginalising their opponents as ‘outdated’.43 This widespread interpretive paradigm arose from many places. It is partly a legacy of the early academic debates over Kinnock’s leadership. Those debates, which emerged in 1994, pitted Martin Smith’s supportive analysis of Kinnock’s ‘modernisation of the Labour Party’ against Colin Hay’s more critical interpretation.44 Whether they approved of the party’s ‘modernisation’ or not, these political scientists broadly agreed on who and what they were talking about. Their analytical framework has proved impressively enduring. Recent books on contemporary Labour history, though diverging in many respects, frequently rehearse these assumptions of a ‘modernising vanguard’ spearheading the party’s transformation.45 It even shapes discussion of politics in the 2020s. A recent essay by two political scientists talked about the ‘modernisers’ in today’s Labour Party, by which they meant Labour’s liberal centre-left politicians like Liz Kendall.46 It is also not a coincidence that these pathbreaking articles on ‘Labour’s modernisation’ first appeared in 1994: this was, of course, the year that Tony Blair became leader of the Labour Party. By Blair’s ascendance, using the label ‘moderniser’ in this way did make sense, as it reflected a popular terminology of Labour factionalism that pitted 42

In a recent account, Massey largely follows this framework of the ‘modernisation of the Labour Party’. However, he rightly stresses the pivotal role of Tom Sawyer, more than others. See Massey, The Modernisation of the Labour Party, 14–17; Christopher Massey (ed.), The Man at the Back: The Life and Journals of Lord Tom Sawyer (Middlesbrough, 2017). 43 For a recent example, see Eric Shaw, ‘Retrieving or Re-imagining the Past? The Case of “Old Labour”, 1979–94’, in Jonathan Davis and Rohan McWilliam (eds), Labour and the Left in the 1980s (Manchester, 2018), 25–44, at 26–29, 32, 37–8, 40, 41n4. 44 Smith, ‘Neil Kinnock and the Modernisation of the Labour Party’; Colin Hay, ‘Labour’s Thatcherite Revisionism: “Playing the Politics of Catch Up”’, Political Studies 42:4 (1994), 700–707; Martin J. Smith, ‘Understanding the “Politics of Catch-Up”: The Modernization of the Labour Party’, Political Studies 42:4 (1994), 708–715. 45 For ‘modernising vanguard’, see Minkin, Blair Supremacy, 117. See also Panitch and Leys, Searching for Socialism, 20, 123, 132; Jon Davis and John Rentoul, Heroes or Villains? The Blair Government Reconsidered (Oxford, 2019), 18. 46 Karl Pike and Andy Hindmoor, ‘Do as I Did Not as I Say: Blair, New Labour and Party Traditions’, The Political Quarterly 91:1 (2020), 148–155, at 149.

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‘modernisers’ against ‘traditionalists’.47 Blair’s devoted supporters actively encouraged this association; in their memoirs, they portrayed themselves as heroic ‘modernisers’ overcoming dogmatic and outdated bastions of ‘Old Labour’ to ‘save’ the Labour Party.48 The early historians of Labour’s transformation, such as James Cronin, were never naïve about this and acknowledged the factionalised connotations of ‘modernisation’. However, the assumptions baked into the term by Blair’s leadership tended to reappear when they used it. Cronin’s book, for example, labels the ‘alternatives to “modernisation”’ as ‘either a continuation of the failed policies of the recent past, embodied most clearly in the Callaghan government … or the more vigorous prosecution of the programme of the left’.49 His account thus tacitly reproduces the framework of a singular modernisation secured by a vanguard against more ‘traditional’ alternatives. As a way of understanding Labour’s transformation, this modernisation paradigm has major limitations. It is true that ‘modernisation’ came to be strongly associated with Kinnock’s leadership during the pivotal Policy Review after 1987, and that this had much to do with his key advisors like Clarke, Hewitt, and Mandelson (indeed, there is archival evidence which suggests that these advisors were crucial in persuading Kinnock to use the term ‘modernisation’).50 It is also true that, later, the term ‘moderniser’ became synonymous with the faction that created New Labour. Yet, as any scholar of the first Harold Wilson government or of socialist political thought since the nineteenth century would say, the term did not originate in the late 1980s and had a longstanding appeal, not only to the British left but in socialist traditions elsewhere too. Glen O’Hara and Helen Parr, for example, have described ‘modernisation’ as the ‘omnibus phrase’ of the first Wilson premiership.51 Indeed, while as shown above, Tony Benn was routinely depicted as a 47 Eric Shaw’s justifiably influential account makes a similar point about Kinnock: ‘We use the term “modernisation” in a neutral way to denote the type of changes Kinnock sought and achieved, as this became the term that was most commonly employed in party discourse’. Shaw, Labour Party since 1979, 226n2. 48 A pioneer: Philip Gould, The Unfinished Revolution: How the Modernisers Saved the Labour Party (London, 1998). 49 Cronin, New Labour’s Pasts, 5, 16n3. See also the short shrift given to Peter Hain’s attempt to transcend the dichotomy of ‘moderniser’ and ‘traditionalist’, at 372n74. 50 A briefing note from autumn 1988 told Kinnock ‘I know you are uncomfortable with the phrase “modernising the Party”. It does, however, sum up your project, and should be used unless a better shorthand can be found’. Anon., ‘A Plan for the Leader’ (1988), Churchill Archives Centre (hereafter: CAC), The Papers of Neil Kinnock (hereafter: KNNK) 2/1/118. 51 Glen O’Hara and Helen Parr, ‘Introduction: The Fall and Rise of a Reputation’, in idem (eds), The Wilson Governments 1964–70 Reconsidered (London, 2006), vii–xiv, at vii.

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Figure I.2  Cartoon by Nicholas Garland for The Daily Telegraph, 30 May 1969. Note that this is the same cartoonist that, nineteen years later, portrayed Benn as the backwards biplane pilot in Figure I.1. This speaks to a key theme of this book: how political actors gain and then lose the aura of ‘modernity’. © Telegraph Media Group Limited 1969. Supplied by the British Cartoon Archive, University of Kent.

‘traditionalist’ in the 1980s, in the 1960s he was known for his enthusiasm for technological ‘modernity’ as Wilson’s Minister for Technology (see Figure I.2). Partly because ‘modernisation’ had longstanding appeal for the left, it was not the exclusive property of the Kinnockites and Blairites in the 1980s and 1990s. Representing ‘modernisation’ as a single process spearheaded by a small ‘vanguard’ thus excludes several alternative currents of revisionism. Meacher was not the only party figure to use the language of ‘modernisation’, a ‘modern Labour Party’, or ‘modern socialism’ in ways that unsettle received views of the rise of New Labour. Crucially, the formidable challenges facing Labour produced a flowering of multiple responses for what a ‘modern’ Labour politics entailed, advanced both inside and outside the party itself. This diversity was recognised at the time. In 1989, at the exact moment that the most famous Policy Review report Meet the Challenge, Make the Change appeared, the journalist John Rentoul reviewed a dizzying array of competitor manifestos. Perhaps unsurprisingly given events east of the

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Iron Curtain, 1989 was a fertile year for declarations of ‘modern ­socialism’. Rentoul speculated, with tongue firmly in cheek, on which would win out: In 2000, will Neil “Grandfather of the Nation” Kinnock praise in hindsight the Market Socialist philosophers of the Fabian Society? Or will he thank Patricia Hewitt (by now probably a member of the directly-elected Second Chamber) for her detailed policy work at the “Left-wing Think Tank”? Will he remember Gordon Brown’s book, or Giles Radice’s, or (either of) Austin Mitchell’s? Will he be grateful to the tireless Professor Ben Pimlott, editor of Samizdat and general editor of the Fabian series of books on alternative policies? Or would he prefer to dwell on the influence of Carmen Callil in launching the Counterblast series of pamphlets at Chatto?52

Some of these names feature in standard accounts of modernisation, such as Brown, Hewitt, and Giles Radice. Others, like Austin Mitchell or Ben Pimlott, do not. One or two of Rentoul’s references may even baffle the ­contemporary reader, such as the reference to the shortlived and now ­forgotten journal Samizdat. If Samizdat merits inclusion, a reader wellversed in the existing scholarship on the British left could easily ask: where was their glamorous competitor Marxism Today? After all, the magazine had previously published the pioneering essays by Hobsbawm that had shaped Kinnock’s office. Moreover, by the time Rentoul was writing this review in 1989, Marxism Today had launched an eye-catching and ambitious attempt to define a ‘socialist modernisation’,53 which is frequently cited today as emblematic of the left’s transformation in the 1980s, not just in Britain but also in western Europe.54 Indeed, Rentoul did briefly review the famed Manifesto for the New Times – but was utterly scathing. The Manifesto was ‘unreadably disappointing. Having led the new revisionism in the early 1980s, the Communist Party … is now reduced to repeating the phrase “new times” in ever more meaningless contexts’.55 For Rentoul – a future biographer of Tony Blair – the promising work lay elsewhere.56 At a minimum, this indicates that historians of the left’s transformation over the late twentieth century must broaden their sources and horizons. In the late 1980s, politicians as different to New Labour as the left-wing MP Ken Livingstone were talking about ‘modernising’ the Labour Party and the country more broadly.57 Even in 1995 (when 52

John Rentoul, ‘New Thinking’, New Socialist (October/November 1989), 47–50, at 47. 53 CPGB, ‘Facing Up to the Future’, Marxism Today (September 1988), supplement. 54 David Edgerton, The Rise and Fall of the British Nation: A Twentieth-Century History (London, 2018), 496–497; Sassoon, One Hundred Years of Socialism, 693; Diamond, The British Labour Party, 25. 55 Rentoul, ‘New Thinking’, 47. 56 John Rentoul, Tony Blair: Prime Minister, updated ed. (London, 2013). 57 Livingstone, Livingstone’s Labour, viii, 31–32, 76, 82, 89, 108, 124.

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Blair was rewriting Clause IV), the libertarian socialist MP Peter Hain advanced an alternative vision for updating Labour for the modern world. Despite attacking ‘the modernisers’, Hain repeatedly used the language of ‘modernisation’ himself, calling for ‘modern socialist economics’, a ‘modernised’ democracy, and for the left to translate ‘the stirring old poetry of Clause IV into modern language and modern ­policies’.58 This book reveals that there were many other important figures who came up with distinct understandings of ‘modern socialism’ or a ‘modernised Labour Party’ from the 1970s to the 1990s. They include but are not limited to the economist and MP Stuart Holland; the feminist writer Anna Coote; the author and former MP David Marquand; the Eurocommunist journalist Beatrix Campbell; the Eurosceptic Labour MP Bryan Gould; influential academics like Tessa Blackstone and Paul Hirst; and the journalist and constitutional reform campaigner Anthony Barnett. All influenced Labour’s policy platform at various points, and advanced policies that they defined as ‘modern’, which looked very different to New Labour. The Teleologies of Salvation or Betrayal The difficulty in reconciling these various past appeals to ‘modernisation’, ‘modern socialism’, or ‘modern Labour’ with the conventional story of ‘Labour’s modernisation’ suggests a more fundamental problem with our historical understanding. As many historians have noted, ‘modernisation’ is a term freighted with contentious assumptions. It is associated with a stagist and determinist understanding of historical development, inspired by nineteenth- and twentieth-century sociology, whereby the ‘modernity’ of countries across the globe was assessed by their resemblance to Britain in the mid-nineteenth century, Germany in the late nineteenth century, or the United States of America in the early twentieth century.59 The assumptions underpinning this kind of ‘modernisation thesis’ have been robustly challenged by subsequent investigations.60 More generally, the temporal logic embedded in the concept of ‘modernisation’ is linear and teleological – or, put more simply, it implies that certain changes are unstoppable.61 Hence, Hay argues that 58 Peter Hain, Ayes to the Left: A Future for Socialism (London, 1995), 3–4, 6, 46, 146–147. 59 Helen Margetts, Perri 6, and Christopher Hood (eds), Paradoxes of Modernization: Unintended Consequences of Public Policy Reform (Oxford, 2010), 9. 60 For a critique of the American ‘modernization thesis’, see Stefan Link and Noam Maggor, ‘The United States as a Developing Nation: Revisiting the Peculiarities of American History’, Past & Present 246:1 (2020), 269–306, at 281–282. 61 Norman Fairclough, New Labour, New Language? (London, 2000), 16, 72.

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modernisation arguments exploited the ‘logic of no alternative’ and Emily Robinson notes the ‘temporal blackmail’ of similar rhetoric.62 Calls for modernisation portray social transformations as inevitable, to which the only response is adaptation. This is contentious given that, in historical reality, these changes usually relied to at least some extent on political decision-making – such as, for example, the financial and trade deregulations which stimulated globalisation in the 1980s and 1990s.63 In noting this, I am not rejecting the power of economic and social structure, material interests, or path dependency.64 There were powerful forces that constrained political actors. But it is important to interrogate which forces were important, how they shaped the agenda of British politicians and when they became effectively unassailable in the short to medium term. I shall return to these questions later. Given that the concept of ‘modernisation’ has all this baggage, the current role it often plays in histories of Labour’s transformation since the 1970s leaves much to be desired. Naming a specific faction as ‘modernisers’, even if accompanied by scare quotes, echoes rather than scrutinises the languages, concepts, and assumptions of historical actors. Similarly, to stitch together a series of contingent and contested reforms across the 1980s and 1990s and describe it as a singular process of ‘Labour’s modernisation’ is to imbue those reforms with a sense of the inevitable, when they were anything but. Both these sins constrict our perspective on the past. They encourage the scholarly neglect of revisionist schemes that do not fit a Bildungsroman for New Labour. The past arguments of those like Meacher can only sound a discordant note, rather than chime with a richer soundscape of ideological change in the late-twentieth-century left. By attending to the changeable and evolving meanings of ‘modernisation’ and ‘modern socialism’, this book will illuminate how different causes gained, and lost, an aura of inevitability. The framework of ‘Labour’s modernisation’ is not just a way that New Labour’s instinctive sympathisers in academia construct a Whiggish origin story of a ‘necessary’ transformation, at the expense of important paths not taken.65 It also helps their committed opponents. Although

62

Hay, The Political Economy of New Labour, 149; Emily Robinson, The Language of Progressive Politics in Modern Britain (Basingstoke, 2017), 7. 63 Aled Davies, The City of London and Social Democracy: The Political Economy of Finance in Britain, 1959–1979 (Oxford, 2017), 93–95. 64 Fielding, The Labour Party, 14–15; Davies, City of London, 217–218; Ian Greener, ‘The Potential of Path Dependence in Political Studies’, Politics 25:1 (2005), 62–72. 65 I have borrowed this critique from Tim Bale, ‘The Logic of No Alternative? Political Scientists, Historians and the Politics of Labour’s Past’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations 1:2 (1999), 192–204, at 195.

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they often champion alternative policies by implication, adhering to the modernisation paradigm, and especially its emphasis on a ‘modernising vanguard’, allows critical scholars to imply that Labour’s transformation arose from outside of its traditions and was unjustly imposed from the top by ‘the modernisers’. In this view, ‘modernisation’ was little more than a rhetorical cloaking device, deployed by Labour’s leadership to disguise a calculated shift to the right; as Richard Heffernan once put it, ‘modernisation’ was ‘a metaphor for Labour’s accommodation with Thatcherism’.66 These kinds of critiques of ‘the modernisers’ create their own interpretive problems. They obscure the powerful attractiveness of ‘modernisation’ for diverse socialist thinkers and politicians spanning multiple decades. This is most apparent in Heffernan’s analysis of New Labour as ‘Thatcherism’, which claims that ‘modernisation’ was a ‘word that dates back only to the early 1990s’.67 From this perspective, Meacher calling himself a ‘moderniser’ in 1988 makes no sense at all. This portrayal of ‘modernisation’ as simply a rhetorical cloak for a shift to the right thus underestimates the longstanding resonance of ‘modernisation’ for socialists and social democrats across the left-wing spectrum. Because of this, it also misses some crucial intellectual origins of New Labour, as we shall see. Heffernan’s characterisation of New Labour as ‘Thatcherism’ reflects another recurring feature of the scholarship on Labour’s ‘modernisation’ that constrains our understanding. In many accounts, ‘modernisation’ appears mainly as a series of intellectual and political concessions either to Labour’s opponents or the electorate. Even scholars that are unusually attentive to both the left-wing intellectual influences on New Labour and the various meanings of ‘modernisation’, such as Alan Finlayson, tend to this interpretation: Finlayson argues that New Labour was essentially ‘a symptom of society rather than … a cause of anything (including itself)’.68 The effect of this is to downplay the role of intellectual ferment within the left in shaping its own transformation. It leaves little room for the creative responses to political defeat and wider change by Labour politicians and socialist thinkers.69 As Richard Hill and Patrick Diamond argue, policy ideas and ideological contestation are not taken 66

Richard Heffernan, New Labour and Thatcherism: Political Change in Britain (Basingstoke, 2001), xiii. See also Hay, The Political Economy of New Labour, 60–66. 67 Heffernan, New Labour and Thatcherism, 84. Before this, Heffernan co-authored a highly critical account of Kinnock’s leadership: Richard Heffernan and Mike Marqusee, Defeat from the Jaws of Victory: Inside Kinnock’s Labour Party (London, 1992). 68 Finlayson, Making Sense of New Labour, 11–12, 32, 41. 69 A point also made in Andrew Hindmoor, New Labour at the Centre: Constructing Political Space (Oxford, 2004), 12–15.

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seriously enough by the literature, which has focused more on factionalism, organisation, and electoral strategy.70 Some scholars, such as Mark Bevir, have valuably begun to correct this oversteer, but Bevir’s most extensive attention has been devoted to New Labour’s ‘new institutionalism’ and its ideological thinking from the mid-1990s onwards.71 There is more work that needs to be done on ideological contestation within the late twentieth century left. Recent scholarship on aspects of New Labour not covered in this book confirms the importance of intellectual debates. James Ellison and Patrick Porter demonstrate the leading role of ideas in defining Tony Blair’s foreign policy once he became Prime Minister, in particular his military interventions in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and, of course, the disastrous invasion of Iraq.72 For better or worse, ideas really mattered. The same goes for Labour’s domestic agenda and its transformation before 1997. Cumulatively, these issues prohibit a convincing explanation of Labour’s transformation. To portray ‘modernisation’ as a narrowly defined, elitedriven, and essentially defeatist process, which used organisational reforms to ram intellectual concessions and political retreats through a gelded party, struggles to explain why so many within Labour, and the broader intellectual left, embraced, echoed, or even anticipated several of Blair and Brown’s arguments. New Labour faced criticism from the very beginning, but we should not underestimate the strength of support for many of Blair’s early interventions, including the most controversial, like the revision of Clause IV.73 Historians have long been aware of the need to explain why aspects of New Labour’s agenda gained this wider support on the left. But to fill this lacuna, a disproportionate amount of explanatory weight is put on some demonstrably important, but nonetheless overemphasised interventions, such as one essay written by a Marxist historian in 1978 or focus groups conducted by a few opinion research consultants. Alternatively, explanations turn to the powerful agency of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher; hence, for many scholars, Labour was remade into an essentially ‘Thatcherite’ party.74 This f­ramework of ‘Thatcherism’ or ‘post-Thatcherism’ continues to influence the debate 70

Hill, The Labour Party and Economic Strategy, 2–4; Diamond, The British Labour Party, 4. 71 The key text is Mark Bevir’s pioneering New Labour: A Critique (London, 2005). See below for a critique of Bevir’s focus on new institutionalism. 72 James Ellison, ‘The Search for World Order and the Wars in Kosovo and Iraq’, Britain and the World 14:1 (2020), 69–93; Patrick Porter, Blunder: Britain’s War in Iraq (Oxford, 2018). 73 See the support it gains even from some of Tony Benn’s closest allies: Letter from Chris Mullin to the Editor of Tribune, 20 January 1995, in Hull History Centre (hereafter: HULL), The Papers of Chris Mullin (hereafter: MULLIN) U DMU/6/27. 74 Heffernan, New Labour and Thatcherism; Hay, The Political Economy of New Labour.

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on Labour in the later 1980s and 1990s.75 This is despite the fact that a new historiography has ‘decentred’ Thatcherism from histories of the 1980s,76 and pointed to the limits, ambiguities, and tensions of her government’s agenda,77 while new histories of the 1980s left have highlighted its creative responses to Thatcherism.78 The endurance of this somewhat unhelpful debate over how ‘Thatcherite’ Kinnock’s party or New Labour were is the result, ultimately, of a still limited understanding of the ideas behind the party’s transformation and their origins from within the latetwentieth-century left. The Sites, Networks, and Practices of Political Debate All this means that a more historically alert investigation of ‘modernisation’ will provide us with better ways of understanding intellectual and political change on the left over the late twentieth century. Due to their prominence, arguments about ‘modern socialism’ provide a crucial window into how left-wing politicians, policymakers, and strategists conceived party transformation and the world around them. To exploit this opportunity, this book takes a novel approach to the study of ‘modernisation’ and Labour. The first step is to excavate the multiple and often competing discourses of ‘modernisation’ and ‘modern socialism’. To capture these debates, I have drawn from a deliberately diverse source base. I have focused extensively on the policy publications and speeches of Labour politicians, but also the numerous pamphlets, newspapers, and journals catering to the British left. I have also examined the Labour Party archives, the papers of its key leaders and ginger groups, the collections of leading trade unionists, state papers, and the archives of campaign organisations outside the party. When necessary, I have contextualised these sources by drawing on historical datasets, such as opinion surveys

75

Maria Teresa Grasso et al., ‘Thatcher’s Children, Blair’s Babies, Political Socialization and Trickle-down Value Change: An Age, Period and Cohort Analysis’, British Journal of Political Science 49:1 (2019), 17–36, at 21. 76 Matthew Hilton, Chris Moores, and Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, ‘New Times revisited: Britain in the 1980s’, Contemporary British History 31:2 (2017), 145–165, at 152; Stephen Brooke, ‘Living in “New Times”: Historicizing 1980s Britain’, History Compass 12:1 (2014), 20–32. 77 Aled Davies, James Freeman, and Hugh Pemberton, ‘“Everyman a Capitalist” or “Free to Choose”? Exploring the Tensions within Thatcherite Individualism’, The Historical Journal 61:2 (2018), 477–501. 78 Davis and McWilliam (eds), Labour and the Left in the 1980s; Alex Campsie, ‘“Socialism Will Never Be the Same Again”: Re-imagining British Left-wing Ideas for the “New Times”’, Contemporary British History 31:2 (2017), 166–188.

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and economic indicators. I have also conducted some oral history interviews to verify and situate material drawn from other sources. Combining different source types like this has some costs. It has prevented me from constructing a digitised ‘corpus’ to allow the use of corpus linguistics methods, which statistically assess the ‘typicality’ of languages.79 However, those methods work best for clearly defined (and very large) corpuses, and lend themselves less well to the institutionally diverse scene of the late-twentieth-century British left. Moreover, existing corpuses, such as the digitised Hansard, are not the best sources for capturing internal debates on the left. In highlighting the plural meanings of ‘modernisation’, I am drawing inspiration from recent work in the history of modern Britain, which interrogates the contested nature of concepts like ‘progressiveness’, ‘class’, and ‘affluence’, actively forged through debate.80 As will be shown, a range of political actors advanced clashing interpretations of how the party should ‘modernise’ itself, its policies and the country – or how it should adapt them to the ‘modern world’ – in the face of electoral defeat and socioeconomic and cultural change. These actors diverged not only over what was transforming and which observable changes were more important but also over the political shifts they implied. In other words, there was not one but several ‘modern socialisms’ – several potential ‘futures of socialism’. To trace ideological change, these contested appeals to ‘modernisation’ are unearthed, situated in their contexts, and considered seriously rather than condescended. These recent concept histories draw some of their methods from the ‘new political history’, a historiographical tradition that, in part, recognises the role of ‘discourses’ in structuring political meaning and action.81 They also tend to follow the intellectual historian Quentin Skinner in prioritising the decoding of intentionality through studying languages in their discursive contexts, and in treating them as ‘weapons’ for ideological struggle.82 79

Luke Blaxill, ‘Quantifying the Language of British Politics, 1880–1910’, Historical Research 86:232 (2013), 313–341; Naomi Lloyd-Jones, ‘The 1892 General Election in England: Home Rule, the Newcastle Programme and Positive Unionism’, Historical Research 93:259 (2020), 73–104. 80 Robinson, The Language of Progressive Politics, 10; Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, Class, Politics, and the Decline of Deference in England, 1968–2000 (Oxford, 2018); Stuart Middleton, ‘“Affluence” and the Left in Britain, c.1958–1974’, The English Historical Review 129:536 (2014), 107–138. 81 Miles Taylor and Jon Lawrence (eds), Party, State and Society: Electoral Behaviour in Britain Since 1820 (Aldershot, 1997). 82 See Robinson’s citation of Skinner and distancing comments from Reinhart Koselleck’s Begriffsgeschichte, in Robinson, The Language of Progressive Politics, 10. See also Quentin Skinner, Visions of Politics. Volume 1: Regarding Method (Cambridge, 2002). Also useful is James Martin’s conception of political ideas as ‘projectiles, moving outwards to varying

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However, a methodological focus on political languages has clear weaknesses, as some pioneers of the new political history have themselves suggested.83 One danger, as Susan Pedersen once argued, is that it can simply produce a catalogue of discourses, without any sense of the structures, institutions, and power relations of modern Britain, and how these changed over time.84 In other words, it can fail to explain how and why some arguments for modernisation became more potent than others at particular moments. I am acutely aware of this danger and have taken active steps to forestall it. Thus, this book will attempt not only to excavate plural languages of modernisation, but both to assess and to explain their relative political potencies across the 1970s to the 1990s, either in terms of their broad ‘throw’ across the left or their depth of influence on important figures in Labour.85 Here, I would suggest that, if the existing literature on Labour’s ‘modernisation’ will benefit from engaging more with the methods of intellectual and new political history, the latter scholarships will also gain from such an exchange. The enrichment will flow both ways. If there is one thing that is clear from the current literature on Labour’s transformation, it is the critical importance of institutions and power relations in determining the Labour Party’s direction. For decades, the work of Shaw, Russell, Minkin, and most recently Massey and Steer, has painstakingly and invaluably reconstructed the pivotal fights over the party’s constitution, battles over key committee posts, and factional realignments. While there is a dispute over how dramatic this was, the centralisation of power in Kinnock’s office, and then in Blair and Brown’s hands, is a key theme of this scholarship.86 Where our understanding needs to be improved is in situating these bitter internal fights within the wider intellectual debates over ‘modern socialism’, and this is where this book, building on work by Finlayson, Robinson, and Bevir, comes in. Yet, even once our

83



84



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degrees, purposefully displacing the context around them’, a metaphor that Martin then illustrates with Blair’s rhetoric of modernisation. James Martin ‘Situating Speech: A Rhetorical Approach to Political Strategy’, Political Studies 63 (2015), 25–42, at 26. Jon Lawrence, Speaking for the People: Party, Language and Popular Politics in England, 1867–1914 (Cambridge, 1998), 49–51, 65. See also James Vernon’s review of Speaking for the People, and Lawrence’s reply, in Reviews in History (no. 69) [www.history.ac.uk/ reviews/review/69]. Susan Pedersen, ‘What Is Political History Now?’, in David Cannadine (ed), What Is History Now? (Basingstoke, 2002), 36–57. For ‘throw’, see Peter Mandler, ‘The Problem with Cultural History’, Cultural and Social History 1:1, 94–117, at 96–97. Shaw, The Labour Party since 1979; Russell, Building New Labour; Minkin, The Blair Supremacy; Massey, The Modernisation of the Labour Party; Alfie Steer, ‘A Left Realignment? The Fractional Fragmentation of the Labour Left, 1985–1994’, unpublished MSt dissertation (Oxford University, 2020).

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focus moves beyond Transport House, Walworth Road, and Millbank Tower, it remains crucial to ground those intellectual debates in institutional contexts. A useful analogy can be drawn with the now extensive literature on neoliberalism and its influence on British and western politics in the twentieth century. Scholars like Ben Jackson, Neil Rollings, and Quinn Slobodian have traced the diffusing influence of neoliberal ideas through the personal, institutional, and financial networks of business figures, think tankers, and journalists, from the Mont Pèlerin Society to Peter Jay’s columns in The Times.87 The left’s own ‘archipelago’ of think tanks and networks of thinkers have, however, been comparatively neglected, with real costs to our understanding. Some of the early literature on New Labour has helpfully drawn conceptual links between party debates and intellectuals like Hobsbawm, Hall, and Anthony Giddens.88 However, until recently, historians have not tended to interrogate the actual mechanisms through which external thinkers shaped the outlook of Labour’s policymakers.89 Without doing the hard work of tracing concrete channels of influence, scholars can overstate the political importance of some especially noisy thinkers.90 Accordingly, this book consciously reconstructs the intellectual and cultural world of the British left in the late twentieth century. I have grounded the various relevant discourses – ‘modernisation’, ‘modern capitalism’, ‘modern socialism’, a ‘modern Labour Party’, and the ‘modern world’ – within this rich, energetic, and internally fractious ‘ecosystem’ of the left.91 Drawing on political history, political science, sociology 87

Ben Jackson, ‘The Think-Tank Archipelago: Thatcherism and Neo-liberalism’, in Ben Jackson and Robert Saunders (eds), Making Thatcher’s Britain (Cambridge, 2012), 43–61; Ben Jackson, ‘Currents of Neo-Liberalism: British Political Ideologies and the New Right, c. 1955–1979’, The English Historical Review 131:551 (2016), 823–850; Neil Rollings, ‘Cracks in the Post-War Keynesian Settlement? The Role of Organised Business in the Rise of Neoliberalism Before Margaret Thatcher’, Twentieth Century British History 24:4 (2013), 637–659; Quinn Slobodian, Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism, paperback ed. (Cambridge, MA, 2020), 4. 88 Cronin, New Labour’s Pasts, 205–209; Finlayson, Making Sense of New Labour, chap. 4. See also Geoffrey Foote, The Labour Party’s Political Thought: A History, 3rd ed. (London, 1997), chap. 15. 89 Recent scholarship is beginning to undertake this work. Campsie, ‘Socialism Will Never Be the Same Again’; Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, Class, Politics, and the Decline of Deference, 174–202. 90 A good example here is Bevir, New Labour, especially 29–54. While Bevir’s discussion is often insightful, at times it overplays the importance of some maverick think-tankers. See Ben Jackson, ‘New Labour: A Critique. By Mark Bevir. Prolonged Labour: The Slow Birth of New Labour Britain. By David Coates.’, Twentieth Century British History 18:3 (2007), 402–406, at 405. 91 Diamond, The British Labour Party, 370.

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and the history of science and technology, I have used three concepts to aid this reconstruction: sites, networks, and practices. Gareth Stedman Jones once described the Labour Party as a ‘space traversed or tenanted’ by groups with ‘different and sometimes incompatible political languages’.92 To push that metaphor further, Labour was an organisation made up of multiple spaces, or ‘sites’, in which politicians, trade unionists, and advisors argued about party’s future.93 These included the fiercely contested seats on the National Executive Committee (NEC) and its various subcommittees; as Mark WickhamJones showed in his classic study of Labour’s 1970s economic strategy, NEC majorities could have real impact on ideological and intellectual debates.94 But important sites also included spaces outside the party’s formal structure, such as newspapers, journals, periodicals, think tanks, and campaign groups – and the patchwork of funding bodies that financed them. These sites only mattered, though, because of the people within them. This book thus also uses the concept of ‘networks’ to reconstruct intellectual traditions or trace ‘policy learning’ and paradigm change.95 These networks could cluster around formal institutional sites, like party committees, but they could also emerge from more informal spaces, such as the Scottish MPs who took the Caledonian sleeper train every week or the journalists and consultants who talked politics at London dinner parties.96 Enduring networks also crystallised during the formative years of budding politicians, such as through student union machinations or early jobs in television studios.97 Others were transnational, such as the networks connecting influential policymakers across the western European social democratic parties, and the transatlantic connections between economists and electoral strategists in the UK and the USA. 92

Gareth Stedman Jones, Languages of Class: Studies in English Working Class History, 1832–1982 (Cambridge, 1984), 30. 93 For a discussion of ‘sites’ in political history, see Jon Lawrence and Alexandre Campsie, ‘Political History’, in Stefan Berger, Heiko Feldner, and Kevin Passmore (eds), Writing History: Theory and Practice, 3rd ed. (London, 2020), 323–343, at 337–338. 94 Mark Wickham-Jones, Economic Strategy and the Labour Party: Politics and Policy-making, 1970–83 (Basingstoke, 1996). 95 Michael Oliver and Hugh Pemberton, ‘Learning and Change in Twentieth-Century British Economic Policy’, Governance 17:3 (2004), 415–441. For networks in intellectual history, see Sean A. Forner, German Intellectuals and the Challenge of Democratic Renewal: Culture and Politics after 1945 (Cambridge, 2014). I am grateful to AlineFlorence Manent for this reference. 96 John Smith used to enjoy night parties with other Scottish Labourites on the Caledonian sleeper. Philip Gould first met Peter Mandelson at a dinner party. See Mark Stuart, John Smith: A Life (London, 2005), 109; Gould, The Unfinished Revolution, 29. 97 Peter Mandelson, The Third Man, reprint ed. (London, 2011), 40–73.

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Reconstructing these networks allows us to trace the transmission of assumptions, ideas, and rhetoric of ‘modernisation’ from one ‘cluster’ to another through a connecting ‘node’98 – such as from an external pressure group to an internal Labour Party faction through a supportive MP. They also provide a sense of the relative influence of different interpretations of ‘modernisation’ on powerful figures. Finally, this book attends to the evolving ‘practice’ of political debates, as this shaped their outcomes in meaningful ways. It is too often forgotten by historians of political ideas that politics is an intensely practical activity. Yet, this is understood all too well by scholars who have volunteered for parties themselves.99 Theoretically and methodologically, this book’s attention to ‘practices’ draws on histories of science and technology, which focus on ‘subcultures’ of shared practices and the mediating influence of technologies.100 Put more simply, left-wingers researched, behaved, argued, and decided differently depending on whether they were sitting on a tense 1970s party committee, writing for a consciously iconoclastic 1980s socialist journal, or working for a fashionable 1990s think tank. Important changes in Labour’s policymaking were not just confined to who formed policy in Labour but also how they did so. Over this period, there were key changes in the practice of policy formation: from the reassertion of leadership autonomy and power over the party to the introduction of new techniques in social research, to the shifting of policy work from NEC subcommittees to joint NEC-Shadow Cabinet committees, and then the Shadow Cabinet, to the proliferation of new think tanks in the 1980s and 1990s. Combined, the sites, networks, and practices of the late twentiethcentury left shaped the meaning of ‘modernisation’. They determined the content, trajectory, and political weight of different ideas of ‘modern socialism’ or calls to adapt Labour to the ‘modern world’. They ranged far beyond the Labour Party itself and spread out into the wider British left. While NEC meetings, the general management committees of constituency labour parties and the Conference floor were all spaces in which contests over power and influence played out, so were the editorial boards of the New Statesman, Marxism Today, and the Labour Party’s 98 John Scott, Social Network Analysis, 3rd ed. (London, 2013). 99 Jon Lawrence, Electing Our Masters: The Hustings in British Politics from Hogarth to Blair (Oxford, 2009), vii. 100 Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory (Oxford, 2005). Good historical examples include: Joel Isaac, ‘Tangled Loops: Theory, History, and the Human Sciences in Modern America’, Modern Intellectual History 6:2 (2009), 397–424; Adam Tooze, ‘Trouble with Numbers: Statistics, Politics, and History in the Construction of Weimar’s Trade Balance, 1918–1924’, American Historical Review 113:3 (2008), 678–700.

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own intellectual magazine New Socialist.101 Newspapers, magazines, journals, and books were key sites for political and ideological contest, and here the dynamism of the left’s print culture should be stressed. The 1980s saw a flowering of several nascent socialist publishing projects aimed at what Anthony Barnett called a ‘new left intelligentsia’, while the letters and opinion pages of established newspapers like the Guardian remained spaces for robust debate.102 Some publications also had direct links with internal party factions: a famous example would be Tribune, but other important ginger groups also launched their own periodicals, like the Labour Co-ordinating Committee and its founding of Renewal in 1993. Also important in structuring ideological debate were the left-wing and progressive think tanks and campaign groups, ranging from established bodies like the Fabian Society to new creations of the era like the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR, f. 1988), Demos (f. 1993), and the constitutional reform campaign group Charter 88 (f. 1988).103 So too were funding bodies like the Joseph Rowntree Social Services Trust, whose financial support can be traced to everything from the seed money for Demos to the survival of the New Statesman. The agendas of organisations like this are hugely important in shaping the intellectual and political life of the British left. The renaming of the organisation as the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust in 1990, and its clear pivot to ‘popular front’ politics and donations to groups like Charter 88 and Labour’s Plant Commission on electoral reform, was thus of great importance. It significantly contributed to one of the stories of this book: the left’s turn towards constitutional ‘modernisation’ from the late 1980s and its rising prominence at the expense of other ‘modernisation’ agendas.104 101 See the battle over the editorship of the New Statesman in 1986, between Anthony Barnett and John Lloyd, which encompassed both personal divisions and larger debates about the future of the left, and in which Neil Kinnock’s office intervened. Anthony Barnett, ‘“The Twots”: Letter from a Would-Be New Statesman Editor’ (1986), republished by the New Statesman, 16 April 2013 [www.newstatesman.com/media/2013/04/twots%E2%80%​ 9D-letter-would-be-new-statesman-editor]; John Lloyd, ‘Babel’, Prospect, 20 May 1996 [www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/5146-babel]. 102 Anthony Barnett, ‘Ideas in Search of a Home’, Guardian, 17 November 1986, 14. 103 Early accounts of the new left-wing think tanks mainly challenged dubious claims to ‘post-ideology’. They have not had nearly the same attention as the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Adam Smith Institute. See Andrew Denham and Mark Garnett, ‘“What Works? British Think Tanks and the “End of Ideology”’, The Political Quarterly 77:2 (2006), 156–165; Tim Bale, ‘Demos: Populism, Eclecticism and Equidistance in the Post-Modern World’; and Peter Ruben, ‘The Institute for Public Policy Research: Policy and Politics’, in Michael David Kandiah and Anthony Seldon (eds), Ideas and Think Tanks in Contemporary Britain, vol. 2 (London, 1996), 22–35 and 65–80. 104 Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, Trusting in Change: A Story of Reform (York, 1994), 15–18.

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A book that excavates plural meanings of modernisation and tracks their influence through a plethora of figures and organisations is, though, difficult to keep confined to a manageable length. There are thus important areas of political controversy and change, in which Labour and socialist figures used the language of ‘modernisation’ but which this book cannot examine sufficiently. One of the biggest is defence policy, particularly Labour’s adoption and then abandonment of unilateral nuclear disarmament; further research that interrogated the mobilisation of ‘modernity’ in the politics of NATO, the military, and the nuclear deterrent would be very welcome.105 Other issues, like the rise of environmentalist politics in the late 1980s and the party-politicisation of homosexuality in the 1980s and 1990s, are discussed but mainly as contexts for other debates, and again would benefit from more devoted scholarly attention.106 Secondly, although this book’s discussion of the 1970s to the 1990s does shed important light on New Labour’s actions in office after 1997 (see below), it does not explore Labour’s contestations over ‘modernisation’ in government, such as the Blair–Brown power struggles over foundation hospitals and public services reform. The declassification of government papers and opening of new archives should allow important work on these questions. Despite the logistical issues it can pose, tracking the evolution of the British left’s ecosystem over the late twentieth century has two major benefits. First, it helps us see the crucial turning points when a different understanding of ‘modern socialism’ from Blair’s could plausibly have defined Labour’s policy agenda in government. As this book shows, the left’s famous ‘Alternative Economic Strategy’ was cutting edge for many socialist intellectuals in the mid-1970s – but by the early 1980s a global recession, reversals for other European socialists, and a burgeoning feminist critique, had all dulled its modernist shine for key thinkers of the Bennite new left, even before the 1983 election. Similarly, in the late 1980s, some ambitious Labour MPs saw employee share ownerships and co-operatives as the future flagships of ‘modern socialism’. Yet, competition from alternative ‘modernisation’ agendas that enjoyed stronger institutional support in the wider left, like ‘modernising the constitution’, and internal factional dynamics, both ensured that they fell by the wayside. 105



106

There are suggestions, for instance, that multilateralism gained a ‘modern’ relevance in Kinnock’s Labour Party in the late 1980s because of Gorbachev’s reformist project in the Soviet Union. See Karl Pike, ‘Deep Religion: Policy as Faith in Kinnock’s Labour Party’, British Politics 14 (2019), 106–120, at 115–117. Some of these issues have also begun to be explored in existing work: Lucy Robinson, Gay Men and the Left in Post-War Britain (Manchester, 2011).

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Second, studying the contestation over ‘modernisation’ within this broader left-wing ecosystem illuminates the pathways the party actually took, by shedding light on the origins of New Labour’s policies and governing assumptions. It shows that key aspects of New Labour’s agenda in the 1990s – globalisation, ‘modernising the economy’, and ‘modernising the constitution’ – all had clear roots in the debates and ideas generated in these different spaces of the British left. It thus demonstrates that New Labour’s origins were far more rooted in the left’s intellectual ecosystem than either its champions or opponents cared to admit. Characterising the Late Twentieth Century This new approach to the study of ‘modernisation’ and the left has several benefits. Most immediately, it reconstructs the tumultuous, diverse, and creative intellectual world of the British left from the 1970s to the 1990s. However, by shedding light on the roots of New Labour from within the left, it also intervenes in broader debates about Britain in the late twentieth century. In recent years, historians of modern Britain have debated the usefulness of ‘neoliberalism’ as a periodisation of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.107 Recent surveys divide the decades since 1945 into, first, a period of ‘social democracy’ (1940s–1970s) and then one of ‘neoliberalism’ (1980s onwards).108 Within this framework, the Labour Party’s development since the 1970s is collapsed into the ‘rise of neoliberalism’. There are very good reasons for this viewpoint. The 1970s witnessed the destabilisation of a political economy characterised by high levels of unionisation, routine state intervention in finance and industry, and commitments to full employment, social housing, progressive taxation, and welfare. After the upheavals of the Thatcher governments, the state owned less, the trade unions were legally and industrially weaker, finance and trade had been deregulated, taxation was less progressive, and macroeconomic policy prioritised inflation over employment – all with consequences for levels of indebtedness, inequality, and poverty. Moreover, it is clear that these changes were influenced by, among other things, the growing popularity of neoliberal thought among powerful people.109 Many of these legacies shaped Labour’s policy platform in 107



108

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Aled Davies, Ben Jackson, and Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite (eds), The Neoliberal Age? Britain since the 1970s (London, 2021). James Vernon, Modern Britain: 1750 to the Present (Cambridge, 2017). Jackson, ‘The Think-Tank archipelago’; Ben Jackson, ‘Intellectual Histories of Neoliberalism and Their Limits’, in Davies, Jackson, and Sutcliffe-Braithwaite (eds), The Neoliberal Age?, 1–30, at 52–75.

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opposition, and this carried over into its governments from 1997. For public ownership, taxation, and trade union law, and in its relationship with the market economy and the City of London, the contrast between Labour in the 1970s and in the 1990s was significant and is well drawn in the existing literature. It prompted despondency among scholars of democratic socialism, like Noel Thompson, by the early 2000s.110 In this sense, Labour’s emerging agenda in the 1990s undoubtedly fits into a wider turn to ‘market liberalism’ across the global north.111 However, by showing how left-wing debates over ‘modernisation’ produced New Labour, this book argues that there are significant problems with using the periodisation of ‘neoliberalism’. Crucially, unlike ‘market liberalism’, ‘neoliberalism’ is strongly associated with a specific ideology and group of thinkers, or ‘thought collective’.112 With this in mind, it is far from obvious that the Labour Party should primarily be classified as ‘neoliberal’ by its 1997 landslide victory, at which point it became the dominant political force for more than a decade. After all, its leaders disavowed the label ‘neoliberal’ at the time and subsequently – as this book shows, they saw their politics as a response to neoliberalism. Stephanie Mudge, in her sophisticated comparative study, recognises this but argues that New Labour’s advocacy for markets meant that it embodied a ‘neoliberal ethic’.113 Yet, New Labour’s broad acceptance of market liberalism did not exhaust its economic policies, let alone its policies generally. A good example here is the survival of counter-cyclical fiscal ‘Keynesianism’, which Jim Tomlinson presciently highlighted in 2007 and which became even more obvious after 2008.114 Interpretations that paint the Labour Party as becoming essentially ‘neoliberal’, in deed if not word, must prioritise some policies, such as liberalised trade and lower income tax rates, over others, like large increases in public services 110



111

112 113 114

In his often-rich account, Thompson wrote pessimistically of ‘desperate, frenetic, and ultimately futile attempt’ to reformulate democratic socialism after 1979 in response to neoliberalism, globalisation, and ‘possessive individualism’. Noel Thompson, Left in the Wilderness: The Political Economy of British Democratic Socialism since 1979 (Chesham, 2002), vi, 280, and passim. Guy Ortolano, Thatcher’s Progress: From Social Democracy to Market Liberalism through an English New Town (Cambridge, 2019); Avner Offer, ‘The Market Turn: From Social Democracy to Market Liberalism’, The Economic History Review 70:4 (2017), 1051–1071; John Kay, ‘Redistributive Market Liberalism’, 5 February 1997 [www​ .johnkay.com/1997/02/05/redistibutive-market-liberalism-new-statesman/]. Quinn Slobodian and Dieter Plehwe, ‘Introduction’, in Plehwe, Slobodian and Philip Mirowski (eds), Nine Lives of Neoliberalism (London, 2020), 1–19, at 2–5. Stephanie L. Mudge, Leftism Reinvented: Western Parties from Socialism to Neoliberalism (Cambridge, MA, 2018), 7–8, 16–17. Jim Tomlinson, ‘Tale of a Death Exaggerated: How Keynesian Policies Survived the 1970s’, Contemporary British History 21:4 (2007), 429–448, at 433–439.

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expenditure, targeted anti-poverty intervention, and global poverty debt relief. Or, to take another example, they must focus on the ‘Blairite’ view of mid-2000s National Health Service reform over the ‘Brownite’ resistance.115 This often leads into interpretive wrangles and various audits of New Labour’s policies, which produce more heat than light. They have led to something of an impasse.116 Some scholars try to bypass this impasse by defining neoliberalism capaciously so that it could include the New Labour governments. These attempts, however, have their own problems. Will Davies, for example, offers a Weberian-Foucauldian definition of the ‘era of neoliberalism’ since the 1980s as the ‘pursuit of the disenchantment of politics by economics’.117 Yet, this relies on characterising econometric-based governance as ‘neoliberal’, which poses difficult issues given the importance that many profoundly illiberal and socialist traditions have placed in economic statistical targeting in the modern era,118 and the rejection of ‘calculation’ by leading neoliberals like Friedrich Hayek.119 As Aled Davies, Ben Jackson, and Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite suggest, scepticism of ‘neoliberalism’ as a periodisation does not mean rejecting the concept completely.120 If we follow some of the best recent work on ‘neoliberalism’ and understand it as a specific intellectual tradition spreading its influence through particular institutions and networks, it is clear that neoliberalism gained ground during and after the 1970s, interacting with other intellectual and political traditions and adapting in response to economic, social, and cultural change.121 The left undoubtedly evolved in reaction to this ideological advancement too. One of the clearest examples of this was the engagement of several 115 For this debate, see Stephen Driver, ‘New Labour and Social Policy’, in Matt Beech and Simon Lee (eds), Ten Years of New Labour (Basingstoke, 2008), 50–68. 116 Compare, for instance, Matt Beech, ‘New Labour and the Politics of Dominance’; Simon Lee, ‘The British Model of Political Economy’, in Beech and Lee (eds), Ten Years of New Labour, 1–17 and 17–35. 117 William Davies, The Limits of Neoliberalism: Authority, Sovereignty and the Logic of Competition (London, 2014), 3–4, 20–21. 118 Indeed, it seems puzzling to understand New Labour’s (in)famously bureaucratic target culture (hospital waiting times, school rankings, poverty statistics) as ‘neoliberal’. Others have used diametrically opposite reference points. See Christopher Hood’s barbed assessment of New Labour’s target culture as ‘unconsciously repeating Soviet history’, in ‘Gaming in Targetworld: The Targets Approach to Managing British Public Services’, Public Administration Review 66:4 (2006), 515–521, at 520. 119 In Quinn Slobodian’s study of the Geneva School, it is stressed that neoliberals like Hayek turned away from quantification in the 1930s. Slobodian, Globalists, 18. 120 Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, Aled Davies, and Ben Jackson, ‘Introduction: A Neoliberal Age?’, in idem (eds), The Neoliberal Age?, 1–30, at 24. 121 Slobodian and Plehwe, ‘Introduction’, in Plehwe, Slobodian, and Philip Mirowski (eds), Nine Lives of Neoliberalism, 2–5.

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British socialist thinkers – including David Miller, Julian Le Grand, Andrew Gamble, and Hilary Wainwright – with Hayek, which fostered positive re-evaluations of the market mechanism, increased scepticism of planning, and a renewed emphasis on ‘freedom’.122 There is also some evidence of grassroots ‘left-liberal’ receptiveness to the anti-statist implications of some neoliberal thought.123 Nonetheless, this approach also means that any characterisation of the Labour Party as primarily ‘neoliberal’ by the 1990s and 2000s becomes unsustainable. Even New Labour’s leaders, by far the most pro-market in the party’s history, were too interested in communitarianism, ethical socialism, ‘social justice’, and post-war Labour revisionism, and in variants of social democracy across Europe and Australasia, to be convincingly portrayed as a neoliberal phenomenon.124 As Sutcliffe-Braithwaite has argued elsewhere, New Labour also retained a very un-neoliberal interest in social class.125 Some of New Labour’s ideas undoubtedly overlapped with those influenced by neoliberal writers, and Labour did converge with its right-wing opponents in issues like taxation, trade union law, and public ownership. Yet, as this book reveals, much of New Labour’s platform grew out of debates within Labour and the left more broadly. From the 1970s onwards, a diverse array of left-wing figures devised various schemes to ‘modernise’ an unsettled British socialism. Some alternatives look strikingly socialist in comparison to New Labour, but others can be clearly linked to what Blair and Brown said and did in office. As Chapters 1 and 6 show, central elements of New Labour’s political economy – its acceptance of ‘globalisation’ as an unavoidable feature of ‘modern capitalism’ and its emphasis on ‘supply side modernisation’ through education and welfare reforms – arose from debates within the left and were demonstrably influenced by existing traditions of social democracy in Britain and elsewhere. Admittedly, challenging the characterisation of New Labour as primarily ‘neoliberal’ does not necessarily mean that it can then be labelled as ‘social democratic’. As the divergent visions of ‘modern socialism’ attest, both ‘socialism’ and ‘social democracy’ are contested terms. An ‘ethical socialism’ that emphasises ‘values’ of ‘fairness’ and ‘social justice’ 122



123 124 125

Simon Griffiths, Engaging Enemies: Hayek and the Left (London, 2014). I am grateful to Ben Jackson for discussions which helped me clarify this point. Maurice Cottier, ‘“Dear Professor: Exploring Lay Comments to Milton Friedman’, Modern Intellectual History (early access, 2022): doi:10.1017/S1479244322000245. Bevir, New Labour, 54–83, and 86–87; Patrick Diamond, ‘Introduction’, in idem (ed.), New Labour’s Old Roots: Revisionist Thinkers in Labour’s History, 2nd ed. (Exeter, 2015), 1–38. Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, Class, Politics, and the Decline of Deference, 174–175.

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can (just about) include New Labour, whereas a ‘socialism’ that stresses building alternatives to capitalism cannot. Yet, the revisionist ideology of ‘social democracy’ has historically encompassed both these competing traditions.126 When viewed through Stefan Berger’s comparative lens, near contemporaries like the (West) German Social Democratic Party formally abandoned anti-capitalism decades before Labour, but still worked in a recognisably ‘social democratic’ tradition.127 As such, in light of the left-wing origins of its agenda uncovered in this book, New Labour is best conceived as a product of the evolution of British social democracy in the late twentieth century, albeit a self-consciously ‘centrist’ one.128 This is not an apologia. As Jenny Andersson argues, categorising the ‘Third Way’ not as ‘neoliberalism’ but instead as a variant of ‘social democracy’ does not mean that it is above criticism.129 Far from it. But it does ensure that the political economy of the centre-left in the late twentieth century can be carefully reconstructed rather than breezily dismissed, allowing its flaws to be properly scrutinised. This book also argues that to fully historicise both New Labour and their internal critics, we need a richer historical understanding of the late twentieth century itself. While tracing the rise of market liberalism is helpful for highlighting some phenomena, it only dimly illuminates others. It is therefore necessary to use other lenses, or ‘crosscutting metanarratives’, to capture the complexities of the period.130 Reconstructing the diverse representations of ‘modern socialism’ thus has a further beneficial role to play. It reveals that discussions over the left’s future covered a very diverse array of issues. Some left-wing arguments for ‘modernisation’ had either little to do with political economy or approached it in ways that cut across familiar ideological divides. Therefore, this book draws attention to other ways of characterising Britain in the late twentieth century. For instance, one major development in late-twentieth-century Britain was a two-pronged offensive against the presumed primacy of the nation state, from above and from below. As recently argued by David ­Edgerton, one possible account of British history from the late nineteenth 126 Ben Jackson, ‘Social Democracy’, in Michael Freeden, Lyman Tower Sargent, and Marc Stears (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Political Ideologies (Oxford, 2013), 348–364. 127 Stefan Berger, ‘Wege und Irrwege des demokratischen Sozialismus: Das Verhältnis von Labour Party und SPD zum Kapitalismus im 19. Und 20. Jahrhundert’, Archiv für Sozialgeschichte 53 (2013), 411–425. 128 By which I mean, following Andrew Hindmoor, that New Labour’s leaders deliberately constructed and then performatively occupied a political ‘centre’. See Hindmoor, New Labour at the Centre. 129 Jenny Andersson, The Library and the Workshop: Social Democracy and Capitalism in the Knowledge Age (Stanford, CA, 2010), 1. 130 Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, Jackson, and Davies, ‘Introduction: A Neoliberal Age?’, 21.

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to the early twenty-first centuries rejects the framework of ‘liberalism to social democracy to neoliberalism’ and instead traces the ‘rise and fall of the British nation’.131 From the 1970s, the primacy of the nation was attacked from two directions. Pressure from above came, first, from the ‘globalisation’ of trade, of some manufacturing and food supply chains, and of high finance, and second from the UK’s 1973 entry into the European Communities132 and their development thereafter. From below, many disaffected citizens, workers, and consumers demanded secession, devolution, and empowerment; a group of historians have recently identified a wider ‘decline of deference’ over this period.133 This book shows that claims to ‘modernisation’ on the left repeatedly engaged with this pincer-pressure on the nation state; some revisionist thinkers explicitly highlighted it over the 1980s and 1990s.134 Throughout the book, but especially in Part I, we find British socialists and social democrats wrestling with the destabilisation of the nation-state’s primacy, hitherto more secure. Some of the top-down and bottom-up pressures could be conceived within a framework of ‘neoliberalism’, particularly globalised finance or citizen revolt against bureaucratic welfare states. Yet, as argued by those who identified the ‘decline in deference’, they cannot be collapsed into them either.135 This challenge to the nation state from above and below should be considered as a significant feature of the late twentieth century in its own right. Similarly, as explored in Part II, the late twentieth century witnessed the unfolding of the post-1968 ‘liberation movements’ (race, gender, sexuality, disability) into parliamentary politics, through campaigning and lobbying groups and through the parties themselves.136 Debates over feminism, gay rights, and multiculturalism became key divisions between left and right, Labour and Conservative. Scrutinising debates over modernisation shows that many socialists attempted to relate ‘modern socialism’ to the ‘new movements’. As Chapters 3 and 4 show, the success of these attempts varied considerably and never achieved 131 Edgerton, Rise and Fall. 132 I will refer to the ‘European Communities’ or ‘European Community’ for the period before 1993, and the ‘European Union’ afterwards. 133 Emily Robinson et al., ‘Telling Stories about Post-War Britain: Popular Individualism and the “Crisis” of the 1970s’, Twentieth Century British History 28:2 (2017), 268–304, at 272, 280. 134 Anthony Giddens, In Defence of Sociology: Essays, Interpretations and Rejoinders (Cambridge, 1996), 251. 135 Robinson et al., ‘Telling Stories’, 303–304. 136 Geoff Eley, Forging Democracy: The History of the Left in Europe, 1850–2000 (Oxford, 2002), 10–11; Chris Moores, Civil Liberties and Human Rights in Twentieth-Century Britain, paperback ed. (Cambridge, 2020), 183–184, 209–210.

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hegemony in Labour. Nonetheless, new political movements, especially those concerning gender and sexuality, had a clear impact on Labour, left and right.137 Just like citizen revolts discussed above, these movements are associated with the decline of deference and rise of popular ­individualism – and, in some cases, as intimately bound up with the post-colonial legacies of the former British Empire. Finally, there are two crucial developments of the late twentieth century which profoundly shaped the emergence of new forms of social democracy in the 1990s. The first is the divisive role of the constitution in British politics over the late twentieth century, which comes to the fore in Chapter 5. From the 1970s onwards, clashes over the British constitution frequently marked political debate in profound ways. Parliamentary sovereignty, European integration, a bill of rights, centralism or devolution, and secessionist nationalisms all sparked passionate divisions between and within parties across the UK – and protracted violence in the case of the ‘Troubles’ in the north of Ireland. Moreover, by the 1990s, constitutional politics had returned to the forefront: the Scottish Constitutional Convention had declared its ‘claim of right’ and agitated for a Parliament in Edinburgh, the Irish peace process was gaining momentum despite the ongoing bombings and assassinations, and the Maastricht Treaty was fatally poisoning the unity of the ruling Conservative Party.138 The left’s transformation was a significant part of this story. From the late 1980s onwards, many left-wing arguments for ‘modernisation’ saw constitutional reform as socialism’s new plan of attack on Thatcherite hegemony. This had a demonstrable impact on the Labour Party, including but not limited to New Labour. Importantly, in direct contrast to a common cliché, here Labour’s policy platform did not substantially converge with the Conservatives and, in areas like constraints on parliamentary sovereignty, actually diverged. The party’s constitutional thinking was also profoundly influenced by strands of the intellectual left, including both post-Croslandite revisionism and Western Marxism, as well as European social democracy. Thus, while some neoliberals were interested in constitutional reform themselves, this cannot help us understand the roots and political meaning of the left’s turn towards constitutional politics. The second key development is the deindustrialisation of labour markets in the global north since the 1950s, and its deeply destabilising 137



138

Stephen Brooke, Sexual Politics: Sexuality, Family Planning, and the British Left from the 1880s to the Present Day (Oxford, 2011), 11–12. A related development concerns how universalist discourses of ‘human rights … “became meaningful” for UK citizens’: Moores, Civil Liberties and Human Rights, 18, 244–255.

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impact on politics and society.139 A growing number of historians of modern Britain have stressed the importance of this global structural change for a host of political and social developments: from changing identities of class, locality, and community to the rise of Scottish nationalism.140 It has long been known that deindustrialisation disrupted Labour’s perceived electoral ‘base’, posing difficult strategic questions for the party, and that this shaped both Kinnock’s leadership and New Labour.141 Yet, deindustrialisation had other important effects as well. As explored in Chapter 6, it posed formidable intellectual challenges to Labour’s economic strategy and plan for ‘full employment’, which from the post-war period until the early 1990s relied heavily on policies for ‘modernising’ the UK’s manufacturing sectors and ‘industrial base’. Deindustrialisation thus forced social-democratic policymakers and Labour’s politicians to revise their strategy for ‘modernising the economy’ to secure sustainable employment. Once Labour reached government, these revisions had important implications for their approach to the welfare state, the rapidly expanding post-16 and higher education sector, and the City of London. Plan of the Book Part I foregrounds the challenges to national social democracy from above and below. It also explores two distinct interpretations of ‘modern socialism’ that emerged in response, which gained some credibility and ­influence in the 1970s and 1980s, and which continued to shape left-wing debates until the millennium, but which lost influence on the Labour Party’s specific policy platform by 1997. Chapter 1 shows how ‘globalisation’ became a common frame of reference about the ‘modern world’ within Labour and traces the rise and fall of both nationalist and pan-European socialist responses. It is widely recognised that the ‘discourse of globalisation’ was a lynchpin of New Labour’s case for modernisation, especially its advocacy of engagement with the European Union and evangelising of macroeconomic restraint. However, this chapter reconstructs an overlooked source of the idea of ‘globalisation’ in Labour: the theorists 139



140

141

Jim Tomlinson, ‘De-industrialization Not Decline: A New Meta-narrative for PostWar British History’, Twentieth Century British History 27:1 (2016), 76–99. Matt Beebee, ‘Navigating Deindustrialisation in 1970s Britain: The Closure of Bilson Steel Works and the Politics of Work, Place, and Belonging’, Labour History Review 85:3 (2020), 253–283; Ewan Gibbs, Coal Country: The Meaning and Memory of Deindustrialization (London, 2020). Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, Class, Politics, and the Decline of Deference, 174–202; Diamond, British Labour Party, 37–39.

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behind the radical ‘Alternative Economic Strategy’, which underpinned the 1983 manifesto. It traces how, from the 1970s, Labour policymakers like Stuart Holland diagnosed a powerful new force in the modern economy – ‘multinational’ production and finance – which placed new constraints on the economic sovereignty of the socialist nation state. Over the 1980s, these radical policymakers went from attempting to reassert the nation state’s power to trying to transcend it altogether through a new pan-European politics. This chapter then reconstructs the lively discussions over national economic autonomy during Labour’s ‘Policy Review’ and then the Maastricht debates, during which arguments for ‘Eurosocialism’ became widespread in left-wing debate. Finally, it uses these debates to show that the idea of a ‘globalised’ modern economy, and its constraints on national macroeconomic adventurism, had many parents in Labour and originated from the party’s left as well as its right. Next, the book moves from the supranational to the subnational. Chapter 2 considers a distinct interpretation ‘modern socialism’, which focused on diffusing power from the centralised model of British state socialism pioneered by Clement Attlee’s government. Arising in part out of left-wing critiques of the post-war corporatist welfare state, it linked ‘modern socialism’ to the decentralisation of social and economic power to producers, consumers, and community groups. Over the 1970s and 1980s, several left-wing thinkers and politicians championed using the state to redistribute and democratise power within the private economy through industrial democracy or consumer and community empowerment. These ideas were fuelled by post-1968 radicalism, trade union assertiveness, corporatist experiments, and municipal socialism. In the 1980s, though, they were reframed and championed as ‘modern socialism’, mainly as a response to the political success of Margaret Thatcher’s flagship policies like the ‘right to buy’ a council house. Left-wing thinkers – ranging from Eurocommunist journalists to cloistered ‘market socialist’ academics, to ambitious Labour MPs like Bryan Gould – came to believe that a ‘modern socialism’, which effectively responded to the grave challenge of Thatcher, needed to diffuse power to producers, consumers, and communities. Decentralised social ownership or governance in the private and third sectors would challenge Thatcherite free markets, while tackling the problems of the post-war welfare state and retaining the benefits of market coordination. However, while interest in ‘community groups’ and their potential role in social services remained into the 1990s, the popularity of the economically decentralist reading of ‘modern socialism’ peaked in the late 1980s and lost considerable potency thereafter. This helped scotch subsequent attempts in the 1990s to make the ‘stakeholding economy’ a foundation of New Labour’s ‘modernisation’.

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Part II turns to the fraught questions of identity as, over the late t­wentieth century, the British left wrestled with several intellectual and political challenges to the supremacy of ‘class’ in its ideological frameworks. Chapter 3 tackles a gendered interpretation of ‘modernisation’, which never became widespread but had a discernible influence on both the left’s intellectual scene and Labour’s development. In the 1970s, while feminism was making a mark on Labour and the trade union movement, its proponents did not claim that their demands would ‘modernise’ Labour. Over the 1980s, this began to change. Influential and closely networked socialist feminists, such as Anne Phillips, Beatrix Campbell, and Anna Coote, began to suggest that the ‘modern economy’ was increasingly reliant on paid female labour, and that family models were pluralising in ‘modern society’. These arguments were taken up by influential figures within Labour over the late 1980s and early 1990s, especially Patricia Hewitt and Harriet Harman. They used them to argue that a crucial aspect of Labour’s ‘modernisation’ must be its strategy for women and policies for gender equality; without them, Labour would remain ‘old-fashioned’ in its outlook and appeal. Their arguments never became central to orthodox New Labour modernisation. However, they did shape the New Labour project as it emerged in the 1990s, and thus some of its policies in government. Perhaps more importantly, the ‘modernisation’ element of these feminists’ arguments may have unintentionally diluted the case for a more disruptive gender politics. In contrast, Chapter 4 explores a more marginalised i­nterpretation of modernisation, which foregrounded race and multiculturalism. Throughout the late twentieth century, the British left wrestled with a growingly multiracial society, and the rise of both the far right and a more self-confident and assertive anti-racist movement in post-colonial Britain. This profoundly shaped the Labour Party, as seen most clearly in the anti-racist agendas of municipal socialist councils in the 1980s, the tortuous debate over introducing ‘Black Sections’ to the party’s constitution, and the rise of new voices in party debates like Paul Boateng, Keith Vaz, Bill Morris, and Diane Abbott. Yet, despite all this, there were only scattered arguments that tried to link either antiracism or multiculturalism to wider discourses of ‘modernisation’. This chapter explores some isolated explorations of antiracism as ‘modernisation’, notably by Ken Livingstone, and explains their intellectual context with reference to the work of Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy. Yet it also explains why these interpretations of ‘modernisation’ failed to catch on, stressing factional and electoral factors, but also the growing discomfort among anti-racist movements with ideas like ‘modernisation’, associated as they were with the Eurocentric Enlightenment. The implications for New Labour of

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this absence of race and multiculturalism in discourses of ‘modernisation’ are explored at the end of the chapter. Part III turns to the emergence of new ‘modernisation’ discourses that became influential among the 1990s left and explores their origins. Chapter 5 traces the rise of arguments for ‘modernising the constitution’ of the United Kingdom. While the 1970s left repeatedly engaged in constitutional debates, their arguments were rarely conceived in terms of ‘modernisation’. However, the challenge of Thatcher’s rule, along with nationalist pressures from Scotland, perceptions of sociological change, and geopolitical trends led to the ascendancy of radical, liberal-pluralist constitutional reforms (such as a bill of rights and devolution) in agendas for ‘modern socialism’. Crucial to this was the spreading belief, derived from the intellectual New Left, that continental constitutional structures like written constitutions and proportional voting systems were more ‘modern’ than the UK’s centralist, majoritarian parliamentary sovereignty. This increasingly influential idea helped marginalise an older, ‘English-radical’ tradition championed by Tony Benn. The importance of ‘modernising the constitution’ for Labour peaked in the early 1990s, under the leadership of committed reformer John Smith and with the assistance of self-proclaimed ‘modernisers’ like Blair and Brown. Momentum stalled under Blair’s leadership, due to the concentration of avowed reformists in narrow networks and emerging differences between Smith’s and Blair’s understanding of ‘modernisation’. Nevertheless, crucial policies like devolution and a Human Rights Act were locked into New Labour’s platform by 1997, facilitating one of the most disruptive periods of British constitutional change in the contemporary era. Chapter 6 traces the meaning of ‘modernisation’ in Labour’s economic policies over time, using this to throw new light on New Labour’s political economy by its 1997 landslide. The chapter begins by showing that ‘modernising the economy’ has been a consistently crucial idea for Labour from Wilson to Blair. Labour politicians and thinkers, from the 1970s to the 1990s and across several factions, were continually obsessed with using the state to ‘modernise’ the ‘supply side’ of the British economy, to remain ‘competitive’ and secure sustainable growth. This is not to deny the importance of splits over public versus private ownership, and the broad turn towards marketisation. But contrary to myth, the endurance of state-led ‘modernisation’ in Labour’s political economy does reveal a continuing strategic role for the state in the minds of its leaders, even at the height of the ‘Third Way’. After establishing this, the chapter uses this framework to highlight a crucial change during the 1990s. For almost all the later twentieth century, Labour politicians and thinkers assumed that manufacturing was the most important sector

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to ‘modernise’. Yet, under the influence of deindustrialisation, ideas of ‘post-Fordism’, and intellectual developments in American economics, by the early twenty-first-century manufacturing had been usurped by ‘human capital’. For New Labour, education and training became the new ‘commanding heights’ and the foremost economic priority for the active state. Taken together, these developments confirm the inappropriateness of shoehorning New Labour into ‘Thatcherism’ and ‘neoliberalism’. But they also speak to underlying shifts in the political economy of the UK, whose ambivalent legacies still shape us today. Finally, the conclusion gathers these arguments and discusses their wider significance. I consider their implications for the stories often told about both the left and modern Britain at the end of the twentieth century. I argue that the undoubted rise of market liberalism should not drown out other defining features and trends, especially the pressures of deindustrialisation, the era of constitutional agitation, the lasting legacies of decolonisation, and the growth of ‘popular individualism’. In addition, I discuss where this book fits alongside historiographical trends in the study of modern Britain. The conclusion then situates this history of ‘modernisation’ within the longer evolution of British social democracy. I pay attention to how these calls to ‘modernise’ related to other powerful discourses – especially appeals to ‘tradition’, ‘principle’, or an imagined heroic past. I also note the appeal of ‘modernisation’ to political figures not on the left, including Conservatives. Nonetheless, I suggest that ‘modernisation’ is an idea that is unusually and even uniquely prominent in the tradition of social democracy.

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Part I

Social Democracy and the Challenge to the Nation State

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1

‘Keynes Is Dead, Beveridge Is Dead’



Modernisation, Globalisation, and European Integration

Our aim is to see Britain become an independent self-governing country —Frances Morrell and others, 1981.1

For the Left in Western Europe, there is no longer any alternative to joint political action at the European level if it wishes to manage economic forces in pursuit of social aims —Frances Morrell and others, 1989.2

One has to ask simply: ‘are we mad?’ —Stephen Pollard, advisor to Peter Shore, on Labour’s acceptance of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, 1992.3

Tommy Balogh once told me that I would learn the hard way in life that it is better to be wrong at the right time than right at the wrong time

—Stuart Holland to Neil Kinnock, 1992.4

In the eyes of the intellectual left, the power of the nation state in the ‘modern economy’ underwent a relentless assault from the 1970s onwards. Growing numbers of left-wing policymakers foretold the erosion of the UK’s economic sovereignty and demanded new strategies as a result. Paying close attention to the circulation of this idea illuminates both the Labour Party’s understanding of ‘globalisation’ and its relationship with the European Union by the end of the twentieth century. It shows that, while they were loudly proclaimed by Blair and Brown, the declarations of ‘globalisation’ that echoed through the party in the 1990s had more diverse sources than is often assumed. Interrogating the left’s changing views on the nation state’s 1

Francis Cripps, John Griffith, Frances Morrell, et al., Manifesto: A Radical Strategy for Britain’s Future (London, 1981), 9. 2 Frances Morrell, Peter Schultze, and Terry Ward, ‘Europe United’, New Socialist (April/ May 1989), 18–21. 3 Stephen Pollard, ‘Some Rambling Thoughts On: Where Next for Labour’, April 1992, LSE The Papers of Peter Shore (hereafter: SHORE)/16/66. 4 Stuart Holland, ‘Confed Briefing’, April 1992, CAC KNNK 2/1/193.

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economic potency helps explain why New Labour’s appeal to globalisation in support of their ‘modernisation’ found fertile ground. It also explains the marginalisation of alternative policies, especially national economic strategies that relied on Euroscepticism and unilateral macroeconomic interventions. Taken together, all this reveals that discourses of ‘globalisation’, which decisively shaped understandings of ‘modernisation’ in Labour by the turn of the century, were not simply imposed by a narrow faction. They arose from a plural set of voices, all struggling to renew their ideas in a hostile political context and changing world. Historians have begun to investigate the idea of globalisation in both politics and political thought.5 However, discussion of Labour and globalisation tends to fall back on two approaches, which both have limitations. Some suggest that Labour has repeatedly confronted an essentially unchanging ‘dilemma’ or ‘constraint’ over the twentieth c­ entury – that it must command the ‘confidence’ of international finance. This approach compares New Labour’s arguments to the plight of previous social-democratic governments confronted by hostile business and financial interests, and often draws from the ‘structuraldependence’ thesis.6 While possessing grains of truth, this overly flattens the relationship between centre-left governments and global capitalism over time. Though there are familial resemblances, the gold standard was not the same as the Bretton Woods fixed exchange rate system, the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM), or Third Way macroeconomic ‘prudence’. Not only were the ideological frameworks and political contexts for each distinct, but the actual shape of the UK’s industry, financial sector, and trade has transformed over the century, as has the international economy. We need an account that is more alert to the changes in structural constraints and policy tools of social-democratic governments. Others focus specifically, and often scathingly, on New Labour’s leaders and their appeals to ‘globalisation’. This approach correctly notes the differences between Harold Wilson and James Callaghan’s 5

For political thought, see István Hont, Jealousy of Trade: International Competition and the Nation-State in Historical Perspective (Cambridge, MA, 2005), 1–159, especially 155–156. 6 Wickham-Jones, ‘Anticipating Social Democracy’. The most influential theorist of socialdemocratic structural dependence on both capital and non-proletarian voters is Adam Przeworski, Capitalism and Social Democracy, paperback ed. (Cambridge, 1986). For an attempt to apply the theory quantitatively, see Duane Swank, ‘Politics and the Structural Dependence of the State in Democratic Capitalist Nations’, The American Political Science Review 86:1 (1992), 38–54. For a critique that emphasises social-democratic agency in response to these constraints, see Gøsta Esping-Andersen, Politics against Markets: The Social-Democratic Road to Power, reprint ed. (Princeton, NJ, 2017).

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awareness of international constraints and New Labour’s more enthusiastic embrace of a globalising world. It is also attentive to the role of ‘globalisation’ as a rhetorical ‘battering ram’, forcing the contentious changes of ‘modernisation’ through the party in the 1990s. However, it focuses almost entirely on the leadership of New Labour, which underestimates the influence of these ideas across the left. When discussing ‘globalisation’, Steven Fielding mainly quotes Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.7 Others like Colin Hay and Matthew Watson subject Blair and Brown’s ‘discourse of globalisation’ to protracted criticism, seeking to unmask the ‘neoliberal’ face of ‘modernisation’.8 For intellectual origins, they highlight the periodical Marxism Today and the sociologist Anthony Giddens.9 More recently, Jim Tomlinson has rightly identified ‘globalisation’ as a powerful narrative of the British economy at the end of the century, but again mainly focuses on New Labour’s leaders, along with philosophers like John Gray.10 True enough, some of the most eye-catching invocations of ‘globalisation’ (and the most overheated pronouncements) came from these individuals.11 It is also true that New Labour used ‘globalisation’ to justify, among other things, their acceptance of European integration and their macroeconomic caution. Yet, for Blair and Brown’s unceasing deployment of ‘globalisation’ to work politically, a broader constituency within the left must have internalised the idea that the nation was increasingly disempowered in the modern economy. In other words, the story of how ‘globalisation’ and ‘modern socialism’ became enfolded must encompass more people than Brown, Blair, or Giddens, and must look further back than 1994 or 1989. 7 Fielding, The Labour Party, 149–154. Fielding uses the term ‘battering ram’ (151). See also Driver and Martell, New Labour, 49, 62–64. 8 Matthew Watson and Colin Hay, ‘The Discourse of Globalisation and the Logic of No Alternative: Rendering the Contingent Necessary in the Political Economy of New Labour’, Policy and Politics 31:3 (2003), 289–305; Fairclough, New Labour, New Language?, 23–28, 150–152. For his critique of the 1990s ‘business school’ of globalisation, see Hay, The Political Economy of New Labour, 30–31, 61–62, 75n24, 149. 9 Hay, The Political Economy of New Labour, 10–11; Watson and Hay, ‘Discourse of Globalisation’, 291–292. They are right to include them. The most compelling recent examination of Marxism Today’s thinking on Europe is Max Shock, ‘Renewing LeftWing Ideas in Late Twentieth-Century Britain: Marxism Today, c. 1977–1994’, unpublished DPhil thesis (University of Oxford, 2020), chap. 4. 10 Jim Tomlinson, Managing the Economy, Managing the People: Narratives of Economic Life in Britain from Beveridge to Brexit (Oxford, 2017), 95–103. As Tomlinson says (at 87), the term ‘globalisation’ was popularised in the late 1980s and early 1990s. However, as this chapter will show, British left-wing concerns about the novel intensity of multinational production, Europeanising trade links, growing international trade, and globalising capital and currency movements, extended further back. 11 Anthony Giddens, The Third Way and Its Critics (Cambridge, 2000), 54.

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Expanding our scope confirms a much broader popularisation of the idea that modern capital was globalising rapidly – at an unprecedented pace and scope – and thus eroding the potency of the nation state. Over the late twentieth century, from the 1970s attacks on ‘multinationals’ to the 1990s declarations of ‘globalisation’, it became a common assumption among the intellectual left that the ‘modern economy’ was increasingly internationalised in ownership, production, trade, and finance, and that this necessitated changes in socialist or social democratic practice. To illustrate this development, this chapter pays close attention to the theorists behind the 1970s’ ‘Alternative Economic Strategy’ (AES) and their subsequent trajectory in the 1980s and 1990s. It begins by revisiting the AES, which became totemic for the 1970s left and a key foundation of Labour’s 1983 manifesto.12 For good reason, the strategy has become a byword for a strong nation state, protectionism, and even the national ‘siege economy’. This was partly because of how the wider party understood it.13 Still, this also owed much to its policy prescriptions, which, as Geoffrey Foote stressed, envisaged a major extension of the powers of the nation state.14 Importantly, the theorists behind the AES justified this nationalism as a necessary response to a novel threat: the rise of ‘multinationals’ in modern capitalism. Key AES proponents like economist and future MP Stuart Holland or London Labour powerbroker Frances Morrell and Cambridge economist Francis Cripps (both advisors to the left’s tribune Tony Benn) believed that ‘multinationals’ were undermining national ‘Keynesianism’, requiring that the nation state be armed with new powers. In its theoretical and policy formulation at least, the AES was conceived as a modern response to contemporary capitalism. As the chapter then shows, between the late 1970s and the mid1980s, these thinkers abandoned the nation in their quest to save the social-democratic state.15 The AES was gradually undermined by factional disunity, Margaret Thatcher’s electoral victories, and developments abroad. While some supporters doubled down, Holland, Morrell, Cripps, and others tried to reconceptualise the AES at a level above the nation state. Initially, those like Holland scorned the European Community (EC) and sought alternative transnational socialist links across western and southern Europe. Yet, this looser ‘alternative European 12

13 14 15

Wickham-Jones, Economic Strategy and the Labour Party. Jobson, ‘A New Hope for an Old Britain?’, 681–682. Foote, The Labour Party’s Political Thought, 311–323. This shift is also noted in John Callaghan, ‘Rise and Fall of the Alternative Economic Strategy: From Internationalisation of Capital to “Globalisation”’, Contemporary British History 14:3 (2000), 105–130, at 120–121, 124–125.

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strategy’ relied on untenable assumptions. As hopes for its success receded, these theorists turned their attention to the EC and the emerging European Union (EU). They argued that the ‘multinational’ elements of modern capitalism now made unilateral policies at the national level ineffective or actively ruinous. Thus, though still critical of actually existing European integration, they were clear that Labour must stay in the Community, engage in its future development, and push it in a more socialist direction. This was a major split with their former Bennite allies. It was symbolically crowned in the early 1990s when, having resigned his Vauxhall parliamentary seat in 1989 to return to academia, Holland advised the French Socialist and federalist president of the European Commission, Jacques Delors. While continually fixated with the threat to democratic socialism of eroding national sovereignty, the solutions of these activist intellectuals pivoted from reasserting to transcending the nation. The chapter ends by arguing that journeys of this group of thinkers are of wider significance, for two reasons. First, they demonstrate that the perceived threat of ‘globalisation’ in the modern economy drew multiple responses from the left, including both a Eurosceptic national Keynesianism and a supranational ‘EuroKeynesianism’. Second, tracing the journeys of these left-wing thinkers shows that they actively helped create this increasingly powerful ‘discourse of globalisation’, something underestimated by the existing literature.16 Through highly publicised controversies during the Policy Review and later the Maastricht Treaty debates, they contributed to a growing consensus on the vulnerability of unilateral economic interventions and need for a transnational left-wing agenda. This had political ramifications. New Labour’s leaders mostly owed their emphasis on ‘globalisation’ to other sources.17 Yet, the reason their arguments were not challenged more strongly is that, by the mid1990s, even many of their internal critics essentially agreed that modern capitalism had internationalised, the UK economy was Europeanised, 16

The parallels between the AES and ‘globalisation’ were suggested briefly by Mark Wickham-Jones in ‘The Challenge of Stuart Holland: The Labour Party’s Economic Strategy during the 1970s’, in Lawrence Black, Hugh Pemberton, and Pat Thane (eds), Reassessing 1970s Britain (Manchester, 2013), 123–149, at 125. The link was also made in Stephen Tindale’s essay on Labour’s Europeanisation. Published in 1992, his article is itself evidence of how the ‘Euro AES’ debates helped spread the idea of ‘globalisation’ among the 1990s policymaking left. Tindale was then Research Officer of the Fabian Society, and soon to work for the IPPR. Stephen Tindale, ‘Learning to Love the Market: Labour and the European Community’, The Political Quarterly 63:3 (1992), 276–301. 17 Even then, in the 1970s Gordon Brown engaged with the debates on ‘multinationals’. See Gordon Brown, ‘Introduction: The Socialist Challenge’, in idem (ed.), The Red Paper on Scotland (Edinburgh, 1975), 7–22, at 11–14.

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and that this forced Labour governments to seek supranational futures for socialism. This consensus marginalised dissidents who otherwise were major contributors to debates over ‘modernising’ Labour, especially the shadow Cabinet member Bryan Gould. In this way, declining confidence in the capacity of the British ‘nation state’ among parts of the left as well as the right of Labour was critical in marking the contours of the party’s ‘modernisation’. This spreading belief in the disempowered nation state helped create the political terrain on which New Labour’s leaders grounded their linkage of ‘globalisation’ and ‘modernisation’.

Reasserting Leviathan: ‘Multinationals’ and the 1970s’ AES

Perhaps mercifully, ‘mesoeconomics’ is not a common term today. But this was not always so. In 1970s Britain, it was championed by the economist and later Labour MP, Stuart Holland, in his landmark The Socialist Challenge (1975). Described as the ‘new socialist orthodoxy’ by The Economist, the book expanded on Holland’s influential contributions to new Labour Party policies, which had been emerging out of its leftwing-controlled National Executive Committee (NEC) since the early 1970s.18 In Holland’s hands, ‘mesoeconomics’ referred to the structures between the microeconomy of individual consumers, workers, and firms and the macroeconomy of national aggregates (‘growth’, ‘inflation’, ‘unemployment’). Holland argued that the modern economy was increasingly defined by the mesoeconomy, a ‘new mode of production, distribution and exchange in the heartland of the British economy’, because of the growing concentration of production in large, oligopolistic firms. In his eyes, this trend had disastrous effects for the political economy of Anthony Crosland – where, due to the mixed economy and welfare state, and the separation of ownership and control, socialists could effectively ignore ownership in most cases and focus instead on redistribution and quality of life. For Holland, oligopolistic capitalist power meant that the primary economic weapon in Crosland’s arsenal, demand management, was still necessary but now insufficient. These oligopolies also undermined Harold Wilson’s ‘indicative planning’ and helped explain the failures of 1964–1970.19 As he put it in a 1972 paper for an NEC subcommittee, Wilson’s ‘National Plan failed primarily because it misinterpreted the dynamics of modern capitalist growth … the old planning 18

Wickham-Jones, ‘The Challenge of Stuart Holland’, 123. 19 Stuart Holland, The Socialist Challenge (London, 1975), 10–11, 15, 26–27, 49–51.

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techniques of 1964–1969 will prove even less effective in the future’.20 In 1975, he recapitulated this view. ‘Basically, the modern capitalist State has not caught up with the new mesoeconomic domination of production, distribution and exchange’, and nor had ‘contemporary socialism’, which had to ‘advance on both Keynes and Marx’.21 These temporal remarks were political acts. Back in the 1950s, Crosland had presented his ideas as a ‘modern’ socialism responding to capitalism and society as it had evolved, hence the title of his most famous text, The Future of Socialism (1956). By the 1970s, however, Holland was consciously recasting (and thus dismissing) Crosland’s arguments as anachronistic. In turn, this undermined positions closely associated with Crosland, like scepticism of expanding public ownership. It was the rising market share of multinational oligopolies that Holland found most significant. The growth of multinational firms transformed cross-border trading from being truly ‘international’ to instead ‘multinational’ in character: where multinationals could trade among themselves, sometimes even between different subsidiaries of the same company. For Holland, multinational trade and ownership had dangerous implications for nation-state power. Firms could use ‘transfer pricing’ to dodge taxes in national jurisdictions. They could weaken the impact of monetary policies by raising funds from the growing, lightly regulated ‘Eurodollar’ market or from their own retained profits, and the multinationality of their production could undermine the effectiveness of exchange-rate changes. They could, finally, reduce costs or increase quality by shifting production from one country to another. All this meant that indicative planning and macroeconomic tinkering would be, at best, neutered.22 Other parts of the labour movement increasingly agreed. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) were also concerned about growing multinational power and were investigating both initiatives for cross-border labour organisation and national remedies, such as controls on inward and outward investments.23 This intellectual framework was foundational for the ‘Alternative Economic Strategy’ of the 1970s Labour left, embodied in the key policy statements of 1973, 1976, 1982, and, ultimately, the Labour Party’s 1983 manifesto. To understand this, it must be stressed that 20 Stuart Holland, ‘The New Economic Imperatives’, RD:473/November 1972, 1, 9, LSE SHORE/10/3. 21 Holland, Socialist Challenge, 16, 62. 22 Ibid., 75–76, 79–92. His emphasis. 23 Larry Whitty, ‘Draft Insertions on Union Aspects: The Impact of Multinationals on Trade Unions and Trade Union Organisation’, RE1142/May 1977, 5, in The National Archives (hereafter: TNA) FV 83/24.

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Holland was not just a lone author. He was plugged directly into the mainframe of the Labour left’s policymaking in the 1970s. Over the decade, the NEC had created several significant policymaking subcommittees, which had been largely taken over by the party’s left. In turn, these committees co-opted sympathetic external advisors, such as Holland himself, and also drew on the research of an increasingly left-leaning Labour Party Research Department, under the leadership of Geoff Bish, and from Tony Benn’s maverick advisors Francis Cripps and Frances Morrell. Over the decade, these powerbases co-developed a number of key pledges, such as totemic increases in public ownership: controlling shares in 25 of the top 100 UK companies and compulsory ‘national planning agreements’ for the rest. This novel structure of policymaking was a ‘crucial determinant’ in explaining ‘how leftwingers had been able to get Labour to adopt a radical strategy’.24 These subcommittees never gained full power over policymaking; rather, it is more accurate to describe Labour’s policymaking authority as fatally split between the representative of Conference (the NEC) and the parliamentary party (the leadership and Cabinet), with disastrous consequences for party unity by 1979–1983. Yet, they held enough power to shape the party’s manifesto in 1974, and again notably in 1983. This emerging strategy, which was unprecedentedly interventionist, was justified partly through classic socialist aims of increasing democratic power over the economy. Yet, it was also expressly intended to (re) gain national control over multinational capital.25 Hence, AES architects also investigated repatriating British overseas investment for domestic production and jobs.26 This argument about increasing multinational power also provided the intellectual meat for more demagogic endorsements of the strategy. In 1982, AES cheerleader, the Labour MP Tony Benn, argued that the UK was effectively a ‘colony’ of capitalism and the establishment. Benn excoriated many culprits, but they included ‘economic imperialism’, especially the rise of ‘global corporations’ that have ‘long since outgrown nation states in the sheer size of their wealth and income and the world-wide scale of their operations’. This created a ‘colonial status which the multinationals have succeeded in imposing 24 Wickham-Jones, Economic Strategy and the Labour Party, 136. See also Shaw, Labour Party since 1979, 8–9. 25 Holland, Socialist Challenge, 90–92, 177–178. 26 Labour Party Working Group on Transnational Corporations Statement to Conference, RE1193/June 1977, TNA FV 83/24. For a cautious exploration, see Michael Meacher, ‘Direct Investment Overseas: The Effect on Visible Exports’, RE:1121/April 1977, TNA FV 83/24.

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on Britain’.27 Benn was far from alone in using this imagery of Britain’s colonial subjugation to multinationals.28 With this fixation on multinationals, the AES broke from established thinking among the civil service and, especially after Benn’s demotion from Secretary of State for Industry in 1975, the Labour government of 1974–1979. Indeed, Labour’s NEC subcommittees sometimes directly critiqued their own party’s policies in office.29 They also clashed with the thinking of other parts of the party. In the early 1970s, centre-left and post-Croslandite ‘revisionists’ like Roy Jenkins and Bill Rodgers had been interested in Holland’s thought, but they increasingly diverged over the decade.30 Once Labour entered government, these condemnations of multinationals by the party’s left sparked fierce arguments with the civil service and Cabinet.31 Ahead of Labour’s 1977 annual conference, Minister Alan Williams wrote to Secretary of State Eric Varley to complain about an NEC working group, which, he argued, took ‘a biased view of the activities of multinational companies’.32 Some on Labour’s right attempted to fight back. As Stephen Meredith shows, its ‘Manifesto Group’ stressed the limitations on socialist governments after the 1973 oil crisis and the dangers of unilateral actions. Although tentatively suggesting an internationally coordinated reflation, they identified the ‘immediate priorities’ as controlling inflation through monetary control and an incomes policy. Among the isolated pro-Europeans in 1970s Labour, it was common to discuss ‘effective’ sovereignty in the modern world as shared. Shirley Williams, for example, argued that the nation state should ‘yield a good deal of power’ to both devolved and supranational bodies, and ‘help to create a better fit between institutions and their functions in the modern post-industrial

27

Tony Benn, Arguments for Democracy, ed. Chris Mullin (London, 1982), 10. In the early 1970s, Benn argued for new forms of decentralised democracy and supranational accountability (including a reformed EC) to counter advancing multinationals. However, by the mid-1970s, he was shifting away from the EC and towards the nation: Tony Benn, Speeches (Nottingham, 1974), 67–76. 28 For example, Cripps et al., Manifesto, 9–10. 29 See, for example, Norman Atkinson’s attack on the Labour government for allegedly believing in the ‘free play of the market’ in ‘North sea oil, and the four-year plan to create jobs’, RE:1600/April 1978, in the Labour History and Archives Study Centre, People’s History Museum (hereafter: PHM), Labour Party Archives (hereafter: LPA), Box 10: Home Policy Committee, 1977–1982. 30 Stuart Holland, ‘Alternative European and Economic Strategies’, in Lawrence Black, Hugh Pemberton, and Pat Thane (eds), Reassessing 1970s Britain (Manchester, 2013), 96–123, at 107, 109. 31 Department of Industry, ‘Government Policy towards Multinational Corporations’, 30 September 1976, TNA FV 83/23. 32 Letter from Alan Williams to Eric Varley, 16 September 1977, TNA FV 83/26.

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world’.33 However, as Meredith demonstrates, the 1970s Labour right were more heterogeneous than often recognised, and split over European integration, whether Labour should prioritise freedom or equality, and the appropriate role for trade unions in the party and society. This, along with the buffeting of the Wilson–Callaghan governments and, eventually, the creation of the SDP, limited their influence.34 The AES also diverged radically from established norms and sought to extend the reach of the nation state by advocating new import controls. Restrictions on foreign trade did not feature in Labour’s Programme 1973. But they gained prominence over the decade, especially during and after the 1976 International Monetary Fund (IMF) Crisis, as protection was a key part of Benn’s ‘alternative strategy’ to Denis Healey’s public spending cuts, imposed to obtain an IMF loan and appease the currency markets. Import controls became a central component of the AES over the decade and featured in the 1983 manifesto.35 This partly reflected the wishes of trade unionists wanting to protect their own industries.36 Yet, they were also seen to increase the likelihood of the AES’s success. Protectionism would shield a Labour government’s fiscal reflation to reach full employment from spiralling imports and resultant exchange rate depreciation and inflation. It would also give the state time to ‘modernise and restructure’ Britain’s industrial ‘base’.37 Holland never publicly advocated import controls, but other key thinkers became convinced of their necessity. Most notably, this included influential academics at the Cambridge Economic Policy Group (CEPG), who often advised senior Labour politicians.38 In a 1978 lecture (collected by Peter Shore, who later became Michael Foot’s Shadow Chancellor), CEPG’s figurehead Wynne Godley argued that a currency devaluation would not be enough to strengthen the trade balance and arrest the ‘trend towards the destruction of our manufacturing industry’. He instead advocated import controls.39 Godley’s close collaborator Francis Cripps took the Cambridge economists’ ideas directly into the AES’s political heart by serving as an advisor to Benn.40 33

34 35 36 37



38



39



40



Shirley Williams, Politics Is for People (London, 1981), 189. Meredith, Labours Old and New, 59–63, 120. Wickham-Jones, Economic Strategy, 74–75, 83. Stephen Kelly, ‘APEX Says 12,000 Jobs at Risk Unless Import Controls Imposed’, Tribune, 22 August 1975, 3. Paul Levine, ‘Import Controls – On the Left’s Terms’, Marxism Today (December 1980), 13–18, at 15. Wynne Godley and Francis Cripps, ‘London and Cambridge Economic Bulletin II’, The Times, 9 January 1973, 17. Wynne Godley, ‘Britain’s Chronic Recession – Can Anything Be Done?’, September 1978, LSE SHORE/11/1. Cripps et al., Manifesto, 133–134, 140; Peter Jay, ‘Making sense of Mr Benn’, The Times, 24 April 1975, 21.

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It is worth noting that Holland later distanced himself from the overtly nationalist elements of the AES, which culminated in the inclusion of import controls and withdrawal from the EC in Labour’s 1983 manifesto. Decades later, he claimed that Labour deviated from his own more European ambitions for the strategy.41 It is true that Holland was more instinctively pro-European than his prominence in Labour’s 1970s left suggests. As a civil servant in the 1960s, Holland even tried to facilitate UK’s second application for EC membership by advocating transnational technology schemes as a way to appease the recalcitrant French President Charles De Gaulle, who was blocking British entry.42 In 1971, during an early warning on the implications of multinationals, Holland suggested that while a national response would be desirable, a European joint venture would be even more so.43 Holland’s own papers and books were, furthermore, suffused with continental and international precedents (the Italian Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale was particularly important), but these continental inspirations became obscured as the AES emerged, not least because Benn removed them from party statements.44 From a different direction, it is also worth noting that, as Chapter 2 shows, there were decentralising and libertarian currents within the 1970s left that were suspicious of the nation state. These were partly reflected in the AES, which included some regionalism and endorsements of worker democracy. Holland, for instance, linked the rise of multinational capital to regional inequalities and proposed regional planning boards. He also tried to incorporate the growing demands for industrial democracy.45 However, despite these nuances – and despite Holland’s retrospective gloss – it is clear that both the AES and its key theorists relied heavily on the British state and on an implied British ‘national’ framework in the 1970s. Whatever their inspirational origins, Holland’s prescriptions became more national in character as the decade progressed. He was also distinctly ambiguous about the EC, stressing that there was a ‘strong case’ for withdrawal. He left open the possibility of cross-European cooperation more broadly but avoided taking a side – perhaps because he had become more politically reliant on Labour’s strongly Eurosceptic left.46 41

42 43 44

Holland, ‘Alternative European and Economic Strategies’, 107. Ibid., 96–99. Wayland Kennet et al., Sovereignty & Multinational Companies (London, 1971), 28. Holland, ‘Alternative European and Economic Strategies’, 107. Benn complained in his diary about a Labour research department paper: ‘It was a real technocrats’ paper – let’s copy France and Japan. There was nothing about social justice or socialism’. Benn, End of an Era, 150 [21 September 1981]. 45 Holland, Socialist Challenge, 113–116, 270–290; Stuart Holland, The Regional Problem (London, 1976), 32–33. 46 Holland, Socialist Challenge, 337.

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Similarly, the decentralist aspirations of some AES documents fitted uneasily in the wider strategy and were seemingly subservient to the concerns of the centre. Holland suggested tripartite bargaining of national planning agreements as a way of reconciling the statist and decentralist parts of the AES. Yet, this assumed (rather heroically) that, during the polarised 1970s, Whitehall mandarins, managers and shop stewards would be able to coalesce on a company planning agreement which did not contradict the state’s wider strategies for renewal. Holland admitted that a worker-controlled firm which had ‘failed to resolve its own internal decisions on strategic planning’, as he put it, would have to be disciplined by the government, perhaps through withholding grants and assistance.47 As the AES evolved, a joint Labour-TUC document admitted in 1982 that the scope for expanding cooperatives would be ‘limited’.48 This tension was noted by prominent libertarian socialist Peter Hain, who in 1976 obliquely criticised the ‘people’ who assumed that ‘in the age of the multi-national … a central policy solution is required to combat “the crisis”’.49 When seen in the round, the policy contributions of Holland to the 1970s AES were primarily national: especially his championing of national planning agreements and nationalisation. The primary concern was how to reassert national democratic control over the economy. Situated in a wider historical frame, the distinctiveness of the AES’s thinking on multinationals becomes clear. Parts of the left had long pined after cosmopolitan ‘world government’, most famously H. G. Wells, and in foreign policy Labour have regularly invested hopes in institutions like the League of Nations or the United Nations.50 Moreover, when Labour emerged in the early twentieth century, the UK was one of the most globalised economies in the world – and, concerning one of the central controversies of the Edwardian era, the party formally supported free trade over tariff protection. Since at least World War Two, however, economic strategies for the modern state were conceived in primarily national terms. As David Edgerton has argued, this tendency was particularly strong among the post-war left, which drew on nationalist language and intellectual assumptions.51 47

Ibid., 290. 48 TUC-Labour Party Liaison Committee, Economic Planning & Industrial Democracy: The Framework For Full Employment (London, 1982), 24. 49 Peter Hain, ‘The Future of Community Politics’, in idem (ed.), Community Politics (London, 1976), 9–35, at 26. 50 Duncan Bell, ‘Pragmatism and Prophecy: H. G. Wells and the Metaphysics of Socialism’, American Political Science Review 112:2 (2018), 409–422, at 409. 51 Edgerton, Rise and Fall, 149–152.

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In  retrospect, therefore, the AES appeared at a historical crossroads. Its stress on multinationals represented a tonal shift from this postwar assumption of the ‘national economy’. Indeed, much of the AES’s diagnosis had similar echoes to later analyses of ‘globalisation’. Nevertheless, the proposed treatment was radically different to later decades. There were figures in the labour movement who suggested in the mid1970s that supranational organisations like the EC would help the left tackle multinational power.52 But they were decidedly in the minority, especially on Labour’s left. By foregrounding national planning agreements, import controls and public ownership, the AES was trying to reassert the economic sovereignty of the nation state over the domestic economy, wresting control away from international economic agents. This is something that its proponents recognised explicitly.53 In 1981, one collective of left-wing writers, including Benn’s now former advisors Cripps and Morrell, represented planning agreements, import and exchange controls and withdrawal from the EEC, as ‘a seizure of power over the City and over multinational business’ and the ‘liberation of Britain’.54

‘Out of Crisis’: The Early 1980s and the ‘Alternative European Strategy’

The 1970s alternative economic strategies culminated in Labour’s muchmaligned 1983 manifesto. Even before this well-known defeat for the AES, however, its core theorists began to reconsider the primacy they gave to the nation state. Holland started to invest greater intellectual and organisational effort into building an ‘alternative European strategy’, championing it as the best way to tackle multinational capital – but he remained coy on the EC itself into the 1980s and hoped to work around it. Benn’s former advisor, Cripps, went further. He teamed up with a fellow Cambridge economist Terry Ward and broke from his erstwhile patron. As early as 1982, they contended that the nation state was losing its power in the modern world, and that, despite its flaws, Labour should remain inside and repurpose the European Community. A central site for publicising these arguments was Labour’s brand-new intellectual periodical New Socialist (f. 1981), which was a significant space for left-wing debate in the early 1980s, of comparable importance 52

Robert Saunders, Yes to Europe! The 1975 Referendum and Seventies Britain (Cambridge, 2018), 180. 53 Benn, Arguments for Democracy, 10. 54 Cripps et al., Manifesto, 10, 140.

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to the more well-known journal Marxism Today.55 An early edition included a revealing essay by Holland. Holland’s first aim was to savage Thatcher’s contentious economic policies – symbolised by the monetarist ‘Medium Term Financial Strategy’ and then by Geoffrey Howe’s 1981 Budget, which hiked taxes during a vicious recession.56 But he also noted that Labour was seen as ‘increasingly nationalist’ because of the party’s import controls and EC withdrawal policies. Holland was at pains to stress that he did not support staying ‘locked into an UnCommon Market which patently has failed to face its own responsibilities for the slump syndrome both in Europe and abroad’. Instead, he advocated a new agenda for European socialists, which must tackle the ‘3Ms’ (an inversion of the monetarists’ monetary measurement, M3) of ‘militarism’, ‘monetarism’, and ‘multinationals’. Holland advocated in response ‘Disarmament, Development, Democracy’. These required ‘new means’ that would ‘transcend the framework of NATO and the EEC’, to facilitate, for example, ‘better-my-neighbour reflation of trade and jobs’. He cited the advance of the European Nuclear Disarmament campaign as a model for the necessary cross-European socialist action.57 While perhaps stylistically clunky, Holland’s intervention marked the beginning of an important step change. Holland did not directly refute import controls or EC withdrawal and strongly criticised the EC. Yet, his continuing concern with multinationals was now leading him to argue for a more transnational socialist strategy. The timing of this article was no coincidence. Partly, it arose because 1981 saw the deterioration of East–West Cold War relations and the rejuvenation of anti-nuclear campaigns, hence Holland’s stress on disarmament.58 1981 also witnessed two galvanising election victories. The Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) stormed the Greek legislative elections, only seven years after the fall of the military dictatorship, and its leader Andreas Papandreou became the country’s first socialist leader. Over in France, François Mitterrand’s historic coalition of socialists and communists propelled the veteran socialist to the powerful presidency of the Fifth Republic.59 Both administrations were watched closely by

55

Colm Murphy, ‘The Forgotten Rival of Marxism Today: the British Labour Party’s New Socialist and the Business of Political Culture in the Late Twentieth Century’, English Historical Review (forthcoming). 56 Duncan Needham and Anthony Hotson (eds), Expansionary Fiscal Contraction: The Thatcher Government’s 1981 Budget in Perspective (Cambridge, 2014). 57 Stuart Holland, ‘Militarism, Monetarism and Multinationals’, New Socialist (November/ December 1981), 8–13. 58 Graham Stewart, Bang! A History of Britain in the 1980s (London, 2013), 199–201. 59 Tony Judt, Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945 (London, 2010), 550–554.

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socialists in the UK. New Socialist published detailed briefings of both leaders’ policies and prospects in one early issue.60 Regarding Mitterrand’s victory, Denis MacShane went as far as arguing that ‘Labour is incredibly lucky’ because Mitterrand’s administration ‘is surely one of the finest opportunities … to examine in detail the attempt to apply a sophisticated socialist programme, aimed at irreversible change based on democratic consent, to a modern industrialised capitalist society’.61 These expectations would eventually prove ruinous for the AES and its perceived appropriateness for ‘a modern industrialised capitalist society’. MacShane himself wrote a much less positive assessment in 1986.62 But at the time, they buoyed hopes that a pink tide was reaching western and southern European shores. Holland’s shift to a more politically ambitious strategy of pan-European socialist cooperation should be understood in this context. For Eurosceptic socialists, the victories of Mitterrand and (especially) anti-EC Papandreou stimulated their long-standing argument that they were not against internationalism, just the structures of the ‘Common Market’. Left-wing Labour MP Eric Heffer made this point in early 1982, criticising ‘European socialists’ for becoming ‘enmeshed in and almost mesmerised by the issue of membership of the Common Market’. The EC, for Heffer, was a distraction from the necessary long-term goal of a ‘democratic socialist Europe’, which would arise from the coordination of European socialist campaigns, secure neutrality in the Cold War, and support the Third World. Heffer recognised the immediate prospects were limited but still argued that its likelihood was ‘never greater’ due to Parti Socialiste’s and PASOK’s victories.63 However, while Heffer framed his case primarily around the historic principle of ‘internationalism’, Holland increasingly related his European arguments to his belief in the rising importance of multinationals in modern capitalism. He wrote another, more substantive piece for New Socialist in late 1982. Visions of multinational domination were central. Holland sweepingly claimed that ‘[a]t the turn of the century labour in Europe was international in organisation while capital was mainly national. Today it is the reverse’. He noted that 140 companies accounted for a third of the EC’s GDP to argue that multinational capitalism was ‘a fact’. Like before, Holland argued that major economic restructuring

60

Claus Lange, ‘Project for Change’, New Socialist (January/February 1982), 29; Denis MacShane, ‘France: So Far, So Good’, New Socialist (January/February, 1982), 30–35. 61 MacShane, ‘France: So Far, So Good’, 30. 62 Denis MacShane, French Lessons for Labour (London, 1986). 63 Eric Heffer, ‘Socialist Europe’, New Socialist (January/February 1982), 26–28.

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was vital. On this, he suggested that the new socialist governments in France, Greece, and Spain, and their policies of planning agreements, heralded a ‘new convergence’ across the European left.64 However, during the world recession, reflation was also crucial, and Holland stressed that, ideally, it would be coordinated mutually across countries. Still, once again, he dismissed the EC. He stressed that this Euro-reflation would have to include non-member states like Portugal and Spain, and that the EC was ‘too protectionist to expand’, and ‘cannot cope with the scale of spending, planning and international cooperation necessary to transform the crisis’. Thus, ‘abroad as well as in Britain, there is considerable feeling that the EEC may well be a blind alley rather than the road to wider European cooperation’. Holland ended his piece by suggesting that ‘the opportunity to achieve a wider AES on the international agenda’ could come from cooperation among socialist parties and possibly a UN Economic Commission for Europe.65 This turn to trans-European strategies was actively promoted by the New Socialist. The magazine’s editorial championed Holland’s 1982 piece, and while it was anxious to stress that ‘Labour’s AES’ was still a ‘viable alternative’ to Thatcher, it also argued that there was a ‘growing realisation of the limitations’ of the strategy in a ‘purely national ­context’.66 The editors could claim this because others were also showing a new willingness to openly question the national element of the AES.67 In May 1982, Bob Rowthorn, a Marxist economist and regular contributor to Marxism Today, charted the increasing integration of the UK’s trade with Western Europe. He consequently suggested that any strategy which wanted to abandon Western Europe, the USA, and Japan and orientate to the Third World was an ‘unrealistic vision’ that ‘rests on a bizarre combination of imperial nostalgia and revolutionary romanticism’. He concluded that the case for EC withdrawal was much weaker than before.68 Other key contributors to the AES went even further than Holland in rethinking its nationalism. In mid-1982, Cripps and fellow Cambridge economist Ward wrote a landmark intervention for New Socialist. They began by asking of the AES: ‘[d]oes this strategy, conceived in the 1970s, remain valid as a programme for the mid-1980s?’ They argued that the ‘starting point’ should now be different, partly because of higher levels of 64

Stuart Holland, ‘New Strategy for Europe’, New Socialist (November/December 1982), 7–14, at 8, 10. 65 Ibid., 11–13. 66 ‘Editorial’, New Socialist (November/December 1982), 4. 67 Shock, ‘Becoming European Internationalists’. 68 Bob Rowthorn, ‘Britain and Western Europe’, Marxism Today (May 1982), 25–31.

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unemployment and manufacturing closures, but also because surviving industry will be ‘more multinational and more dependent on exports’. They also noted the inflationary dangers of rapid reflation, leading to punishment on the financial markets. Among their solutions, they included national political control of interest rates, the assets of financial intermediaries, and foreign exchange transactions. The nation state remained a critical economic actor. However, due to the international recession, they welcomed growing calls for ‘an AES for Europe’. Here, they were much clearer than Holland that this would probably involve a restructured European Community. They painted Labour’s policy of withdrawal as ‘tantamount to a strike’ against a ‘monetarist’ institution and suggested that a better tactic might be for a Labour government to suspend EEC rules, rather than withdraw. This would, they claimed, precipitate a debate on decentralising some EC powers to nations. They also floated a potential tactic of offering the continuing existence of the unpopular Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) as a quid pro quo for an interventionist Common Industrial Policy, and the creation of a much stronger European Monetary System (EMS).69 From this point onwards, these economists became ever more pessimistic about unilateral national policies. As a 1983 Guardian feature revealed, Cripps was becoming fixated by the idea that the nation state was losing potency in the global economy.70 This burgeoning revisionism exhibited by Holland, Cripps, and Rowthorn was then recapitulated by the Guardian’s European editor John Palmer, at the beginning of 1983. While critiquing these interventions, he broadly welcomed them as moving beyond ‘blinkered dogma that passes for socialist thought in the ranks of Fortress Britain nationalists’. Palmer further contended that while the internal debate of Labour implied ‘little or nothing has changed’ since the AES first appeared, the world had transformed dramatically, witnessing ‘the collapse of the post-second world war, Western Keynesian economic consensus’.71 An accompanying box used trade statistics lifted directly from Rowthorn’s Marxism Today essay to demonstrate the Europeanisation of the UK’s trade.72 Among the metropolitan left media and prominent British 69

Francis Cripps and Terry Ward, ‘Road to Recovery’, New Socialist (July/August 1982), 22–26. 70 Martin Walker, ‘A Model Revolution for the Old School’, Guardian, 27 September 1983, 17. 71 John Palmer, ‘Common people, Not common market’, New Socialist (January/February 1983), 15–20, at 16. 72 John Ross, ‘Britain and the European Community’, New Socialist (January/February 1983), 19.

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left-wing economists, therefore, growing numbers were drawing new conclusions from the growth of ‘multinationals’ and increasingly stressing the Europeanisation of the UK’s trading links. This pushed them into openly discussing ‘alternative European strategies’, rather than the still iconic AES. These were not simply ivory tower abstractions: these thinkers actively tried to construct a pan-European, ‘multinational’ socialist politics. In the early 1980s, Holland became deeply involved in an international scheme to construct an alternative European strategy that tackled both the recession and the deeper question of socialism in the multinational world. His involvement began when he met an ambitious French Socialist, Jacques Delors, at a European Commission committee in 1976. Together they formed a network of European socialist politicians, economists, and advisors.73 This forum became the ‘Out of Crisis’ project, sponsored by Mitterrand’s Socialist administration, which aimed to put meat on the bone of pan-European socialist cooperation.74 Their forum contained a long list of policy-minded politicians and politically engaged academics from twelve European countries and a variety of socialist parties and institutes. Joining Holland, UK members numbered Cripps, Ward, and Rowthorn – all contributors to the debate above – as well as Emma MacLennan from the Low Pay Unit.75 The resultant report’s policies and language were strongly resonant of the New Socialist articles by Holland and Cripps. It repeated word for word the claim that ‘[a]t the turn of the century labour in Europe was international in organisation while capital was mainly national. Today it is the reverse’ and contended elsewhere that ‘[t]he supply side of the economy has been transformed since the war by the trend to multinational big business, which has qualified the effectiveness of national policy instruments of the conventional Keynesian kind’, as had the fall of Bretton Woods and resultant currency instability. This mandated ‘[p]lanned trade and coordinated reflation of the European economy’ as a ‘strategic means of gaining accountability over the major multinational companies in both the financial and non-financial sectors’, and to ‘enable individual countries to sustain reflationary policies over the medium term’. Alongside cumulative reflation, the project advocated 73 Baris Tufekci, The Socialist Ideas of the British Alternative Economic Strategy (Basingstoke, 2020), 110. 74 Stuart Holland, ‘Perestroika: The Global Challenge’, in Ken Coates (ed.), Perestroika: Global Challenge: Our Common Future, with Mikhail Gorbachev, Neil Kinnock et al. (Nottingham, 1988) 134–149, at 143. 75 Stuart Holland (ed.), Out of Crisis: A Project for European Recovery (Nottingham, 1983), 198–199.

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‘wider international control over financial institutions’ to counter assault by financial actors, and tentatively suggested that governments could ‘provide each other with considerable mutual support in the event of any “loss of confidence” in one of their countries’ currencies’.76 The project launched in Paris in March 1983.77 It was promoted by New Socialist’s editor James Curran, who must have welcomed the publicity it gave his magazine.78 Did this ‘Out of Crisis’ project have any tangible influence? It clearly shaped the activities of the Socialist International (SI) as the organisation tried to create a new left agenda for both the global north and global south in the 1980s. ‘Out of Crisis’ was praised in a 1985 SI report Global Challenge, spearheaded by the veteran social democrat and former West German Chancellor, Willy Brandt, and the charismatic democratic socialist and former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Michael Manley. Though more focused on global rather than regional transnationalism, Brandt and Manley’s report similarly advocated transnational and co-operative socialist policymaking as an answer to the ‘crisis of national democracy’. Holland was specifically named as a key contributor to its drafting.79 But did this ‘Out of Crisis’ project have any impact on the British Labour Party leadership? In the Spring of 1983, Holland claimed that ‘Out of Crisis’ was endorsed by both Michael Foot and the TUC.80 In 1982, Foot suggested to European socialists, at the Confederation of Socialist Parties in the European Community (Confed), that they should coordinate their campaigning and policies through the SI, even once the UK had withdrawn from the EC.81 Given Labour’s pledge for immediate withdrawal, though, it seems likely that Foot would have made that argument anyway. The direct influence of ‘Out of Crisis’ on Foot is not immediately apparent. However, there is a more discernible impact on Neil Kinnock. Once leader, one of Kinnock’s first interventions on Europe kept open the possibility of continued membership and signalled a possible shift of the party’s position. Notably, he chose to publish this in New Socialist, 76

Ibid., 26–32, 66. 77 Frances Williams, ‘Socialist Plan for European Recovery’, The Times, 17 March 1983, 19. 78 See Stuart Holland, ‘Out of Crisis – International Economic Recovery’, in James Curran (ed), The Future of the Left (Cambridge, 1984), 243–265 at 261–264. Curran recalls the European debates as a major contribution of the New Socialist: Interview with James Curran, 13 February 2018. 79 Socialist International, Global Challenge: From Crisis to Cooperation: Breaking the NorthSouth Stalemate (London, 1985), 10–12, 65–67. 80 Stuart Holland, ‘International Aspects’, in Jon Lansman and Alan Meale (eds), Beyond Thatcher: The Real Alternative (London, 1983), 64–81, at 76. 81 Roger Broad, Labour’s European Dilemmas: From Bevin to Blair (Basingstoke, 2001), 149.

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the magazine that had hosted many of these debates on the AES and Europe. He also asked Holland for advice on the piece.82 This influence can be seen in the article, which was later republished in Curran’s edited collection on the Future of the Left (1984). Kinnock was agnostic on the EC, criticising the CAP and insufficient investment by member states. However, he argued that multinationals had changed the terms of the conversation: At every stage of capitalism a new power of commerce has arisen in a locality, a region, a state. And eventually the extension and exertion of that power had collided with the interests of the community … In the age of multinational capitalism, democracy must be multinational too.83

Kinnock called for joint planning of trade, and coordinated tackling of Third World poverty, as well as progress towards disarmament. To achieve this, he argued that the makeup of the existing EC was a barrier, and that it needed a ‘new Messina Conference’. As well as this article, Kinnock, along with his European affairs spokesperson Robin Cook, spoke to the Socialist Group of MEPs in late 1983 arguing for a coordinated European recovery programme. Cook claimed that ‘[r]eflation in one country is no longer a viable strategy in the modern world’.84 Nonetheless, in political terms, the ‘Out of Crisis’ project was ambitious bordering on the frankly utopian. The strategy assumed that once some countries began to reflate, the pressures of public opinion would force others to follow, or the election of socialist governments would solve the issue. Given that when it launched, socialist-controlled France, Greece, and Spain were suffering from high inflation and trade deficits, while West Germany had just elected a new conservative government, this strategy was rightly deemed by a sceptical Times journalist as ‘bold but excessively risky for those in the vanguard’.85 This was especially so given that the Euro AES was conceived outside a solid political structure, such as the European Communities. When Foot argued at Confed that British withdrawal did not preclude international coordination, he was strongly rebuffed by German and Italian socialists.86 The Guardian’s John Palmer made a similar argument, noting that Euro-AES strategies ‘depend on the coming to power of a sufficient number of like-minded, 82 Holland, ‘Alternative European and Economic Strategies’, 116, 122. 83 Neil Kinnock, ‘New Deal for Europe’, in Curran (ed), Future of the Left, 231–243, at 234. 84 Quoted in Anderson and Mann, Safety First, 120. Cook had previously worked closely with Cripps and Morrell in the early 1980s. See Cripps et al., Manifesto, 7. 85 Williams, ‘Socialist Plan for European recovery’. 86 Broad, Labour’s European Dilemmas, 149.

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left-wing governments. But at present the political pendulum is set fairly clearly to the right’.87 Labour’s own research department suggested that ‘Out of Crisis’ was unrealistic.88 Events in France were particularly damaging to both ‘Out of Crisis’ and the 1970s AES. The fate of Mitterrand’s presidency after its initial burst of radicalism between 1981 and 1983 has been correctly identified as a major turning point for the British left, and indeed social democracy in Europe.89 While Mitterrand had achieved reforms like the abolition of the death penalty, the country was increasingly afflicted by rising inflation and currency turmoil, as it bore the hostility of financial traders to its major fiscal expansion. Mitterrand refused to devalue the franc early in his presidency. As time passed, the window of opportunity narrowed: investors took flight and reserves began dipping dangerously. This pushed Mitterrand into belated and ineffective devaluations. Finally, he announced his (in)famous ‘U-Turn’, involving dramatic cuts to fiscal stimulus and a pivot towards supply-side ‘modernisation’ reforms to boost competitiveness.90 Mitterrand’s woes were important for British left-wing perceptions of national autonomy in three main ways. First, from a British perspective, France’s currency difficulties encouraged attention to switch (back) from multinationals to financial vigilantes. Second, for many observers, the derailing of Mitterrand’s agenda undermined anti-EC arguments. Of course, the ‘lessons of Mitterrand’ were partly dependent on the student in question. The Labour Common Market Safeguards Committee (LCMSC), a Eurosceptic ginger group, contended that the EMS had prevented Mitterrand from devaluing sufficiently earlier in his administration.91 But others pointed out the obvious wrinkle: Mitterrand himself had initially recoiled from devaluation, and then had devalued (ineffectually) several times. As the Guardian’s Palmer thus saw it, Mitterrand’s U-Turn had little to do with the EC, but rather the foreign exchange markets, confounding the predictions of Eurosceptic British socialists. He argued that it was a similar story when PASOK was savaged by the worldwide recession and spiralling inflation. ‘In no case were policy changes in Paris or Athens dictated in Brussels.’92 Third, Mitterrand’s failure exposed the geopolitical naiveté of ‘Out of Crisis’. Over 87

88 89 90

Palmer, ‘Common People’, 18. Wickham-Jones, Economic Strategy, 185. Tindale, ‘Learning to Love the Market’, 283–284. David R. Cameron, ‘Exchange Rate Politics in France, 1981–3: The Regime-Defining Choices of the Mitterrand Presidency’, in Anthony Daley (ed.), The Mitterrand Era: Policy Alternatives and Political Mobilization in France (Basingstoke, 1996), 56–83. 91 Broad, Labour’s European Dilemmas, 151. 92 Palmer, ‘Common People’, 19; Tindale, ‘Learning to Love the Market’, 283.

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the previous year and a half, Mitterrand had tried to convince other G7 countries like Germany and the UK to jointly reflate and coordinate investment in high-technology industries to collectively ‘modernise’ their industrial capacities. While less radical, the similarity with ‘Out of Crisis’ is apparent. Thatcher and Reagan were, unsurprisingly, not very sympathetic with Mitterrand – neither were Schmidt nor Kohl.93 This left Mitterrand’s fiscal expansion fatefully isolated. For most advocates of an ‘alternative European strategy’, Mitterrand’s growing difficulties both confirmed the vulnerability of a unilateral national strategy and pushed them to reconsider the EC. Hence, it was during Mitterrand’s woes that Cripps and Ward advocated reforming the EC rather than striking out alone.94 Holland initially attempted, unsuccessfully, to push against this pessimism. Even following the 1983 electoral disaster in Britain, he still pointed to ‘recent gains of radical governments of the Left in Europe’, along with the victory of the Australian Labour Party, as providing a potential political opportunity to pursue ‘Out of Crisis’.95 In 1984, Holland brushed aside Mitterrand’s reversal by claiming that ‘Out of Crisis’ could be enacted by socialists willing to be ‘a European left rather than a left within one country. Precisely by being a left open to all Europe and a wider world rather than confined by the Common Market’.96 This paean appeared increasingly utopian. Nevertheless, key figures involved in the AES, especially those most interested in the implications of the ‘age of multinationals’, were increasingly turning to supranational solutions, and this intellectual climate was absorbed by important politicians like Kinnock. Over the 1980s and into the 1990s, this development continued to shape the intellectual life of the British left.

‘Beyond the Nation State’?

Though not quite as decisively as was claimed at the time, the years between 1983 and 1989 saw Labour move from hostility to acceptance of the European Community. In explaining this development, Stephen Tindale has rightly highlighted the increasing contact with European socialist parties

93

François Mitterrand, ‘Technology, Employment and Growth’, 5 June 1982 [www .g8.utoronto.ca/summit/1982versailles/report_english/index.html]; Alan McGregor, ‘Mitterrand Warning on Social Chaos’, The Times, 3 June 1982, 7. 94 Cripps and Ward, ‘Road to Recovery’, 22–23. Tellingly, the same edition of New Socialist published a concerned article on developments in France: Chantal Mouffe, ‘Le crunch’, New Socialist (July/August 1982), 26–30. 95 Stuart Holland, ‘Economic Objectives’, in Lansman and Meale (eds), Beyond Thatcher, 17–39, at 37–38. 96 Holland, ‘Out of Crisis’, 263.

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and the changes in the Community itself, especially the turn towards ‘Social Europe’. Also key were the litany of ‘progressive’ directives coming from Brussels, contrasting starkly with Thatcher’s governments, along with the Commission’s willingness to deal with trade unions that were now ignored by Westminster.97 Additionally, party policymakers became increasingly comfortable with using European examples in their publications. By 1988, and in direct contrast to Benn deleting references to European and Japanese policies a few years earlier, the Policy Review Directorate was actively encouraging the use of international precedents.98 However, the evolving arguments over ‘multinationals’ and an ‘alternative European strategy’ over the later 1980s also played a key role in changing Labour’s stance. In turn, this was crucial in preparing the ground for the circulation of the idea of ‘globalisation’ among the British left. The claims of the alternative European strategy’s champions were never universally accepted. Still, through further spreading the idea that national economic autonomy was more constrained than ever before, they helped build a consensus among large swathes of both the party’s left and right on the need for more supranational responses to supranational capital. They also began to marginalise proponents of unilateral macroeconomic interventions. Following the 1983 electoral catastrophe, new battle lines were emerging in a lively debate over the place of the nation state in Labour’s future economic strategy. Some, like Benn and Heffer, continued to advocate national economic solutions forcefully. Others – including vocal exBennites – turned decisively to advocating supranational solutions. A central figure was Frances Morrell, leader of the Inner London Education Authority and regular fixture in the brutal politics of London Labour. The literature has highlighted the importance of Morrell’s bitter split with her old boss Benn, joining other key members of the emerging ‘soft left’ such as Tom Sawyer, David Blunkett, and Michael Meacher.99 This factional realignment solidified Kinnock’s support on the NEC and facilitated the emergence of the crucial ‘Policy Review’. But the soft left did not just break with Benn over organisational issues like whether to expel the entryist group Militant Tendency.100 Power 97 Tindale, ‘Learning to Love the Market’, 279, 291, 295. 98 Policy Directorate, ‘The Policy Review Process and International Experience’, PD (I) 1126 (A):January 1988, PHM LPA Policy Review Papers. 99 This split was keenly felt. Benn described one acrimonious meeting as ‘embarrassing’. Benn, End of an Era, 411 [5 June 1985]; Shaw, The Labour Party Since 1979, 38–39. 100 Christopher Massey, ‘The Labour Party’s Inquiry into Liverpool District Labour Party and Expulsion of Nine Members of Militant Tendency, 1985–6’, Contemporary British History 34:2 (2020), 299–324.

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brokers like Morrell also moved from being a tireless advocate of the national 1970s AES to becoming one of the most prominent champions for a pan-European socialist politics. Yet, this battle was not straightforwardly fought between dyed-in-thewool Bennites and the ‘soft left’. Among those who continued to advocate national economic strategies and repudiate the European Community were self-conscious ‘revisionists’ like the MP who succeeded Anthony Crosland in Grimsby, Austin Mitchell.101 Particularly significant was the ambitious Labour MP Bryan Gould. In electoral strategy and the ideology of democratic socialism, Gould was considered an advocate of change, and later of ‘modernisation’, as Chapter 2 explores in more depth.102 He also became a key figure in Labour’s self-consciously ‘modernising’ Policy Review. This division is encapsulated in a 1985 New Socialist debate between Morrell and Gould. In her contribution, Morrell stressed that Wilson and Mitterrand had both capitulated to currency speculation, and that ‘[p]lainly, we have to consider how we can break out of this cycle of election, capitulation, and then rejection by the electorate’. Morrell contended that the EC was Labour’s best option. She argued that, though it was too free market, the Treaty of Rome was not as dangerous to Labour as the instability of sterling. Thus, Labour should work with European socialists to reform the EMS, so that the scheme protected currencies against speculation and supported employment. Anti-Atlanticism was another key aspect of Morrell’s increasing Europhilia: she conceived a socialist EC as a way of detaching the UK from America’s sphere of influence in geopolitics.103 Given that Morrell had previously co-authored a pamphlet with Benn during the 1975 referendum that even the veteran Eurosceptic Barbara Castle thought was exaggeratedly hostile to the EC, this article was a considerable reorientation.104 Gould, meanwhile, proposed policies primarily centred on the British nation state. He strongly criticised attempts to prioritise currency value and inflation over the ‘real economy’, and therefore advocated: exchange controls, a ‘new relationship with the Bank of England so that it can be relied upon as an instrument of government policy’, and an acceptance of devaluation resulting from a ‘loss of confidence’. Against 101 Austin Mitchell, Competitive Socialism (London, 1989). 102 John Lloyd and Ben Pimlott, ‘You Can Have Anything You Damned Well Please’, New Statesman, 5 November 1987, 19–20; Martin Kettle and Patrick Wintour, ‘Party Log-Jam Builds to Autumn Explosion’, Guardian, 10 July 1993, 29. 103 Frances Morrell and Bryan Gould, ‘Can Labour Deliver?’, New Socialist (October 1985), 8–14, at 8–12. 104 Saunders, Yes to Europe, 175.

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Morrell, Gould was clear that, for this manufacturing-led expansion to work, the UK must be outside the EC, due to the ‘immense flood of imported manufactures … a flood which has destroyed British jobs and closed British factories’. As such, Labour’s withdrawal policy was not ‘an optional extra’ but ‘an integral part of that programme’.105 Alongside these public debates, Gould was also pushing for Eurosceptic policies internally. During the formation of Labour’s 1985–6 ‘Jobs and Industry’ campaign, Gould suggested repealing Section 2 of the 1972 European Communities Act to facilitate industrial intervention without the threat of legal challenge from competitor employers under EC rules. This sparked a refutation from MEP Geoff Hoon, who argued that repeal would be inflammatory and, consequently, actually increase the likelihood of legal challenge to government policy.106 After Labour’s 1987 defeat, these arguments continued to rage. It was also in the late 1980s that the rising importance of multinational business and finance diagnosed by Morrell and Holland began to be described as ‘globalisation’. Some continued to argue that the nation state retained significant economic power. In 1988, the Fabian Society published a pamphlet authored by Jim Tomlinson (later the distinguished economic historian). Tomlinson argued that the extent of multinationalisation claimed by Holland and his followers was exaggerated, and it was unclear whether this development had actually undermined ‘national economic sovereignty’. He suggested that problems of autonomy in economic governance seemed to stem more from high-velocity capital flows, which was a short-term consequence of the fall of Bretton Woods, rather than the longer-term structural changes in production. Tomlinson also noted that the UK had been an open economy before, in the early twentieth century. He also stressed factors specific to the UK in 1967 and France in 1982–1983 and pointed to the success of Sweden’s reflation despite its openness (in 1988, Sweden’s real estate bubble was not yet apparent).107 He thus suggested that other factors, such as industrial uncompetitiveness and a negative trade balance, were more crucial than globalisation in reversing the policies of socialist governments. Tomlinson was 105 Morrell and Gould, ‘Can Labour Deliver?’, 12–14. 106 Minutes of the Joint Policy Committee on Jobs and Industry, 27 February 1986, PHM LPA Box 102; Letter from Geoff Hoon to Bryan Gould, 4 March 1986, PHM LPA Policy Review Papers. See also a letter from Geoff Hoon to Charles Clarke, 10 February 1988, CAC KNNK 1/3/23. 107 Jim Tomlinson, Can Governments Manage the Economy? (London, 1988). Many in British Labour were interested in Sweden in the late 1980s, as were revisionists in previous decades. Mike Gapes, ‘Listening to the Labour Movement in Sweden’, PD (I)1297:February 1988, PHM LPA Policy Review Papers; O’Hara, Governing Post-War Britain, 13–14.

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noticeably cautious (the UK could not return to the ‘halcyon days of the 1950s and 1960s … The context has changed’) but he clearly contended that there was still scope for national action.108 This intervention was enthusiastically welcomed by Gould, who wrote in its preface that ‘[a]ll too often, we are told that a Labour government in Britain would be powerless … because the globalisation of capital markets and the operations of multinationals render “socialism in one country” impossible’. Instead, Gould suggested, if the government were willing to prioritise the ‘real economy’ over finance in its interest and exchange rates, it could secure the welfare of its people.109 However, as Gould’s complaints tacitly revealed, this pamphlet was going against the political grain. Over the later 1980s, Morrell continued to promote the concept of declining of national autonomy in the modern economy. In 1987, she teamed up with Terry Ward, the Cambridge economist and Euro AES advocate who had previously worked with Cripps, to draft a paper for a conference on the European left. Morrell summarised the paper in a later article, ‘Beyond One-Nation Socialism’, which sketched a ‘changing world order’, featuring the economic unification of Western Europe, American military decoupling, and the softening of the USSR. On national economic autonomy, she argued that there were three new constraints: greater international trade, meaning that competitiveness in export markets was more critical; the expansion of powerful multinational companies; and ‘perhaps most importantly’, the liberalisation of capital flows and currency trading (particularly after the City of London’s ‘Big Bang’ of deregulation in 1986). Consequently, Morrell rhetorically positioned Labour’s attachment to national solutions as conservative, derived from ‘imperial assumptions’ of national autonomy from the realities of geopolitical and economic power relations.110 Morrell was blunt that policy freedom was now severely limited: To assume that such means are available to a national government acting unilaterally … is to fly in the face of both reason and recent history. The process of economic integration in Europe has gone too far for that. What is needed is a framework at the European level for managing trade relations with the rest of the world, for negotiating with multi-national companies and for regulating monetary conditions within Europe.111 108 Tomlinson, Can Governments, 9, 12–15. His emphasis. See also Jim Tomlinson, Monetarism: Is There an Alternative? Non-Monetarist Strategies for the Economy (Oxford, 1986), 26. 109 Bryan Gould, ‘Preface’, in Tomlinson, Can Governments, 1–2. 110 Frances Morrell, ‘Beyond One-Nation Socialism: An Agenda for the European Left’, The Political Quarterly 59:3 (1988), 300–310, at 300–304. 111 Ibid., 305.

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Morrell and Ward’s sketch of contemporary developments in capitalism, by identifying multinational power and Europeanising trade, thus echoed major parts of the earlier ‘alternative European strategy’, albeit with greater attention to the threat of globalising finance. Combined, they contended, these developments demanded a supranational response by socialists at the European level. Consequently, Morrell and Ward endorsed staying in, reforming and extending the EC. Trade relations, negotiating with multinationals, and monetary matters had to be ‘centralised’ at the European level, which therefore required new, supranational institutions and structures of political accountability.112 Importantly, the core arguments of Morrell and Ward’s paper spread widely and became a symbol of ‘modernisation’ – which, in turn, made their opponents seem increasingly ‘outdated’. Spin-offs of their paper were published in several significant publications for the British left over the late 1980s, such as the New Statesman.113 Key opinion formers also foregrounded their arguments and political journey. The Guardian’s Hugo Young quoted Morrell in a column on ‘the acceptable face of socialism’ ridiculing ‘leading members of … today’s labour movement who never tire of quoting dead heroes, mourning past defeats, and above all arguing for obsolescent economic and industrial strategies’. Young was surely right to surmise that Morrell was disparaging her old boss Benn, and the economic strategies she had endorsed in the 1970s, as hopelessly outdated.114 Meanwhile, editor of the New Statesman John Lloyd wrote approvingly of ‘modernising British socialists, to the left and the right’, who ‘have sensibly despaired of having much influence on the [national] state and are looking elsewhere for a role’. He quoted Morrell and Ward’s paper directly attacking ‘nation-state socialists’ who ‘have tried to resist the implications of the internationalisation of capital’.115 Their paper was also cited by David Martin MEP, leader of the British Labour Group and vice president of the Socialist Group of the European Parliament, in a 1988 Fabian pamphlet (which included a preface by Kinnock himself). Martin was clear that the ‘era of the nation state and of national roads to socialism is drawing to a close in Europe’.116 These 112 Ibid. 113 Frances Morrell and Terry Ward, ‘Disaster Can Be averted’, New Statesman, 30 October 1987, 12–13; Frances Morrell, Peter Schulze, and Terry Ward, ‘Europe United’, New Socialist (April/May 1989), 18–21. 114 Hugo Young, ‘New Maps of the Acceptable Face of Socialism, Guardian, 5 March 1987, 17. 115 John Lloyd, ‘In Search of a New Internationale’, Financial Times, 26 October 1987, 21. 116 David Martin, Bringing Common Sense to the Common Market (London, 1988), 3.

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assumptions became widespread. Journalist John Rentoul, for example, confidently asserted in 1989 that the ‘tide of history is clearly running towards greater European integration’.117 We can even see the spread of their ideas within Kinnock’s office, in a pessimistic briefing paper that dwelt on political dilemma of accepting the European Single Market without significant social measures. The paper’s author singled out Morrell and Ward, stressing that, alongside their anti-Atlanticist endorsement of European neutrality, their arguments formed part of a ‘re-assessment of the possibilities of socialism-in-one-nation in our modern, open trading world’.118 These interventions arose in the context of Labour’s Policy Review, undoubtedly a major staging post in Labour’s Europeanisation, as it was for a whole host of policy revisions.119 In formulating strategy, Kinnock’s office was keen to champion Labour’s shift towards supporting European integration as symbolic of the party’s ‘modernisation’. In a 1989 strategy briefing note, Kinnock celebrated Labour’s successes in the European elections and credited their advances with the ‘changed “perception” of Labour attitude to Europe, seen as modern in a key area’.120 Patricia Hewitt, the Review’s coordinator, argued that it showed Kinnock’s determination to ‘make Labour a modern European democratic socialist party’.121 This meant that Eurosceptic voices in the Review were pushed to the margins. The LCMSC complained that their submissions to the Review were ignored.122 During the NEC votes on an interim Review report, Ken Livingstone tried to resurrect Gould’s idea of repealing of Section 2 of the 1972 Act, but lost the vote. Another amendment arguing for withdrawal from the EEC was also defeated (in a neat reflection of his Euroscepticism but loyalty to the leadership, Gould abstained rather than voted against).123 During this process, the autonomy of the nation state in a globalising world was at the forefront of minds. A key review group on economic and industrial policy made the scope for independent action in an international economy one of its central questions of inquiry, and while its conclusions were keen to stress areas of continuing 117 John Rentoul, ‘New Thinking’, New Socialist (October/November 1989), 47–50, at 49. 118 J. Murphy, ‘Europe and the Labour Party’, May 1988, CAC KNNK 1/3/23. 119 Labour Party, Meet the Challenge, Make the Change: A New Agenda for Britain (London, 1989), 7. 120 Neil Kinnock, ‘The Current Political Situation – Keeping the Initiative’, CAC KNNK, 2/1/133. His emphasis. 121 Patricia Hewitt draft article, 21 July 1989, CAC KNNK 2/1/133; Patricia Hewitt, ‘Positive Thinking’, New Statesman and Society, 4 August 1989, 22. 122 LCMSC, ‘LCMSC Response to Discussion Paper Seven Britain in the World’, n.d., LPA PHM Policy Review Papers. 123 Minutes of the NEC, 25 May 1988, PHM LPA; Benn, End of an Era, 544–545.

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freedom, this shows the prominence of the question.124 Outsiders, like Peter Tatchell, were also submitting to the Review endorsements of a pan-European socialist vision and criticisms of ‘looking backward to an insular and almost bygone age and specifically “British” socialism’.125

Maastricht, the ERM, and the 1992 Leadership Contest

Though Labour had formally repudiated Euroscepticism by 1989, the debate over the relative power of the UK nation state was still very much live. The years between 1989 and the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty in 1993 were marked by intense divisions over the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), and European integration more broadly. These debates exposed contrasting assumptions over the scope of national autonomy in a globalising economy. Yet, they also demonstrate that, in the early 1990s, it was increasingly common to believe that ‘modern socialism’ had no choice but to adapt to ‘globalisation’ – on Labour’s left as well as its right. The controversy over Maastricht posed uncomfortable dilemmas for the growing numbers on Labour’s left who agreed that the globalisation of capital and finance and Europeanising of trade demanded supranational responses but opposed the details of Jacques Delors’s Europe. Their complex and compromised responses reflected and helped spread further the perception of ‘globalisation’ among the British left. Before turning to the debate over EMU, we should note another significant development over this period that ran parallel to perceptions on economic globalisation. Just as the Cold War and anti-Atlanticism were crucial for the early 1980s Euro AES, so too was the case for supranationalism in the late 1980s bolstered by the rapid rise of green politics. While a marginal feature of British politics hitherto, the Greens’ sudden electoral advance during European elections in 1989 confirmed their rising prominence, as did international advances for ecological politics (notably the use of the Chernobyl disaster against the Soviet Union by dissidents).126 In reaction, Labour figures began scrambling to position themselves as ‘Red-Green’ in the face of this new competition.127 124



125 126 127

Anon., ‘Key Questions for Second Meeting’, PD 12-2 (December 1987), for the Productive and Competitive Economy PRG, PHM LPA Policy Review Papers. Peter Tatchell, ‘Why Labour Should Be Committed to a United Democratic & Socialist Europe’, 1 May 1988, PHM LPA Policy Review Papers. His emphasis. Serhii Plokhy, Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy (London, 2019), 285–317. Peter Schulze, ‘The Green Experience’, New Socialist (August/September 1989), 14–15; Neil Kinnock, ‘Meeting the Green Challenge’, New Socialist (October/ November 1989), 8–12.

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This provided a further justification for Labour to investigate supranational political structures – as was often intoned, environmental threats like acid rain and nuclear fallout transcended national borders. Hence, the Policy Review’s 1989 report justified ‘transnational action’ firstly through reference to Chernobyl.128 Interestingly, the environment was one area where Gould did not diverge from the growing consensus. By 1989, Gould was coordinating Labour’s European campaign (in which they stood on a joint manifesto with other socialist parties), showing his compromises as a member of the Shadow Cabinet. According to Roger Broad, Gould accepted that environmental politics required a framework above the nation state.129 Nevertheless, this only underlines the political explosiveness of views on national economic autonomy. Gould was seemingly willing to accept European and international constraints on national sovereignty for environmental matters, but he chafed at the suggestion this should apply to monetary or fiscal policy. The arguments over EMU and ERM placed the role of the nation state in the ‘modern’, globalising economy front and centre. While most could agree on the principle of transnational action on ecological concerns, Labour’s defining debate over the nation state in the modern world centred on the possibility of major, unilateral, macroeconomic interventions. Indeed, the relationship between macroeconomics and the constitutional politics of European integration unsettled British high politics across the spectrum. By the end of the 1980s, the prospect of the Single Market and further European integration dawned on the main parties. The political implications of ‘1992’ and controversies over the European Monetary Union were increasingly destabilising the Conservative right. They contributed to the resignations of Nigel Lawson, Geoffrey Howe, and Margaret Thatcher herself, and through the Maastricht Treaty debates during John Major’s star-crossed government, eventually tore the Tories’ internal unity to shreds.130 Unsurprisingly, the political explosiveness of Maastricht and the ERM ensured that Labour could not avoid confronting them in opposition. In 1990, the party leadership staked its position by committing to ERM membership.131 Jacques 128 Labour, Meet the Challenge, 7. 129 Broad, Labour’s European Dilemmas, 170. For Gould on environmentalism, see: Bryan Gould, ‘Our Future Is under Threat’, Labour Party News (January/February 1990), 8–10. 130 A good summary is Tim Bale, The Conservative Party from Thatcher to Cameron, second ed. (Cambridge, 2016), chap. 2. 131 Labour Party, Looking to the Future: A Dynamic Economy, A Decent Society, Strong in Europe (London, 1990), 7.

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Delors’s famous 1988 speech to the TUC, along with engagement from many leading trade unionists and Labour figures, helped build support among the party for greater integration (Delors pointed to the ‘globalisation of markets’ interacting with ‘new technologies’ to justify 1992).132 However, some aspects intensely divided opinion. While all of Labour could condemn John Major’s opt-out of the Social Chapter, key divisions arose over the ERM. Under Kinnock’s leadership, the party endorsed the principle of EMU, while criticising the details – objecting to proposals for an independent European central bank and insufficient structural and regional funds for ‘convergence’ between member states.133 Others in Labour wanted firmer opposition. Critics baulked at the democratic implications of an unelected German central bank, or the proposed European central bank, controlling British interest rates, as well as the danger that these bodies would, by fetishizing inflation, further destroying the UK’s ‘real economy’. One of the reasons the ERM was so controversial was because Labour continually wrestled with the question of whether it should consciously devalue the currency and (it was believed by some) boost manufacturing. These tensions afflicted Kinnock’s office. One of Kinnock’s most enduring self-images across his leadership was as the champion of the manufacturing sector. He was therefore instinctively sympathetic to the arguments of those (notably including Bryan Gould) for a devaluation to boost the ‘real economy’ via export-led growth.134 Yet, Kinnock was also increasingly convinced of the need for supranational and Europe-wide strategies for tackling multinational capital and finance, and as such supported monetary union. This tension also afflicted his economic advisor John Eatwell, who likewise evangelised the importance of a strong, competitive manufacturing sector. In 1989, he was distinctly agnostic on the ERM, noting the dangers of unaccountability and the German trade surplus enforcing deflation on other participants.135 However, Eatwell was also sceptical of the efficacy of a unilateral devaluation – like many post-Keynesian Cambridge economists, the lesson he had drawn from the 1967 devaluation was the ultimate limitations of devaluation 132



133



134 135

Jacques Delors, ‘Speech to the TUC’, 8 September 1988 [www.margaretthatcher.org/ document/113686]. Economic Secretariat, ‘ERM and EMU: An Update’, 8 November 1989, CAC KNNK 8/53; Economic Secretariat, ‘Economic and Monetary Union’, GS:6/11/90, CAC KNNK 8/54. Interview with Neil Kinnock, 26 March 2018. Mark Stuart suggests that while he endorsed no candidate after vacating the leadership in 1992, Kinnock hoped Gould would win. Stuart, John Smith, 228. John Eatwell, ‘Socialising the Single Market’, New Socialist (August/September 1989), 26–28.

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in reversing deindustrialisation. Privately, he wrote a technical letter to Gould deconstructing the latter’s assumptions and arguing that, given the UK’s qualitatively uncompetitive exporting industries, a ‘dirty float outside the ERM’ would lead to an ‘exchange rate/inflation spiral’ before it had even a chance of achieving any positive impact on exports.136 Other dissenting voices on the ERM and advocates of devaluation, like longstanding Eurosceptics Peter Shore and Austin Mitchell, were similarly refuted internally.137 The fact that Kinnock and Eatwell were not totally hostile to Gould’s position was revealed by Mark Stuart, who has uncovered evidence that Kinnock, Eatwell, and chief-of-staff Charles Clarke secretly planned to devalue the sterling within the ERM as soon as they reached government in 1992. According to Stuart, they had covertly reached out to Bank of England staff to discuss the practicalities – even though Shadow Chancellor Smith knew nothing!138 Nonetheless, as a planned revaluation within the ERM, this plan must be distinguished from the unilateral propositions of those like Shore and Mitchell. Generally, while cautious, Eatwell expressed a preference for supranational economic action, if the political will could be found. In a private paper, he suggested European regional funds and ‘automatic’ transfers as solutions to the German trade surplus, and he concluded by suggesting that the ‘interdependence of the European economies demands co-operative solutions to common problems, and renders claims of significant fiscal independence illusory’.139 For others at the top of the party, the ERM provided a useful way of signalling that Labour was serious about controlling inflation and, therefore, protecting the government from financial attack in office. It would help preserve effective national economic sovereignty in the modern economy. Furthermore, it would oil the levers of intra-European trade and possibly lead to further coordination between European governments. John Smith, Labour’s leader between 1992 and 1994, was a strong advocate along these lines.140 Smith endorsed ERM membership during the 1992 leadership election after Labour’s defeat and Kinnock’s 136 Letter from John Eatwell to Bryan Gould, 27 February 1989, CAC KNNK 2/2/39. 137 Peter Shore, ‘The UK and the EMS: Problems of Membership of the Exchange Rate Mechanism’ (February 1990) and Austin Mitchell, ‘Economic and Monetary Union’, n.d. [1990], both in CAC KNNK 8/53. Mitchell’s argument was criticised by an anonymous briefing paper from 18 October 1990, which noted that even if devaluation would work (which was doubted) there was no clear reason why this could not be achieved within the ERM (CAC KNNK 8/54). 138 Stuart, John Smith, 214–216; see also Anderson and Mann, Safety First, 87, 401n47. 139 John Eatwell, ‘The West German Surplus and the Economic Future of the European Community’, n.d. [1989], CAC KNNK 8/53. 140 Stuart, John Smith, 170, 258–259.

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resignation. In his manifesto, he claimed that the UK must face the challenges of the ‘1990s’ in a world ‘changing fast’, which included the ‘new global economy’ and ‘new trading patterns within and outside Europe’, and argued that: Over half our trade is already with the European Community, a trend that is likely to grow. The integration of the European economies reduces the scope for policies of “go it alone” and makes imperative a substantial element of cooperation. A macro economic policy designed in isolation from our European partners may be superficially attractive but in practical terms would be futile and even dangerous.141

This support for Europeanisation as a way to preserve social democracy under the conditions of globalisation was replicated across the leadership of most European socialist parties, although they also harboured reservations about the actual trajectory of integration. In 1990, European socialists raised concerns on the likely deflationary impact of the proposed monetary union under an independent central authority without significant redistributive transfers.142 Still, there was a consensus that further integration was unavoidable, and perceptions of globalisation were a key motivating factor. A report by a Confed working party (on which the Labour Party was represented by Chris Smith), argued that ‘[d]ue to the globalisation of economic and financial markets, the sovereignty of individual states over economic-monetary policy has eroded over the last decades. International forces have to be counterbalanced by international political guidance’.143 Yet, dissent over this emerging position on European integration within Labour was also gaining volume. Gould also ran for the leadership in 1992 and was comprehensively beaten by Smith. He later resigned from the Shadow Cabinet in protest over Smith’s policy response to the Maastricht Treaty. Now liberated by the freedom of the backbenches, Gould agitated for a currency devaluation and was joined by Tribune MPs Peter Hain and John Prescott, and trade unionist John Edmonds.144 Moreover, Hain and Gould became key movers in the left’s campaign 141



142

143 144

John Smith, New Paths to Victory (1992), 1–2, 7, Modern Records Centre, Warwick University (hereafter: MRC), The Papers of Rodney Bickerstaffe (hereafter: BICKERSTAFFE) 657/34. Confederation of the Socialist Parties of the European Community [hereafter: Confed], Economic and Monetary Union, 13 November 1990, CAC KNNK 8/54; Dan Corry, ‘Socialist Group Conference on EMU – 6/7 September 1990’, 11 September 1990, CAC KNNK 8/54. Confed, Economic and Monetary Union, 1. Nicholas Wood, ‘Smith Told to Quash Rebellion Over Pound’, The Times, 10 September 1992, 6.

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to make Labour vote down the Maastricht treaty in late 1992 and 1993, joining forces with Eurosceptics Benn and Shore and, more ambivalently, with the Tory rebels that tormented Major’s troubled Conservative government.145 Nonetheless, while Gould could now join Benn in renouncing the European Community and all its works, others on Labour’s left were toeing a difficult line. Because of earlier debates over the 1980s, many were now convinced that some form of European supranational organisation had become unavoidable in a globalising economy. In May 1992, Hain – Gould’s ally in the anti-Maastricht campaign – nevertheless clearly endorsed the view that supranational political solutions were an urgent necessity in the New Statesman and Society: Much of the analysis from the old Labour left over “loss of sovereignty” is distinctly un-socialist and certainly un-Marxist. The fact is that “sovereignty” has already been ceded to the Euro level, not just politically but, more important, economically. In a nutshell, capital has gone Euro, labour has not. Business and finance now operates at a European if not a global level, yet there are no democratic mechanisms to exert a countervailing influence on behalf of the people. Unlike British romanticists who foresee a loss of sovereignty, the left in Europe understand that the real issue … is one of reclaiming some sovereignty via the only feasible institution appropriate: the European Parliament.146

Hain thus had to square his opposition to the specifics of Maastricht with his support for supranational initiatives. This recalled tensions that had bubbled away within some of the ‘alternative European strategy’ proposals of the 1980s, like Holland’s attempt to combine distaste of the actually existing EC with a vision of multinational socialist cooperation. The dilemma was encapsulated by Tony Banks, a devotee to a federal Europe, who contended that Labour should vote against the treaty and bring down the government, but then return to Europe and renegotiate a better deal, including not just the Social Chapter but also less restrictive convergence criteria.147 Others on Labour’s left positively radiated ambiguity. In 1991, Ken Livingstone argued on the NEC, once again, for repealing Article 2 of the 1972 EC Act, but a few days later signed an Early Day Motion calling for full federalism.148 More coherently perhaps, Hain argued in a parliamentary debate that ‘[f]or me, the problem with the Maastricht treaty is not the movement towards political unification or social cohesion, but the fact 145 Jill Sherman, ‘Labour Left Presses for Referendum’, The Times, 26 June 1992, 13. 146 Peter Hain, ‘Continental Drift’, New Statesman and Society, 22 May 1992, 21. 147 Philip Webster and Nicholas Wood, ‘Labour’s Pro-Europe Faction Fights Back’, The Times, 9 December 1992, 9. 148 Broad, Labour’s European Dilemmas, 184.

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that it imposes a monetarist agenda on Europe … I think that those who are genuinely pro-Europe will not support the treaty … We believe in a Europe of full employment, a Europe of social justice’.149 Later, in a 1995 reflection on the ‘future for socialism’, Hain once again contended that the British left should support European integration, but rail against ‘Euromonetarism’ and democratise the European Union. Real power had already been surrendered to multinational capital: the task for socialists was to construct an effective and democratic multinational response.150 Many ‘soft left’ critics of Smith, like Hain, therefore argued for European integration on the grounds of Europeanising trade and economic globalisation, but against the Maastricht treaty specifically. This formula was enough to sustain a small rebel alliance against Smith’s own studied ambiguity, in which he attacked the government’s opt-outs and divisions, while also ensuring that the treaty passed through abstention. Yet, their interventions also exposed a growing fracture within the dissenting left. The increasing spread of the idea that the global capitalism of the ‘1990s’ required a new supranational politics meant that, even among the opponents to Maastricht, several were believers in some form of supranational European structure. The role of the earlier 1980s debates over the ‘alternative European strategy’ in fostering this widespread concern with globalisation is clear. It is best symbolised by the continued influence of Stuart Holland. Having resigned his seat in 1989 to become an academic in Italy, Holland became a part-time advisor to his old associate Delors and began working on a report on social and economic cohesion for the Commission. He now embraced the EC as a route to an alternative European strategy, despite the deflationary aspects of Maastricht.151 Another former AES advocate, Francis Cripps, similarly advised European socialists and advocated greater European integration.152 Holland also kept up a correspondence with Kinnock’s office, sending reports that called for pan-European solutions to the problems of globalised capital and multinationals.153 When he returned to Parliament to argue the economic case for Maastricht to a backbench Treasury Committee in December 149 150 151 152

153

HC Deb sixth series, vol. 224, cc. 86–134, at cc. 125, 128. Hain, Ayes to the Left, 158–159. Anderson and Mann, Safety First, 94. Francis Cripps and Terry Ward, Europe Can Afford to Work: Strategies for Growth and Employment in the European Community (Nottingham, 1993); Holland, ‘Alternative European and Economic Strategies’, 114. Letters from Stuart Holland to Neil Kinnock (5 April 1990) and Charles Clarke (22 April 1990), CAC KNNK 1/3/48; Letter from Stuart Holland to Jan Royall, 29 October 1991, CAC KNNK 1/3/67.

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1992, The Times reported that his speech was ‘being hyped to the rafters by pro-European Labour MPs’.154 Holland intervened more publicly in Labour’s internal debate over European integration too. After the chaos of Black Wednesday of 16 September 1992, when the financial markets ejected the UK from the ERM after it could not sustain the unrealistic valuation of DM2.95 to the pound, Bryan Gould wrote an essay for the New Statesman and Society. He not only critiqued the overvaluation of the sterling in the ERM, on which most on the left agreed (indeed Smith himself had hinted at revaluation to ease the punitive interest rate burden back in July).155 Gould also attacked the Maastricht Treaty itself, which ‘represents a breathtakingly audacious attempt to enshrine forever in treaty law a permanent victory by bankers over democrats’.156 Holland penned a response, in which he strongly and directly refuted Gould. His criticism was not simply confined to Gould’s hopes that devaluation would lead to an export-led recovery, which he argued was unrealistic given the absence of an autonomous British industrial base.157 He attacked Gould’s whole framework as anachronistic: Keynes is dead, Beveridge is dead, and the national economy of which they wrote has been transformed by a multinational trade and payments system … The response cannot be simply national in the manner Bryan Gould assumes … The days of British or French alternative economic strategies are over. What we need now is an Alternative European Strategy that can realise the principles of Keynes and Beveridge in the new multinational environment … this should mean yes to Maastricht but subject to new joint action to control currency speculation, to create fuller and more useful employment, and to extend social rights and welfare.158

Holland ended by endorsing a single European currency, a European tax on non-trade foreign exchange transactions, and a coordinated European recovery programme.159 As well as publicly refuting Gould, Holland wrote privately to Kinnock during the 1992 leadership contest noting that ‘whatever Brian [Bryan]’s merits, and potential role’ he ‘just does not believe in active European cooperation’.160 In the briefings he sent to Kinnock about his work for Delors, the SI and Confed, he 154 Webster and Wood, ‘Labour’s Pro-Europe Faction Fights Back’. 155 William Keegan, ‘Penny Wise and Pound Foolish on Sterling’, Observer, 26 July 1992, 28. 156 Bryan Gould, ‘After the Tea Party…’, New Statesman and Society, 25 September 1992, 17–18. 157 Stuart Holland, ‘Towards a People’s Europe’, New Statesman and Society, 2 October 1992, 24–25, at 24. 158 Ibid. 159 Ibid., 25. 160 Letter from Stuart Holland to Neil Kinnock, 27 April 1992, CAC KNNK 2/1/193.

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remained hopeful on the prospects of ‘a European Out of Crisis or New Bretton Woods … because of the Confed and the Community – backed by the Socialist International and its allies – there is an actual and potential political coalition at the international level’.161 Kinnock, who after stepping down as Labour leader went to the European Commission himself and eventually became its Vice President, made similar arguments during the Maastricht debates.162 Holland thus remained influential in Labour’s debates, and continued to advocate for an interventionist alternative European strategy to assert democratic control over multinationals and global finance, and improve the lives of ordinary people. Yet, this was now to be achieved, he believed, through remaining in and reforming the European Union.

The Plural Roots of Globalisation’s Place in ‘Modernisation’

In light of all these debates, the limits of our current understanding of the role ‘globalisation’ played in Labour’s evolving politics and ideology become clear. Scholars have established that ‘globalisation’ was a key element in New Labour’s vision of ‘modernisation’, which demanded macroeconomic caution and cooperation through the European Union. However, in explaining this, focus has usually gravitated towards Brown and Blair and writers like Giddens. Our history must broaden its horizons and capture the widespread ‘throw’ among the 1990s Labour Party of the idea that political structures and economic policy must be adapted to the ‘new global economy’ of the modern world. The political importance of ‘globalisation’ is shown in contemporary surveys. In 1995–1996, academics conducted a survey of a third of the PLP (N = 89) and half of Labour’s MEPs (N = 29) on their views of the European Union. Respondents were far from enthusiastic about European integration, with only 52 per cent of MPs and 59 per cent of MEPs – and a measly 6 of the 21 frontbenchers who responded – agreeing that the benefits of EU membership outweighed the disadvantages. Labour’s elected representatives were hardly starry-eyed federalists. However, 88 per cent of MPs and 86 per cent of MEPs thought that the ‘­ globalization of economic activity’ made EU membership ‘more, rather than less necessary’. Even more strikingly, 48 of the 49 responding MPs first elected in 1987 or later, and all the frontbench respondents, agreed with this 161 Stuart Holland, ‘Confed Briefing’, April 1992, CAC KNNK 2/1/193. His emphasis. 162 Neil Kinnock, ‘Europe – More Not Less Cooperation’, n.d. [late 1992], CAC KNNK 8/87.

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statement. By the mid-1990s, therefore, strong majorities of Labour’s representatives – including many sceptical of the EU’s benefits – believed that EU membership was necessary a globalising economy.163 It could be fairly objected that MPs may not be representative of the party as a whole. Yet, similarly high levels of support for European membership were also recorded in large sample surveys of the Labour membership in the 1990s.164 Unfortunately, unlike for MPs and MEPs, we do not know why members were now strongly in favour of EU membership. It is, however, plausible to offer the idea of globalisation as at least part of the explanation: there is evidence elsewhere that many Labour members had internalised it. In a debriefing of a meeting of the newly created National Policy Forum (NPF) in Cardiff, November 1994, the author stated that while NPF members wanted more emphasis on what governments ‘“could” itself do’, there was [g]eneral acceptance of the argument that we are operating in a global economy; “macro-economic policy in one country” is not an option. It is not only technology, but also multinational companies and the way they operate and the freedoms they have, that affects us.165

Embedded and widespread perceptions like this emerge from many places. In part, this perception of ‘globalisation’ grew out of a growing consensus among the self-consciously ‘modernising’ forces in the 1990s policymaking centre-left, represented by think tanks the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and Demos, and academics like Giddens and David Held.166 The IPPR’s influential Social Justice Commission of 1992–1994, which is discussed in more depth in later chapters, was clear that while nation states were not powerless, they had to adapt to a new globalising economy of multinational production and volatile capital and currency movements. As a result, ‘[f]or European countries today, it is at the pan-European level that effective macroeconomic 163



164 165 166

UK Data Service, ‘Labour Parliamentarians and European Integration Survey, 1995– 1996’, study number 3703. See also: David Baker and David Seawright, ‘A “Rosy” Map of Europe? Labour Parliamentarians and European Integration’, in idem (eds), Britain for and against Europe: British Politics and the Question of European Integration (Oxford, 1998), 57–88, at 60, 75. The authors make a decent case for the ‘satisfactory degree of representativeness’ of the sample at 86–87. See Patrick Seyd and Paul Whiteley, Labour’s Grass Roots: The Politics of Party Membership (Oxford, 1992), 47–48; Patrick Seyd and Paul Whiteley, New Labour’s Grassroots: The Transformation of the Labour Party Membership (Basingstoke, 2002), 70. Policy Directorate, ‘National Policy Forum: 19/20 November, Cardiff’, PD3600, NEC 30 November 1994, in MRC, The Papers of Bill Morris (hereafter: MORRIS) MSS.126/BM/3/3/5/1. Their emphasis. David Held, Democracy and the Global Order: From the Modern State to Cosmopolitan Governance (Cambridge, 1995); Giddens, Beyond Left and Right.

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sovereignty resides’.167 Furthermore, the prominence of globalisation did owe much to the arguments of New Labour’s leaders. Blair constantly deployed the spectre of globalisation in the modern world.168 It also justified Brown and his key advisor Ed Balls’ championing of prudential macroeconomic governance: an operationally independent Bank of England and a stable fiscal regime would ensure that the UK would not be targeted by vigilante traders.169 As discussed in Chapter 6, ‘globalisation’ also demanded a supply side ‘modernisation’ to make the British economy competitive in the international marketplace. For New Labour, ‘globalisation’ also mandated the UK’s active engagement in supranational forums and bodies. In a 1994 speech, Brown derided ‘any lingering notion that economic policy can remain a matter solely for national governments … true national sovereignty will have to be shared sovereignty sought within the realities of the international economy’.170 Nonetheless, we should pay attention to the NPF’s conscious highlighting of ‘multinational companies’ in 1994, a term that recalls past debates over both the AES and ‘Alternative European Strategy’. Combined with the prominence of figures like Holland and Hain in the Maastricht debates, this shows that the perceptions of advancing ‘globalisation’  – and the erosion of national economic sovereignty – had many parents on the British left, and was not borne solely of Blair, Brown, and Giddens. One of the most important roots, and among the most overlooked, was the afterlife of the radical AES. Key theorists behind the controversial strategy adapted their views from the late 1970s onwards, as they interpreted and gave meaning to evidence of globalising economic forces in a hostile political context. Their prominent turn to Eurosocialism or EuroKeynesianism, and repeated engagement in British political debate, helped spread the popular association of modernity and unprecedented globalisation, and its implied consequences for socialist governments, among the British left. 167



168 169

170

Commission on Social Justice, Social Justice: Strategies for National Renewal (London, 1994), 64–66, 72. See also: Commission on Social Justice, Social Justice in a Changing World (London, 1993), 1. Tony Blair, ‘The Economic Framework for New Labour’, in Forrest H. Capie and Geoffrey E. Wood (eds), Policy Makers on Policy: The Mais Lectures (London, 2001), 102–127, at 107. Edward Balls, ‘Open Macroeconomics in an Open Economy’, Scottish Journal of Political Economy 45:2 (1998), 113–133, at 114–115, 122. Balls saw macroprudence as superior to EMU, of which he was sceptical. Among many flaws, the UK was just too uncompetitive; supply-side modernisation was required first before any realistic EMU. See: Edward Balls, Euro-Monetarism: Why Britain Was Ensnared and How It should Escape (London, 1992), 3, 11. Gordon Brown, ‘New Policies for the Global Economy’, 26 September 1994, LSE SHORE/16/130.

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By the mid-1990s, therefore, it was generally established across much of Labour’s left as well as right that the ‘globalisation’ of the ‘modern economy’ demanded that the party overhaul its policies and strategies. This owed much to the fracturing of the 1980s left on the question of how best to tackle multinationals and global finance. A remarkably broad constituency of opinion in the 1990s Labour Party now held that the globalisation of modern capitalism hamstrung unilateral macroeconomic adventures and demanded a new supranational politics. In this atmosphere, New Labour’s persuasive characterisation of ‘globalisation’, which underpinned their ‘modernisation’, found many willing listeners.

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2

Industrial Democracy, Market Socialism, and Stakeholder Capitalism



Modernisation and Socio-economic Democracy

“Small is Beautiful” is rapidly becoming, not just an engaging slogan, but a practical necessity —Peter Hain, 1976.1

For modernisers, the essence of socialism lies in the widest possible distribution of power and opportunity that is compatible with efficiency —Michael Meacher, 1988.2

…high and stable levels of employment. This is the true meaning of a stakeholder economy —The Labour Party’s 1997 general election manifesto.3

The year 1992 is something of a watershed for the frontbench Labour politician Bryan Gould. Not only was Labour’s emerging position on the Maastricht Treaty jarring against his longstanding Euroscepticism, eventually pushing him into resigning from the Shadow Cabinet. Gould also ran for the Labour leadership following the party’s traumatising fourth consecutive defeat that spring. As a committed Keynesian, Gould’s core pitch was for Labour to achieve ‘full employment’.4 Yet, like most ambitious Labour politicians in the early 1990s, Gould also promised a ‘modern socialism’. His version stressed decentralisation and a participatory society: A modern and popular socialism should in my view comprise two related elements. First, an insistence that decisions of importance to our community and to future generations should be taken by the community and not exclusively by powerful individuals acting in their own self-interest … Secondly, a recognition that the freedom of each individual in society is maximised if power is diffused and spread as equally as possible.5 1

Peter Hain, ‘The Future of Community Politics’, in idem (ed.), Community Politics, 9–35, at 27. 2 Michael Meacher, ‘…and the Real Challenge’, Guardian, 28 March 1988, 34. 3 Iain Dale (ed.), Labour Party General Election Manifestos 1900–1997 (London, 2007), 360. 4 John Smith, Bryan Gould, Margaret Beckett, and John Prescott, Labour’s Choice: The Fabian Debates (London, 1992), 1, 12. 5 Bryan Gould, An Agenda for Change (1992), MRC BICKERSTAFFE, 657/34.

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Elsewhere, Gould summarised this vision of socialism as ‘the diffusion of power’.6 He was far from alone in appealing to ‘modern socialism’; deputy leadership candidate Margaret Beckett even titled her pitch The Modernisation Manifesto.7 Gould’s main opponent, the powerhouse Scottish politician John Smith, similarly recognised the need to ‘modernise’ Labour’s politics – and the UK itself – if Labour were to regain power and use it effectively. Smith’s version particularly stressed constitutional decentralisation and reform to the UK’s formal political structures. In his manifesto, Smith declared that we ‘must modernise our system of government and our constitution so that it becomes pluralistic and decentralised and is underpinned by the specific recognition of human rights’; for this, ‘decentralisation of government’ was ‘absolutely crucial’, including devolution to Scotland, Wales, and the English regions.8 Gould did not disagree and also called for a ‘modern constitution’ that would ‘devolve and decentralise power’.9 Both candidates, therefore, supported the diffusion of formal political power as a lynchpin of ‘modernisation’. We shall return to this important theme in Chapter 5, which discusses the rise of the campaign to ‘modernise the constitution’ on the liberal left. Gould’s vision of a decentralist ‘modern socialism’, however, ranged beyond constitutional reform. He devoted more attention than Smith to other forms of power diffusion – forms that not only reformed the state itself but used the state to engineer the decentralisation of control across the economy and society. Gould’s ‘modern socialism’ envisaged the diffusion of social and economic power, with a particular focus on decentralising and democratising economic decision-making and ownership. These commitments can be grouped together as socio-economic democracy. Gould’s leadership campaign championed not only bolstering individual consumer rights but also forcing the state to work with voluntary groups and organised state service consumers, like tenants and residents’ associations. Additionally, he endorsed using legislation to decentralise control to economic producers, including the empowerment of pension fund contributors and the encouragement of employee share ownership plans (ESOPs).10 Occasionally during the campaign, Gould tried to use these commitments as a wedge issue. In a not-so-subtle dig at Smith’s ‘shadow budget’ of the 1992 election – which featured tax 6 Smith, Gould, Beckett, Prescott, Labour’s Choice, 12. 7 Margaret Beckett, The Modernisation Manifesto (1992), MRC BICKERSTAFFE, 657/34. 8 John Smith, New Paths to Victory (1992), MRC BICKERSTAFFE 657/34. 9 Bryan Gould, Leadership for the Future (1992), MRC BICKERSTAFFE 657/34. 10 Gould, Agenda for Change.

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increases to fund social security expenditure and became a scapegoat for Labour’s failure – Gould attributed Labour’s loss to the ‘irredeemably old-fashioned “welfarist” flavour to our proposals’. In contrast, empowering workers and consumers would chime with the aspirational mood music of modern Britain.11 Gould was overwhelmingly defeated in this election: Smith won over 91 per cent of the electoral college. Due to the scale of Smith’s victory, the election has become an overlooked moment in accounts of 1990s Labour.12 But there is a strong case for revisiting the debates of this contest and reconstructing their origins, if we are to capture the evolving meaning of ‘modernisation’. For Gould’s decentralist definition of ‘modern socialism’ did not appear out of the blue. British socialism had long nurtured within its DNA ideological commitments to social and economic empowerment at the grassroots, beyond formal politics. Quite apart from its foundational links with the trade unions – one of the most historically significant examples of democratic, decentralised association beyond the state – the Labour Party has, at various points, nursed within its ranks intellectuals like G.D.H. and Margaret Cole and Michael Young, who enthused about concepts like ‘guild socialism’ and ‘community politics’. Moreover, these thinkers sometimes justified their ideas on the basis of a particular reading of modern historical development, albeit inconsistently.13 In the post-war era, they were often subordinate to a powerful streak of state socialism, embodied in the nationalisations of the 1945–1951 Clement Attlee government, which looked more suspiciously on extra-state voluntary and associational groups. Yet, in the late twentieth century, these longstanding ‘alternatives to state socialism’ were reactivated by key developments, especially the decline of deference and rise of popular individualism since the late 1960s.14 This had a tangible effect on Labour debates: it nurtured the growth of an interpretation of ‘modern socialism’ that stressed decentralisation and socioeconomic democracy, reaching a peak in the late 1980s. All this helps explain why Gould instinctively defined ‘modern socialism’ as the ‘diffusion of power’ to producer, consumer, and community groups in 1992.

11

John Smith and Bryan Gould, ‘Which Way Now?’, New Statesman and Society, 1 May 1992, 22–24, at 23. 12 One intriguing exception is Alwyn Turner’s general history of the 1990s, which describes Gould as of the ‘modernising, Eurosceptic left’ and praises him as among ‘the best leaders Labour never had’, in A Classless Society: Britain in the 1990s (London, 2013), 42–45. 13 Lise Butler, Michael Young, Social Science & The British Left (Oxford, 2020), 180–185. 14 Peter Ackers and Alastair J. Reid (eds), Alternatives to State-Socialism in Britain: Other Worlds of Labour in the Twentieth Century (Basingstoke, 2016); Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, Class, Politics and the Decline of Deference.

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Yet, by the early 1990s, Gould’s interpretation of ‘modern socialism’ was in direct competition with others, which were much more widely and forcefully expressed. Exploring the reasons why Gould came to this understanding of ‘modern socialism’ in the first place, but also how he came to be swimming against the tide by 1992, will thus illuminate the changing meanings of ‘modernisation’ within Labour. This chapter begins with the debates over the future of democratic socialism that surrounded the troubled 1974–1979 Labour governments. During the tumultuous 1970s, ideas of socio-economic democracy and decentralisation became more influential in left-wing debates. In the context of various corporatist governing experiments and at a seeming historic highpoint for the power of organised labour, this was understood in terms of diffusing producer power through schemes of ‘industrial democracy’. Some social democrats were intrigued by consumer associations. Among the insurgent new left and some post-Croslandite revisionists, there was also strong interest in ‘community groups’, and organised interests of social service users, such as parents’ associations and tenants’ groups. Nevertheless, in the 1970s, it was industrial democracy that possessed real momentum. Its proponents tended to focus on the democratic justice of worker control of production, rather than advance an interpretation of ‘modernisation’. Still, some influential writers (such as Stuart Holland on Labour’s left and Giles Radice on its right) linked the diffusion of producer power to developments in ‘modern’ society, in ways that foreshadowed later debates. By the early 1980s, however, these movements broke on the rocks of internal ambiguity, national political defeat, and a hostile economic climate. Nonetheless, interest in socio-economic democracy endured through the 1980s, in ways that shaped interpretations of ‘socialist modernisation’. This interest was bolstered by the spectre of Thatcher’s revolution, which advanced a free-market, property-owning vision of economic decentralisation. Confronted by the early rush to obtain shares in privatised companies, and the political success of Thatcher’s flagship rightto-buy policy, the left felt obliged to respond. In the early 1980s, the iconoclastic governance of the Greater London Council (GLC) and Sheffield City Council, along with prominent new left agitators like Peter Hain, spurred interest in participatory politics beyond the central state. Later in the decade, these currents crystallised into several arguments that portrayed decentralisation and socio-economic democracy as the future of socialism. First, the late 1980s witnessed an intellectual revival of corporatism, spearheaded by the theorist Paul Hirst and the former politician turned author David Marquand. They championed a decentralised neocorporatism, claiming that this represented an inherently

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‘modern’ political economy. Second, other socialists proposed a broader form of decentralisation as ‘modern socialism’, which would empower community groups, the voluntary ‘third sector’, and consumer advocates alongside producers. Of particular relevance here was the engagement of Bryan Gould with (in the mid-1980s) Fabian philosophers of ‘market socialism’ and (in the late 1980s) with self-consciously ‘modernising’ Eurocommunists at Marxism Today. All these writers tried to reconcile the benefits of a market system with a commitment to democratic socialism and championed the dispersal of power. Excavating these debates reveals the roots of Gould’s 1992 definition of ‘modern socialism’. Yet, these thinkers also reflected novel developments from the late 1980s, as they simultaneously stressed the necessity of constitutional reform for a modernised social democracy. Ironically, they contributed to a trend where left-wing ‘modernisation’ proposals increasingly focused on the diffusion of formal political power, rather than economic power. This crowded out policies for the decentralisation of economic ownership, power, and decision-making. The marginalisation of economic decentralisation and the advance of ‘constitutional modernisation’ were, therefore, intertwined. Leaving a detailed discussion of the rise of ‘modernising the constitution’ for Part III, this chapter ends by showing how the slow marginalisation of economic decentralisation shaped the evolution of ‘modernisation’ in 1990s Labour. It not only influenced the 1992 leadership election but also dumped a roadblock onto one ‘third way’ not taken: the ‘stakeholding economy’. Consequently, Blair’s flirtation with the ‘stakeholding economy’ concept, which briefly sparked a flurry of excitement and speculation, was insubstantial and marginal for New Labour’s emerging agenda. Tracing the decline of this flavour of ‘modern socialism’ from the late 1980s thus illuminates a controversial aspect of New Labour in power.15

The Future of Socialism Is Industrial Democracy

Although it is now condemned by hindsight, it is crucial to understand that the ‘Social Contract’, the landmark pledge of the 1974–1979 Labour Government, was supposed to be the future of either democratic socialism or social democracy, according to taste. Confronted with industrial unrest, inflationary pressures, and stuttering economic growth, prime ministers Harold Wilson and James Callaghan both gambled that 15

Stuart White, ‘New Labour and the Politics of Ownership’, in Patrick Diamond and Michael Kenny (eds), Reassessing New Labour: Market, State and Society under Blair and Brown (Oxford, 2011), 140–152.

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tripartite and ‘corporatist’ cooperation between the state, business, and the labour movement would arrest ‘decline’ and address serial conflicts in modern industrial society. They had learnt lessons from Wilson and Barbara Castle’s aborted attempt to assert direct government regulation over strike action, ballots, and settlements in 1969. Hence, the ‘Social Contract’ was a ‘partnership’, in which promises by unions to moderate wage claims would be matched by state guarantees on the ‘social wage’ (primarily social services), favourable legislation, and the protection of jobs and industries. In his 1975 conference speech, Wilson argued that confronted with high inflation and industrial conflict, ‘the only sensible course in a modern democracy’ was ‘the course of agreement and consent’.16 This seemed plausible at a time when High Tory historian Keith Middlemas was tracing the rise of ‘corporate bias’ over the twentieth century and the de facto status of trade unions as one of the ‘governing institutions’ of modern Britain.17 The Social Contract was co-drafted by the government, the Trades Union Congress (TUC), and national union leaders. Progenitors even included figures who had previously condemned state constraints on collective bargaining, like Jack Jones of the Transport and General Workers’ Union and indeed Callaghan himself.18 The Social Contract had its enemies on the left. Many shop stewards and party activists chafed at its negotiation and outcomes, through which income constraints, where inflation outstripped pay, were agreed behind closed doors by union and state officials. Moreover, when Ford car workers later broke ranks and won major pay increases, income constraints disproportionately concentrated on public sector workers.19 As a result, the Social Contract was increasingly criticised. However, these socialist and Labour critics often did not abandon the idea of extending collective bargaining and state intervention into new areas. Even many supporters of the Contract argued that it only represented a halfway house, and proffered more comprehensive settlements between capital, labour, and the state. A minority of these proposed settlements were not decentralist per se but instead sought to provide formal democratic legitimacy to corporatism. On the revisionist, social-democratic right, the academic and Labour MP John Mackintosh proposed an industrial parliament as a way 16 [www.britishpoliticalspeech.org/speech-archive.htm?speech=173]. 17 Keith Middlemas, Politics in Industrial Society: The Experience of the British System since 1911 (London, 1979), 20. 18 Alastair J. Reid, United We Stand: A History of Britain’s Trade Unions (London, 2004), 330–331, 362–363. 19 Tara Martin López, The Winter of Discontent: Myth, Memory and History (Liverpool, 2014), 63.

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of legitimising the apparently corporatist future of modern Britain. Following the ‘who governs Britain’ 1974 election, in which the coal miners’ strike and the consequent restriction of commercial electricity to three days a week had seemingly ousted Ted Heath, Mackintosh contended that power was increasingly being exercised by organised interest groups without a wider democratic mandate, like the TUC or the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). Mackintosh wanted the state to recognise their ‘legitimate interests’ while also restoring the pre-eminence of democratic government. He suggested that the House of Lords should be completely restructured to consist of 200 members, reflecting various interests, who were nominated by industry, the labour movement, the government, and pressure groups. While Mackintosh compared his solution to that of the Crown ‘taming the barons’ in medieval England, he was also keen to stress modern precedents: ‘various modern countries have set up a modern range of bodies varying from advisory planning organisations of the NEDC [National Economic Development Council] type to virtual third chambers like the French Economic and Social Council’.20 However, while Mackintosh heavily influenced Labour MP and later Social Democratic Party (SDP)-defector David Marquand, his industrial parliament did not catch on. Even fellow revisionists, like Giles and Lisanne Radice, rejected the proposal and instead advocated stronger parliamentary select committees as a way of subjecting organised interests to democratic oversight.21 More commonly, socialist thinkers advocated some form of ‘industrial democracy’ as a way of advancing on the Social Contract. That is, democratising the ownership or management of capitalist enterprises themselves. Growing numbers of trade unionists, politicians, and activists were professing adherence to industrial democracy, and it seemed to have real political momentum.22 In 1975, as part of the Social Contract, Wilson commissioned a committee of inquiry into industrial democracy, chaired by Alan Bullock, which reported in 1977, recommending that workers should have representation on company boards. By the publication of the 1979 Labour manifesto, Prime Minister Callaghan was claiming that industrial democracy ‘is an idea whose time has come’.23 Importantly, ‘industrial democracy’ meant different things to different people. For the TUC, the Fabian Society, and some revisionists, it meant 20

John P. Mackintosh, John P. Mackintosh on Parliament and Social Democracy, ed. David Marquand (London, 1982), 118–120, 125–127. 21 Giles Radice, Industrial Democrats: Trade Unions in an Uncertain World (London, 1978), 222–223. 22 For example, Jack Jones, ‘In Place of Strikes’, Guardian, 7 December 1977, 12. 23 Dale (ed.), Labour Party General Election Manifestos, 218–219.

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seats for workers on company boards. In differing ways, they proposed that large companies should be required to have worker representation on boards, elected through trade union machinery. They converged on a ‘2x + y’ formula for representation: an equal number of seats for shareholders’ and workers’ representatives (2x), and a group of co-opted directors (y). Under the influence of Jack Jones and through an engineered pro-TUC majority, this became the outline of the Bullock commission’s recommendations, although an employer-dominated minority report dissented, recommending that worker representatives should sit only on supervisory boards and be elected by all employees, not through the trade unions.24 For its more radical proponents, however, the Bullock Committee was completely insufficient; for them, industrial democracy meant worker takeover of firms. Ken Coates and the Institute of Workers’ Control, and increasingly politicians like Tony Benn, leant towards this more syndicalist interpretation.25 Adrian Williamson has convincingly identified this ‘conceptual inexactitude’ as a fatal flaw in the cause for industrial democracy. Along with other obstacles, such as the implacable opposition from the CBI and the hostility of many trade unionists, who thought workers on boards would undermine their bargaining power and autonomy, this disagreement on the meaning of ‘industrial democracy’ stymied a genuine consensus.26 The promise of industrial democracy nonetheless featured prominently in 1970s left-wing debate. Its relation to ‘modernity’ was, to be clear, not a central preoccupation. Most arguments in favour of either workers on boards or full-blooded syndicalism depended on assertions of enduring democratic or socialist principles. For Benn in 1976, industrial democracy was a core part of socialism as an ideology. Given the Conservatives’ nationalisation of Rolls Royce and incomes policies in 1970–1974, ‘industrial democracy or workers’ control’ was what distinguished ‘a Socialist approach to intervention and public ownership from these corporatist ideas that are very widely accepted by our opponents’.27 Similarly, Coates situated worker co-operatives within Marxist theory, and saw them as speaking to ‘the fundamental question’ for Marxists of ‘the democratic regulation of central decision-making’.28 It was not just radical proponents that looked to first principles. By 1974, Anthony 24

Adrian Williamson, ‘The Bullock Report on Industrial Democracy and the Post-War Consensus’, Contemporary British History 30:1 (2016), 119–149, at 120, 132. 25 See Ken Coates (ed.), The New Worker Co-operatives (Nottingham, 1976). 26 Williamson, ‘The Bullock Report’, 120, 122–124. 27 Tony Benn, ‘The Industrial Context’, in Coates (ed.), The New Worker Co-operatives, 71–88, at 72. 28 Ken Coates, ‘Some Questions and Some Arguments’, in Coates (ed.), The New Worker Co-operatives, 11–34.

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Crosland had ditched his earlier reservations and accepted workers on boards (though he identified issues with the TUC’s specific system). He justified the need for industrial democracy ‘for humanitarian reasons’ and ‘on the grounds of equality’.29 Likewise, Jeremy Bray and Nicholas Falk argued in 1974 that worker-owned firms were ‘simply the recognition of a human right – the right to democracy at work – a right as fundamental as the right to democracy in politics’.30 However, ideas about ‘modernity’ and perceived trends in ‘modern society’ were another resource for industrial democracy proponents. This sense that industrial democracy was in tune with modern Britain was partly stimulated by a series of famous demands for worker c­ ontrol. These included the ‘work-ins’ by the Upper Clyde shipbuilders and the Scottish Daily News in the early- to mid-1970s, and the attempt to create ­ co-operatives at Triumph in Meriden.31 Perhaps most significant was the Lucas Aerospace shop stewards’ combine committee. Lucas Aerospace arose in the late 1960s out of a merger of thirteen aerospace manufacturing plants, from Hemel Hempstead to Bradford. During this merger, shop stewards took advantage of management’s disorganisation and formed a combine committee. The committee initially engaged in rearguard tactics against redundancies driven by ‘rationalisation’, which had culled 5,000 out of 18,000 jobs by 1974. However, the shop stewards soon moved far beyond defensive action. By 1974, they had not only asked the government for nationalisation independently of management but also drafted an alternative production plan based almost entirely on the ideas of the workers themselves. Strikingly, this ‘Lucas plan’ disavowed both producing goods for the military sector and the profit motive generally. It instead planned the production of ‘socially useful’ technologies, in areas like medical equipment and renewable energy. The Lucas campaign arose from unusual circumstances: the merger, the predominance of technically qualified workers, and the dynamism of its shop stewards, especially the irrepressible Irish Maoist Mike Cooley.32 Nevertheless, it became a galvanising symbol for the possibilities of worker empowerment. Supporters proclaimed it as a ‘revolutionary’ step change in both trade unionism and socialism.33 Its appeal was confirmed 29

Anthony Crosland, Socialism Now and Other Essays, ed. Dick Leonard (London, 1974), 49–52. 30 Jeremy Bray and Nicolas Falk, Towards a Worker Managed Economy (London, 1974), 27. 31 Tony Benn, Arguments for Socialism, ed. Chris Mullin (London, 1979), 65–66. 32 Hilary Wainwright and Dave Elliott, The Lucas Plan: A New Trade Unionism in the Making? (London, 1982), 86, 248–250. 33 David Elliott, The Lucas Aerospace Workers’ Campaign (London, 1977); Wainwright and Elliott, The Lucas Plan, 5–10, 24–25, 100–107.

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when Cooley’s book on the politics of technology, Architect or Bee (1979), became a cult hit among the left. Cooley argued that modern technology could be used either to bind humanity into industrial servitude or, instead, facilitate growing personal autonomy and liberate humankind. Much later, when introducing the 1987 edition, the journalist Anthony Barnett explained the book’s appeal to his generation of leftists: ‘[i]t is modern without being modernist’.34 This ‘modern’ sheen of the Lucas plan, and its emancipatory message, was perfectly calibrated for the new left.35 But even beyond this instinctively sympathetic constituency, the Lucas campaign attracted considerable support. It garnered extensive national and international attention, including from broadsheet newspapers not known for left-wing sympathies, such as the Financial Times. Thus, unintentionally echoing Callaghan, its academic supporters Dave Elliott and Hilary Wainwright talked of how the Lucas plan showed that industrial democracy’s ‘time has come’.36 All this had an important impact on Labour. Benn, who had met original Lucas combine delegation when he was Secretary of State at the Department for Industry, clearly drew inspiration from Cooley’s arguments about the Janus-faced implications of modern technology, and the necessity of worker and community empowerment.37 In Parliament, 170 MPs had expressed support for the plan in one way or another, and the 1978 Labour conference endorsed the shop stewards’ campaign.38 Though unique, the Lucas campaign stimulated interest in industrial democracy and gave the cause a techno-modernist sheen. Reacting to these wider developments, some 1970s writers related industrial democracy directly to ‘modern society’. Two argumentative strategies recurred. One was to suggest that centralising changes in ‘modern capitalism’ made management more authoritarian and remote, necessitating a countervailing power base to protect workers’ interests. The other ‘modern’ justification diagnosed a decline of deference, especially among younger generations, to explain wildcat strikes.39 Because of this perceived sociological phenomenon, authoritarian management was not simply unjust but also counterproductive. Industrial democracy would provide a more constructive channel for desires for greater autonomy. 34

Anthony Barnett, ‘Introduction’, in Mike Cooley, Architect or Bee? The Human Price of Technology, new ed. (London, 1987), 2. 35 See, for instance, Ken Coates, ‘The New Age of Trade Unionism’, New Socialist (October 1985), 22–24, at 24. 36 Wainwright and Elliott, The Lucas Plan, 140, 172. 37 Benn, Arguments for Democracy, 91–99, 170–171. 38 Wainwright and Elliott, The Lucas Plan, 153, 158. 39 For broader context, see Robinson et al., ‘Telling Stories About Post-War Britain’.

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These kinds of arguments surfaced in several places. The government’s Bullock report itself suggested that the post-war period had seen the growth of ‘giant industrial enterprise and the concentration of economic power’, generating demands for responsiveness, leading to ‘new concepts of the roles of employees in decision-making at company level’. They also pointed to ‘social changes which have taken place since the war, especially rising standards of education and higher standards of living’, which were eroding deferential instincts.40 Similar arguments were made in Labour. On the party’s left, Stuart Holland devoted extended sections of his influential The Socialist Challenge (1975) to industrial democracy. Holland invoked his overarching theory about the rising predominance of multinationals. These trends, he argued, created huge multi-product corporations, spanning regions and countries. Given the mesoeconomic face of modern capitalism, these firms could not be broken up if they were to remain profit-generating. Yet, paradoxically, Holland argued that size should come with greater devolution, due to ‘the necessary complexity and delegation of decision-making in the giant private and public corporations of the modern economy’. He thus advocated democratisation through the expansion of collective bargaining, for reasons of both efficiency and equity.41 As discussed in Chapter 1, Holland’s enthusiasm for national control over production sat uneasily with downward democratisation to the workers. But this did not stop him from trying to reconcile them. On the party’s right, a linkage between industrial democracy and modernity came from Giles Radice, a revisionist MP and former trade union researcher. Radice had served on a Fabian Society working party on industrial democracy in the early 1970s, which produced a pamphlet. He later published a book in 1978, which championed workers on boards and the expansion of joint collective bargaining. Radice partly leant on the principled argument: that these proposals were the expression of inalienable democratic rights.42 However, he also portrayed industrial democracy as a ‘modern trade unionism’. This was because of numerous ‘new developments’ in industrial relations, such as a clash between the growing concentration of decision-making at the top and rising shopfloor assertiveness at the bottom. These ‘modern conditions’ encouraged polarisation between management and workers, and power imbalances in industry – to which the ‘outdated’ and ‘nineteenth-century’ concept of 40

Quoted in ‘Committee Divided Over Need for Speedy Reforms’, The Times, 27 January 1977, 4. 41 Holland, The Socialist Challenge, 288–289. 42 Giles Radice (ed.), Working Power: Policies for Industrial Democracy (London, 1974), 5–6.

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‘shareholder sovereignty’ was radically unsuited. For Radice, the expansion of industrial democracy was an essential part of the solution. He advocated joint bargaining at every level of industry, from the shopfloor to the boardroom, and in every area of management and production. His case represented an extended attempt to demonstrate the necessity of industrial democracy in the condition of modern Britain.43

Consumer Decentralisation and Community Politics

Though industrial democracy was dominant, there were other decentralist ideas that surfaced within the 1970s left. These were also occasionally linked to modernity. First, some 1970s thinkers, often continuing discussions stimulated by the ‘affluence’ debates of the 1950s and 1960s, saw potential in consumer advocacy groups as part of a pluralist, empowering polity.44 One cannot discuss this topic without referencing the tireless social-democratic entrepreneur Michael Young, who has been the subject of much excellent scholarship.45 Young founded the Consumer Association (CA) in 1957, and even investigated creating a new ‘consumer’ political party.46 These projects involved some luminaries on Labour’s social democratic right, notably Crosland and Shirley ­Williams.47 In the 1970s, Young reacted to the accelerating momentum for industrial democracy by promoting the cause of consumer c­ o-operatives and railing against the monopoly of trade unions on industrial self-governance. Young saw inclusive consumer and producer cooperatives as a new way to achieve ‘common ownership’, superior to the ‘dead-end’ of nationalisation.48 Yet, it cannot be said that Young’s activities led to a major revision of conceptions of ‘modernisation’ or the ‘future of socialism’ in Labour, even among those on the revisionist right who were similarly sceptical of nationalisation. Though Young was drawn to consumer groups, most Labour figures dismissed them as a genuine vehicle for pluralism. 43

Radice, Industrial Democrats, 1, 3, 30–35, 39–40, 47–48, 63–65, 103. 44 Lawrence Black and Hugh Pemberton (eds), An Affluent Society? Britain’s Post-War “Golden Age” Revisited (Aldershot, 2004). 45 Butler, Michael Young, Social Science and the British Left. 46 Stephen Meredith, ‘Michael Young: An Innovative Social Entrepreneur’, in Peter Ackers and Alastair J. Reid (eds), Alternatives to State-Socialism in Britain: Other Worlds of Labour in the Twentieth Century (Basingstoke, 2016), 271–303, at 286. 47 Lawrence Black, ‘Crosland’s Consumer Politics’, in Kerstin Brückweh (ed.), The Voice of the Citizen Consumer: A History of Market Research, Consumer Movements and the Political Public Sphere (Oxford, 2011), 117–139, at 124. 48 Letter from Michael Young to Maurice Ash, 10 November 1976, CAC, The Papers of Michael Young (hereafter: YUNG) 1/6/4.

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While Crosland did admonish industrial democrats for ignoring consumers,49 he also thought that the CA had become too involved in trying to influence politics. As Lawrence Black puts it, Crosland’s lesson from his involvement in the CA was that overly empowered pressure groups would ‘corrode democracy by diffusing power so widely as to impede decision-making or by promoting voluble … rather than critical debate’. Crosland not only rejected the Athenian ideal of mass citizen participation as unrealistic, he thought its coercive implications (citizens could not be left to their ‘gardening’, they must take part) to be undesirable.50 Elsewhere, other revisionists like Radice recognised that consumers could theoretically be considered for democratic representation within firms, but rejected the idea as impractical, arguing simply that state intervention would act on their behalf.51 Tellingly, it seems that revisionists who stayed in Labour after the 1981 schism had stuck to exploring industrial democracy, whereas those most interested in consumer groups and ‘community politics’ in the 1970s tended to join the secessionist SDP.52 In a neat reflection of this, Young continued to write on cooperatives into the 1980s, but increasingly to influence the SDP, of which he was an early member.53 However, schemes for consumer self-organisation had other admirers: the burgeoning post-1968 new left. In the 1970s, there was a flowering of ‘grassroots’ initiatives organising self-run consumer groups like tenants’ associations, along with community groups and new campaigns like Women’s Liberation. London boroughs like Islington were a stronghold. Closely related was the growth of libertarian socialist and anarchist critiques of social democracy, often inspired by the global ‘68 movements. Influential socialist feminists like Sheila Rowbotham explicitly rejected worker control and embraced broader community control, in part because of her dislike of the vanguardism and masculinist character of the ultra-left. Meanwhile, anarchists like Colin Ward celebrated squatting and tenant co-operatives, which were a feature of London’s 1970s counterculture.54 This hotch-potch of movements seemed to bear little relevance to Labour, but some thinkers tried to make the connection. One attempt 49

Crosland, Socialism Now, 52. Black, ‘Crosland’s Consumer Politics’, 134–135. Radice (ed.), Working Power, 15. Nick Garland, ‘Social democracy, the decline of community and community politics’, in Nathan Yeowell (ed.), Rethinking Labour’s Past (London, 2022), 137–157, at 148–51. 53 Letter from Michael Young to the editor of the Social Democrat, 17 April 1985, CAC YUNG 1/6/4. 54 Stuart White, ‘The Left after Social Democracy: Towards State-Society Partnerships’, in Ackers and Reid (eds), Alternatives to State-Socialism, 303–329, at 308, 310–311. 50 51 52

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was made in 1976 by Peter Hain, a young trade union researcher and anti-apartheid activist. At this point, Hain was actually a prominent member of the Liberal Party but was close to joining Labour.55 He edited a volume of essays on ‘community politics’, which drew together these burgeoning projects. In his introduction, while drawing from classic libertarian socialist writers like G. D. H. Cole, Hain also leant on E. F. Schumacher’s iconoclastic Small is Beautiful (1973), which used a schematic socio-economic condemnation of the ‘modern world’, defined by unsustainable growth and the ‘idolatry of giantism’, to champion small organisations and technologies.56 Hain similarly explained the surge in community politics through a distinct understanding of modernity. The flowering of community politics, he argued, ‘was a response to the evolving structure of the modern state’. Firstly, it provided an alternative to its soulless industrialism. Secondly, the persistence of poverty despite the post-war welfare state pushed many into re-evaluating statist solutions, while community and user groups had sprung up in reaction to their power structures. Thirdly, monomania for planning, which had peaked in the 1960s, had provoked a sustained backlash. And fourthly, many were increasingly estranged from ‘Butskellite’ party politics.57 Consequently, for Hain, a radical decentralisation of power was crucial; top-down technocracy was not only unjust but becoming anachronistic. He criticised the Labour left for advocating the extension of the central state, as ‘the crisis is largely caused by a failure of the very kind of centralised authority they now seek to solve it’. Britain had become ‘ungovernable’ (as many 1970s commentators were darkly suggesting) not because of overmighty trade unions.58 It was because governing elites still clung to ‘a system based on the principle of government by edict, suited to an age when, to get its wishes implemented, the government had merely to pull the levers and push the buttons of the central executive machine’. Contrary to their assumptions, ‘the masses have become restless. Rising economic expectations and more permissive social attitudes have combined to encourage ordinary people to refuse to sit back passively and accept their lot’. Hain was bullish about the implications of these trends: 55

Hain represented a tendency of what Stuart White has called ‘revolutionary liberalism’. See Stuart White, ‘“Revolutionary Liberalism”? The Philosophy and Politics of Ownership in the Post-War Liberal Party’, British Politics 4:2 (2009), 164–187. 56 E. F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As if People Mattered (London, 1993 [1973]). 57 Hain, ‘The Future of Community Politics’, 11–13. 58 Anthony King, ‘Overload: Problems of Governing in the 1970s’, Political Studies 23:2–3 (1975), 284–296.

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[W]e are on the threshold of an epoch where the collapse of capitalism and the ungovernability of the nation state could coincide to bring about the down fall of traditional methods of maintaining public order and authority. This … opens up a real possibility for a total transformation of society and a switch to a decentralised system.59

Hain’s politics would change considerably by the 1990s. Nonetheless, he continued to argue that decentralisation in various forms (political, producer, consumer) was the key response to the tensions of modern life. It would decisively shape his later contributions to the ‘modernisation’ debates within the Labour Party.

The Challenge of Thatcher

Though Callaghan proclaimed that industrial democracy’s ‘time has come’ in 1979, readers will know better. Early signs of trouble came in 1977, when the CBI responded to the Bullock inquiry by opposing the very principle of workers on boards and refusing to cede ground, while many trade unionists ‘harboured reservations’ about the idea.60 Meanwhile, a bitter industrial confrontation erupted in northwest London between a right-wing Anglo-Asian employer, George Ward of the Grunwick Film Processing Laboratories, and a workforce of predominantly south Asian women who demanded the right to unionise. Despite mass solidarity picketing, and despite Lord Scarman’s ruling for a Labour-instigated inquiry in favour of recognition, Ward refused to give way and successfully appealed to the House of Lords.61 Finally, the Social Contract spectacularly unravelled in the ‘Winter of Discontent’ of 1978–1979. This followed an unwisely frugal government offer of a 5 per cent wage increase, far lower than inflation, and growing restlessness among shop stewards and workers within the public sector, the road haulage industry, and Ford car factories.62 Disastrously, as Eric Hobsbawm presciently anticipated, many voters interpreted the resultant strikes as attacks on the wider public interest.63 These signs of polarisation foreshadowed the election of Thatcher as Prime Minister in 1979, whose governments proceeded to curtail trade union power 59

Hain, ‘The Future of Community Politics’, 26–27. 60 Williamson, ‘The Bullock Report’, 131. 61 Jack McGowan, ‘“Dispute”, “Battle”, “Siege”, “Farce”? – Grunwick 30 Years On’, Contemporary British History 22:3 (2008), 383–406. 62 Reid, United We Stand, 356–357. 63 Hobsbawm, ‘The Forward March of Labour Halted?’, 286. Partly, this arose from discourses propagated by a hostile media. See Colin Hay, ‘Narrating Crisis: The Discursive Construction of the “Winter Discontent”’, Sociology 30:2 (1996), 253–277.

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through new legislation, and decisively faced down the coal miners in the epic strike of 1984–1985. Yet, those embroiled in the currents of that time could not know their course. As such, Labour politicians continued to link the expansion of industrial democracy to the condition of modern Britain. One attempt came from Peter Shore, Shadow Chancellor under Michael Foot’s leadership. In a 1980 lecture on ‘Socialism in the Eighties’, Shore sketched a brief history of post-war Britain in which the powers of both capital and labour had strengthened, leading to a ‘stalemate state’ embodied in the sclerotic corporatism of Wilson and Heath. To overcome this stalemate, Shore argued that a Labour government must not just reflate the economy but also ‘democratise decision-making in industry’.64 Industrial democracy had been baked into the Alternative Economic Strategy (AES) by the accession of Thatcher, and thus continued to feature in Labour’s platform into the 1980s. A key 1982 policy document on planning, jointly authored by the TUC and Labour, endorsed worker involvement (through trade unions) in state planning and industrial management at all levels, though it was cautious about the appropriateness of cooperatives.65 The 1983 manifesto, accordingly, argued that industrial democracy was ‘vital’. Alongside pledging the involvement of trade unions in the compulsory national plans, the manifesto promised funding for cooperatives and local enterprise boards.66 Some on the left wanted the AES to go further on decentralisation, especially activists in the ginger group the Labour Co-ordinating Committee (LCC) – such as Hain, who by now had defected to Labour.67 In 1982, the LCC published a pamphlet co-authored by future Kinnock enforcer and New Labour Minister Charles Clarke, which advocated decentralising state power by involving consumers, tenants, parents, and community organisations, and suggested that the AES should empower local workplaces, regions, and localities.68 By the early 1980s, however, questions bigger than the exact form of the AES were at stake. Existential dangers now threatened the party. Disavowing consensual approaches, Thatcher savaged ‘state control’ and evangelised the empowering potential of the market. For Thatcher, 64

Peter Shore, ‘Socialism in the Eighties – Breaking Away from the Stalemate State’, press release, 22 September 1980, LSE SHORE/13/9. 65 TUC-Labour Party, Economic Planning & Industrial Democracy, 4, 6–7, 9. 66 Dale (ed.), Labour Party General Election Manifestos, 248, 252. 67 Peter Hain (ed.), The Crisis and the Future of the Left: The Debate of the Decade (London, 1980), 14. 68 Summarised in Charles Clarke and David Griffiths, ‘Recipe for Defeat’, Marxism Today (May 1982), 40–41.

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the liberated marketplace was her own version of economic decentralisation. Thatcherites, alongside some maverick SDP politicians like David Owen, discussed the ‘democracy of the market’.69 This radically challenged the left’s assumptions and forced them to urgently reconsider policies like nationalisation. Matters were made more pressing by the propaganda success of Thatcher’s policies, such as the public rush to purchase shares in privatised industries like British Telecom (the famous ‘Tell Sid’ campaign). Most symbolic was Thatcher’s flagship policy of the right to buy a council house at a discount. Successfully framed as an economic empowerment against an overbearing welfare state, and laser targeted at the kind of ‘new working class’ voter likely to switch their allegiance in a swing seat, right-to-buy haunted the minds of left-wing politicians in the 1980s. Many of them witnessed the social transformation of huge council estates in their constituencies or target seats, through which Labour-voting areas became much less electorally secure, such as Peter Hain in Putney, or Labour activist John O’Farrell in Battersea.70 Right-to-buy became the symbol of Thatcher’s success in appropriating the cause of empowerment for her own ends. When considered alongside her landslide electoral successes, it is easy to see why an increasing number of voices in the 1980s British left argued that empowerment of the ordinary citizen, worker, and consumer was a crucial way through which Labour would reconnect with modern Britain. Among these voices was the Marxism Today writer and cultural theorist, Stuart Hall. Following his landmark 1979 ‘The Great Moving Right Show’, in early 1980 Hall tried to flesh out his Gramscian analysis of ‘Thatcherism’ and suggest the outlines of a ‘counter-hegemonic strategy of resistance’. Famously, he argued that the left should look beyond class conflict, into new areas of struggle like gender and race, topics covered in Part II. But, in a Eurocommunist vein, he also suggested that a rejuvenated left must ‘deepen, develop and actively transform the forms of popular democratic struggle’. Thatcher’s appeal had rested on the successful identification of the Conservatives ‘with the popular struggle against a bureaucratically centralist form of the capitalist state’. She had ‘successfully identified this kind of “statism” with Labour – and with socialism’. As such, Hall demanded ‘not a return to the status quo ante bellum but a new form of the state’. This meant that ‘[d]emocracy … is no longer marginal or tangential to the struggle: it is the very heart of the 69

Robert Saunders, ‘“Crisis? What Crisis?” Thatcherism and the Seventies’, in Jackson and Saunders (eds), Making Thatcher’s Britain, 25–43, at 35–36. 70 Interview with Peter Hain, 8 January 2020; John O’Farrell, Things Can Only Get Better: Eighteen Miserable Years in the Life of a Labour Supporter (London, 1999), 169–170.

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matter’. For Hall, the left had to abandon its attachment to centralist ‘statism’ if it were to adequately respond to the present conjuncture.71 Hall’s argument came from outside the tent, but similar claims were expressed in Labour itself. After the 1983 electoral defeat, leading members of the LCC, Hain and Nigel Stanley, published an article on ‘The modernising of the Labour Party’ in Tribune. Their suggestions for a ‘“modernising socialism” appeal’ covered significant ground, including the embrace of ecological politics and a recognition of EC membership. However, to ‘show some public awareness of the erosion of our workingclass base, particularly the “upwardly mobile” section of it’, they advocated rejecting ‘statism’, and the embrace of industrial democracy and democratic decentralisation. As we have seen, Hain had long advocated these policies, but he was now labelling them as ‘modernisation’, arguing that without them Labour would never recover Thatcher’s electoral incursions.72

Municipal Socialism and Market Socialism

What this ‘modernised’, decentralised socialism looked like in practice was, however, open for interpretation. One possible model that emerged in the early- to mid-1980s was ‘municipal socialism’. Over the 1970s and 1980s, the advancing new left made a decisive impact on the character of local government in urban centres. This growth of ‘municipal socialism’, symbolised by the controversial GLC administration led by Ken Livingstone, and the radical ‘people’s republic of Sheffield’ run by David Blunkett, has attracted much historical attention.73 Many socialists pursued left-wing goals at a local level because of the escalating recession in the early 1980s, and the hardline approach of the national government. However, their interest also came directly from these 1970s explorations in decentralised and participatory politics. Due to the entrance of new left activists into urban constituency labour parties, these councils were increasingly run by many veterans of the post-1968 countercultural movements, to the chagrin of others in the London Labour Party. Indeed, Livingstone became GLC leader because he deposed Andrew McIntosh, a figure more in the mould of 71 Stuart Hall, ‘Thatcherism – A New Stage?’, Marxism Today (December 1980), 26–29. His emphasis. 72 Peter Hain and Nigel Stanley, ‘The Modernising of the Labour Party’, Tribune, 7 October 1983, 9. 73 The GLC more than Sheffield, although that has recently been corrected: Daisy Payling, ‘“Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire”: Grassroots Activism and Left-Wing Solidarity in 1980s Sheffield’, Twentieth Century British History 25:4 (2014), 602–627.

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the London Labour establishment, in a ‘ruthless’ backroom coup only a day after McIntosh led Labour into victoriously retaking the council.74 The emerging new left shaped the policies of Livingstone’s GLC. The council not only provided financial support to community, pressure, and arts groups but often deliberately involved them in decision-making.75 Though this involvement sometimes functioned as a vehicle for nepotism, and as an attempt to construct anti-Conservative political alliances, left-wing councils also incorporated these groups because of the conviction that this would decentralise power directly to various societal interests. Livingstone saw these new practices as a signpost for how the labour movement should adapt to a new social and economic context. ‘[G]iven the contraction of the industrial base’, he argued in 1984, ‘the Labour Party has to change its own structure so that women’s organisations, black organisations, community organisations have a direct input rather than via the trade unions’. A ‘craft union-based Party’ was ‘fine a hundred years ago … Now, however, there is no prospect of building a governing majority on the basis of the old trades union structure … This is the way forward for the Party in the future’.76 The municipal socialists also developed policies to empower local economic interests. They sketched out industrial strategies and established regional enterprise boards autonomously of the national government. Sheffield pursued its own employment and social policy with sector working parties and a purchasing policy.77 Meanwhile, the GLC enlisted a ‘small band of economic guerrillas’ (as one such guerrilla Hilary Wainwright recalled) to conceive a ‘London Industrial Strategy’ (LIS).78 The resulting plan, released in 1985, came to over 600 pages and covered 23 sectors.79 Co-developed with shop stewards, trade unionists, and consumer groups, it was a deliberate experiment in ‘popular planning’.80 Key figures included many of those discussed in the 1970s, including Wainwright and the former Lucas shop steward Mike Cooley, along with 74

Owen Hatherley, Red Metropolis: Socialism and the Government of London (London, 2020), 112–113. 75 Martin Boddy and Colin Fudge, ‘Labour Councils and New Left Alternatives’, in idem (eds), Local Socialism? Labour Councils and New Left Alternatives (Basingstoke, 1984), 1–22; Maureen Mackintosh and Hilary Wainwright, ‘Introduction’, in idem (eds), A Taste of Power: The Politics of Local Economics (London, 1987), 1–20, at 7–9, 17. 76 Ken Livingstone, interviewed by Martin Boddy and Colin Fudge, in Boddy and Fudge (eds), Local Socialism?, 260–283, at 269–271. 77 David Blunkett, interviewed by Martin Boddy and Colin Fudge, in Boddy and Fudge (eds), Local Socialism?, 242–260, at 251–253. 78 Hilary Wainwright, ‘On the Life of Robin Murray, Visionary Economist’, Red Pepper, 1 June 2017 [www.redpepper.org.uk/on-the-life-of-robin-murray-visionary-economist]. 79 Greater London Council, The London Industrial Strategy (London, 1985). 80 Fred Steward, ‘Labour’s New Economic Policy?’, Marxism Today (July 1985), 6.

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the iconoclastic (post-)Marxist economist Robin Murray (and, looking ahead, a young Geoff Mulgan). Cooley’s inclusion reflected the continuing influence of the Lucas campaign even after its collapse;81 Blunkett’s Sheffield administration also hired ‘a couple of people who were involved in the Lucas Aerospace combine’.82 Reflecting the Lucas influence, the GLC’s strategy aimed to develop ‘socially useful production’, which did not prioritise ‘the balance sheet’ but rather ‘the provision of work for all who wish it in jobs that are geared to meeting social need’. The strategy also stressed the transformative impact of computerisation and changing demand patterns on production and distribution, leading to what it called ‘flexible specialisation’ and ‘neo-Fordism’.83 Below, the chapter discusses Murray’s ‘post-Fordism’ concept that proved influential later in the decade; some origins are clearly discernible here. The GLC’s industrial strategy had a wider audience in the left. It was even noticed by the Labour leadership, just when they were beginning to seriously consider ideological revision. In 1985, the municipal socialists were not natural allies of Kinnock’s leadership. Kinnock openly attacked these councils’ flirtation with lawbreaking during the ratecapping controversy, and famously used the unsavoury actions of Liverpool city council to smite down Militant Tendency.84 Even so, strikingly, Kinnock was still a guest speaker at the launch of the LIS.85 In his own writings, Kinnock accepted the need for decentralising some aspects of industrial policy to the tripartite bodies at the regional and sectoral level. When discussing the role of planning in 1986, he advocated ‘Little Neddies’ (regional versions of the National Economic Development Office (NEDO)) and ‘Sector Working Parties’. This would reform the NEDO ‘into a decentralised, participatory planning structure’.86 Even deputy leader Roy Hattersley, stalwart of the Croslandite tradition, approvingly referenced the GLC’s ‘London Financial Strategy’ in 1987 to argue for locally based and democratically accountable financial institutions.87 However, the municipal socialists were not the only ones interested in decentralising power to organised producers and consumers. 81 Cooley and the Lucas Campaign influenced councillor Valerie Wise’s decision to coopt women who turned up to public meetings onto the GLC’s Women’s Committee. Wainwright, Labour: A Tale of Two Parties, 100. 82 Boddy and Fudge interview with Blunkett, 252. 83 GLC, London Industrial Strategy, vii, 18, 34–35. 84 Andy McSmith, Faces of Labour: The Inside Story, paperback ed. (London, 1997), 163–164. 85 Steward, ‘Labour’s New Economic Policy?’. 86 Neil Kinnock, Making Our Way: Investing in Britain’s Future (Oxford, 1986), 109. 87 Roy Hattersley, Choose Freedom: The Future for Democratic Socialism (London, 1987), 200–202.

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Simultaneously, a very different group of Labour supporters were promoting various forms of economic decentralisation, like producer and consumer co-operatives. Following the 1983 election, several philosophers associated with the Fabian Society set up a Socialist Philosophy Group (SPG), including Julian Le Grand and Raymond Plant.88 Many in the SPG gravitated towards ‘market socialism’ – or a political economy based on decentralised social ownership, especially worker cooperatives, and the use of the market mechanism for socialist ends, especially in welfare services.89 We should not overstate the importance of this cerebral collective. Richard Hill has astutely commented on their ‘complacency’ in assuming that their ideas would filter through into the wider party.90 Even noted proponent David Miller stressed that, for reasons of practical politics, market socialism was a ‘guiding ideal, not as a platform for the next election.’91 Nevertheless, their emphasis on decentralised social ownership influenced Hattersley. His friendship with Plant gave Hattersley a link to the other philosophers. Like Plant, he was a sceptic of full-blown market socialism, but he engaged nonetheless. Consequently, in broader reflections in the mid-1980s, Hattersley identified producer and consumer decentralisation as promising paths for socialism.92 In a March 1986 speech, Hattersley linked a decentralised political economy to ‘modern’ socialism, as a way of reforming Labour’s platform: ‘[W]e have to look at forms of social ownership which are appropriate to our modern economy – particularly what might be called The Third Sector, that is social ownership within the private rather than the state sector of the economy’. Hattersley identified ESOPs and cooperatives as initiatives the state should support and expand, so that ‘socialists could seek, in modern conditions, to extend the boundaries of social ownership’.93 Alongside Hattersley, the SPG had a strong influence on another Labour politician: Bryan Gould. At meetings of the SPG, Gould presented papers which formed the basis of his 1985 work Socialism and Freedom.94 Both Hattersley and Gould were writing works of political 88

An early product: Raymond Plant, Equality, Markets and the State (London, 1984). 89 David Miller, Market, State, and Community: Theoretical Foundations of Market Socialism (Oxford, 1989), 10–12; Peter Abell et al., ‘Preface’, in Julian Le Grand and Saul Estrin (eds), Market Socialism (Oxford, 1989), v–vi. 90 Hill, The Labour Party and Economic Strategy, 59. 91 David Miller, ‘A Vision of Market Socialism: How It Might Work – And Its Problems’, Dissent (Summer 1991), 406–414, at 414. 92 Hattersley, Choose Freedom, 191–192, 196–197, 200–204. 93 Roy Hattersley, ‘Co-operatives and Employee Ownership’, speech at Julius Silverman Lecture, Birmingham, 11 March 1986, HULL HATTERSLEY U DRH/2/13. 94 Hill, The Labour Party and Economic Strategy, 60–61; Bryan Gould, Socialism and Freedom (Basingstoke, 1985).

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philosophy in the mid-1980s, trying to reclaim the concept of ‘freedom’ from the insurgent neoliberal political philosophy. This made them ideal audiences for the SPG’s work.95 Still, in terms of actual policy formation, the leadership’s concessions to either the GLC’s economic guerrillas or the market socialists were restrained. Despite Kinnock’s ‘little Neddies’ and the hints of an alternative framework in Hattersley’s 1986 speech, the core of the party’s 1987 manifesto remained a more familiar industrial ‘modernisation’ spearheaded by the central state, which Chapter 6 explores in more depth. When discussing social enterprise, the manifesto devoted extended space to a central state holding company and the nationalisation of British Telecom, while cooperatives were afforded one brief line. All that Labour offered for ‘democracy in the workplace’ was the restoration of trade union rights abolished by Thatcher, improved statutory health and safety protection, and their extension to part-timers.96 Hattersley’s 1986 ideas on ‘social ownership … in the private rather than the state sector of the economy’ did not have a significant impact, and neither did municipal socialism.

‘The Future, We Might Say, Belongs to Corporatism’: David Marquand and Paul Hirst

These diverse strands may have had limited direct influence, but they crystallised into two distinct versions of economic decentralisation as ‘modern socialism’ by the later 1980s. The first was a revival of corporatism, embodied in the ideas of the academics David Marquand and (especially) Paul Hirst. The second, a more catholic interpretation of the diffusion of power, arose from the Marxism Today ‘New Times’ debates. Both directly engaged with Labour’s concurrent Policy Review and were expressed as ‘modernisation’. Marquand served as a Labour MP from 1966 until 1977 and defected to the SDP in 1981. Seven years later, funded by JRSST, Marquand published a landmark book The Unprincipled Society. Though infused with a commitment to ‘ethical socialism’, it also aimed to expose the inappropriateness of Britain’s political economy for the contemporary world. Marquand understood the late 1980s as a period of ‘disorientating change’, in areas like Third World development, technology, and communication. ‘Doctrine, however, has lagged behind reality’. He argued that neither 95

The SPG’s market socialism was partly a product of the post-Rawls revival of political theory. Simon Griffiths, ‘Market Socialism in Retrospect’, Contemporary Politics 12:1 (2006), 25–44, at 28–29. 96 Dale (ed.), Labour Party General Election Manifestos, 296–297, 306–307.

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post-war Keynesianism, nor the new right, nor AES-style ‘neosocialism’ could answer the challenge of relative economic decline. At the root of Britain’s failures, Marquand argued, was its unique historical development. He lambasted the failure of Britain to become a ‘developmental state’, in contrast to West Germany, Japan, and France, because of its history as an early industrialiser and free-trading naval and imperial power, and from its seventeenth-century constitutional settlement. For Marquand, these inheritances meant that British politics was disproportionately weighted towards a metropolitan governing and financial elite, divorced from the regions, which precluded any genuine industrial policy, while in business the trade unions were defensive and management confrontational.97 They made Britain particularly ill-suited to the modern world: [T]he ‘British crisis’ is, above all, a crisis of maladaptation. Private companies, trade unions, government departments, political leaders, the political class and the general public have all failed to adapt inherited practices, institutions, expectations and assumptions to the changes which have taken place in the environment in which they originally emerged.98

In response, Marquand advocated a ‘neo-corporatist’ political economy, which would involve organised interests in an open and transparent system of collaborative governance and take greater account of localities and regions.99 The Unprincipled Society directly inspired the academic Paul Hirst to write on politics ‘after Thatcher’ a year later. Hirst also intended to expand and radicalise Labour’s Policy Review and its process of ‘modernisation’: ‘Labour is willing to modernise its policies, but not to modernise the party’s political role and outlook.’100 At its core, his argument was premised on the ‘revitalisation of manufacturing industry’ as the path to reversing relative economic decline. In this, Hirst was in tune with Labour’s own preoccupations. But crucially, like Marquand, Hirst championed a reformed corporatism as the route to the modernisation of British manufacturing. For Hirst, the management of manufactures was old-fashioned and sclerotic. ‘Shorttermism’ had allegedly been a persistent failing.101 Instead of boosting quality, which was more important in competitiveness, management 97 David Marquand, The Unprincipled Society: New Demands and Old Politics (London, 1988), 1–3, 13, 102–105, 115, 152, 175. 98 Ibid., 212. His emphasis. 99 Ibid., 160–165, 234. 100 Paul Hirst, After Thatcher (London, 1989), 13–14. 101 This allegation was common, but aspects (particularly its association with the domination of shareholder and financial interest) were later challenged. See Rajiv Prabhakar, Stakeholding and New Labour (Basingstoke, 2003), 29–30.

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had cut wages, and ran headlong into confrontation with unions. This was rendering Britain’s manufacturing ‘base’ uncompetitive and crippling the country’s economy. Moreover, Hirst saw previous corporatist attempts to modernise industry as half-hearted: post-war politicians had relied too heavily on top-down Keynesianism and the centralised political structures of the UK; their incomes policies thus lacked legitimacy and support. Yet, despite these failures, many in Labour ‘still dream of using a central state authority as an engine of social reform … Far from being radical, that is a conservative strategy that fits together the oldest illusions of Labourism and the most ossified traditions of the British state’.102 Hirst instead advocated a pluralist ‘corporatist democracy’, characterised by the devolution of power. The state needed to invest in manufacturing firms to modernise the industrial base. However, ‘picking winners’ from the centre would not work, because successful firms could not successfully be identified from aggregate statistics, but rather from deep immersion and qualitative knowledge. This epistemological constraint ruled out anything like the AES. Consequently, the ‘industrial policy to be followed should therefore decentralise investment decisionmaking as much as possible’, while credit for investments would be sourced from both the central state and local government, along with mutualist agencies.103 Hirst saw this decentralised, pluralist corporatism as critical for any serious modernisation of Labour’s policies. He did perceive green shoots. He acclaimed an interim 1988 Policy Review group report as abandoning ‘the traditional collectivist shibboleths that have helped to make Labour unelectable’, and specifically praised its convenor, the ‘Labour moderniser’ Bryan Gould. But Labour needed to embrace much more radical decentralisations of economic power and build a ‘corporatist democracy’. Hirst was confident about the possibilities of corporatism. He even interpreted Delors’ ‘Social Europe’ agenda, which the European Commission president had dramatically outlined at the TUC’s annual conference weeks before the publication of Hirst’s book, as a sign that the new Europe would be defined by state regulation and corporatism. ‘[T]he real objection to such “corporatist” policies is not that they are old and tired, but that they are new and threatening in the British context … The future, we might say, belongs to corporatism.’104 102 Hirst, After Thatcher, 76–78, 128–134, 157–165, 184–187. 103 Ibid., 184–185, 197. 104 Ibid., 33, 204, 223.

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‘Democratic Modernisation’: The Eurocommunist Contribution

Other thinkers interested in ‘modernisation’ explored more diverse, and less industrial, forms of economic decentralisation. In particular, the GLC provided a crucial inspiration to a cluster of writers at Marxism Today. In 1986, as the GLC stared down the barrel of its dissolution, Beatrix Campbell and Martin Jacques wrote a valedictory obituary that emphasised the lessons of Livingstone’s administration. One ‘very innovative feature’ of the council’s governance was its grants policy. Using rates revenue from rich boroughs, the GLC ‘hugely expanded the voluntary sector, that whole army of agencies that house the homeless, provide facilities for the disabled, assist black and poor people’s community organisations, fund play groups for kids and help sports clubs’. Along with financial support, ‘the GLC recognised that it was much better to allow groups to organise their own nurseries … It allowed for the factor of self-determination’. Jacques and Campbell believed that this represented nothing less than a bona fide progressive response to ‘Thatcherism’: What the GLC did was develop a new concept of the relationship between the state and the voluntary sector. Thatcherism is strongly pro-voluntary sector, at least in rhetoric, and anti-statist. The Morrisonian tradition sees at best an essentially paternalist relationship between the state and the voluntary sector. In contrast, the GLC was pro-state and pro-voluntary sector, for a new symbiotic partnership. This was powerful stuff because it denied Thatcherism the high ground in the argument about initiative, enterprise and decentralisation.105

They developed this strand of thinking further. Following Thatcher’s third successive victory in 1987, Jacques, Campbell, and the Eurocommunists launched a project that ensured Marxism Today became a household name: a new Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) manifesto and an associated magazine edition that declared the ‘New Times’. Crucially, they bound together the concept of ‘modernisation’ with the urge to decentralise power to various producer, consumer, and community groups. At the heart of both the manifesto and the New Times debates was an economically determinist understanding of macrosocial development. As one of its authors Charles Leadbeater explained, ‘New Times’ was ‘a version of Marxist crisis theory’. It held that technological and manufacturing revolutions (especially the spread of the microchip) had birthed a 105



Beatrix Campbell and Martin Jacques, ‘Goodbye to the GLC’, Marxism Today (April 1986), 6–10.

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new mode of production (post-Fordism) inherent within and straining at the fetters of the old order (Fordism).106 For the manifesto’s authors, this meant that politics and society were evolving beyond top-down governance. Contrary to the ‘managerialist’ and ‘collectivist’ assumptions that they impugned to an ‘old left’, large parts of society, especially in the affluent south, now embodied diversity, fragmentation, and burgeoning choice. With its stress on individualism, ‘Thatcherism’ represented a ‘conservative modernisation’ in response to these ‘leading edges’, which ensured its continued electoral success. The challenge for the left was to develop a ‘socialist modernisation’ and seize the initiative. This ‘modernisation’ involved many bold changes in policy and ideology. Among others, the left had to learn from ‘the innovative models of municipal socialism’ embodied in the GLC. Like Livingstone’s council, it had to tap into ‘new popular movements’ of ‘voluntary organisations, community groups, the churches, music, and single-issue campaigning groups’, recently symbolised by the success of Live Aid. But the Eurocommunists were clear that Labour had hitherto been ‘unable to develop a vision of socialist modernisation, because it is still trapped within its inheritance of social-democratic managerialism’, which represented ‘a failure to modernise itself alongside the social and economic forces behind the creation of the new order’.107 Labour had to change its very assumptions of governance: The key to this is to develop a vision of democratic modernisation. These twin themes of democracy and modernisation would set the trajectory for society’s development. The aim would be to ensure democratic development in the broadest sense, through expanding decentralisation, diversity and choice … socialist strategy must be driven from the “bottom up” rather than brought in from the “top down” … It must match the plurality and diversity of society and aim to empower people in a range economic and social settings, from the home to the high street, the workplace and the council chamber.108

The manifesto ended by sketching some policies that flowed from this Olympian picture of societal transformation. Socio-economic democracy appeared in several areas. In economic policy, it endorsed decentralised planning and local regulatory boards overlooking investment, employment, and industrial democracy, which could ‘become organising points for campaigns by alliances of consumers, workers, and the local community’. In services, council housing should be ‘pursued through genuinely democratic decentralisation, based on housing co-operatives’, while 106

David Blunkett et al., ‘Clearing the Decks’, Marxism Today (October 1988), 34–40, at 37. 107 CPGB, Facing Up to the Future, in Marxism Today (September 1988), supplement. 108 Ibid., 6.

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education, health, and the public utilities ‘must be opened to decentralised control, through local elected boards and councils.’109 It was a heady cocktail – too much so for Hirst, who criticised the ‘post-Fordist’ analysis as a ‘mythology’, arguing that these revolutions ‘are very hard to find’, as social attitudes remained stable and older forms of manufacturing persisted.110 However, did this post-Marxist fusion of decentralisation and ‘socialist modernisation’ have any direct influence on the Labour Party? In the 1990s, New Labour drew on some of this thinking in its focus on communities and social services delivery. One of its authors, Charlie Leadbeater, advised Tony Blair while his close collaborator, Geoff Mulgan, would become an advisor to Gordon Brown and later head of Blair’s Policy Unit at Number Ten.111 But in the late 1980s, the New Times agenda more obviously shaped others: the shadow cabinet member Bryan Gould and the new MP David Blunkett (who had been elected in 1987). We have already seen that, with his engagement with the Fabian market socialists, Gould was intellectually open to ideological revisionism which stressed socio-economic decentralisation. It thus made political sense that Gould reviewed the CPGB manifesto for the Guardian, comparing it favourably to Labour’s existing platform.112 Blunkett was similarly naturally inclined to its conclusions; he was not only a former figurehead of municipal socialism but had also jointly chaired a 1985 joint policy committee on ‘Social Ownership’ with John Smith.113 Consequently, in its ‘New Times’ edition, Marxism Today printed a roundtable discussion involving both Gould and Blunkett. Chaired by journalist Sarah Benton, it put the Labour MPs in conversation with Leadbeater and Campbell. The Labour discussants were much more cautious than the Eurocommunists. Gould pointed out that while ‘the C[ommunist] P[arty] travels light’, Labour ‘can’t – nor should it, in my view – so easily jettison some of the old structures, the old ideas, the old values. As a Dagenham MP I can hardly rejoice in the demise of Fordism’.114 Yet, there were areas of substantial agreement. Both Blunkett and Gould welcomed the document’s emphasis on empowerment and decentralisation. Gould championed enabling consumers ‘to organise 109

Ibid., 6–10. 110 Hirst, After Thatcher, 16–17, 30–32. Hirst was not denying that there had been telling economic change (he thought flexible specialisation in manufacturing was a crucial development). But he criticised sweeping interpretations that implied no agency. 111 Diamond, The British Labour Party, 29. 112 Bryan Gould, ‘A Map of the Battlefield for the Left’, Guardian, 25 August 1988, 17. 113 Hill, The Labour Party and Economic Strategy, 64. 114 Blunkett et al, ‘Clearing the Decks’, 35.

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so that our politics goes out to people, rather than waiting for them to come to us’. He also discussed the importance of ESOPs. After Campbell stressed the importance of the ‘third sector’ of voluntary groups, Blunkett replied ‘I agree with that’. Benton did push Gould on whether Labour would actually ‘give these bodies statutory powers of representation’, and Gould acknowledged that ‘actual mechanisms’ are ‘difficult’. But he continued by invoking both socialist principles and the tensions of modernity, to paint decentralisation as a promising path: ‘To me, what socialism is about is the diffusion of power … in modern society power has become more rigidly and remotely exercised … So one solution to that is to bring structures closer to people: to go for decentralisation, smaller units and so on.’115

Gould, Blunkett, and Meacher

This engagement by Gould and Blunkett with iconoclastic Eurocommunists reflected increasing momentum for Labour revisionism in the late 1980s. Several writers intervened in this burgeoning debate, contending that Labour must reform its policies and ideology after three consecutive election defeats. The Marxism Today contributors and the market socialists were only some in a long list, which also included historian Ben Pimlott, maverick MP Austin Mitchell, Croslandite Giles Radice, and, as explored in the previous chapter, London Labour’s Frances Morrell. This revisionist urge gained political relevance through Labour’s Policy Review process and Kinnock’s own drive for ‘modernisation’. Indeed, during the Marxism Today roundtable, Gould directly compared CPGB’s manifesto with Labour’s Review: I think the Labour Party policy review addresses fundamentally the same situation as the Communist Party document, Facing Up To The Future. We have to recognise that society changed in the interim period and the requirements of the modern economy are different. If we’re to grapple with those requirements we have to not just outflank, but leapfrog Thatcher.116

This direct comparison is doubly significant given that both Gould and Blunkett were intimately involved in Labour’s Policy Review, the major revisionist project of Neil Kinnock’s leadership. Blunkett chaired the group on ‘Consumers and the Community’. To this, he brought his strong belief in the importance of local government and community groups and emphasised the diffusion of power, especially to consumers 115 Ibid., 37–38. 116 Ibid., 34. Their emphasis.

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as groups and individuals.117 The Review’s landmark 1989 report represented these proposed policies as ‘modernisation’. It should be noted that the initial draft of Blunkett’s section, at 27,000 words, drastically overshot the target wordcount of 10,000; thus, it was substantially redrafted by the Review’s coordinator, Patricia Hewitt – who, one could speculate, may have added this ‘modernising’ language.118 Still, it argued that ‘[m]odern “consumerism”’ was ‘the expression of people’s desire for greater control over the goods and services they use, their immediate ­environment – and the wider social and economic forces which shape it’. In policies, it identified a ‘need to turn away from the centralism of this government to embrace diversity, pluralism, and the devolving of real power’. The report pledged a Department for Consumer Affairs, which would not only initiate protective legislation and facilitate redress but also help citizens organise themselves into tenants and residents’ associations or consumer groups and offer funding.119 Meanwhile, Gould chaired the Productive and Competitive Economy review group. Although, as will be shown in Chapter 6, their main concern was the techno-modernist ‘supply-side socialism’, its section of the 1989 report discussed ‘[e]xtending democracy to the workplace’, including pledges of tax incentives for ESOPs and cooperatives, the investigation of corporate governance legislation, and the empowerment of pension fund contributors.120 The pension fund idea was, in part, a response to a major economic change over the post-war period: the growing of ownership of the economy by institutionalised investments.121 During the Review, Gould also wrote and spoke widely on his own interpretation of a ‘modern socialism’, emphasising the diffusion of economic power. In the Anthony Crosland Memorial Lecture of November 1988, he speculated on diverse models of social ownership, including municipal enterprise boards, worker and consumer cooperatives, and collective share ownership.122 He noted the runaway popularity of Thatcher’s ‘right to buy’ and suggested that Labour should develop a socialist alternative. ESOPs were Gould’s own passion, and one he was willing to pursue despite significant pushback from the left. He continued to advocate for

117



118 119 120 121 122

‘Consumers and the Community: Report of the PRG: Second Phase of the Policy Review’ (April 1989), CAC KNNK 2/2/40. Hughes and Wintour, Labour Rebuilt, 174–175. Labour Party, Meet the Challenge, Make the Change, 41–42. Ibid., 13. Aled Davies, ‘Pension Funds and the Politics of Ownership in Britain, c. 1970–1986’, Twentieth Century British History 30:1 (2019), 81–107. John Carvel, ‘Gould Warns Party against Shift to the Right’, Guardian, 12 November 1988, 3.

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Figure 2.1  David Blunkett, Bryan Gould, and Neil Kinnock at a press conference on the poll tax in April 1990. Although their influence was by now beginning to weaken (see below) both Gould and Blunkett were significant figures in Kinnock’s Policy Review.

ESOPs even after other commentators questioned the wisdom of exposing workers’ livelihoods to the vicissitudes of the stock market after the 1987 crash.123 This thinking culminated in Gould’s 1989 intervention A Future for Socialism. The book set out ‘an empowering and liberating socialism’ that ‘overtakes, leapfrogs and outdates Thatcherism’. Gould claimed that the true divide within Labour was not left or right but rather between ‘the reactionaries and the modernisers’, and (unsurprisingly) positioned himself with the latter. He again endorsed ESOPs, along with the expansion of worker and consumer cooperatives, municipal enterprises, wage-earner investment funds, and industrial democracy. The ‘power to choose’, Gould argued, ‘must be the socialist message of the 1990s’ (Figure 2.1).124 Within Labour, Gould and Blunkett were not alone in interpreting ‘modern socialism’ as socio-economic decentralisation. They were joined 123



124

John Lloyd and Ben Pimlott, ‘You Can Have Anything You Damned Well Please’, New Statesman, 5 November 1987, 19–20, at 19. Bryan Gould, A Future for Socialism (London, 1989), xiii, 18, 20, 55–56, 59–62, 66, 134–140, 144.

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by the ‘soft left’ shadow minister Michael Meacher. During the Policy Review, Meacher’s enthusiasm for empowering collectives led to a serious clash with the Labour leadership, when he publicly outlined trade union rights that went beyond what Kinnock and the TUC had thrashed out together.125 But, for Meacher, empowering unions was part of his wider vision for a ‘modernised’ socialism. ‘For modernisers’, he explained in a 1988 Guardian piece, the ‘diffusion of power’ was critical.126 Meacher only grew more convinced. Soon after the 1992 defeat, Meacher published Diffusing Power: The Key to Socialist Revival. He portrayed decentralisation as the future path for socialism, and (in a post-Fordist vein) justified his contentions with reference to ‘the micro-chip-driven change to a decentralised economy’ and ‘the demands of the radically changed political, social, and economic landscape of the 1990s’.127 By the early 1990s, therefore, these three politicians constituted a recognisable tendency within Labour, which advanced a distinctive understanding of ‘modernisation’. They presented themselves as politician-theorists of modern socialism and sometimes called themselves ‘modernisers’. They drew on diverse intellectual currents, from Fabian philosophers to Eurocommunists, to argue for decentralising economic power to producers and consumers, as well as political power to communities and citizens. They were far from isolated mavericks, as their involvement in the Policy Review attests, and their ideas had some impact on party policy, especially as they chimed with the general mood for ideological revision and the musings of powerful politicians like Hattersley. Labour’s manifesto for the 1992 general election pledged not only to formally include business and the unions in an annual ‘state of the nation’ economic report and outlined the creation of a ‘Consumer’s Charter’ but also proposed a consultation on tax incentives for ESOPs and worker cooperatives.128 Still, because Gould, Blunkett, and Meacher talked the most often of socio-economic democracy as modernisation, they constituted an identifiable tendency. Certainly, their intellectual closeness bore out during the 1992 leadership election. Meacher was one of Gould’s two sole Shadow Cabinet supporters (the other was his constituency neighbour, Jo Richardson) while Blunkett was his campaign manager.129 All this explains why Gould foregrounded producer

125 126 127 128 129

Hughes and Wintour, Labour Rebuilt, 147–152. Meacher, ‘…and the Real Challenge’. Meacher, Diffusing Power, vii–viii, 1. Dale (ed.), Labour Party General Election Manifestos, 321, 324, 333. Patrick Wintour, ‘Blunkett Seeks Shift in Party Control’, Guardian, 16 May 1992, 4; Jill Sherman, ‘Gould Woos Labour’s Women Vote’, The Times, 9 May 1992, 2.

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and consumer decentralisation in that election. Through his engagement with market socialists, Eurocommunists, and other Labour MPs, Gould came to argue that the diffusion of socio-economic power was critical for ‘modern socialism’.

The ‘Stakeholding Economy’?

Smith stormed the 1992 leadership contest for many reasons. As already explored, a major reason for Smith’s victory was his longstanding advocacy for European integration, in contrast to Gould’s more sceptical positioning, at a time when the party was becoming increasingly supportive of the emerging European Union. Smith’s personal qualities, and Gould’s lack of a robust factional supporter base, should also be remembered.130 Among the contributing factors, however, must be Gould’s reliance on socio-economic democracy as his vision of ‘modern socialism’. Despite its place in the Policy Review, and thus the 1992 manifesto, it increasingly diverged from how others in the party understood ‘modernisation’ in the 1990s. It was not so much that diffusing power was considered wrong, but that – as Chapter 5 will explore in more depth – attention had pivoted towards the decentralisation and reform of formal political power, which Smith championed most enthusiastically. By 1992, ideas like ESOPs no longer possessed the same revisionist frisson that they did in 1987, when Gould first proposed them. Constitutional reform dominated the agenda instead. Even among eloquent advocates of socio-economic democracy, some suggested that priority should be given to constitutional reform. The emergence of this implicit hierarchy – where political decentralisation trumped the economy – is discernible in the writings of Marquand and Hirst. Both stressed the intertwined nature of economic and constitutional structures, and thus the relevance of constitutional history to political economy. They propounded a version of British history that stressed regressive continuity: the country was, for them, fundamentally defined by the late seventeenth-century settlement of Crown-in-Parliament sovereignty. This hindered the UK’s ability to adapt to membership of the EC, but also to a plural, diverse, and less deferential society. Absolute parliamentary sovereignty fused together the executive and legislative, hoarded power at the centre, and prevented the sharing of decisionmaking and recognition of interest groups. It thus assumed a minimal state and was ill-suited to the pluralist and interventionist implications 130



Lloyd and Pimlott, ‘You Can Have Anything You Damned Well Please’; Stuart, John Smith, 232–233; Interview with Peter Hain, 8 January 2020.

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of true corporatism.131 For Hirst, the British constitution had killed corporatism in the 1960s and 1970s.132 Therefore, the UK’s ‘antiquated’ constitution had to be ‘modernised’. For Hirst, building his desired neo-corporatist Britain ‘involves nothing less than sending the “Westminster model” to the constitution breakers and replacing it by a more modern model derived essentially from foreign sources’.133 As shown in Chapter 5, the historical vision underpinning their arguments partly grew out of declinist New Left histories of the UK, and was also echoed by an electrifying new campaign, Charter 88. Both Marquand and Hirst were supporters of Charter 88, and Hirst was also on the Executive Council.134 The participation of Hirst and Marquand in these cross-party movements for constitutional reform was telling. Through their actions and arguments, they implied that Labour could not realistically build a ‘corporatist democracy’ to ‘modernise’ Britain’s economy, until they had secured comprehensive constitutional reform.135 This implied prioritisation of constitutional reform over other forms of decentralisation proved significant, as did the outcome of the 1992 leadership contest. The sheer scale of Smith’s victory had a deleterious impact on Gould’s standing in the party, and thus for the policies with which he was closely associated, like ESOPs. As such, the implications ranged far beyond Gould’s personal career: they affected the evolving meaning of Labour’s ‘modernisation’. The subsequent debate over the ‘stakeholding economy’ is revealing in this respect. As a catchphrase, the ‘stakeholding economy’ spawned much interest in the mid-1990s, but ultimately failed to make a decisive impression on New Labour. Its most prominent champion was the Observer columnist Will Hutton. In 1995, Hutton published a bestselling book The State We’re In, which echoed many of the arguments of Hirst and Marquand. It lambasted a ‘malfunctioning’ political economy, marked by corruption, inequality, deindustrialisation, and relative economic decline. In response, Hutton endorsed reforms to company governance and trade union culture, along with a more active state. He argued that successful capitalism required people to have a ‘stake’ as employees and citizens and that Britain ‘needs what might be called a republican attitude to its culture and institutions’.136 In 131

132 133 134 135 136

Marquand, Unprincipled Society, 10, 152–154, 173–176. Hirst, After Thatcher, 221–222. Ibid., 76–78. Ben Pimlott, ‘Paul Hirst’, Guardian, 20 June 2003, 25. In fairness, in more abstract political theory, Hirst advocated both simultaneously. See Paul Hirst, Associative Democracy: New Forms of Economic and Social Governance (Cambridge, 1994). Will Hutton, The State We’re In (London, 1995), 287. His emphasis.

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other articles, he defined the stakeholding economy as one that recognised the social context to markets, and built in obligations and rights.137 Like Hirst and Marquand, Hutton also asserted the need for Labour to ‘modernise’ the UK’s ‘ancient’ and ‘semi-modern’ constitution to tackle ‘decline’ at its source. The litany of problems ‘implies nothing less than the root and branch overhaul of the Westminster version of democracy … To break out of this cycle of decline and build co-operative institutions, Britain must complete the unfinished business of the seventeenth century and quip itself with a constitution that permits a new form of economic, social and political citizenship’.138 For a brief moment, it seemed like a Huttonite vision, which combined economic and constitutional empowerment, might shape New Labour’s agenda. In January 1996, Blair gave a speech in Singapore, which hinted that the ‘stakeholding economy’ would become an overarching campaign theme, with policy implications for corporate governance. Blair suggested that ‘it is surely time to assess how we shift the emphasis in corporate ethos from being a mere vehicle for the capital market … towards a vision of the company as a community or partnership’. This was the ‘the real way to combine efficiency and equity in a modern age’.139 This was well received in the Labour Party: National Policy Forum members enthused about the idea.140 The ‘stakeholding economy’ also seemed to press all the right buttons on New Labour’s famously hyperactive electoral and media management machine. His press secretary Alastair Campbell was thrilled with the speech and the influential pollster Philip Gould suggested that the phrase went down well in focus groups.141 Yet, despite this enthusiasm, the ‘stakeholding economy’ withered on the vine. By the publication of Labour’s 1997 manifesto, the phrase appeared only once, to justify ‘high and stable levels of employment. This is the true meaning of a stakeholder economy’. In other words, it was used as a synonym for a strikingly orthodox agenda.142 Hints of

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138 139 140 141 142

Will Hutton and John Kay, ‘Only Working Together Will Save the Economy’ [originally published 13 October 1996], in Hutton, The Stakeholding Society: Writings on Politics and Economics, ed. David Goldblatt (Cambridge, 1999), 82–88. Hutton, State We’re In, 24–26. Later reprinted as ‘The Stakeholder Society’ in Paul Richards (ed.), Tony Blair in His Own Words (London, 2004), 158–165, at 163–164. Reports on National Policy Forum 18–19 May 1996, Manchester, MRC MORRIS MSS.126/BM/3/3/5/6. Alastair Campbell, The Alastair Campbell Diaries. Volume 1: Prelude to Power, 1994–1997 (London, 2011), 351–352, 358 [7 and 18 January 1996]. The similar phrase ‘stakeholding society’ appears elsewhere, but for more top-down communitarian purpose: Labour’s pledge for a national citizens service programme. Dale (ed.), Labour Party General Election Manifestos, 360, 373.

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diffusing power in corporate governance had disappeared. We can retrospectively identify some of the nails in the coffin. Critically, Gordon Brown hated the idea for, it appears, both political and personal reasons. He thought it could be represented as a capitulation to the unions (indeed, the Conservatives attempted this attack).143 He also resented Blair’s encroachment on his economic purview without prior briefing.144 An additional difficulty with the ‘stakeholder economy’, however, was its vagueness. It could refer to policies that very much fitted New Labour’s emerging agenda, like boosting both rights and responsibilities in welfare policy. But it could also take on Huttonite meanings, which implied pluralist neocorporatism and more radical reforms of company governance and ownership. Brown and his advisor Balls appear to have made this point in a tense meeting with Blair, Campbell, and other advisors soon after the Singapore speech. According to Campbell’s diary, Balls suggested that the ‘stakeholder economy’ term ‘lent itself to other people’s definitions’.145 Thus, even while centre-left intellectuals enthused over the ‘stakeholding economy’ – and even when it performed well in focus groups – Brown avoided the soundbite like the plague. It is highly plausible that he wanted to avoid tainted associations with those like Hutton. So it seems did Blair. It is revealing that the most developed sections of Blair’s Singapore speech did not discuss reforming company governance, but instead strengthening human capital in a globalised economy and topdown regulations designed to increase individual asset ownership.146 A few days after the speech, Blair specifically ruled out new corporate legislation that would impinge on governance and ownership.147 Similarly, in a later essay, he declared that ‘I believe in a “stakeholder economy”’, but immediately proceeded to discuss capital investment in telecommunications and education, ‘exciting initiatives for the information age’.148 Insofar as ‘stakeholding’ did influence New Labour, it provided a catchphrase for already established policies, such as investment in ‘human capital’. In Rajiv Prabhakar’s terms, this reflected a more individualist 143 Prabhakar, Stakeholding, 20. 144 Admittedly, my source here is partial (Campbell’s diaries), but I have not seen anything that disproves it. Campbell, Prelude to Power, 354, 371, 374 [11 January 1996, 5 and 12 February 1996]. 145 Ibid., 374 [12 February 1996]. 146 Blair, ‘Stakeholding Society’. 147 Gavyn Davies, ‘Tony Blair Puts Meat on the Stakeholder Bones’, The Independent, 15 January 1996 [www.independent.co.uk/news/business/tony-blair-puts-meat-on-the​stakeholder-bones-1324167.html]. 148 Tony Blair, ‘Introduction: My Vision for Britain’, in Giles Radice (ed.), What Needs to Change: New Visions for Britain (London, 1996), 3–21, at 10–12.

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rather than a collectivist understanding of stakeholding.149 But ideas of ‘stakeholding’ do not seem especially critical for these policies. As shown in Chapter 6, many of them echoed well-established (and distinctly topdown) traditions in Labour’s political economy and, where novel, drew substantially not from British ‘stakeholder’ discourses but from New Keynesianism and ‘Clintonomics’.150 As such, though one eschewed the term ‘stakeholding economy’ and the other did not, Brown and Blair were not far apart in their outlooks, and neither were enthused about the vision of modern socialism discussed in this chapter. Institutionally, this mattered more than ever. By the mid-1990s, despite attempted pluralist reforms by power brokers like Sawyer, Labour’s policy formation was effectively controlled by the party leadership through key Shadow Cabinet committees.151 While in the 1970s and 1980s distinct agendas could make a real impact on the party’s manifesto through National Executive Committee (NEC) subcommittees or, albeit to a lesser extent, through joint NEC-Shadow Cabinet Policy Review groups, by the 1990s power had been centralised, not just over ‘symbolic policies’ but over most of the party’s agenda.152 Paradoxically, the proliferation of independent left-wing think tanks after the late 1980s was also significant in contributing, institutionally, to the marginalisation of economic democracy in the Labour leadership’s vision of ‘modern socialism’. The creation of new sites for policymaking outside Labour, like the Institute for Public Policy Research (founded out of Kinnock’s office), was important for many reasons and did contribute positively to modernisation agendas of the 1990s, as Parts II and III explore. But it also gave an empowered party leadership more freedom to borrow fleshed-out policies from these external institutions, rather than forcing undeveloped ideas to run the gauntlet of factionalised party structures. Indeed, this was the very point. When the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) launched in 1988 it was sold as an ‘entirely independent entity’ so that it had ‘greater intellectual legitimacy’. Paddy Ashdown even inquired about the involvement of the 149 Prabhakar, Stakeholding and New Labour, 17, 68–69, 123–124. Geoff Mulgan was a key voice in this individualist strand. 150 Richard Carr notes that Democrat thinkers discussed a ‘stakeholder’ society, which New Labour echoed rhetorically. But they meant encouraging employee health and pension benefits through tax incentives. This did not impinge on ownership and governance. Carr, March of the Moderates, 192–193. 151 Tom Sawyer, ‘After the Policy Review’, Labour Party News (July/August 1989), 7; Russell, Building New Labour, 138. 152 Neil Kinnock, ‘Reforming the Labour Party’, Contemporary Record 8:3 (1994), 535– 555; Massey, The Modernisation of the Labour Party, particularly chapters two and six; Minkin, Blair Supremacy, 110, 117–118.

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Liberal Democrats after it launched. The deliberate consequence was, in the words of Kinnock’s office, to allow the IPPR to ‘“think the unthinkable” … without committing the party or the TUC’.153 A small team of Labour sympathisers could coordinate academics and experts to slay sacred cows in the name of ‘modernisation’, while the party itself could stay at a safe remove from the bloodletting. It also meant that, if some of the suggestions were unpalatable, they could be quarantined and kept off the party’s own agenda.154 Understanding this gives greater insight into policymaking in the early 1990s and how its evolving institutional structure shaped the meaning of modernisation. When John Smith decided that social policy had to be overhauled following the 1992 election, and particularly his bruising experience of the Conservatives’ exaggerated ‘tax bombshell’ attacks on Labour’s welfare pledges, he proceeded very differently to Kinnock in 1987. It was not to another Policy Review he turned, but instead to the IPPR. The result was the Commission on Social Justice (1992–1994), an exercise in both substantive and symbolic policy revision, which published several issue papers and a major report. The Commission had its weaknesses and lacked some specifics. The crucial point, however, is that unlike in a party-based review, Labour’s leaders could pinch material useful for them while nimbly swerving aspects they found inconvenient.155 The Commission’s ideas about a ‘modern’ welfare state as ‘active’ (‘a hand-up’ not a ‘hand-out’) anticipated New Labour’s early approach to welfare.156 Brown drew on the authority of an IPPR pamphlet in his own writing for the Fabian Society,157 and contributed to related IPPR publications.158 Emerging and intensely controversial issues – such as the use of public-private partnerships by a centre-left government – could be explored in IPPR pamphlets by future New Labour advisors.159 Meanwhile, however, Blair and Brown could cheerfully ignore 153



154 155 156 157 158 159

‘The Research Institute: Meeting with Norman Willis’, 21 October 1987 (my emphasis), and Letter from Paddy Ashdown to Tessa Blackstone, 27 July 1988, CAC KNNK 2/1/110. Catherine Haddon, Making Policy in Opposition: The Commission on Social Justice, 1992– 1994 (London, 2012), 6, 8. Smith’s Head of Policy, David Ward, has recently confirmed this in a retrospective on the ‘Shadow Budget’. See David Ward, John Smith’s Shadow Budget 1992 – Myths and Lessons for Labour, Mile End Institute Paper (London, 2022), 16. Commission on Social Justice, Social Justice [1994], 8–9. Gordon Brown, Fair Is Efficient – A Socialist Agenda for Fairness (London, 1994), 9. The IPPR pamphlet was co-written by his advisor Ed Balls. Gordon Brown, ‘The Politics of Potential: A New Agenda for Labour’, in David Miliband (ed.), Reinventing the Left (Cambridge, 1994), 113–123. Dan Corry, Julian Le Grand, and Rosemary Radcliffe, Public/Private Partnerships: A Marriage of Convenience or a Permanent Commitment (London, 1997).

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some of the more unwelcome conclusions of the Commission’s report. Crucially, these included the IPPR’s endorsement, in 1994, of employee share-ownership trusts and works councils, which resonated with the ‘stakeholding economy’ debates circulating among the mid-1990s policymaking left.160 The fate of the ‘stakeholder economy’ neatly reflects the marginalisation of earlier interpretations of ‘modernisation’, which stressed decentralising economic decision-making to workers and consumers. By the mid-1990s, Will Hutton was invoking themes that, while politically potent a decade previously and still powerful in academia and in the archipelago of centre-left think tanks, had receded into the distant background of Labour’s actual policy formation. Their previously prominent champion within the party, Bryan Gould, had by this point even resigned as an MP and flown back to his native New Zealand. Although his stress on a constitutional overhaul still resonated, Hutton’s endorsement of rebalancing power in company governance and service provision failed to make a significant dent in the Labour leadership’s understanding of ‘modernisation’. The party-political foundations for a revival of neocorporatism, industrial democracy, or consumer decentralisation were no more. There were, of course, still some keepers of the flame. One stalwart was Peter Hain, now a Labour MP, who, despite their differences on European integration, had supported Gould in the 1992 leadership contest.161 In 1993, Hain attacked commentators for dubbing Gould and Blunkett as traditionalists and Blair and Brown as modernisers. ‘In fact, both [Blunkett and Gould] are long-standing campaigners for radical change in the party. Their crime is to disagree with the “moderniser” strategy and its vacuous economic policy.’ For Hain, the true ‘alternative’ to outdated policies was the ‘new emerging Labour left’, which ‘offers an alternative “libertarian socialist” vision to empower citizens’.162 By now, however – as the subtext of Hain’s article reveals – general assumptions about the meaning of ‘modernisation’, and the identities of its supporters and opponents, had narrowed and crystallised. Hence, in February 1993, the BBC’s Jonathan Dimbleby could make statements like ‘in the Party there are the traditionalists and there are the so-called modernisers and actually quite a fierce debate going on, as it were, between the Tony Blairs, I put that in inverted commas, and the 160

Commission on Social Justice, Social Justice [1994], 6–7. 161 Patrick Wintour, ‘Nominations List Shows Old Factions Crumbling amid New Concerns’, Guardian, 30 April 1992, 7. 162 Peter Hain, ‘Mods and Mockers’, New Statesman and Society, 17 September 1993, 22.

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Bryan Goulds, in inverted commas’.163 Even if accompanied by scare quotes, Blair was a moderniser, Gould was now a traditionalist. During a moment of revisionist fervour, these new dividing lines mattered. When Labour’s leaders talked about their ‘modernisation’ as the ‘empowerment’ of ‘ordinary people’, they now tended to mean constitutional devolution and human capital formation, themes that will be explored in substantial depth in Part III. The afterlife of the ‘New Times’ agenda through the think tank Demos did foster some New Labour interest in mobilising ‘civic entrepreneurs’, and the former market socialist Fabian Julian Le Grand also contributed to Blair’s public service reform agenda as his Health Advisor (2003–2005).164 Largely absent from their understanding, however, were ESOPs, workers on boards, and producer and consumer cooperatives in the private economy. By the 1997 election, conceptual ties between ‘modernisation’ and socio-economic democracy, which some had tried to knot over the 1970s and 1980s, had frayed and snapped.

163 Jonathan Dimbleby interview with Anthony Howard and Andrew Neil, BBC On the Record, 7 February 1993 [www.bbc.co.uk/otr/intext92-93/Howard-Neil7.2.93.html]. 164 Bevir, New Labour, 51.

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Part II

Identities and ‘Modern Socialism’

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3

‘An Old Working Class May Be Waning, but a New One Is Being Born’?



Gender, Labour, and Modernisation

The typical worker of the future will not be a burly man blasting away at the coal face; she is much more likely to be a service worker employed in a well-ventilated, dirt-free office —Anne Phillips, 1984.1

It is vital that we concentrate in the coming weeks on improving our support among women voters. Our policies for women’s equality are crucial to victory in the General Election

—Anonymous (The office of Neil Kinnock), c.1987.2

Twenty-first century women have arrived, a century ahead of time: ahead of the men to whom they are married, the employers for whom they work and the government which shapes the society in which they live —Harriet Harman, 1993.3

It is well known that the late twentieth century witnessed major battles over women’s representation in Labour and British politics. It is also widely understood that arguments for the ‘modernisation’ of the left became prevalent over the same period. They have not, however, been fully analysed in the same frame. This chapter shows how turbulent gender politics within the left produced a distinct understanding of ‘modernisation’. To be clear, this gendered conception of ‘modernisation’ fell short of widespread acceptance. For many self-proclaimed ‘modernisers’ within the inner sanctum of New Labour, gender was a side issue at best.4 Moreover, ‘modernity’ was not an important conceptual or rhetorical resource for some of the key campaigners for increased female representation inside Labour. Still, this chapter demonstrates that, over the 1980s and 1990s, a prominent group 1

Reprinted in Anne Phillips, Democracy and Difference (Cambridge, 1993), 31. 2 Anon., ‘Women’s Ministry Briefing’, n.d. [c.1987], CAC KNNK 2/1/82. 3 Harriet Harman, The Century Gap (London, 1993), 1. 4 For example, in Philip Gould’s otherwise revelatory memoir, New Labour’s electoral targeting of women is given scant attention: Gould, The Unfinished Revolution.

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of left-wing campaigners, policymakers, and feminists increasingly claimed that Labour could never be ‘modern’ unless it attacked gender inequalities through both representation and policy. They advanced a gendered interpretation of ‘modernisation’ which stressed pluralising family models, female labour market participation, and rights-based policies designed to reduce gender inequalities. Their arguments subsequently shaped the New Labour governments in subtle and sometimes unintended ways. The existence of a distinct gendered interpretation of modernisation, championed by 1990s centre-left policymakers who had been involved in both socialist and feminist debates since the 1970s, is not immediately obvious in the existing literature. A recent account has argued that it was ‘nostalgic’ for Labour Left’s industrial strategy in the 1970s, the Alternative Economic Strategy (AES), to focus on ‘male-dominated industries of the past’, and quoted some key actors featured in this chapter in support.5 But while it is true that advocates of the AES, like Tony Benn, appealed to mythologised, male-dominated socialist history on the conference floor, the strategy’s sexist anachronism was not, in the 1970s, obviously apparent to his advisor and AES co-author, Frances Morrell, who later co-founded the Labour Women’s Action Committee (see below). The questions of how and why Labour policy agendas like the AES, initially enthusiastically supported as modern programmes by many socialists, came to be seen as ‘outdated’ on the grounds of changing gender roles and relations, still need answering. Other scholars have noted the emerging links in the 1980s–1990s between Labour activists campaigning for gender representation in the party and strategists calling for ‘modernisation’. But they usually portray this relationship as primarily tactical, focused on electability and internal party politics. Appeals to ‘modernisation’ overlapped with initiatives designed to win general elections, and the ‘women’s vote’ had long been a concern for both Labour and the women’s movement.6 This incentivised Labour’s leadership to cooperate with willing feminists. Sarah Perrigo thus argues that some feminists in Labour allied themselves with a rising faction of ‘modernisers’ to advance their own cause.7 Stephen Brooke primarily draws upon this literature when he rightly suggests that feminism became a ‘touchstone of modernisation’ for many on the left.8 5

Jobson, ‘A New Hope for an Old Britain?’, 683–687. 6 Amy Black and Stephen Brooke, ‘The Labour Party, Women, and the Problem of Gender, 1951–1966’, Journal of British Studies 36:4 (1997), 419–452, at 451–452. 7 Sarah Perrigo, ‘Women and Change in the Labour Party 1979–1995’, in Joni Lovenduski and Pippa Norris (eds), Women in Politics (Oxford, 1996), 116–129, at 126. 8 Brooke, Sexual Politics, 261–262.

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These accounts, with their emphasis on electability and factional politics, do capture important elements of the changing relationship between Labour’s establishment and gender politics. It is symbolically significant that John Smith’s 1993 one-member-one-vote (OMOV) reforms, which reduced trade union power and were sold as ‘modernisation’, only passed at Conference because they were accompanied by the pivotal proposal for All Women Shortlists (AWS) in parliamentary selections. The inclusion of the AWS mandated a trade union to abstain on the key vote, allowing OMOV to squeak over the line.9 Nevertheless, this cannot explain a more substantive association, by influential socialist feminists, of feminism and ‘modernisation’. For instance, in 2000 Anna Coote – a policymaker who had recently advised the inaugural Minister for Women, Harriet Harman – reflected on an Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) seminar about the ‘troubled relationship’ between feminism and New Labour. Coote suggested that its participants ‘shared a view that feminism was essential to the process of modernisation, since it was about bringing politics into line with changing circumstances, attitudes, and relationships’.10 A factional alliance between different interest groups within Labour, or the search for electability, cannot alone explain this idea that ‘feminism’ was ‘essential’ to adapting Labour to the modern world. To supply a fuller answer, this chapter builds on the existing historiography in two ways. First, as undertaken throughout this book, it highlights the plural and competing meanings of ‘modernisation’ on the left. Jane Franklin has previously distinguished between ‘communitarian’ and ‘rights-based’ versions of New Labour modernisation, with the latter identified as more sympathetic to the women’s movement.11 This is a valuable insight, but it does not fully capture the emergence of a distinct, gendered reading of ‘modernisation’ on the left across the late twentieth century. Second, this chapter quarries some neglected seams of evidence. Recent scholarship has given historians a much richer knowledge of feminist activism on the left in the twentieth century. It has illuminated the women’s groups of the pre-1968 Labour Party, the later influx of feminist activists into trade unions and social democratic parties, their campaigns against gender discrimination, and the wider landscape of 9 Jill Lovecy, ‘Framing Claims for Women: From “Old” to “New” Labour’, in Claire Annesley, Francesca Gains, and Kirstein Rummery (eds), Women and New Labour: Engendering Politics and Policy? (Bristol, 2007), 63–93, at 83. 10 Anna Coote, ‘Introduction’, in idem (ed.), New Gender Agenda: Why Women Still Want More (London, 2000), 1–15, at 1. 11 Jane Franklin, ‘After Modernisation: Gender, the Third Way and the New Politics’, in Coote (ed.), New Gender Agenda, 15–23, at 15.

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women’s activism in 1970s and 1980s Britain.12 Meanwhile, political scientists have explored the fraught efforts to increase female representation in the Labour Party and Parliament.13 This work has not, however, covered all the key areas. We know much about the women’s committee of Ken Livingstone’s Greater London Council (GLC) and the All Women Shortlist, but much less about the gender-oriented policy work produced in sites like the IPPR. Pivoting our attention reveals some ­similar, but some different understandings of gender and feminism, one of which depended upon ‘modernity’. After considering the difficulty and utility of using the word ‘­feminist’ in this context, this chapter begins by recapitulating the rise of an assertive feminist movement within the wider left and an increasingly radical Labour Party over the 1970s. This movement included figures who later advanced a gendered interpretation of modernisation, but modernity was not a major concept during this initial burst of creativity and activism. However, during debates over the ‘future of the left’ simmering at the turn of the 1980s and boiling over after the 1983 election, feminist thought became more prominent. Influential voices, especially in the left’s media, argued that the women’s movement should be a key plank of Labour’s future strategy. After establishing this wider scene, the chapter shows how some socialist feminists, particularly Anna Coote and Beatrix Campbell, began to perceive structural changes in Britain’s economy and society, which reshaped their arguments. The chapter then demonstrates the subsequent influence of these ideas on two major left-wing platforms for ‘modernisation’ arguments. Campbell championed them during the influential Marxism Today ‘New Times’ debates, and Coote advanced them inside the newly founded IPPR. These sites fostered an emerging network connecting think tank researchers, consultants, and some MPs, for whom ‘modernisation’ became a key concept. In the IPPR especially, a close-knit group, numbering Coote, Harman, and Patricia Hewitt, drew from their shared backgrounds in left-wing politics and legal activism, and co-developed arguments for policies and reforms that would reduce inequalities 12

Pat Thane, ‘The Women of the British Labour Party and Feminism, 1906–1945’, in Harold L. Smith (ed.), British Feminism in the Twentieth Century (Amherst, MA, 1990), 124–144; Jonathan Moss, Women, Workplace Protest and Political Identity in England, 1968–85 (Manchester, 2019); Natalie Thomlinson, Race, Ethnicity and the Women’s Movement in England (Basingstoke, 2016); Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite and Natalie Thomlinson, ‘National Women against Pit Closures: Gender, Trade Unionism and Community Activism in the Miners’ Strike, 1984–5’, Contemporary British History 32:1 (2018), 78–100. 13 Perrigo, ‘Women and Change in the Labour Party’; Russell, Building New Labour, 96–129.

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between men and women. Though deploying pre-existing ideas, such as the long-standing contention that Labour needed to tackle the ‘gender gap’, they also argued that trends in modern society – especially in the labour market and the family – were making the left’s lukewarm opposition to gender inequality untenable. Finally, we will show how this small group of actors gained some influence on New Labour’s policy platform. This should not be overstated: while not negligible, their influence was not decisive either. Hewitt and Harman never convinced a wider Labour audience of the centrality of gender politics to ‘modernisation’. Nevertheless, the arguments of this particular band of modernisers seem to have had unforeseen consequences. They allowed New Labour’s leaders to rely on policies that, while attempting to tackle gender inequalities, were much more cautious than the centre-left feminists had themselves intended. Was This Modernisation ‘Feminist’? By now, some readers may be a little sceptical of my use of the word ‘feminist’. The term ‘feminist’ is tricky, firstly, because of the existence of groups who advocated on behalf of women without ever using that term.14 Within self-defining ‘feminist’ movements like Women’s Liberation, opinion was bitterly divided on even the starting point of a ‘feminist’ ideology – such as the (rough) distinction between ‘socialist’ and ‘radical’ feminist activists. In the late twentieth century, there were several influential women who called themselves feminists and were interested in changing the policies and representative makeup of the Labour Party for the benefit of women. But, ideologically speaking, they ranged from activists formerly associated with Trotskyism and 1968 radicalism (such as Sheila Rowbotham and Hilary Wainwright), to feminists within the Communist Party (Campbell), to Labour figures with a variety of factional allegiances (Hewitt, Harman, Jo Richardson, Clare Short, and Diane Abbott). This does not even cover sympathetic male political actors (such as Ken Livingstone, Peter Hain, and Larry Whitty). There was also a range of approaches. Though all had been involved in the explosion of 1970s feminist activism, those like Rowbotham and Wainwright tied their mast to 1980s municipal socialism, especially the GLC, while Hewitt and Harman increasingly focused more on Westminster. The trajectory of the latter duo perhaps reflects their origins, as they cut their teeth advocating for women in the formal legal sphere through their 1970s activism in the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL). 14

Thomlinson, Race, Ethnicity and the Women’s Movement, 11.

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Nonetheless, as should become clear, these activists shared key political interests. Rowbotham’s recollection that ‘[w]omen with children were our equivalent to the Marxist proletariat … the vanguard of the women’s movement’ could easily apply also to Hewitt and Harman.15 They were also sometimes members of the same organisation – especially in the early 1980s. Finally, they all self-defined as ‘feminist’. Thus, while bearing these nuances in mind, I will be discussing ‘feminist’ arguments in this chapter. These contributed in decisive ways to a gendered interpretation of modernisation. ‘Move over Brother’ The 1970s and early 1980s witnessed the rising prominence of newly assertive feminist arguments within the broader left. These activists were often ignored by established left-wing figures. Appeals to ‘modernisation’ or modernity were, furthermore, mostly absent, and some feminists critiqued other industrially focused cries for ‘modernisation’. Nevertheless, this rising prominence meant that the role of women began to be included in the anguished discussions of the ‘future of the left’, which mushroomed over the 1980s as Thatcher’s Conservatives dominated Westminster. These debates normalised the idea that a rejuvenated Labour Party would have to reckon with its ‘women problem’. Out of these discussions arose those who developed a gendered reading of modernisation. In the early 1970s, this would have been far from obvious. Before 1928, as a party strongly influenced by radical liberalism, Labour had supported women’s suffrage. However, as a trade union party that lionised the male industrial worker, it had not been a natural crucible for feminist politics thereafter. In the labour movement itself, acceptance of the ‘family wage’ for male workers and lower wages for female workers was common; in government, Labour had embedded patriarchal norms through the structures of the post-war welfare state; electorally, the party struggled to attract female voters.16 Pat Thane has shown that there was a pre-existing tradition of pro-women activism in Labour by the late twentieth century.17 Most famously, Cabinet Minister Barbara Castle pushed through legislation like the Equal Pay Act of 1970. Yet, into the 1970s, established Labour figures interested in advancing women regularly centred their arguments on points of socialist principle. At the 1973 15 Quoted in Lynne Segal, Making Trouble: Life and Politics, new ed. (London, 2017), 4. 16 Black and Brooke, ‘The Labour Party, Women, and the Problem of Gender’. 17 Thane, ‘The Women of the British Labour Party’.

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National Conference of Labour Women, Labour’s chief woman officer explained her motivations for demanding more female representation ‘at all levels in the party’: ‘not because they are women but because they are socialists’.18 The rise of the Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1970s, and its later influence on Labour, thus marked a qualitative shift in the urgency of feminist interventions within the party and the methods through which they were made.19 Over the decade, hundreds of feminist and women’s activist groups sprung up around the country.20 Feminist activists tried to foster feminist consciousness within the trade unions, as did organisations like the NCCL.21 In politics, those who leaned more towards ‘socialist feminist’ positions often first attempted to influence Trotskyist and other far left organisations. However, due to their disgust with the democratic centralism of these groups (an authoritarian approach that clashed with the attempts of many feminists to foster participation and inclusion) Wainwright and Rowbotham eventually abandoned them.22 In the context of Labour’s broader leftwards turn, these activists joined Labour, contributing especially to the growing municipal left in council chambers and urban constituency labour parties.23 Both Rowbotham and Wainwright went to work for Livingstone’s GLC, in its Economic Policy Unit.24 Their influence led to the establishment of women’s committees in the GLC, in other London boroughs and in councils across the country. Daisy Payling has shown that the strength of feminism among the municipal left varied: in Sheffield, where Labour drew on a more homogenous electoral base of male steel workers, feminism was notably weaker than elsewhere.25 Still, this was a new level of engagement with post-1968 feminism from parts of the left. These committees campaigned for women to ‘sign on’ to the unemployment register and funded groups like domestic abuse 18 ‘Greater say for women in Labour policy urged’, The Times, 28 June 1973, 4. 19 For the wider picture, see Kristina Schulz, The Women’s Liberation Movement: Impacts and Outcomes (New York, 2017). 20 Elizabeth Meehan, ‘British Feminism from the 1960s to the 1980s’, in Smith (ed.), British Feminism, 189–205, at 192. 21 López, The Winter of Discontent, 34–5; Patricia Hewitt (ed.), Danger! Women at Work: Report of a Conference Organised by the National Council for Civil Liberties on 16 February 1974 (London, 1974). These efforts had mixed results. See Moss, Women, Workplace Protest and Political Identity, 37–38. 22 Shelia Rowbotham, Lynne Segal, and Hilary Wainwright, Beyond the Fragments: Feminism and the Making of Socialism, 3rd ed. (London, 2012). 23 Boddy and Fudge, ‘Labour Councils and New Left Alternatives’, in Boddy and Fudge (eds), Local Socialism?, 1–22, at 8. 24 Rowbotham et al., Beyond the Fragments, 19–20. 25 Payling, ‘Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire’, 604–605, 608, 611.

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charities. By the time of the council’s abolition in 1986, the GLC’s women’s committee could deploy a £16 million annual budget.26 Meanwhile, feminists were also focusing on advancing female representation and feminist policies within the national party. In 1980, Labour activists formed the Women’s Action Committee (WAC), dedicated to supporting women in both Labour and wider society. The WAC was initially tied to the left-wing Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD), having been cofounded by CLPD organiser Vera Derer and Benn’s advisor Frances Morrell. However, its early membership numbered a wide range of Labour women, from Harman to Diane Abbott (which, as Meg Russell has discussed, resulted in tensions between those who emphasised advancing the Labour left and others who had different priorities).27 Their campaigning efforts contributed to the highlighting of new issues in Labour’s Programme 1982, which pledged the expansion of childcare and strengthening of equality legislation – although some of these commitments were diluted by 1983. In addition, Jo Richardson was appointed as frontbench spokesperson on women.28 This advancement continued, cautiously, under Neil Kinnock’s leadership. Echoing the presidency of François Mitterrand in France, Labour pledged to create a Ministry for Women in 1985, building on the 1983 commitment to an Equality Ministry. In the same year, its Jobs and Industry campaign dedicated a pamphlet to women and industry.29 These pledges appeared on the party’s manifesto for the 1987 general election. Yet, in common with Labour’s previous approach, they were justified mainly through reference to socialist principles. A publication on the Ministry for Women contended that ‘[w]ithout rapid progress towards women’s equality our socialist commitment cannot be achieved’, while Kinnock attacked the denial of ‘millions of women … the standard of living and of liberty, of security and opportunity which we seek for every individual in the country’.30 Behind closed doors, the critical importance of boosting Labour’s female vote share was also underlined.31 This growing feminist presence and voice over the 1980s is clearly discernible in the broader intellectual life of the left. One example is a 26

Stephen Brooke, ‘Space, Emotions and the Everyday: The Affective Ecology of 1980s London’, Twentieth Century British History 28:1 (2017), 110–142, at 120. 27 Russell, Building New Labour, 97–99. 28 Perrigo, ‘Women and Change’, 121. 29 Labour Party, Labour’s Charter for Women and Work (London: Labour Party, 1985). 30 Labour Party, Labour’s Ministry for Women (c.1987) and ‘Press release of Neil Kinnock’s speech to the launch of Labour’s Agenda for Women’, 7 April 1987, CAC KNNK 2/1/82. 31 Anon.,’ Why A Women’s Campaign’, n.d. and Anon., ‘Women’s Ministry Briefing’, n.d., CAC KNNK 2/1/82.

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public debate, held in London, on ‘the crisis and the future of the left’ in 1980. Convened by the Labour Co-ordinating Committee and chaired by Peter Hain, the event was hugely popular, with hundreds unable to purchase a ticket, but also very acrimonious. The bad tempers, heckling and walkouts concerned the classic debate between revolutionary and reformist socialism, with Tariq Ali and Paul Foot taking on Tony Benn and Stuart Holland. However, fellow panellist Wainwright cut across this divide by arguing that they all underestimated the women’s movement, which was becoming ‘another form of political power’, more democratic and ultimately a more powerful form of resistance to private capital.32 Elsewhere, influential theorists like Stuart Hall insisted that ‘[a] sexist labour movement cannot win the deep support of an active and radical feminist movement’.33 Livingstone, the municipal left’s most prominent politician, used his national platform to argue for strong measures to eliminate the ‘old division of labour’ between the sexes.34 While most common on the more socialist left at this time, other tendencies also recognised the new women’s movement. For example, in 1982 a young Tony Blair, soon to be elected to Parliament, argued in a speech in Western Australia that ‘white-collar’ activists from the women’s movement, and other emergent movements like ecology, were now an ‘essential part of “socialism” and the “Labour” movement’ in Britain.35 Notably, when Labour launched its own intellectual periodical in 1981, called New Socialist, the journal stressed that it would ‘reflect important changes’ on the left over the ‘last two decades’, which included the ‘rise of the women’s movement’.36 This was, however, easier said than done. In 1985, an internal survey revealed the overwhelmingly male readership of the New Socialist, prompting its editor Stuart Weir to consult on increasing its appeal to women.37 This burgeoning presence and awareness of feminism began, nonetheless, to shape wider debates on socialism and Labour. As a result, causes and campaigns, though popular hitherto, began to be questioned. The AES is a good example. As discussed in chapter one, its advocacy for capital and import controls and major extension of public ownership was totemic among the left in the 1970s and early 1980s. To its key 32

Hain (ed.), The Crisis and the Future of the Left, 7, 23–24. 33 Stuart Hall, ‘Thatcherism – a new stage?’, Marxism Today (December 1980), 26–29, at 28. 34 Livingstone and Ali, Who’s Afraid of Margaret Thatcher?, 66–67. 35 Tony Blair, ‘Australian Lecture, August 1982’, in Richards (ed.), Tony Blair in His Own Words, 3–26, at 10, 15. 36 ‘Editorial’, New Socialist (September/October 1981), 2. 37 Stuart Weir, ‘New Socialist and Feminist Politics’, n.d. in PHM The Papers of Dianne Hayter (hereafter: DH) 30/1.

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theorists, the AES was not primarily ‘nostalgic’, but rather a ‘modern’ socialist programme. Its chief intellectual progenitor Holland advocated a state-led industrial regeneration as a modern solution to contemporary crises in capitalism. Indeed, an internal policy document contributing to that strategy highlighted working women. It stressed technological change like the rise of microelectronics, which, it suggested, sharpened the vulnerability of female-dominated jobs like clerical work, and used this analysis to advocate dirigiste interventions.38 However, insurgent feminist voices offered a different perspective. The newly launched New Socialist soon published an article by Anna Coote, then deputy editor of the New Statesman, attacking the AES on feminist grounds. Coote contended that the AES was disproportionately obsessed with male-dominated manufacturing industries in comparison to the economy as a whole and lacked a serious engagement with the politics of childcare. For her, the AES was ‘embedded in the same old-fashioned patriarchal values that inform and distort all mainstream political thinking’.39 This was striking stuff given that New Socialist was an explicitly Labour-supporting intellectual magazine which had Bennite leanings. But it was not an isolated intervention. In Tribune two feminist lawyers at the NCCL, Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt, made similar (although less critical) contentions.40 Thus, albeit in a fragmented way, gendered arguments were being deployed to influence the debate over the left’s policies in both directions, and sometimes to loosely frame opposing positions as ‘old-fashioned’. Coote’s ideas were echoed by economists connected with Marxism Today who otherwise broadly sympathised with the AES.41 Similar claims also began to appear in Labour’s policy formation. During the Jobs and Industry campaign in the mid-1980s, the minutes of the Home Policy Committee record unnamed individuals arguing that an Industrial Democracy Charter should ‘become much less “industrial”’ partly because of the growth of female employment in service and public sectors.42 38

Michael Hatfield, ‘Labour move to meet the microchip challenge’, The Times, 7 July 1980, 1. 39 Anna Coote, ‘The AES: a new starting point’, New Socialist (November/December 1981), 4–7. 40 They argued that the AES should broaden its support base by appealing to other demographics, such as through targets for women and ethnic minorities in its training programmes. Patricia Hewitt and Harriet Harman, ‘Women and the Alternative Economic Strategy’, Tribune, 26 June 1981, 2. 41 Bob Rowthorn, ‘The Politics of the Alternative Economic Strategy’, Marxism Today (January 1981), 4–11, at 6–7. 42 Minutes of Home Policy Committee, 10 March 1986. The original document was: ‘Labour’s Charter For Industrial Democracy: First Complete Rough Draft’, PD: 95B/ December 1985’. Both in PHM LPA Box 102.

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Another ‘New Working Class’? Not only did feminists successfully intervene in socialist debates but women generally seemed to possess growing relevance to the left’s woes. Over the 1980s, a growing number of left-wing intellectuals tried to make sense of Labour’s successive defeats in national politics. Importantly, emergent trends on the role of women in society increasingly featured in these debates. Feminists responded to theories that Labour’s historic ‘base’ was in structural decline – crucial to many conceptions of ‘modernisation’ – by arguing that the working class was not declining, but feminising. Over the 1980s, the intellectual left resurrected concerns of the 1950s and grappled with the possibility that the ‘forward march of labour’ had ‘halted’, and that voting in Britain was witnessing a class ‘dealignment’.43 As Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite has established, early interventions by the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm, journalist Peter Kellner, and social-democratic political scientist Ivor Crewe set the tone for a wideranging debate over the implications of a perceived structural, long-term decline in the ‘traditional working class’ for the ‘future of the left’.44 This had a crucial impact on the Labour Party. Many, including new Labour leader Kinnock, heralded the birth of an affluent and often asset-owning ‘new working class’, who were increasingly voting Conservative, and to which Labour must adapt.45 Into this cauldron, feminist writers threw the suggestion that the working class was not eroding – it was just becoming more female. This intellectual move had already been undertaken by others. Hobsbawm himself noted the rise of female paid employment across the twentieth century in his famous ‘Forward March’ essay.46 In addition, in 1981 Shirley Williams argued that one crucial ‘social revolution’, as important as the birth of post-industrialism and the challenge to the nation state, was the growth of employed women.47 Williams’ influence on the left took a fatal blow with her defection to the SDP. Still, this argument reappeared. In an article that formed part of a series on the ‘future of socialism’ run by the New Statesman in late 1983, Hilary Rose used 43

For the 1950s, see Middleton, ‘“Affluence” and the Left in Britain’; Lawrence Black, The Political Culture of the Left in Affluent Britain, 1951–64: Old Labour, New Britain? (Basingstoke, 2003). 44 Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, ‘Class’; Peter Kellner, ‘Not a Defeat: A disaster’, New Statesman, 18 May 1979, 704–706; Bo Särlvik and Ivor Crewe, Decade of Dealignment: The Conservative Victory of 1979 and Electoral Trends in the 1970s (Cambridge, 1983). 45 Kinnock, Future of Socialism, 2. 46 Hobsbawm, ‘Forward March of Labour Halted?’, 282. 47 Williams, Politics Is for People, 63–65.

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rising numbers of women trade unionists to argue that ‘the politics of organised labour are – whether the old guard likes it or not – undergoing a fundamental change’.48 In the same series, the influential journalist Beatrix Campbell concurred. What was happening, she argued, was not the decline of the organised working class but its reformation, heralded by the unionisation of women in the public sector: ‘an old working class may be waning, but a new one is being born’.49 Political theorist Anne Phillips also claimed this, in a 1984 collection on the left’s future edited by Ben Pimlott. She attacked the prevalence of appeals to ‘fraternity’ as not just lexically sexist but also associated with ‘old centres of male employment’ that have ‘given us our picture of the trade union brother – the mines, steel, shipbuilding, the docks’, which had been declining for decades. ‘Fraternity’ was thus ‘anachronistic … The typical worker of the future will not be a burly man blasting away at the coal face; she is much more likely to be a service worker employed in a well-ventilated, dirt-free office’.50 These assertions of fundamental structural change and the ‘anachronism’ of the left illustrate an important qualitative shift in the arguments of key socialist feminists over the 1980s. There was nothing new in feminists advocating for working women. It was widely recognised that the number of women in paid employment had grown significantly over the post-war period and that inequalities festered due to gendered definitions of ‘skill’ and the concentration of women in low-paid sectors.51 However, over the 1980s, influential feminist writers increasingly claimed not just that women were more likely to be in paid employment, but that the economy itself was structurally feminising. This changed the calculus and tenor of the debate and provided the seeds for later fully fledged ‘modernisation’ arguments. This shift is best illustrated by comparing the first and second editions of Sweet Freedom, an early history of the women’s movement and analysis of feminist politics co-authored by Campbell and Coote. In the first edition, published in 1982, they recognised the rise of working women, but assumed that the economic crises of this period would be particularly harmful to them, as a ‘reserve army of labour’. They applied the 48

Hilary Rose, ‘Property of the professionals’, New Statesman, 30 September 1983, 12–14. 49 Beatrix Campbell, ‘Taking the sexism out of class’, New Statesman, 16 September 1983, 10–12. Campbell further developed these ideas in Wigan Pier Revisited: Poverty and Politics in the Eighties (London, 1984), for instance, at 233–4. 50 This was republished in an influential 1993 collection. In the preface, Phillips noted the irony that soon after writing this piece she, like many others, threw herself into the coal miners’ strike. Phillips, Democracy and Difference, 9, 25, 31. 51 Moss, Women, Workplace Protest and Political Identity, 27–28.

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logic of first in, first out: in recessionary times, newly employed women would be the first for the chop.52 The notion that female employment was particularly vulnerable to the economic crisis was widespread on the left. In 1981, Hewitt and Harman pointed to the relative speed at which women’s unemployment was rising in the recession to also argue that female jobs were most at risk.53 As shown above, internal policy documents informing the AES took similar perspectives regarding the rise of microelectronics. This assumption persisted during Kinnock’s first years as leader. Labour’s 1985 Charter for Women and Work discussed the technologies of the near-future economy, but viewed their effects as primarily negative for women: ‘female’ jobs like clerical work would be ‘hardest hit’.54 However, by the 1987 edition of Sweet Freedom, the authors had explicitly changed their minds. Although women did lose jobs, new ones were being created, which were disproportionately non-unionised and located in the service sectors. Due to historic employment patterns, women overwhelmingly took these new jobs. Thus, ‘[w]omen could no longer be described as a “reserve army of labour”; they had become the regular troops’.55 The fact that Coote and Campbell shifted their argument between the early and later 1980s makes sense.56 Female employment had risen over the post-war period, while ethnic minority women often had much higher employment rates anyway, and Tara Martin López has shown that this transformed the character of unions like the National Union of Public Employees over the 1970s.57 Yet, the world recession of the early 1980s, Thatcher’s destructive experiments with monetarism, and then Nigel Lawson’s consumption boom, had all accelerated and dramatised these changes.58 The decade initially witnessed one of the steepest falls in the male employment rate, and then one of the sharpest rises for women, of the late twentieth century, while the employment gap between the sexes significantly narrowed (see Figure 3.1).

52

Anna Coote and Beatrix Campbell, Sweet Freedom (London, 1982), 74–76. 53 Hewitt and Harman, ‘Women and the Alternative Economic Strategy’, 2. 54 Labour, Charter for Women and Work, 19. The pamphlet’s authors had perceived the rise of the service sector, but the implications were not followed through. 55 Anna Coote and Beatrix Campbell, Sweet Freedom, new ed. (Oxford, 1987), 78–79. 56 The ‘reserve army’ thesis had already been challenged by left-wing economists. They argued that it applied less well to non-manufacturing sectors. See Jill Rubery and Roger Tarling, ‘Women in the Recession’, Socialist Economic Review 1982 (London, 1982), 47–77, at 51–57. 57 Martin Pugh, Women and the Women’s Movement in Britain, 1914–1999, 2nd ed. (Basingstoke, 2000), 329; López, Winter of Discontent, 30–33. 58 Duncan Needham, UK Monetary Policy from Devaluation to Thatcher, 1967–82 (Basingstoke, 2014), 162–164; Tomlinson, ‘De-industrialization Not Decline’, 96–97.

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Figure 3.1 Employment rates of men and women (aged 16–64, ­seasonally adjusted, by year), 1971–2000. Source: ONS Labour Market Statistics Time Series.

This was not a straightforward ‘gain’; these new jobs were often lowpaid and of poor quality. It was, nonetheless, an important change in intellectual framing. In the early 1980s, Coote and Campbell anticipated the need for a defensive, rearguard action against a rolling back of female employment gains. By the later 1980s, they instead identified structural changes that were embedding female paid employment into the economy and increasing its significance. This became one of the key arguments deployed later by those – including Coote and ­Campbell – who argued that Labour must ‘modernise’ its policies in a feminist direction. The Policy Review and ‘New Times’ The last years of the 1980s were critical for the development of a gendered reading of modernisation. Firstly, when Labour began its Policy Review, the ensuing debates – especially the internal advocacy of Shadow Minister for Women Jo Richardson and Review co-ordinator Patricia Hewitt – helped normalise the idea that one reality to which Labour must adapt was the changing role of women in society. Secondly, Beatrix Campbell took her developing ideas into the influential Marxism Today

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‘New Times’ discussions, in which several writers stressed the importance of female liberation for both ‘post-Fordist’ society and a desired ‘socialist modernisation’. Launched after the 1987 election defeat, the architects of Labour’s Policy Review intended it to assess ‘the impact of the political, demographic, social, and economic changes in our society’, and revise the party’s policies and agenda accordingly.59 At its outset, feminists were dissatisfied with the level of their involvement.60 Still, several Labour feminists became deeply involved, especially Richardson and Hewitt. They ensured, despite some apathy, that the impact of general policies on women was considered throughout, and that policies designed to advance women were devised. This was achieved partly through the creation of a ‘Women’s Co-ordinating Group’ (later the ‘Women’s Monitoring Group’) made up of female members of all the review groups, which circulated comments and relevant statistics.61 Other leading figures, such as Geoff Bish, also reminded the review groups to include material relevant to women and recognise their changing role in society.62 As the Review trundled along, Hewitt and others redeployed a longstanding argument within Labour: that the party was under an electoral imperative to appeal to women voters.63 Similar claims had informed the adoption of the Ministry for Women for the 1987 election. However, this latest iteration of the ‘gender gap’ argument reveals a growing reliance on the concept of modernisation by Labour feminists. During the Review, Hewitt teamed up with Deborah Mattinson, the opinion research consultant who ran the Shadow Communications Agency with Philip Gould, to present new research on female voters to the leadership, the Shadow Cabinet, the National Executive Committee (NEC), and the Trades Union Congress.64 While the reception was lukewarm, they later turned this into a Fabian Society pamphlet, published in 1989. Like previous attempts, the pamphlet highlighted the ‘gender gap’ – in other 59

Geoff Bish, ‘The Policy Review Groups: A note on their methods of working’, PD 1151c/November 1987, PHM LPA Policy Review papers. 60 Perrigo, ‘Women and Change’, 125. 61 Patricia Hewitt, ‘Women and Labour in the 90s’ (February 1988), CAC KNNK 2/2/25; Geoff Bish, ‘Policy Review Phase III: A Short Note on Progress’, PD:2439/March 1990, PHM LPA Home Policy Committee (Box 103). 62 Memo from Geoff Bish to Policy Review convenors, members, and secretaries, 10 November 1988, CAC KNNK 2/2/27. 63 For precedents, see, for example, Shirley Williams and Jeremy Bray highlighting the “housewife” vote at the turn of the seventies: ‘Labour failed to win women’, The Times, 29 June 1970, 2. 64 Deborah Mattinson, Talking to a Brick Wall: How New Labour Stopped Listening to the Voter and Why We Need a New Politics (London, 2010), 43–44, 49–52.

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Table 3.1  Gender gap in UK general elections 1974–1997 Year

1974 (O)

1979

1983

1987

1992

1997

Con % lead over Lab (Men) Con % lead over Lab (Women) Gender gap

–11 1 –12

3 12 –9

12 20 –8

11 11 0

4 10 –6

–14 –12 –2

Source: MORI/Ipsos Mori election aggregates. ‘1974 (O)’ refers to the October election.

words, the difference in Conservative leads over Labour between men and women.65 While the 1987 election had seen the gender gap close for the first time, polling suggested that it had since reopened, an observation borne out in 1992 (see Table 3.1). Hewitt’s and Mattinson’s pamphlet went beyond casual references to ‘old-fashioned’ gender assumptions,66 however, and more explicitly related the gender gap argument to ‘[w]omen’s lives in Britain in the 1990s’. They argued that Labour ‘must also show that it understands the changing realities of women’s lives’. These ‘changing realities’ included the decreasing relevance of the ‘old model of the nuclear family’, and that ‘[b]y the mid-1990s, women will form nearly half the British workforce’.67 This reads as an attempt to relate the gender gap argument to the wider project of ‘modernising’ Labour’s policies for the ‘1990s’, the central theme of the Policy Review. Indeed, according to Mattinson’s memoir, their private presentations argued that transformations in the labour market were making women increasingly vital to both wings of the labour movement.68 Despite these efforts, Richardson was still concerned that review groups had become distracted from focusing on women, with the attendance at the relevant coordinating group diminishing in early 1989.69 Furthermore, as Chapter 6 will explore, one of the central themes of the Policy Review was a different form of modernisation: a high-tech industrial regeneration, which formed the core of Kinnock’s ‘supplyside socialism’. To some feminists, this approach ran the risk of either disproportionately focusing on male-dominated industries or uncritically accepting technological change without considering its wider social implications. A delegate from the National Labour Women’s Committee made the latter point at Labour’s 1988 party conference, arguing 65 For an earlier gender gap argument, see Lisanne Radice et al., Winning Women’s Votes (London, 1985). 66 Such as offhand references to ‘the 1950s’ in Radice et al., Winning Women’s Votes, 2. 67 Patricia Hewitt and Deborah Mattinson, Women’s Votes: The Key to Winning (London, 1989), 8–9. 68 Mattinson, Taking to a Brick Wall, 43, 50. 69 Letter from Jo Richardson to Neil Kinnock, 21 March 1989, CAC KNNK 2/2/10.

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that new technologies like home computing could allow companies to exploit a domestic female workforce.70 The Review, ultimately, adopted several policies that feminists had demanded. These included six-month paid leave for every parent, higher expenditure on nursery and childcare, funding for rape and refuge crisis centres, and a guarantee that rape victims would be interviewed by a woman police officer. The Review also pledged the extension of employment rights to part-time workers, increased childcare provision and the encouragement of career breaks and returner programmes.71 Nonetheless, these policies were not central to Labour’s thinking, and there were only a few clear linkages to ‘modernisation’. In the wider intellectual left, however, that connection was made more explicitly. A major site for this was the magazine Marxism Today. Some of its most respected writers, like Hall, had already stressed that a ‘counter-hegemonic’ force must draw on feminist and anti-sexist ­politics. The critique of the AES on feminist lines also developed further in its pages – to the extent that by 1986, as the AES lay smouldering in the wreckage of 9 June 1983, former supporters argued that the original strategy had become outdated partly because of the changing employment patterns of men and women.72 As Marxism Today moved towards its analysis of ‘New Times’, these claims became stronger. Beatrix Campbell, as one of the authors behind the magazine’s famous declaration of ‘New Times’, took the ideas she had been developing over the 1980s straight into these discussions. As discussed in Chapter 2, a key organising principle for the ‘New Times’ edition was ‘modernisation’: how to adapt left-wing politics to the ‘modern world’. The central concept was ‘post-Fordism’, an economically determined shift from mass society to fragmentation and diversity. The Marxism Today set recognised that change was not allencompassing but identified several ‘leading edges’, which they believed would define the new world. These ranged from developments in hightech manufacturing to Filofaxes and coffee culture. One leading edge was the rise of the women’s movement and its challenge to the ‘Fordist’ family unit and its (white, male) class politics. In their championing of ‘modernisation’, the Communist Party’s manifesto partly defined a ‘modern socialism’ as one that looked beyond class and considered ‘gender and racial discrimination … Socialist strategy must connect economic 70

Conference 1988, 24. 71 Labour Party, Meet the Challenge, Make the Change, 20, 22, 60–61. 72 Sam Aaronovitch, ‘The Alternative Economic Strategy: Goodbye to all that?’, Marxism Today (February 1986), 20–27, at 21–23, 25–26.

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struggles with social, moral and ethnic struggles’.73 Another perceived transformation which directly drew on feminism concerned the changing gender makeup of the labour market.74 In his article, Charles Leadbeater connected the declining importance of a ‘Fordist’ labour movement with the evolving role of women in the economy. In doing so, he echoed the earlier writing of socialist feminists, and contemporaries of Campbell, like Anne Phillips: Many of the Left’s assumptions about its constituency are forged around the idea of the male, manual, manufacturing, unionised worker: the classic Fordist worker, living in the shadow of the shipyard, the pit or the factory chimney. In the 1990s the largest group in the workforce will be white-collar, non-unionised women working in the service sector.75

By the late 1980s, therefore, the feminist advocacy of thinkers like Campbell combined with the ‘post-Fordism’ theory of Leadbeater and Robin Murray to provide a general explanation for left decay, while figures within Labour were beginning to link gender and ‘modernisation’. This laid the foundations for stronger bridges between arguments for ‘modernisation’ and feminist perspectives, to be built at the newly founded IPPR. The Future (of Social Democracy) Is Female Following the Policy Review, Hewitt went to work for the IPPR as its deputy director. Meanwhile, Coote left her role at the broadcaster Channel 4 and became a research fellow at the think tank. Here, they collaborated with their other long-term associate, Harriet Harman, by now a Labour MP. This reunion of 1970s NCCL feminists was productive: all three published pamphlets which would prove influential on the intellectual and policymaking left. Crucially, they thickened the emergent connection between sociological and economic developments related to women and a rejuvenated social democracy. Through doing so, they foregrounded the importance of new policies for women to a centre-left ‘modernisation’. One early example was a 1990 IPPR pamphlet, The Family Way, coauthored by Hewitt, Coote, and Harman, which suggested a new framework for family policies, with an eye on the welfare and life-chances of 73

CPGB, Facing Up to the Future, in Marxism Today (September 1988), supplement. 74 CPGB, ‘The New Times’, in Stuart Hall and Martin Jacques (eds), New Times: The Changing Face of Politics in the 1990s (London, 1989), 23–38, at 36–37. 75 Charlie Leadbeater, ‘Power to the Person’, in Hall and Jacques (eds), New Times, 137–150, at 140.

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women. Imbued with a stylised sociological-historical bent, the ­pamphlet championed the idea that policymakers should adapt to societal change. At its core, the authors argued that existing family policy was outdated, based on a ‘Victorian’ model of the male breadwinner. The assumptions underpinning family policy were, they argued, being overtaken by emergent trends across Western Europe, beginning in the 1970s and accelerating over the following decade. These included later marriage, higher divorce rates, cohabitation, single parents, and increasing numbers of children outside marriage. They also argued that ‘[f]amily structures are linked with economic patterns’. Echoing socialist feminist historical scholarship of the 1970s,76 and resembling the arguments of Marxism Today, they contended that the ‘Victorian’ family model was linked to a ‘newly industrialised society’, but that the economy was pivoting from manufacturing to services – towards ‘information technology and flexible specialisation’. This was relevant because ‘such long-term changes in the character of the economy are accompanied by changes in the character of the family’.77 Coote, Hewitt, and Harman concluded the pamphlet with broad ‘guidelines and goals’ for family policy, one of which was that ‘[p]olicy must work with, not against, the grain of change’. They elaborated: Long-term, cross-national trends in the patterns of family life cannot be halted, let alone reversed, by the efforts of any government (unless it is totalitarian and extraordinarily powerful) … The aim of public policy-makers should be to understand the nature of change and make the best of it … Rather than accuse increasingly large numbers of people of living in the “wrong” kind of family, the aim should be to make sure that policies are adapted to suit changing practice and – as far as possible – to mitigate the painful effects of change.78

This pamphlet thus exhibited a textbook ‘modernisation’ formulation: politicians must work with the grain of a structural change to keep their policies relevant. Soon afterwards, Hewitt produced another highly influential pamphlet, which argued that the left should devise policies for ‘fair flexibility’ in working time. It drew not only on longstanding feminist ideas of the ‘double shift’ but also directly from this gendered perspective on modernisation. Hewitt framed her piece around a perceived ‘revolution’ in working time, driven by social changes like increasing female autonomy, 76

About which they were probably aware: Coote reviewed historical works on Victorian female workers. See Anna Coote, ‘Women at work’, The Times, 5 January 1980, 6. 77 Anna Coote, Harriet Harman, and Patricia Hewitt, The Family Way: A New Approach to Policy Making (London, 1990), 14–18, 20–22. 78 Ibid., 33.

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innovations in communications technology, and the move towards a post-industrial, service-based economy.79 Consequently, the standard model of full-time male employment was becoming increasingly rare. A ‘modernisation’ framework was front and central in her case. She argued that these changes in working time were part of much bigger changes in the lives of women and, therefore, of men; in the structure of economies, the technology of production and communications; and the organisation of industries and services. The transformation of working time itself is one of the elements which defines a modern, “post-industrial” society. The issue, then, is not whether working time is changing, but what we do about these changes … Instead of resisting flexibility, we will do better to make it work for us.80

Because of these structural changes, the state should assume that women as well as men worked and that both should be involved in childcare. Hewitt thus advocated policies like the encouragement of flexible working patterns, to facilitate gender-equal employment and childcare. Yet, recognising that many flexible jobs were of poor quality, she also argued that the government should protect these workers with full employment rights, including both maternity and paternity leave.81 For these policymakers, adaptation to the ‘modern’ realities of women’s lives was critical to the left’s future success more generally. In About Time, Hewitt argued that ‘by making working time issues visible, we can find a new way to approach some of the large questions which are central to the modern political agenda, not least the agenda for European social democracy’.82 These discussions therefore fed into the IPPR’s more general work on the future of social democracy, such as its pamphlet, Next Left, which Hewitt co-authored with her IPPR colleagues Tessa Blackstone, James Cornford, and David Miliband. Its authors argued again that ‘policy must work with, not against the grain of change’ on evolving family units and female employment.83 Likewise, the IPPR’s Social Justice Commission, launched at John Smith’s behest in 1992, stressed that one of the ‘three great revolutions’ since 1979 was a ‘social revolution’ defined as the ‘revolution of women’s life chances’. It similarly cited evidence of pluralising family models and the fact that women made up nearly half the paid workforce.84 79 80 81 82 83 84

Patricia Hewitt, About Time: The Revolution in Work and Family Life (London, 1993), 2–4. Ibid., 165–166. Ibid., 116–117, 120–121. Ibid., 166. Blackstone et al., Next Left, 11. Commission on Social Justice, Social Justice [1993], ii, 2. See also Commission on Social Justice, Social Justice [1994], 15, 78–84, 186–188.

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The argument had a wider impact beyond the IPPR over the 1990s. Hewitt later restated her case for the think tank Demos, and in a 1996 volume on progressive policy which was introduced by Tony Blair.85 These ideas fused with the even more stylised arguments of Demos, an outgrowth of Marxism Today. Co-founder Geoff Mulgan’s ­introductory remarks to a Demos pamphlet by Helen Wilkinson, entitled ­appropriately No Turning Back, are telling. Not only are they particularly ­sweeping but they also depended on this idea of irreversible ­structural change: Throughout the Western world old certainties in work and family life are disappearing. Traditional definitions of what it means to be a man or a woman are fading … we are in the middle of an historic change in the relations between men and women: a shift in power and values that is unravelling many of the assumptions not only of 200 years of industrial society, but also of millennia of traditions and beliefs.86

Crucially, this conception of transformative change in gender roles and relations increasingly underpinned the arguments of prominent Labour feminists like Harman. In her 1993 book The Century Gap, Harman drew on her former collaborators Coote and Hewitt, along with Mattinson’s focus group research and her own work on social and economic policy. The result was an argument that, at its core, conceived of gender equality not just as a desirable principle, but as a temporal process essentially irreversible in the long run and a growing reality to which the Labour Party and government must adapt. The blurb immediately advertised this way of thinking, with its claim that ‘[w]omen have arrived ahead of time in the 21st century … But this revolution in women’s lives has not yet been matched by men, employers and government, who remain firmly stuck in the 20th century. That is the Century Gap’.87 Harman credited her husband, the trade unionist Jack Dromey, for ‘the century gap’ formulation. But the underlying ideas drew on the ideas that familial models were pluralising, more women were working, and that both these trends would strengthen in interaction with an emerging post-industrial economy. Harman synthesised the ideas of Hewitt and Coote on revolutions in working time, female employment, and new expectations on reproductive work, with her own work in the 85

Patricia Hewitt, ‘Whose Flexibility? Policies for Changing Times’, Demos Quarterly 5 (1995), 149–157; Patricia Hewitt, ‘Family and Work’, in Radice (ed.), What Needs to Change, 34–50, at 40. 86 Geoff Mulgan, ‘Introduction’, in Helen Wilkinson, No Turning Back: Generations and the Genderquake (London, 1994), 1–4, at 1. 87 Harman, The Century Gap, blurb.

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Shadow Treasury team on the changing economy.88 These pressures, she argued, made policies like service subsidies and childcare credits or vouchers increasingly critical. Thus, Harman contended that the left, if it were to succeed in the modern world, must wholeheartedly embrace a new agenda for gender equality: It is neither possible nor desirable to turn the clock back. The emancipation of women cannot be reversed; and even if it was, the result would be total economic collapse. The only answer is to bridge the century gap by speeding up the process of change. Change is now inevitable, and to embrace it will prevent economic waste, avert political dysfunction and help men, women and children avoid much personal heartbreak.89

Harman’s appeal to the inevitability of transformation and the necessity of ‘speeding up’ change is strikingly similar to other, more famous appeals to ‘modernisation’ by Labour politicians in the 1990s. But why did this group of feminists coalesce around this ‘modernisation’ framework and language? In part, this emphasis on the rising importance of women in British society complemented their strategy of appealing to the self-interest of male Labour politicians, which has been noted in both memoirs and the academic literature.90 Clearly, it was also partly a response to structural change in British (and Western European) ­society  – for example, as discussed earlier, the rising rate of female employment. Social transformation is, however, never simply ‘reflected’ in the political and ideational spheres. Franklin has pointed to the development of a ‘rights-based modernisation’ by the early 1990s, which was more sympathetic to feminist arguments.91 This is perceptive. As chapter five will explore, from the late 1980s, Europeanist movements for constitutional reform gained traction in sites like the IPPR, accompanying a wider surge in discourses of ‘human rights’.92 This suited the work of Hewitt and Harman, who, reflecting their backgrounds in the NCCL, focused on rights-based policies to support women. Rights for working women had been an enduring interest for Hewitt; she had previously published on the Sex Discrimination Act.93 Over the 1980s, she also became a prominent proponent of constitutional reform and later spoke at Charter 88 events. Similarly, as discussed below, the development of New Keynesian perspectives on the importance of human capital to 88 89 90 91 92 93

Ibid., vii, 5, 92–111, 113, 121–122. Ibid., 6–7. See, for example, Mattinson, Talking to a Brick Wall, 49–50. Franklin, ‘After Modernisation’, 15. Moores, Civil Liberties and Human Rights, 18. ‘Equal rights for women to be tested by council’, The Times, 3 December 1975, 5; ‘Need to stop “loopholes” in law for women’, The Times, 19 November 1973, 4.

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the ‘modern economy’ encouraged policymakers to conceive of female employment in terms of economic ‘modernisation’. Still, representing the development of a feminist modernisation as merely an outgrowth of ‘modernisation’ arguments for constitutional reform or supply-side socialism would be insufficient. The 1990s additionally saw the crystallisation of an intellectual circle encompassing journalists, policymakers, Labour feminists, and academics, leading to the co-development of this gendered reading of ‘modernisation’. This circle inclined to sociological frameworks that emphasised structural societal change, upon which many arguments for ‘modernisation’ depended. It was made possible, first, by the wider discursive context surrounding the intellectual left. All these thinkers were operating within a media environment where, since the early 1980s at least, leftwing publications had been increasingly foregrounding gender inequality and feminist movements. As we have seen, many of these figures cut their teeth in these magazines; Hewitt herself noted in 1996 that ‘we all read Marxism Today’.94 Second, as sites of intellectual production, the new think tanks were especially fertile for the development of a gendered modernisation. The relevance of the place of women to the future of the left was cemented into the IPPR’s brief from its very foundation. At the genesis of the think tank within Kinnock’s office, its mission was defined as rethinking social democracy for the contemporary world, and this, it was specified, included the changing role of women.95 Thus, the IPPR acted as a site in which long-germinating ideas could flourish. Coote, Hewitt, and Harman had been a close-knit network and had engaged with a variety of feminist debates since the 1970s.96 When Coote and Hewitt were hired by the IPPR, the influence of various traditions of socialist and liberal feminism entered a space that was designed to relate them to the future of the left more broadly. The IPPR also organised seminars, especially during the Social Justice Commission, which brought Coote and Hewitt together with sociologists like Anthony Giddens and Gøsta EspingAndersen, whose ideas on the ‘post-industrial life-cycle’ were premised on the changing role of women.97 These intellectual transferences are 94

Quoted in Alan Johnson, ‘Marxism Today and the Unmaking of the British Working Class’, Public Policy Research 18:3 (2011), 151–157, at 154. 95 Anon., ‘Research Institute’, n.d [1987–88], CAC KNNK 2/1/110. 96 Harriet Harman, A Woman’s Work (London, 2017), preface. Coote and Hewitt were both on the NCCL’s Women’s Committee in 1974. See NCCL, Danger! Women At Work, iii. 97 Gøsta Esping-Andersen, ‘Equality and Work in the Post-industrial Life-cycle’, in Miliband (ed.), Reinventing the Left, 167–186, at 167–168.

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often revealed in citations.98 As such, the IPPR was a crucible of a sociologically minded ‘modernisation’ interpretation of gender equality, emerging in the early 1990s. Working with the Grain Any test of the significance of a modernisation discourse must include an assessment on whether it influenced the Labour Party, especially once it entered Whitehall. Here, we need to be precise. This gendered view of modernisation did possess some influence on New Labour more widely, but the depth of this influence was shallow beyond the networks already identified. Once in government, moreover, New Labour often disappointed the feminists who had tried to push its ‘modernisation’ in a feminist direction. This was partly because of different priorities among key Labour figures, and institutional barriers facing new initiatives. However, when explaining New Labour’s tense relationship with centre-left feminists, the value of excavating plural understandings of modernisation becomes apparent. At least to some extent, the mildness of New Labour’s advocacy of gender equality arose from unintended implications of this gendered reading of modernisation. Over the late 1980s and 1990s feminists gained ground in Labour, particularly through campaigns for positive discrimination to increase female representation among the Parliamentary Labour Party and wider party. This process was greatly boosted by the rise in equality officers in the large trade unions, which began to adapt to the changing demographics of their memberships and started to endorse policies generally supported by feminists, like the minimum wage and positive discrimination.99 These trade union equality officers formed a supportive network with female Labour MPs, and sympathisers like Larry Whitty, to push through constitutional changes that boosted female representation.100 From 1988, the party required one woman on every parliamentary selection shortlist, and in 1989 it introduced 40 per cent quotas for the constituency and trade union sections on the NEC and three shadow cabinet positions dedicated for women. These efforts culminated in the adoption of all women shortlists, voted in during the 1993 conference. It was this reform more than any other that caused the huge spike in female MPs after the 1997 general election – unfortunately immortalised 98 For example, both Harman and Giddens cited Beatrix Campbell, and Harman also cited Giddens. Harman, Century Gap, 16–17, 75; Giddens, In Defence of Sociology, 258–259. 99 Paula Snyder, ‘Women push for higher union profile’, Observer, 18 March 1990, 54. 100 Lovecy, ‘Framing Claims’, 72–73, 79–80.

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in the ‘Blair’s Babes’ photoshoot.101 The feminist ‘modernisers’ were strong supporters of these positive discrimination reforms. One of the central contentions of Hewitt and Mattinson’s Fabian pamphlet was for positive discrimination to increase female representation. In Harman’s 1993 book, she used her ‘century gap’ concept to justify initiatives like Emily’s list (a scheme borrowed from America where female parliamentary candidates were financially sponsored) and reforms to make Parliament more female-friendly like maternity leave and changes to recess. She argued that ‘[t]he century gap has opened up between politics and modern society’, thus initiatives aimed at boosting female representation were ‘about democracy being modernised until it fits British society in the 1990s’.102 These causes required a broad coalition to succeed, however, and key figures involved did not always frame their demands as ‘modernisation’. Notably, Clare Short – a leading advocate of these reforms – tended to ground her arguments in favour of positive action on the principle of true representation, electoralist pressures, and precedents set by social democratic parties in Norway, Germany, and Ireland. Her case gave little explicit reference to modernisation.103 A 1990 pamphlet championing quotas that she co-authored with Angela Eagle and Rachel Brooks did reference growing female employment, but this was mainly to bolster their argument that Labour faced an ‘electoral imperative’ and was not dwelt upon.104 Moreover, the historical record suggests only a lukewarm acceptance of the gendered understanding of modernisation by the Labour leadership. This does not mean that there was no cross-fertilisation. Brown and Blair’s arguments in favour of a ‘modernising’ economic strategy centred on human capital, which is explored in Chapter 6, could complement a desire to adapt workplaces to women: they consequently framed barriers to female employment as a waste of vital national resources.105 An early 101



102 103 104 105

Luke Blaxill and Kaspar Beelen, ‘A Feminized Language of Democracy? The Representation of Women at Westminster since 1945’, Twentieth Century British History 27:3 (2016), 412–449, at 419. Harman, Century Gap, 142, 162–163, 166–167. Other frontbenchers also advocated the need to ‘modernise’ Parliament’s procedures and working hours. David Blunkett, ‘Hard times for MPs in bleak House’, Guardian, 26 March 1990, 23. Clare Short, ‘Women and the Labour Party’, Parliamentary Affairs 49:1 (1996), 17–25; Lovecy, ‘Framing Claims’, 65–66. Rachel Brooks, Angela Eagle and Clare Short, Quotas Now: Women in the Labour Party (London, 1990), 6. See Tony Blair’s comments that ‘[g]iving women the power and ability to work is an economic imperative’, quoted in Jill Sherman, ‘Blair aims to double ranks of Labour women MPs’, The Times, 14 February 1995, 8. See also Commission on Social Justice, Social Justice [1994], 155–7.

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anticipation of this also appeared in the Policy Review, which argued that the sexual division of labour was ‘inefficient’.106 On their part, the Labour feminists used these arguments too. In her memoir, Harman situated her childcare proposals within Labour’s wider economic strategy and credited her time as Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury for the development of this argument.107 Her arguments show she had either read Robert Reich, an American economist who contributed to the growing emphasis on human capital, or had independently come to similar conclusions.108 Similar justifications for more childcare provision also appeared in Hewitt’s About Time.109 More generally, this gendered modernisation did have some discernible impact on Labour’s rhetoric. In his 1994 Fabian pamphlet, Blair identified three major transformations that forced Labour to update its ideology, and among these one was the rising number of women in paid employment.110 Furthermore, the 1997 manifesto echoed Harman by arguing that, while they wanted to strengthen families, ‘[t]he clock should not be turned back. As many women who want to work should be able to do so. More equal relationships between men and women have transformed our lives’.111 However, Blair and Brown’s rhetoric in the 1990s was clearest when discussing working women. Regarding the family, New Labour’s leaders were far more ambiguous; Blair, it must be remembered, drew much of his politics from Christian socialism, which inclined him towards the nuclear family.112 Labour’s 1997 platform, furthermore, was light on detail and omitted some key policies pledged under Kinnock or developed in the IPPR, such as equal employment rights for full- and part-time workers. Despite their occasional nods in its direction, leading figures in New Labour were not liable to discuss the position of women when describing modernisation, more commonly referring to new relationships between state and market, active welfare policies, and a new approach to crime. The absence of a dedicated section on women’s equality in the 1997 manifesto (in contrast to even the 1979 manifesto) reflected 106 Labour, Meet the Challenge, Make the Change, 7. 107 Harman, A Woman’s Work, 149. 108 Harman, The Century Gap, 113: ‘As capital and raw materials can now be moved around the globe with ease, the economy that will be successful in the future is the one which makes the best use of its people and their skills.’ On why this is Reichian, see Chapter 6. 109 Hewitt, About Time, 167–8. ‘The failure of a modern economy to employ large numbers of women with children – particularly women who have already acquired a high level of education – suggests profound structural inefficiencies as well as social inadequacies.’ 110 Tony Blair, Socialism (London, 1994), 5. 111 Dale (ed.), Labour Party General Election Manifestos, 366. 112 See Blair’s concern that female employment ‘be compatible with a strong and stable family life’, in Sherman, ‘Blair aims to double ranks of Labour women MPs’.

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this. There is also some suggestion that New Labour’s leaders were not always hugely enthused by the demands of Labour feminists. Blair, like Kinnock and unlike Smith, was reportedly not fond of AWS.113 Once in government, Labour did honour its pledge to create a Women’s Unit and appointed Harman as Minister for Women. They introduced a raft of policies previously demanded by feminists, such as vastly improved maternity leave, the introduction of paternity leave and new domestic violence legislation. They also implemented other policies which, though improving the lot of women, were not necessarily framed as such: the minimum wage and the creation of Sure Start being notable examples.114 Nevertheless, the 1997 pledge for a Women’s Unit marked a moderation from the full Cabinet ministry promised in 1992. Harman’s tenure as a minister was also short-lived, her demotion following a bitter split between her and her deputy, the socially conservative Labour MP Frank Field, over welfare reform. In policy terms, it is telling that women who worked full-time benefited more from New Labour’s governments than part-time workers, indicating that a key feature of the gendered interpretation of modernisation, advancing the rights of parttime female workers, was lost in the thicket of governance.115 As the literature has established, this was partly because leading figures in New Labour were only superficially attached to the idea of being a feminist government, often for electoral reasons. Political scientists also stress that the Women’s Unit (or Women’s Equality Unit as it became) was hampered by institutional ambiguity and a lack of a clear remit.116 However, we may be missing an important element. Even though the substance of the gendered reading of modernisation case had made only a shallow impact on the party at large, one unintended implication may have, at the subterranean level, seeped into wider thinking. It is plausible that, when gender equality was considered, New Labour’s government tacitly assumed that many of the demands of feminists would be met gradually by societal change, with only minimal steering from the state. Framing feminist policies explicitly as ‘modernisation’ emphasises structural sociological and economic change over political agency. It assumes, 113 Russell, Building New Labour, 96, 114. 114 See Annesley, Gains and Rummery (eds), Women and New Labour; Katherine Rake, ‘Women’, in Compass, Closer to Equality? Assessing New Labour’s Record on Equality after 10 Years in Government (London, 2007), 27–30. 115 Kirstein Rummery, Francesca Gains and Claire Annesley, ‘New Labour: Towards an engendered politics and policy’, in idem (eds), Women and New Labour, 231–51, at 234–6. 116 Judith Squires and Mark Wickham-Jones, ‘New Labour, Gender Mainstreaming and the Women and Equality Unit’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations 6:1 (2004), 81–98.

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in other words, that society is already moving in a feminist direction, and that outdated institutions and assumptions are merely slowing progress. This ubiquitous framing of gender equality as ‘modern’, and thus somehow inevitably marching forward, at most constrained by ‘backwards’ forces, has recently been identified and critiqued by Anne Phillips, who, as shown above, was herself a veteran of the key 1980s and 1990s debates among the British feminist left.117 Brooke has also noted that contentious sexual issues were presented by New Labour not as ‘utopian’, like earlier socialist endorsements, but as ‘part of the fabric of modern society’.118 This tendency is partly an outgrowth of the modernisation framework for thinking about feminist issues. We can see this in Hewitt’s About Time: ‘[i]n essence, modern economies are moving from an old model of working time to a new: but public policy has yet to catch up’.119 When Harman discussed relationships in her 1993 book, she argued that ‘[m]en will adapt – are already changing – because it is in their own best interests to do so’.120 Because the gendered reading of modernisation suggested that progress was already in motion, this encouraged arguments for moderate policies that facilitated these developments rather than legislation that deliberately intervened in gender relations. Naturally, Coote, Harman, and Hewitt were themselves keen on actively eliminating gender inequalities through government intervention. Still, imbued with these tacit assumptions, New Labour in the round was far more cautious. Understanding this sheds further light on the trajectory of gender policies in the UK. For example, though the growing support for the ‘mainstreaming’ of women-friendly perspectives into general policy across the 1990s can be traced to institutions like the United Nations and European Commission, this modernisation framework may also help explain its increasing popularity in Whitehall under New Labour.121 It also illuminates the thinking behind specific policies. For instance, Franklin criticises the Women’s Unit for focusing excessively on neutralising government language (using the term ‘parents’ rather than ‘mothers’), which she castigates as a cosmetic reform. She suggests this preoccupation was somehow borne of the triumph of a ‘communitarian’ vision of modernisation, which wanted to improve the lives of all rather than rebalance gender power relations directly.122 117 118 119 120 121 122



Anne Phillips, ‘Gender and Modernity’, Political Theory 46:6 (2018), 837–860. Brooke, Sexual Politics, 267. Hewitt, About Time, 1. My emphasis. Harman, Century Gap, 60. Lovecy, ‘Framing Claims for Women’, 86–87; Helen McCarthy, ‘Gender Equality’, in Pat Thane (ed.), Unequal Britain: Equalities in Britain since 1945 (London, 2010), 120. Franklin, ‘After Modernisation’, 20–21.

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Yet, if anything, neutralising gendered languages is a logical endpoint of the view that society is already changing and that all government needs to do is ‘catch up’. Of the central ideas proposed by Labour’s feminist modernisers in the 1990s, the more radical wish for ‘accelerating change’ was purged, but a sense of working ‘with the grain of change’ continued to infuse the atmosphere.

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A Telling Absence



Race, Multiculturalism, and Modernisation

[U]ntil Labour is truly prepared to listen to what its black members are saying, we will fail to modernise our party —Ken Livingstone, 1989.1

Multiculturalism is also contested by modernizers of different political persuasions

—Stuart Hall, 2000.2

There is a historical puzzle at the heart of this chapter. In Westminster politics of the early twenty-first century, the concepts of ‘modernisation’ and ‘multiculturalism’ were loosely associated with each other. This is most apparent in the ‘modernisation’ agenda of David Cameron’s leadership of the Conservative Party. Like it was for Labour, ‘modernisation’ was a contested concept for the Conservatives of the 2000s and 2010s, covering everything from the ‘Big Society’ to environmentalism.3 But multiracial representation and notions of multicultural sensitivity were visible ingredients in this mix. During a 2010 interview, Cameron described ‘one part of modernization’ as the need to ‘change the Conservative Party, literally, to be more reflective of the country we wanted to govern’. This involved tackling ‘the shortage of women candidates, the underrepresentation of ethnic minorities, the fact that we were representing mainly rural seats, many in the South of England’. He added that ‘Britain had become a more open, more tolerant society over issues like race and sexuality and I think the Conservative Party needed to modernize to catch up there as well’.4 1 Livingstone, Livingstone’s Labour, 124. 2 Stuart Hall, Essential Essays. Vol. 2: Identity and Diaspora, ed. David Morley (London, 2019), 96. 3 See the special issue on Cameron’s ‘modernisation’ in British Politics 10:2 (2015). See also Jack Newman and Richard Hayton, ‘The Ontological Failure of David Cameron’s “Modernisation” of the Conservative Party’, British Politics 17 (2022), 253–273. 4 Quoted in Katharine Dommett, ‘The Theory and Practice of Party Modernisation’, British Politics 10 (2015), 256–257. See also Peter Dorey, ‘A New Direction or Another

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Cameron’s remarks about race, ethnic representation, and ‘modernisation’ can be read through several prisms, not least the internal politics of the Conservative Party in the early twenty-first century and through an existing conservative tradition of multiculturalism, as identified by David Feldman and Matthew Francis.5 But, at least in part, they should be seen as a direct response to Labour’s then electoral dominance and to the Tories’ own wilderness years of 1997–2010.6 For in the 2000s, it was common to associate New Labour’s government, and its own projects of ‘modernisation’, with an agenda of ‘multiculturalism’. The sociologist Tariq Modood, for example, suggested in 2016 that the ‘first New Labour term (1997–2001) has probably been the most multiculturalist national government’ in British history.7 Crucial to this impression were landmarks of the New Labour era, like the 1997–1999 Macpherson Inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, a black teenager, which introduced the concept of ‘institutional racism’ to Whitehall, and new legislation like the Race Relations (Amendment) Act (2000) and the Equalities Act (2010).8 So too was the rhetoric of New Labour ministers, such as Foreign Secretary Robin Cook’s famous 2001 speech to the Social Market Foundation, which declared tikka masala to be the national British dish and stressed the ‘diversity’ and ‘multiculturalism’ of ‘modern Britain’.9 New Labour’s leaders are also keen to retrospectively claim credit for mainstreaming ‘progressive attitudes’ towards race and ethnicity.10 Several scholars of race, and significant parts of the left, do not agree with much of this narrative. Influential essays have discussed the False Dawn? David Cameron and the Crisis of British Conservatism’, British Politics 2 (2007), 137–166. There were limits to this agenda, as the Conservatives often projected different messages for different audiences. See Bale, The Conservative Party, 300, 303. 5 David Feldman, ‘Why the English Like Turbans: Multicultural Politics in British History’, in Feldman and Jon Lawrence (eds), Structures and Transformations in Modern British History (Cambridge, 2011), 281–303; Matthew Francis, ‘Mrs Thatcher’s Peacock Blue Sari: Ethnic Minorities, Electoral Politics and the Conservative Party, c. 1974–86’, Contemporary British History 31:2 (2017), 274–293. 6 For the connection between the Conservative ‘modernisation’ debates and Labour’s electoral dominance, see Bale, The Conservative Party, 237. 7 Tariq Modood, ‘Whatever Happened to Multiculturalism?’, Fabian Society, 10 August 2016 [fabians.org.uk/whatever-happened-to-multiculturalism/]. 8 I am aware of the argument in favour of capitalising ‘Black’ and ‘White’. I have decided not to do so, largely to follow the usage of many of the historical subjects in this chapter, including theorists of race like Stuart Hall. But I have, on that same logic, capitalised ‘Black Sections’ as this was the favoured usage of its supporters. See Kwame Anthony Appiah, ‘The Case for Capitalizing the B in Black’, The Atlantic, 18 June 2020 [www .theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/06/time-to-capitalize-blackand-white/613159]. 9 The speech can be read here [www.theguardian.com/world/2001/apr/19/race.british​ identity]. 10 Tony Blair, A Journey (London, 2010), 90; Jack Straw, Last Man Standing: Memoirs of a Political Survivor (Basingstoke, 2012), 250.

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‘post-colonial paradoxes’ of New Labour and its awkwardness over advancing racial and ethnic equality, or have used Cook’s speech to interrogate racist hierarchies behind superficially multicultural phenomena.11 While government ministers may have waxed lyrical about multicultural Britishness, they also prosecuted the War on Terror at home and abroad after 2001, and pursued a tough anti-crime agenda, which raised new racial, interfaith and intercommunal tensions. However, there is agreement on one aspect. Much of this literature assumes that the ideal of multiculturalism was bound up with New Labour’s famed attachment to ‘modernisation’, even if in their view the reality fell short. In their critique of New Labour’s ‘white heart’, several sociologists suggested in the early 2000s that New Labour ‘was keen to present a commitment to modernising Britain, embracing diversity and valuing cultural mix’.12 The kind of rhetoric found in Cook’s speech was probably at the forefront of their minds. One might assume, therefore, that the myriad arguments for ‘modernisation’ covered in this book, from the early 1970s until the late 1990s, grappled with questions of race and multiculturalism in ‘modern Britain’. After all, both were hugely contentious issues throughout this period. As a new historiography is increasingly showing, conflicts over multiracial society repeatedly destabilised British politics since the Second World War. The arrival of the Windrush generation in the 1940s and 1950s under the 1948 British Nationality Act led to a succession of immigration acts with escalating levels of racialisation and restriction.13 The ever-growing non-white population unsettled the assumptions of many politicians as they tried to forge a stable, post-colonial British identity, leading some into racist backlash – the most infamous example being Enoch Powell’s 1968 ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech.14 Over the 1970s and 1980s, the far right revived politically through organisations like the National Front.15 Meanwhile, as scholars like Rob Waters have shown, the ‘long 1970s’ witnessed the growth of a new political force, black radicalism. Furnished with a burgeoning ‘Black Atlantic’ political culture and a rich engagement with a post-1968 new left politics, organisations like 11

Elizabeth Buettner, ‘“Going for an Indian”: South Asian Restaurants and the Limits of Multiculturalism in Britain’, The Journal of Modern History 80:4 (2008), 865–901; Kalbir Shukra, The Changing Pattern of Black Politics in Britain (London, 1998), 93–96. 12 Les Back et al., ‘New Labour’s White Heart: Politics, Multiculturalism and the Return of Assimilation’, The Political Quarterly 73:4 (2002), 445–454, at 446. 13 Nadine El-Elnany, (B)ordering Britain (Manchester, 2020), chap. 3. 14 Camilla Schofield, Enoch Powell and the Making of Postcolonial Britain (Cambridge, 2013). 15 Ben Bland, ‘Global Fascism? The British National Front and the Transnational Politics of the “Third Way” in the 1980s’, Radical History Review 138 (2020), 108–130.

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the Institute of Race Relations and the Race Today Collective sought to challenge racism, forge cross-ethnic alliances, and overthrow what they saw as a fundamentally oppressive white capitalist society.16 In many campaigns, they were joined by a mainly white anti-racist movement centred on the Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism, though this relationship was not without its tensions.17 Superficially, it would seem plausible that any argument for ‘modernisation’ would engage directly with these important developments. Indeed, Waters has stressed that this emerging political culture was infused with a powerful sense of a ‘black future’, premised on a belief in the acceleration of epochal historical change.18 Many contemporaneous arguments for ‘modernisation’ shared this accelerated temporality.19 Yet, it is actually quite difficult to find detailed considerations of multiracial society within left-wing debates over ‘modernisation’, ‘modern socialism’, or Labour’s place and role in ‘modern Britain’ between the 1970s and the 1990s. As this chapter will show, links were made between ‘modernity’ and anti-racist politics by the Gramscian Marxists connected with Marxism Today and the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS). In Labour itself, the politician who most explicitly made the connection between antiracism and ‘modernisation’ was the leader of the Greater London Council (GLC) and later Labour MP, Ken Livingstone. Apart from this, however, race is noticeably marginal to Labour discussions of its modernisation. The Alternative Economic Strategy, the Policy Review, John Smith’s leadership, and New Labour all tended to discuss other issues in relation to ‘modernising Britain’. When race did come up, the innate value of formal equality before the law and the inherent evils of discrimination were the trusted conceptual resources; its relevance for adapting Labour’s agenda to ‘modern ­Britain’ was not. This relative absence from discourses of modernisation is particularly striking, given that, as this chapter will show, the issues of race and multiculturalism themselves were not absent from Labour politics. Race and multiculturalism became sharper issues of party competition between the leaderships of Labour and the Conservatives. At a local level, municipal socialist councils placed antiracism at the centre of their agenda, which in turn sparked a right-wing backlash. Internally, the 1980s Labour Party was itself sharply polarised on the debate over the introduction of ‘Black 16

Rob Waters, Thinking Black: Britain 1964–1985 (Oakland, CA, 2018). 17 David Renton, Never Again: Rock against Racism and the Anti-Nazi League, 1976–1982 (London, 2018). 18 Waters, Thinking Black, 211. 19 Robinson, Language of Progressive Politics, 14–15.

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Sections’ to the party’s organisation and constitution. As this chapter explores in some depth, the divisive debate over Black Sections, which pivoted on questions of positive action and ethnic minority representation, raged during most of the 1980s, including throughout the early years of the pivotal Policy Review (1987–1991), when ‘modernising the Labour Party’ became a prominent theme. The lack of attempts to link black and Asian representation to a ‘modern Labour Party’ by either the opponents or most of the supporters of Black Sections is, at first glance, surprising. In light of the subsequent association between party modernisation and multiculturalism in the 2000s, it is especially intriguing. An interrogation of this historical puzzle tells us much about the Labour Party and its divergent theorists of modernisation. It illuminates the thinking behind Labour’s struggle to construct a viable electoral alliance in ‘modern Britain’ that would return the party to government – a crucial part, if not the sole aim, of many modernisation projects. In addition, it underscores the importance of factional dynamics in shaping the party’s political thinking. But, alongside the enduring forces of electoralism and factionalism, this absence also tells us something about those parts of the left which were most enthused by the new black politics of the ‘long 1970s’, and the difficult and sometimes conflictual relationship they had with concepts like ‘modernisation’. In turn, this reminds us of the origins of ‘modernisation’ in the intellectual legacy of the Enlightenment, and therefore of some of the more Eurocentric and ethnocentric undertones buried within its universalising claims. This chapter is largely a study of absence – discourses of ‘modernisation’ will not appear until deep into the discussion – but it will, through examining those absences, illuminate the awkward relationship between the politics of modernising social democracy and that of antiracism and multiculturalism in late twentieth-century Britain. Finally, by combining this insight with a recognition of the status of ‘modernisation’ as a core intellectual and political resource for Labour by 1997, we can identify some tensions lying behind the party’s ambiguous approach to questions of race and multiculturalism once it entered government. Growing Partisan Competition over Race It is hard to escape the conclusion that, at least for the metropole of a decolonising British empire, the politics of race transformed over the 1960s and early 1970s, in ways that profoundly shaped the rest of the century. Britain was already a multiracial, multiethnic, and multicultural society, and in the modern era it had ruled over a sprawling empire that spanned, and unequally ordered, skin colours and creeds. But it

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was over the late twentieth century that Britain shifted from being an ‘emigration state’,20 where the empire was spread through institutional encouragement of outward white migration to the settler colonies, to a post-Windrush society, where the empire (or later the Commonwealth) ‘came home’ through inward non-white migration, which ‘fundamentally shaped the politics of race in post-war British society’ and ‘transformed notions of citizenship and ideas about what it meant to be British’.21 These developments sparked a backlash on the fringes through the emergence of Powellism and later the National Front. For mainstream British politics on both right and left, the initial response was one of awkward avoidance, although there were elements of backlash here too. Most clearly, migration laws became noticeably stricter. The desire to limit non-white migration was a key driver behind the 1968 Commonwealth Immigrants Act, the 1971 Immigration Act, and the 1981 British Nationality Act.22 Alongside this backlash, anti-racist movements sprang up around Britain, responding to these new forms of discrimination and the resurgence of the far right. These included anti-fascist groups like the Anti-Nazi League which tackled the National Front. But they also included a new movement of black radicalism.23 Importantly, these diverse groups collectively forged a distinct unifying identity of ‘political blackness’. In this understanding, the category of black people ‘sought to unite all people of colour who had been exploited by colonialism, and oppressed by racism and capitalism’.24 It was defined, in other words, by subalternity within a post-imperial capitalist world. As the writer Ambalavaner Sivanandan put it in a retrospective interview, ‘black is a political colour, not the colour of your skin’.25 Emblematic of this new political force were new activist groups like Sivanandan’s repurposed Institute of Race Relations,

20

Freddy Foks, ‘Emigration State: Race, Citizenship and Settler Imperialism in Modern British History, c. 1850–1972’, Journal of Historical Sociology 35:2 (2022), 170–199. 21 There was, it should be said, significant overlap between these trends of inward and outward migration. Kennetta Hammond Perry, London Is the Place for Me: Black Britons, Citizenship and the Politics of Race (Oxford, 2016), 4. See also Marie Sobolewska and Robert Ford on the significantly divergent scale of the non-white population of the island of Britain before and after the 1950s–1970s period. Marie Sobolewska and Robert Ford, Brexitland: Identity, Diversity and the Reshaping of British Politics (Cambridge, 2020), 27–28 and 27n18. 22 Perry, London Is the Place for Me, chap. 5. 23 Anandi Ramamurthy, ‘The Politics of Britain’s Asian Youth Movements’, Race & Class 48:2 (2006), 38–60; Robin Bunce and Paul Field, Renegade: The Life and Times of Darcus Howe, 2nd ed. (London, 2017). 24 Leila Hassan, Robin Bunce, and Paul Field, ‘Introduction’, in Field, Bunce, Hassan, and Margaret Peacock (eds), Here to Stay, Here to Fight: A Race Today Anthology (London, 2019), 1–8, at 5. 25 [https://tamilgenerations.rota.org.uk/ambalavaner-sivanandan/].

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the Southall Black Sisters, the Asian Youth Movements, and the Race Today Collective, including the activist and writer Darcus Howe. Race relations also rocketed up the agenda after the riots26 of Brixton, Toxteth, and elsewhere in 1981, and Broadwater Farm in 1985, which propelled debates over police racism and racial inequality into the limelight. At a local level, antiracism and multiculturalism were also deeply contentious issues in local government, education, and social services. As Jed Fazakarley shows, it was often path-dependent processes in local government that spearheaded multicultural policies, rather than initiatives from the centre.27 These broader forces shaped party politics in two ways. First, antiracism and multiculturalism became a more common site of party competition from the mid-1970s onwards. There were moments in the post-war years when race became a ‘wedge’ issue; most infamously in the 1964 general election, which led Harold Wilson to condemn the victorious Conservative candidate in Smethwick constituency as a ‘parliamentary leper’ for his naked mobilisation of racism. Yet, as the political scientist Anthony Messina has argued, after Smethwick the mainstream parties avoided making race an issue of party competition, in spite of the clear wish of voters for more visible action on migration, leading to a ‘bipartisan racial consensus’. Messina traced how the party leaderships pursued ‘conspiracies of silence’ over the issue (hence Ted Heath’s sacking of Powell after the Rivers of Blood speech), shared a legislative agenda that combined ‘cosmetic’ anti-discrimination legislation with restrictive migration control, and ­outsourced, as much as possible, the questions of multicultural and racial politics to ‘racial buffers’ such as quangos and local government.28 This fragile consensus did not neutralize the explosive questions of racial inequality and racism, as seen in the growth of Powellism, the National Front, antiracism, and black radicalism.29 Under pressure from 26 Riot and uprising are used interchangeably. 27 Jed Fazakarley, Muslim Communities in England, 1962–90 (Basingstoke, 2017), 17, 41, 202. 28 Anthony M. Messina, Race and Party Competition in Britain (Oxford, 1989), especially 36–46. See also Jim Bulpitt, ‘Continuity, Autonomy and Peripheralisation: The Anatomy of the Centre’s Race Statecraft in England’, in Zig Layton-Henry and Paul B. Rich (eds), Race, Government & Politics in Britain (Basingstoke, 1986), 17–45. Bulpitt’s case for the existence of a ‘statecraft’ in which the centre deliberately offloaded race issues to the ‘periphery’ of local government is interesting. However, it underplays the growing prominence of race and migration in national political discourse in the 1970s and 1980s. See in the same volume: Zig Layton Henry, ‘Race and the Thatcher Government’, 73–100, at 97. See also the discussion of the ‘loony left’ attacks below. 29 Messina, Race and Party Competition, 47–48; Amy Whipple, ‘Revisiting the “Rivers of Blood” Controversy: Letters to Enoch Powell’, Journal of British Studies 48:3 (2009), 717–735; Waters, Thinking Black, 5.

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various directions, it collapsed from the mid-1970s onwards. Differing attitudes to migration and racial equality subsequently became points of contestation between Conservative and Labour. Under Thatcher’s leadership, the Conservatives more consciously appealed to those sectors of society who felt ‘swamped’ by immigration, as Thatcher infamously put it in 1978, and while it did not achieve all of its 1979 manifesto commitments on migration restriction, it pushed through more restrictive border controls and nationality laws.30 During the 1980s, the Conservatives also attacked anti-racist politics in local government, deriding municipal anti-racist and equal opportunities agendas as ‘loony left’.31 Importantly, the ‘loony left’ assault on Labour-run councils by Thatcher’s government eroded the boundary between the centre and periphery and helped to nationalise the politics of race.32 Meanwhile, Labour moved, unevenly, in a more liberal direction on race. Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) issued an advice leaflet to constituency labour parties in 1980, which was notably selfcritical on the party’s lack of action on racial discrimination hitherto. Frontbench politicians like Roy Hattersley (Shadow Home Secretary from 1980) even publicly apologised for supporting restrictive migration laws in the late 1960s – a rare sight in professional politics. In the early 1980s, Hattersley’s team mounted a ‘strong offensive’ against the Conservative government’s race agenda.33 Thus, Labour committed to removing racialised elements of migration and border laws and pledged more legislation to tackle discrimination, in both the 1983 and 1987 elections. The 1983 manifesto was more forthright, pledging a ‘political offensive against racial disadvantage’, which included greatly expanded funding for targeted projects, positive action programmes in employment and social services, a senior minister on racial inequality, the repeal of the 1971 Immigration act and 1981 British Nationality Act, and a bolstered Race Relations Act.34 The 1987 manifesto was notably more cautious than 1983, but still pledged ‘firm action to promote racial equality’ and to ‘attack racial discrimination’. It promised that a Labour government would strengthen the law to combat racial hatred and racial 30

Layton-Henry, ‘Race and the Thatcher Government’, 75, 79. 31 Anne Marie Smith, New Right Discourse on Race and Sexuality: Britain, 1968–1990 (Cambridge, 1994), 35. 32 Colm Murphy, ‘The “Rainbow Alliance” or the Focus Group? Sexuality and Race in the Labour Party’s Electoral Strategy, 1985–7’, Twentieth Century British History 31:3 (2020), 291–315. 33 Marian Fitzgerald and Zig Layton-Henry, ‘Opposition Parties and Race Policies, 1979–83’, in Layton-Henry and Rich (eds), Race, Government & Politics, 100–125, at 104–105. 34 Dale (ed.), Labour Party General Election Manifestos, 274–275.

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attacks, ensure that immigration law did not discriminate by race, and use contract compliance to improve racial equality.35 These changes in Labour’s positioning were partly a response to longer-term changes in the British left within a global context of the emerging ‘new left’ after 1968, which took great interest in civil rights, anti-racist, and ‘Third World’ politics.36 The scale of this change is sometimes exaggerated: constituency parties did not churn in membership as much as is sometimes assumed; meanwhile, Labour politicians like Joan Lestor and Barbara Castle took an interest in both antiracism and in Third World politics before 1968, the latter serving as president of the Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM). Nonetheless, over the 1970s and 1980s, the membership of many constituency Labour parties was increasingly influenced by the post-1968 new left.37 Meanwhile, though in existence since the 1950s, the global movement against South African apartheid surged over the later 1970s and 1980s, and was particularly strong in Britain.38 The AAM overlapped considerably with anti-Conservative and left-wing politics, particularly after Thatcher diverged from the Commonwealth consensus over sanctions against the Pretoria regime. In the 1980s, voting Labour and boycotting South African goods were two markers of a broader 1980s leftwing, anti-Thatcher subculture.39 All this meant that, as Jonathan Davis and Rohan McWilliam have noted, challenging racism was one of the 1980s left’s most distinctive features, with long-lasting effects on political culture more broadly.40 35

Ibid, 307. 36 Geoff Eley, Forging Democracy: The History of the Left in Europe, 1850–2000 (Oxford, 2002), 8–9, 10–11, 462; Alastair J. Reid, ‘The Dialectics of Liberation: The Old Left, the New Left and the Counter-culture’, in Feldman and Lawrence (eds), Structures and Transformations, 261–281. 37 Steven Fielding and Duncan Tanner, ‘The “Rise of the Left” Revisited: Labour Party Culture in Post-War Manchester and Salford’, Labour History Review 71:3 (2006), 211–233. 38 Rob Skinner, ‘The Anti-Apartheid Movement: Pressure Group Politics, International Solidarity and Transnational Activism’, in Nick Crowson, Matthew Hilton, and James McKay (eds), NGOs in Contemporary Britain: Non-state Actors in Society and Politics since 1945 (Basingstoke, 2009), 129–147. 39 Simon Stevens, ‘Why South Africa? The Politics of Anti-Apartheid Activism in Britain in the Long 1970s’, in Jan Eckel and Samuel Moyn (eds), The Breakthrough: Human Right in the 1970s (Philadelphia, PA, 2015), 204–226, at 222–223. The AAM did, however, range far beyond committed political activists. See Stephen Bentel, ‘Limits of Conviviality: Cosmopolitan Convivial Culture: Contact Zones, and Race in LateTwentieth Century London’, unpublished PhD thesis (Queen Mary University of London, 2021), 370–371. 40 Jonathan Davis and Rohan McWilliam, ‘Introduction: New Histories of Labour and the Left in the 1980s’, in idem (eds), Labour and the Left in the 1980s, 1–23, at 3–4.

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The Black Sections Controversy in the 1980s These developments would all affect the Labour Party’s internal debates in meaningful ways over the 1980s, as both external critics from the new left and a new generation of black and Asian activists tried to reshape Labour into a more multiracial party in terms of representation, and anti-racist party in terms of politics. Most clearly, this manifested in the debate over the establishment of ‘Black Sections’, a constitutional question which dominated the internal Labour politics on race for most of the decade. The literature on the Black Sections controversy is still sparse. Existing material clusters around the contemporary and retrospective accounts of the campaign’s supporters, or in some cases the critical voices of an extra-parliamentary tradition of Marxist-influenced black radicalism, hostile to the Labour Party as such.41 While these important works contribute insights into the aims of the campaign, the barriers it faced, and some of its weaknesses, they do have limitations. Most importantly, the positions of important players, especially of prominent ethnic minority opponents of Black Sections within Labour, are poorly served by the lack of historical research on the topic.42 As the biographers of Diane Abbott suggest, the subject desperately needs more study.43 Before considering the relationship of these debates to ‘modernisation’, therefore, we will discuss the Black Sections controversy in some detail. The campaign for Black Sections emerged in the summer of 1983, out of existing networks of Afro-Caribbean and Asian councillors in L ­ ondon. The crux of the campaign centred on ethnic minority representation in the Labour Party. In proportional terms, the 1980s Labour Party was overwhelmingly white (as, indeed, the party is at the time of writing), with black and Asian ethnic minorities accounting for only 4 per cent of the membership.44 That was broadly reflective of the proportion

41

For supportive accounts of Black Sections, see Hilary Wainwright, Labour: A Tale of Two Parties (London, 1987); Sydney Jeffers, ‘Black Sections in the Labour Party: The End of Ethnicity and “Godfather” Politics’, in Pnina Werbner and Muhammed Anwar (eds), Black and Ethnic Leaderships: The Cultural Dimensions of Political Action (London, 1991), 43–58. For a critical reading that calls for a ‘black political leadership’ that is ‘fully class conscious’ and that engages in a ‘real-liberatory strategy’, which would ‘break free of the restrictive Labour Party and parliamentary political framework’, see Shukra, Changing Pattern of Black Politics in Britain, 121–124. 42 As far as I can see, only Terri Sewell’s valuable account has given these arguments extended attention. Terri A. Sewell, Black Tribunes: Black Political Participation in Britain (London, 1993), 105–114. 43 Robin Bunce and Samara Linton, Diane Abbott: The Authorised Biography (London, 2020), xiv. 44 Seyd and Whiteley, Labour’s Grass Roots, 36–37.

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of black and Asian people in the country as a whole.45 However, the Labour Party was electorally strong in places where the ethnic minority population was much higher.46 In addition, according to the available polling data, ethnic minority voters strongly supported the Labour Party. The party polled 81 per cent among Asian voters and 87 per cent among Afro-Caribbean voters in 1983 (by the 1987 election, though, there was more divergence; while 86 per cent of Afro-Caribbean voters backed Labour, Asian support dropped to 67 per cent).47 Finally, there were no black or Asian Labour MPs after the 1983 election.48 This appeared increasingly unjust to a growing proportion of black and Asian activists who joined the Labour Party in the 1970s and early 1980s, and yet another example of racial inequality.49 To these activists, it was incongruous that constituencies which contained increasingly large ethnic minority populations were almost all represented by white, male Labour MPs. Roy Hattersley, by now Labour’s deputy leader, was particularly criticised in this regard. Hattersley’s increasingly liberal politics on migration has already been discussed. However, Hattersley was also a white man who had long represented Birmingham Sparkbrook, a constituency with a high Asian population, and had been known to speak of ‘my Asians’.50 Hattersley enjoyed strong links with his Asian constituents.51 But his opponents within Labour criticised his mode of engagement as a form of white paternalistic, even colonial, politics, focusing on Hattersley’s wooing of often conservatively minded ‘community leaders’, who would then be tasked with ‘getting out the vote’. A 1985 documentary by Darcus Howe and Tariq Ali’s The Bandung File made these accusations directly.52 As Black Sections activist Sydney Jeffers explained, part of the impulse of creating Black Sections was to challenge what they saw as this ‘godfather’ style of politics.53 Thus, Black Sections began appearing in local Labour parties, aiming to tackle this underrepresentation head on. A ‘Black Section’ would act as a caucus dedicated to ethnic minority Labour members and, as a 45

46 47 48

49

50 51 52 53

Sobolewska and Ford, Brexitland, 28. Fitzgerald and Layton Henry, ‘Opposition Parties’, 103–104. Messina, Race and Party Competition, 152. In 1983, the newly elected Conservative MP for Bristol East, Jonathan Sayeed, was half Asian. Tariq Modood points out that most political commentators overlooked Sayeed when discussing the arrival of ‘black’ MPs in 1987. Tariq Modood, ‘“Black”, Racial Equality and Asian Identity’, New Community 14:3 (1988), 397–405, at 403n3. Bunce and Linton, Diane Abbott, 157. McSmith, Faces of Labour, 234. Fitzgerald and Layton-Henry, ‘Opposition Parties’, 105. Bunce and Linton, Diane Abbott, 177. Jeffers, ‘Black Sections in the Labour Party’, 43, 55.

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Section rather than just an affiliated Society, would also be given guaranteed representation on key committees, all the way up to the NEC. The purpose was to ‘increase party membership among black people’, ‘help integrate black people into the party’, and ‘offer an opportunity for local parties to discuss and respond to specific issues relating to black people’.54 Part of the motivation was to increase the likelihood of the selection of black candidates in winnable Labour seats, thus diversifying Labour’s parliamentary representation. The Section also hoped to influence policy; it published a wide-ranging policy document in 1988, which called for (among other things) democratic oversight of the police, the removal of migration control, school curriculum reform, positive action in hiring practices, and seed money for black cooperatives and enterprise.55 The party’s long-established women’s and youth sections were explicit inspirations.56 However, the original Black Sections were technically unconstitutional. As a result, the Black Sections campaign emerged, whose cause was to amend Labour’s constitution and legalise the Sections through passing a motion at the party’s annual Conference. Early supporters included councillors and activists like Russell Profitt, Phil Sealey, Ben Bousquet, and Diane Abbott.57 The movement was strongly centred in London, although there were other centres of support in cities like Nottingham. It was the establishment of a Black Section in Vauxhall in April 1984, under the impetus of activist Marc Wadsworth, that first drew a critical response from Kinnock’s party leadership, propelling Black Sections up the agenda of Labour politics.58 Alongside underrepresentation, there were two other crucial elements that led to the emergence of the Black Sections campaign. The first was rising self-organisation among ethnic minority communities over the long 1970s. For Diane Abbott, Black Sections arose from ‘the emergence in the Labour Party of a different generation of black activists, who took for granted that they should organise themselves’.59 Key landmark protests of this period, such as the 1981 Black People’s Day of Action after the New Cross Fire and the 1981 uprisings, injected urgency into the idea of making Labour a more explicitly 54

Labour Party, Positive Discrimination: Black People and the Labour Party (London, 1985), 27, 43. 55 Labour Party Black Section, The Black Agenda (London, 1988). 56 Labour Party, Positive Discrimination, 13; Letter from Eric Heffer to Larry Whitty, 14 June 1985, in PHM, The Papers of Hilary Wainwright (hereafter: WAIN) 2/4. 57 The Labour Party Black Section Newsletter, no. 2 (1984), in BI The Papers of Bernie Grant (hereafter: BG)/P/11/5/1. 58 Labour Party, Positive Discrimination, 30–31, 33; Bunce and Linton, Diane Abbot, 159. 59 Diane Abbott et al., ‘Black Sections: Radical Demand … or Distraction?’, Marxism Today (September 1985), 31–36, at 31.

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anti-racist party.60 The emergence of Black Sections in the early 1980s was thus no coincidence. Black and Asian Labour councillors were trying to tap into the new wave of ethnic minority mobilisation.61 For the Black Sections activists, their cause was part of the wider struggle against racism in 1980s Britain. The Black Sections campaign, therefore, shared more with the black mobilisations outside the party than simply timing. Many of these activists drew on the popular concept of ‘political blackness’, through which majority Asian activist groups self-described themselves as ‘black’. It is only in this context that the name ‘Black Sections’, which was intended to span both Asian and Afro-Caribbean members and which numbered prominent Asian supporters like Keith Vaz, made any sense.62 Relatedly, Black Sections supporters often situated their campaign within a global context of Third World politics. In his 1984 conference speech introducing a pro-Black Sections motion, Bernie Grant appealed to the oppression of black people in South Africa, Angola, Mozambique, Grenada, India, and Sri Lanka, arguing that these should be priority debates for the Labour Party and linking these international events to racist discrimination in the UK.63 When elected as an MP in 1987, Black Sections supporter Paul Boateng famously declared: ‘Today Brent South, tomorrow Soweto’. Echoes of the diasporic imagination of black radicalism can thus also be discerned within the Labour Party. They are clearly apparent, for example, in the Section’s 1988 policy document, which declared that ‘[o]ur struggle for Black self-organisation is intertwined with the fight for genuine self-determination and national independence in the Black world … We must therefore wage an international struggle as the Black diaspora to regain our land, history, culture and inalienable right to run our own affairs’.64 The second factor that fuelled the emergence of the Black Sections campaign was the rise of the left over the 1970s and early 1980s, epitomised in the growing sway of Tony Benn. This is not to say that the relationship between the Black Sections campaign and the Labour Left was simple – quite the reverse. Influential socialist groups thought that class, not race, should be the overriding identity and that racial 60

Paul Boateng, ‘Preface’, in Sewell, Black Tribunes, 11–12, at 12. 61 Black Sections National Committee, ‘The Labour Party Needs Black Sections’, n.d. in PHM WAIN 2/4. 62 Labour Party, Positive Discrimination, 33. 63 Grant’s conference speech can be watched here: [www.youtube.com/watch?v=​ FLVIXAkmFCs]. 64 Black Section, Black Agenda, 39–42. There is even some indication of support for the black nationalist Pan Africanist Congress of Azania on p. 41.

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inequalities could often be attributed to class inequality. Among the most bullish proponents of this position were the Trotskyist entryists Militant ­Tendency.65 Hence, in Abbott’s 1984 speech to the Labour Conference in favour of Black Sections, she attacked those connected to a ‘certain newspaper’ (Militant).66 Some prominent Black Sections supporters were also not straightforwardly on Labour’s left. A good example is Boateng, who wanted Black Sections to facilitate the emergence of black ‘role models’ in party politics, rather than through any attachment to more bracingly new left ideas. The selection meeting which chose Boateng as the Brent South candidate, paving the way for his election to Parliament in 1987, even attracted a hostile demonstration by the more radical members of the Black Sections campaign, like Linda Bellos and Marc Wadsworth, because it followed Labour Party rules and thus did not formally recognise Black Section delegates. Boateng was reportedly unimpressed with his nominal allies.67 Nevertheless, there was a clear affinity between influential wings of the Labour left, especially the London left clustered around the London Labour Briefing, and the Black Sections campaign. Key figures in this grouping, like councillor and later MP Jeremy Corbyn or the GLC’s leader Livingstone, were strong supporters of the cause (though, despite his theoretical support for more black candidates, Livingstone beat Abbott to the candidacy for the Brent East constituency in the 1987 election).68 On the flipside, many, though not all, of the Black Sections activists had clear links with this wing of the left. Indeed, the Black Sections campaign possessed familial traits shared with other left-wing groups of the period. The movement’s operation was very similar to the Bennite Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, spreading its cause through model resolutions and reselection attempts, and fighting its war on the familiar terrain of constituency Labour party General Management Committees and Conference compositing meetings.69 This meant that there were some early links between the Black Sections debate and the ‘soft left’ Labour Co-ordinating Committee, which also grew out of the Bennite constitutional wave. Notably, Kinnock’s press secretary Patricia 65

See, for example, Labour Party Young Socialists, Black Workers and the Labour Party, n.d. [c.1985], in BI BG/P/11/5/1. The pamphlet argued that Black Sections was tokenistic and unnecessarily divided the working class. LPYS was in this period a stronghold of Militant Tendency. See Michael Crick, Militant, new ed. (London, 2016), 177, 285. 66 Bunce and Field, Diane Abbott, 163–164. See also McSmith, Faces of Labour, 231–232. 67 McSmith, Faces of Labour, 233. 68 Bunce and Linton, Diane Abbott, 167–169. 69 There is a huge literature on this. A classic remains Seyd, The Rise and Fall of the Labour Left. More recent work includes Leys and Panitch, Searching for Socialism, especially chap. 4.

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Hewitt, who had been involved in the late 1970s campaigns for activist democracy, was initially named as a supporter of Black Sections on its literature and, reportedly, unsuccessfully tried to convince Kinnock to support the idea once she went to work in his office in 1983.70 Despite these forces pushing it onto the agenda of party debate, however, the Black Sections campaign suffered several defeats over the 1980s. The organisational efforts of the Black Section campaign decisively contributed to the watershed election of four black and Asian Labour MPs in the 1987 general election. Yet, it failed to achieve its internal constitutional goals. Beginning in 1984, the legalisation of Black Sections was brought to several Labour Conferences and repeatedly voted down by large majorities. Aside from these set-piece defeats, the controversy fuelled several public spats between the leadership and Black Sections activists. A 1985 NEC working group failed to solve the problem – while a majority of the working group recommended their implementation, it failed to reach a unanimous decision.71 The nadir of relations between the Black Sections campaign and the party leadership was probably reached in the run-up to the 1987 election, when the NEC forcibly deselected Sharon Atkin from the candidacy for the Nottingham East constituency. At a Black Sections rally in Birmingham, Atkin controversially said, in response to hostile questioning from black radical activists, that she cared more about black people than a ‘racist Labour Party’. The NEC insisted on deselecting her on the grounds that she could not plausibly represent Labour in the upcoming election after these remarks, in the face of opposition from many in the constituency Labour party. The divisive case, further complicated by the illness of both Atkins and her severely sick partner, resulted in a wave of headlines in the hostile tabloid press on the ‘black power struggle tearing Labour in two’.72 The campaign’s struggles arose from a myriad array of obstacles. Partly, it struggled due to the leadership’s interpretation of the imperatives of electoral politics. Over the decade, political opponents and a hostile media increasingly used the Black Sections campaign to paint the Labour Party as ‘loony left’ (one of their most common targets was Bernie Grant, who was repeatedly framed as a ‘black extremist’), and 70

The Labour Party Black Section Newsletter, no. 2 (1984), in BI BG/P/11/5/1; McSmith, Faces of Labour, 231. 71 Labour Party, Positive Discrimination, which published both ‘majority’ and ‘minority’ reports in favour and against Black Sections. 72 Letter from Roy Hattersley et al. to Bernie Grant and Linda Bellos, 3 April 1987, CAC KNNK 2/1/87; Fiona Millar, ‘Black Power Struggle That Is Tearing Labour in Two’, Daily Express, 9 April 1987, 7–8; Letter from Andy Mutter to Neil Kinnock, 3 April 1987, CAC KNNK 2/1/87.

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internal party opinion research suggested that this was harming Labour’s support in swing seats.73 All this made the leadership and electoral strategists at Walworth Road, such as Peter Mandelson, positively allergic to the Black Sections campaign.74 Moreover, the campaign also clashed with Kinnock’s own struggle to reassert control over the party during the 1980s. The Black Sections demand emerged first in 1983–1984 – in other words, precisely when Kinnock’s majority on the NEC and power as leader was at its most tenuous.75 Given that a key aim of the Black Sections campaign was the creation of another seat on the NEC, it inevitably raised the prospects of a further weakening of Kinnock’s authority in the party. Kinnock’s opposition should be viewed partly in this context. There was also an instinctive emotional aversion to the idea from much of the Labour Party. Kinnock and Hattersley, for example, both saw themselves as principled anti-racists, and deeply resented the accusations of racism or white paternalism from the Black Sections campaign. They also reacted strongly to the very principle of dividing the party by race, hence Kinnock rashly suggested that the Sections proposal was a form of segregation, which, given the strong association of segregation with apartheid, was unsurprisingly offensive to many of the Black Sections advocates.76 It is not hard to imagine, too, that, in a party that was 96 per cent white, of which most grew up in majority white communities, there was at least an element of racial discrimination present in the large majorities who voted down the proposal.77 Certainly, the problem of underrepresentation in Labour was, for many Black Sections activists, compounded by incidents of racism experienced by the few black and Asian figures who did join the party.78 Then, as now, Labour members could discriminate against ethnic minority members. Much of the existing writing on Black Sections highlights these undoubtedly important factors of electoralism, leadership power centralisation, white emotional aversion, and racism. This was, however, not the whole story: the proposal faced other barriers too. Certainly, these 73 Sewell, Black Tribunes, 127–129. 74 Letter from Roy Hattersley to Neil Kinnock, 1 May 1985, in HULL HATTERSLEY U DRH/3/1; Peter Mandelson, ‘Marketing Labour’, Contemporary Record 1:4 (1987), 11–13, at 12. 75 Massey, The Modernisation of the Labour Party, 52. 76 ‘Kinnock Rejects “Black Sections Minefield”’, Guardian, 11 April 1984, 26; Seamus Milne, ‘Labour Rebels Defy Black Section Ruling’, Guardian, 11 May 1985, 1; Labour Party, Positive Discrimination, 27–28; Wainwright, Tale of Two Parties, 203. 77 See the revealing quote John Golding MP gave to Hilary Wainwright in Tale of Two Parties, 80. 78 John Solomos and Les Back, Race, Politics and Social Change (London, 1995), 155.

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forces struggle to fully account for the phenomenon of black, Asian, and other ethnic minority Labour members, at all levels, who opposed Black Sections. For example, as John Solomos and Les Back recorded, of the 23 black and Asian Birmingham city councillors they interviewed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, only 20 per cent were supporters of Black Sections.79 Any canvas of the Conference debates, moreover, reveals black delegates making impassioned speeches against the proposal.80 Similarly, Bill Morris, the prominent black trade unionist in the Transport and General Workers’ Union, and later the first black leader of a major trade union, opposed the establishment of a Black Section.81 Morris instead publicly championed and privately advocated the compromise of an affiliated Black Socialist Society, which did not restrict membership to black people.82 White politicians involved in anti-racist politics were sometimes ambivalent about the proposal too. The Labour MP Alf Dubs, who had been involved in equal opportunities work as a councillor and was a founding member of the Labour Party Race Action Group, actually switched his position.83 Though initially supporting Black Sections in 1984, he changed his mind the following year, claiming at Labour’s conference that, in his travels across the country as a frontbench spokesperson, ‘black people have come to me and said that they did not want black sections’.84 Given the existence of women’s and youth sections, and the vocal support for Black Sections among leading black and Asian activists, why were Black Sections opposed by many other black and Asian members of the party? The concern that Black Sections would, by feeding ‘loony left’ smears, harm Labour electorally was probably important to some degree. In addition, it does appear that many black and Asian Labour members saw themselves, first and foremost, as working class, as socialists, or as Labour supporters, and therefore, like many of the white opponents of Black Sections, disliked dividing the party by race. For example, similarly to Kinnock, Birmingham councillor Sardul Mara (who led the city’s race relations structure) attacked Black Sections as ‘segregation’ and ‘apartheid’ in August 1984.85 Marwa also referred 79

Ibid, 91. 80 For example, Conference 1985, 36–37. The speaker identified as black (‘We blacks’) and used their experiences as a black person in the party to illustrate their arguments against Black Sections. 81 ‘Black Sections “Wrong”’, Guardian, 3 September 1985, 4. 82 Bill Morris, ‘Time for New Thinking in the Black Sections Debate’, Tribune, 8 January 1988, 1, 11; Letter from Bill Morris to Bernie Grant, 4 January 1988, BI BG/P/11/5/5. 83 Fitzgerald and Layton-Henry, ‘Opposition Parties’, 108. 84 Dubs made his remarks during the 1985 Black Sections debate: Conference 1985, 35–36. 85 Solomos and Back, Race, Politics and Social Change, 86. (See also 138–139.)

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to the pre-existence of ethnic minority councillors in ­ Birmingham to ­criticise the proposal. This reveals another barrier: differences of opinion over the legitimacy of existing channels through which ethnic minorities engaged with the party. What for Black Sections activists was ‘godfather’ and ‘patronage’ politics was, for others in the party, community engagement.86 Furthermore, though aversion to patronage politics and white paternalism may have inspired the Black Section in the first place, there were also reciprocal complaints from the campaign’s opponents. The core of the campaign was a group of black and Asian councillors and activists who were forging their own agenda on their own terms. Yet, as discussed, the issue was also taken up by large parts of the broader Labour left.87 This was particularly the case from 1985. Terri Sewell has argued that a key turning point was the election of Sharon Atkin as the second national chair, at which point the more self-consciously left-wing Black Labour Activists Campaign (BLAC) took control.88 In turn, this embroiled Black Sections within a more fraught political context, which often distracted from the core of the argument. It was a crucial context, for example, behind the Black Sections’ 1988 endorsement of the nationalisation of ‘the banks and major private companies’, at the very moment that Labour was moving decisively away from public ownership.89 It influenced Kinnock’s opposition, given the prospect of a Section dominated by the anti-Kinnock left gaining power in the party. But left-wing connections also alienated several ethnic minority Labour members. Ben Bousquet, a black councillor and one of the founding members of the Black Section, resigned when BLAC took control in 1985. Paul Boateng and Keith Vaz also increasingly attacked the movement’s leadership in public in the later 1980s.90 In their interviews of Birmingham’s ethnic minority councillors, Solomos and Back noted that many were on the right of the party, and thus stayed clear of the Black Sections campaign, seeing them as vehicles for left-wing factional advancement. They also noted that while only 20 per cent of black and Asian councillors supported Black Sections, 33 per cent of white councillors did, all of whom were on the party’s left. Some ethnic minority councillors told Solomos and Back that they thought the left 86 Ibid, 88. 87 This is implicit in Wainwright’s identification of ‘two parties’ and inclusion of Black Sections in the ‘emerging’ new party, distinct from ‘labourism’: Wainwright, Tale of Two Parties, 8–9. 88 Sewell, Black Tribunes, 105. 89 Black Section, The Black Agenda, 31. 90 Sewell, Black Tribunes, 114.

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Part II  Identities and ‘Modern Socialism’ Table 4.1  1987 Harris poll of non-white attitudes to Labour Black Sections (%)

Approve Disapprove Don’t know/not stated

Asian

Afro-Caribbean

31 46 23

39 44 17

Source: Messina, Race and Party Competition, 177.

patronised them and were cynically using the Black Sections debate to advance their own agenda.91 Meanwhile, the Black Sections campaign was far from universally supported within the broader scene of left-wing black radical movements. While Darcus Howe ultimately backed Black Sections activists against what he perceived to be a racist and irredeemably reformist Labour leadership, he also criticised the ‘careerism’ of the campaign’s leading lights, suggesting the Section was of material benefit to only the ‘black middle classes’; it did little for the black working class, in which he placed much hope. Looking back from the 2000s, Howe was more unambiguously positive about the Black Sections cause, but at the time he was ambivalent – unsurprisingly, given his distaste for the Labour Party as such.92 Sivanandan was even more dismissive on these lines, arguing that the Black Sections debate was a distraction from anti-racist and class struggle.93 The idea that Black Sections were a cause mainly for a Labour a­ ctivist minority was not just one made from the extra-Labour left. Another recurring critique made by opponents of Black Sections within the party was that the idea was not supported by most black and Asian citizens. As we saw, this belief was crucial in convincing Dubs to change his position. The accusation that the Black Sections movement was detached from the ‘black community’ was also made by Bousquet after he resigned.94 While arguments like this are difficult to conclusively settle, there is evidence that supports this claim. Polling of black and Asian voters over the 1980s consistently showed either majorities or pluralities opposed to the idea of Black Sections (see Table 4.1 for one example from 1987). One such poll 91

Solomos and Back, Race, Politics and Social Change, 91, 136–137, 158. 92 Darcus Howe, Black Sections in the Labour Party (London, 1985), 11–12; Darcus Howe, ‘How Tony Blair Rewrote Our Past’, New Statesman, 18 December 2007, 30. For opposition to the Labour Party generally, see Race Today, ‘“Building the Mass Movement”, August–September 1982’, in Field et al. (eds), Here to Stay, Here to Fight, 31–32. 93 Abbott et al., ‘Black Sections: Radical Demand … or Distraction?’, 33. 94 Sewell, Black Tribunes, 105.

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in 1985, which found that 63 per cent of the ‘black community’ thought it was ‘wrong to set up sections exclusively for black people’, led The Voice to conclude that ‘[t]here remains a definite gap between the aspirations of the black sections leadership and the black community’.95 Question wording may have shaped these responses, and (as Messina argues) support did rise over the decade, but it never outweighed the plurality of Afro-Caribbean voters, and even bigger proportion of Asian voters, who opposed the idea.96 Many supporters of Black Sections rejected the relevance of survey data and preferred (for example) the submissions of black trade unionists to the relevant working group,97 but it is difficult to avoid the impression of the campaign’s ‘failure’ to garner significant and unified support in the wider ethnic minority community.98 Even some of its supporters, like Boateng, admitted this. In 1988, Boateng told an interviewer that ‘[t]he majority of black people don’t want Black Sections  … I’ve found that most blacks see it as sectarian and marginalising’.99 A final, crucial problem the Black Sections campaign faced was its attempt to import the ‘political blackness’ concept into the 1980s Labour Party. This caused it several issues. Firstly, it opened up knotty questions of definition and entitlement to membership. If a Black Section was to have guaranteed seats on powerful committees, then it became organisationally and (crucially) factionally vital to have a robust definition of who could join. Yet, there was ambiguity here. Were Chinese, Turkish, Cypriot, Jewish, or Irish Labour Party members ‘black’, left-wing activists of all skin colours asked?100 Questions like this often came from those who were already opposed on other grounds, but they were not trivial. To take the Irish example, many in the Black Sections leadership, especially those connected with the London left, supported the ‘Irish liberation struggle’ (as they characterised the brutal ‘Troubles’ in the northern Irish six counties) and, echoing Sinn Féin, often directly framed 95 Tony Sewell, ‘Black Section: Only One Slice of the Cake’, The Voice, 25 May 1985, 14–15. 96 Messina, Race and Party Competition, 176. 97 See the majority report of the working party: Labour Party, Positive Discrimination, 12. According to a briefing note by Patricia Hewitt, the chair of the working party final meeting ‘ruled out reference to the HARRIS poll’. Patricia Hewitt, ‘Black Sections Working Party’, CAC KNNK 2/1/54. 98 Solomos and Back, Race, Politics and Social Change, 90. As well as consistent polling opposition, there was also some minority opposition within the Afro-Caribbean or Asian media landscape. For example, see a Letter from Caudley George, publisher of West Indian World, to Neil Kinnock, 17 April 1985, CAC KNNK 2/1/54. 99 Quoted in Sewell, Black Tribunes, 108. 100 Bill Morris to Bernie Grant, 15 February 1989, enclosing a copy of a letter from Bill Morris to Larry Whitty, 9 February 1989 in BI BG/P/11/5/7; Nasreen Rahman and Doug Jones, ‘Who Is Black?’, Marxism Today (December 1984), 51.

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their support for a united Ireland as ‘anti-colonial’ and ‘Third World’ ­politics.101 Some also suggested that ‘many of the repressive measures being used by the British state against Black people were perfected by its forces of occupation in the North of Ireland’.102 Meanwhile, prominent figures in the London left often discussed anti-Irish ‘racism’ to justify their controversial stances on Sinn Féin, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), and their support for ‘Troops Out’. GLC leader and Black Sections supporter Ken Livingstone made this argument in startlingly strong terms. In one interview, Livingstone argued that the historical treatment of Ireland by Britain was ‘worse than all the Boers have done to the blacks in South Africa’ and that while the ‘classic Guardian liberal’ was conscious of their ‘racism about black people’, their ‘racism against the Irish is so much deeper’.103 Diane Abbott, meanwhile, suggested in 1984 that the Irish in her council ward ‘know from their own experiences what Black people suffer’, and that ‘another thing Black people and Irish people have in common’ is ‘having to cope with racism’.104 All this is relevant because in the eyes of its supporters, political blackness was explicitly defined not on the colour of somebody’s skin, but rather on their structural position within an unequal, post-imperial world, and their political outlook with regard to anti-colonial politics. All these quotes linking the Provisional IRA to anti-colonial struggle, and about the shared experiences of black and Irish people, thus posed the question of what exactly distinguished ‘Irish’ from ‘black’ in the self-consciously inclusive and political understanding of the latter term. Most Black Sections activists did want to make that distinction and reacted angrily to the suggestion that white people could join the Section. Indeed, in that 1984 interview, Abbott was anxious to stress that ‘I don’t think it’s exactly the same – if you’re white you’re white’.105 Yet, these conceptual ambiguities within the 1980s left complicated their definition of ‘blackness’.106 Even trickier for the Black Sections proposal, though, was the increasing criticism within left-wing circles of the use of the term ‘black’ for Asian people. As the Black Sections debate rumbled on, growing 101 Black Section, The Black Agenda, 44–45. 102 See the inclusion of a demand for the ‘withdrawal from Ireland’ as a part of ‘the Black Section’s anti-imperialist intervention in politics’, in ‘Black Section Candidates’, n.d., BI BG/P/11/5/5; ‘Stop the Strip-searching’, Black Sections (Autumn 1986), 2, PHM WAIN 2/4. 103 Quoted in John Carvel, Citizen Ken, new ed. (London, 1987), 162–163. 104 ‘Withdrawal? No Question about It Says: Diane Abbott’, Labour & Ireland 2:5 (1984). 105 Ibid. 106 Relatedly, see Natalie Thomlinson’s discussion of the growing prominence of Ireland within 1980s feminism and links with Black women’s groups, but also the tensions this caused. Thomlinson, Race, Ethnicity and the Women’s Movement, 153–155.

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criticism of political blackness emerged from the ‘Bristol school of multiculturalism’.107 A particularly robust critic was the sociologist Tariq Modood, who argued that the blanket term black ‘harmed British Asians’ by eliding their specific experiences and downplaying their own cultural inheritances. While Modood was primarily taking aim at sociologists and cultural theorists, such as Paul Gilroy, he also singled out a passage from the Labour Party working group’s 1985 Black Sections report as a telling example of the ‘doublethink’ that the ‘political blackness’ idea encouraged.108 Modood was far from alone in disliking the term. Back and Solomos’s interviews suggested that several Asian Labour councillors in Birmingham did not consider themselves ‘black’, and this is an especially noteworthy finding given that one of the arguments of their 1995 book was a defence of political blackness as an analytical tool against criticisms from cultural theorists like Stuart Hall.109 It is probably not a coincidence, therefore, that the Black Sections campaign lost momentum at the same time as the activist alliance over political blackness broke down. The divisions were already emerging, but potent confirmation of the fracture was the Salman Rushdie affair of 1989.110 Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses, which was widely perceived as offensive to Muslims, sparked protests, book burnings and the infamous fatwa from Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini, and stimulated a prominent debate about censorship, tolerance, free speech, and multiculturalism. This debate polarised the Black Sections movement. Among the four black and Asian Labour MPs and supporters of Black Sections elected in 1987, Diane Abbott opposed censoring the paperback on the grounds of free speech and Paul Boateng dismissed the affair as having nothing to do with the ‘black discourse’, whereas Keith Vaz and Bernie Grant supported the censorship campaign, the latter explicitly as a ‘black’ struggle.111 This division came at a crucial juncture, as the conflict began to slowly reach a conclusion. In 1989, the party’s NEC floated the compromise idea of a Black Socialist Society, which allowed white members to join if they wished but would not allow them to serve as its officers 107 Geoffrey Brahm Levey, ‘The Bristol School of Multiculturalism’, Ethnicities 19:1 (2019), 200–226. 108 Modood, ‘“Black”, Racial Equality and Asian Identity’, 399, 400, 404n13. 109 Solomos and Back, Race, Politics and Social Change, 136–140, 212–213. 110 For an interesting if somewhat stylised personal account of the Rushdie affair as a watershed controversy for political blackness, see Kenan Malik, From Fatwa to Jihad: How the World Changed: From the Satanic Verses to Charlie Hebdo, new ed. (London, 2017), especially the introduction. 111 Fazakarley, Muslim Communities, 173, 176, 180; Benn, End of an Era, 558–559 [15 February 1989]; Tariq Modood, ‘Political Blackness and British Asians’, Sociology 28:4 (1994), 859–876, at 869.

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or NEC representative. The Society would also gain ­representation on the NEC when its membership exceeded 3,000. It was this proposal that Bill Morris championed as a unifying alternative.112 It failed to pass Conference in 1989, however, garnering strong opposition from many Black Sections supporters who attacked it as a ‘choc ice’ solution.113 It took until 1990 before the Black Socialist Society was established.114 Even then, controversy over membership definition and who exactly could join the society did not abate.115 It was only later that black and Asian members began to achieve guaranteed representation on party committees. In 1997, the society was granted an NEC seat provided it hit a requisite membership quota (2,500); this was achieved in 2007, at which point Keith Vaz MP became the NEC representative of the newly renamed BAME Labour.116 Flashes of Modernisation The messy debate over Black Sections perfectly illustrates the contentiousness of the politics of race in the 1980s Labour Party. The issues of both underrepresentation of ethnic minorities in positions of power and the strength of Labour’s commitment to antiracism were live and divisive in internal left-wing debates. Given this, the politics of race possesses potentially decisive significance for the wider questions of this book. Its other chapters show that, over the same period as the Black Sections controversy, various parts of the left increasingly drew on a pre-existing language of ‘modernisation’ to conceptualise and advocate for a diverse array of competing agendas of party reform and socialist regeneration. One might think that these arguments for ‘modernisation’ at least touched on the polarised issue of racial representation and antiracist policy. There were indeed figures both inside and outside the party who sometimes made this connection. In the intellectual left, two thinkers in 112



113 114 115 116

Michael White, ‘Kinnock Backs Deal Deflating Party Row over Black Sections’, Guardian, 28 September 1989, 2. Paul Hoyland, ‘Blacks Reject NEC Compromise: Black Sections’, Guardian, 4 October 1989, 4. Sewell, Black Tribunes, 117. Letter from Jatin Haria to Bernie Grant, 9 August 1991, BI BG/P/11/5/3; ‘Black Socialist Society: It Must Be Black’, in Black Sections (Autumn Winter/1991), 1, BI PG/P/11/5/6. Massey, The Modernisation of the Labour Party, 204; Ann Black NEC report, 20  March  2007 [www.annblack.co.uk/nec-meeting-20-march-2007/]; Chuka Umunna’s BAME Labour Update (2007) [www.tmponline.org/wp-content/071223-bame-labour-​ report.pdf].

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particular flirted with describing the evolving relationship of the left and race in terms of modernisation. They were Paul Gilroy and Stuart Hall, both cultural theorists who wrote on the politics of race in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Both had been involved in the CCCS at Birmingham, which had published a number of highly influential Gramscian analyses of the ‘crisis’ of the 1970s. Hall co-authored Policing the Crisis (1978) which used the keyword ‘mugging’ to analyse racial tensions, along with class conflict, decolonisation, and decline in British society after 1968.117 Gilroy contributed to the edited collection Empire Strikes Back, which analysed police racism in response to the upheavals of the 1970s and clashes of the early 1980s.118 These interventions did not just have immediate political implications but also theoretical import for Marxist theory. Gilroy and his collaborators argued in 1982 that the ‘crisis’ could not be boiled down to an economic conflict in the ‘base’, as a simplified Marxism would have it, but was rather a Gramscian ‘organic’ crisis, ‘the result of the combined effect of economic, political, ideological and cultural processes’. This was relevant because ‘race has become one of the means through which hegemonic relations are secured in a period of structural crisis management’. Race, understood as a historically contingent ideology, was not a superstructure to social reality, but was itself a critical contributor to the upheavals and racist backlash of the 1970s.119 Gilroy developed this argument over the decade. By 1987, when he published his famous There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack, Gilroy discussed his work partly in terms of ‘modernising’ Marxist theory: ‘If class analysis is to retain a place in explaining contemporary politics in general and the relationships between black and white workers, citizens, neighbours and friends in particular, it must be ruthlessly modernized.’120 Why ‘modernised’? Gilroy was still operating within a recognisably Marxist analytical frame, in which the concept of modernity had real importance. The Marxist urge to relate political conflicts to underlying social conflicts in contemporary society, and its analytical dependence on an industrialised, capitalist ‘modernity’ as a distinct era in human history, encouraged talk of ‘modernising’ politics or ideology in response to new forces in ‘modern society’. Gilroy put it in these terms: referring to the ‘decline of the workers’ movement’ in the West over the 1980s, 117 Stuart Hall et al., Policing the Crisis: Mugging, The State, and Law & Order, 35th anniversary edition (London, 2013 [1978]). 118 CCCS, The Empire Strikes Back: Race and Racism in 70s Britain (London, 1982). 119 John Solomos et al., ‘The Organic Crisis of British Capitalism and Race: The Experience of the Seventies’, in Empire Strikes Back, 7–45, at 9, 11–13. 120 Paul Gilroy, There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack: The Cultural Politics of Race and Nation, new ed. (London, 2002), 7–8.

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and the ‘new movements’ of the post-1968 generation (antiracism and feminism in particular), he argued that they were ‘part of a new phase of class conflict so far removed from the class struggles of the industrial era that the vocabulary of class analysis created during that period must itself be dispensed with, or at least ruthlessly modernized’.121 For Gilroy in 1987, race was becoming the new central category of a modernised Marxist analysis. On the surface, this may seem to have little to do with the Labour Party. Gilroy certainly made no secret of his disapproval of Labour, attacking its leadership as complicit in British racism and its white left as naïve in its anti-racist praxis.122 But as we have seen in other chapters, Stuart Hall did take a greater interest in the political future of the Labour Party in the 1980s.123 What is more, he pursued his analysis in similar terms. Like Gilroy, Hall also saw great importance in the shifting terrain of social class in a deindustrialising, post-colonial Britain. In a 1985 response to Labour’s Black Sections debate, which was published in the Guardian and broadcast on BBC 2, Hall noted some of the criticisms from black organisations that the Sections campaign was a distraction. Yet, he still offered his tentative support for the idea. This was because ‘British society – in particular, the working class and radical and progressive opinion – has been transformed by the historical presence of substantial numbers of blacks – men and women – working in it. They’ve changed the nature of class relations and the composition of class. Yet’, Hall added, this ‘is not reflected’ in organisations like Labour, which ‘partly through their racism, partly through prejudice, partly through an old habitual instinct’, carry on ‘as they always have’, neglecting black constituents.124 For Hall, the cause of Black Sections was, in this context, ‘perfectly legitimate’. Indeed, Hall saw the Sections controversy as symptomatic of a wider malaise of a ‘traditional Labour movement’ caught in the maelstrom of modernity: Labour and the left were ‘deeply in crisis, because their relationship to a variety of contradictions and struggles – not only among black people, but among women, in sexual politics, in poverty, among people in the dispossessed classes of modern Thatcherism’. The party still relied on an ‘undifferentiated’ conception of the ‘working class’, but ‘[t]he fact is that the Labour movement and the Left and the popular 121 Ibid, 306–307. 122 Paul Gilroy, ‘The End of Anti-Racism’, in Wendy Ball and John Solomos (eds), Race and Local Politics (Basingstoke, 1990), 191–210, at 201; Gilroy, There Ain’t No Black, 197–198. 123 See also Abbott et al., ‘Black Sections’, 34. 124 Stuart Hall, ‘The Gulf between Labour and Blacks’, Guardian, 15 July 1985, 18.

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constituencies are no longer like that … to be a black unemployed youth gives you a different experience, confronts different sources of opposition, than to be white’. Hall concluded that the ‘Labour movement in the future is going to have to recognise this much more differentiated nature of the constituencies it represents’.125 Following Labour’s third consecutive defeat in 1987, Hall returned to this argument in a deeply pessimistic essay for Marxism Today. He blamed Labour’s electoral wilderness partly on its loss of the ‘new working class’ of southern England but also warned of fraying support among some black and Asian voters, especially small business owners. All this meant that Labour needed to recalibrate its politics in response to wider social changes in modern Britain. Labour needed to move beyond its dwindling base of ‘traditional Labour voters’, and devise ‘a strategy of modernisation and an image of modernity’ to construct a new ‘social bloc’ of support.126 Readers will, by now, probably recognise the resonances of this discussion with another famous Marxism Today essay which was discussed in the introduction: Eric Hobsbawm’s ‘Forward March of Labour Halted’. Just like the socialist feminists in the previous chapter, Hall was tapping into a much wider debate about the ‘future of the left’, destabilised by apparent transformations in class structure and class voting patterns; indeed, his own ‘The Great Moving Right Show’, with its warnings of the rising hegemony of the ‘radical right’, had been a foundational text for this debate.127 This impression of structural change in Labour’s electoral base animated a whole host of arguments for ‘modernising’ the party.128 By evoking the image of a dwindling ‘traditional Labour voter’, and pointing to a new ‘social bloc’ to be forged from the ‘dispossessed social classes of modern Thatcherism’, Hall was suggesting in 1987 that a socialist ‘strategy of modernisation’ in response to Thatcherite hegemony had to make antiracism more central to its appeal, and place nonwhite Britons at the centre of its core constituency. This gave the Black Sections controversy potentially deep significance. Could it be a symptom of Labour’s transforming electoral base over the longer term? There were some elements within the Labour Party that made this argument. The most prominent was the iconoclastic GLC leader, Ken Livingstone. As Chapters 2 and 3 explored, for many on the left – including Stuart Hall – the radical administration of the GLC that he headed from 1981 to 1986 was nothing less than the 125 126 127 128

Ibid. Stuart Hall, ‘Blue Election, Election Blues’, Marxism Today (July 1987), 30–35, at 34. Stuart Hall, ‘The Great Moving Right Show’, Marxism Today (January 1979), 14–21. Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, ‘Class’, 336–338.

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future model of a successful Labour Party. A rare municipal island of vibrant and creative socialist governance in the 1980s, it was watched closely by many socialist and Labour intellectuals as offering potential lessons for the national party. In this context, it was significant that the GLC made several high-profile interventions into the debate on racial inequality in 1980s Britain. Following the 1981 Brixton riots, the GLC published its own report, which went further than the official Scarman inquiry and identified ‘institutional racism’ in the Metropolitan police as a cause of the uprising. Boateng, the future Black Section advocate and Labour MP, wrote the preface.129 In 1984, the GLC hosted a year-long ‘London Against Racism’ campaign, distributing information leaflets and holding public events highlighting racial discrimination and calling for institutional and societal reform. Away from the headlines, the GLC set up an Ethnic Minorities Unit that increasingly tried to challenge racism in London’s institutions, and tackle racist discrimination in wider London society.130 Other local institutions, like the Inner London Education Authority, were also increasingly preoccupied with challenging racial inequality in schools.131 The activities of this council, and its brief surge of popularity following the 1984 campaign against its abolition, seemed to echo the broad thrust of Hall’s analysis about ‘modern Britain’. Other writers explicitly championed the GLC in these terms. For example, in a response to Hobsbawm’s pessimism, Doreen Massey, Lynne Segal, and Hilary Wainwright offered a more optimistic reading. They argued that, rather than look to the centre and swing voter, the left should first seek a ‘new kind of alliance’, which mobilised marginalised social groups (the disabled, ethnic minorities, the homeless) along with ‘new social movements’ (such as unilateralism, feminism, and assertive trade unionism). They contended that this new electoral constituency was already being forged ‘at the grass roots’ by the municipal socialists in London and Sheffield.132 Similarly, at the point of its abolition in 1986, Hall’s fellow 129



130

131 132

Greater London Council, Policing London: The Policing Aspects of Lord Scarman’s Report on the Brixton Disorders (London, 1982). Hatherley, Red Metropolis, 119; Brooke, ‘Space, Emotions and the Everyday’, 110– 142, at 132–141. There were limits to this agenda. See the lack of attention given to black workers in the GLC’s economic policymaking, as admitted in Mackintosh and Wainwright, ‘Introduction’, in idem (eds), A Taste of Power, 10–12. I am grateful to Nick Garland for alerting me to this discussion. Although there is some doubt on the extent to which the ILEA’s policymaking affected teaching practice. See Fazakarley, Muslim Communities, 57. Doreen Massey, Lynne Segal, and Hilary Wainwright, ‘And Now for the Good News’, in Curran (ed.), The Future of the Left, 211–231, at 214, 216–217. See also Wainwright, Labour: A Tale of Two Parties. Recent scholarship has stressed regional variation and the distinctiveness of Sheffield. See Payling, ‘Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire’.

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Marxism Today writers Martin Jacques and Beatrix Campbell argued that the GLC showed the way for a future strategy: race, along with gender and sexuality, would ‘surely be a central part of the agenda of the 1990s’.133 Over the 1980s, Livingstone himself made several remarks along these lines. In 1984, Pluto Press published a 1983 conversation with Tariq Ali, the anti-Vietnam campaigner and veteran of the International Marxist Group who had more recently mounted an unsuccessful attempt to join Labour. Livingstone argued to Ali that the ‘Labour Party’s almost exclusive concentration on the employed male white working class was a weakness … You need a coalition which includes skilled and unskilled workers, unemployed, women, and black people, as well as the sexually oppressed minorities’.134 In other words, Labour would need to build a ‘rainbow coalition’, to borrow the American term popularised by Jesse Jackson.135 In his 1987 book, Livingstone repeated this claim, explaining the current ‘weakness’ of the Labour Party partly because ‘more women and black people had become part of the workforce, [but] the Labour and Trade Union movement had not adapted rapidly enough to the changing pattern’.136 This belief, along with his factional connections to the London Left, made Livingstone an instinctive supporter of the Black Sections campaign. In a 1984 interview with two academics, Livingstone argued that Labour needed to downgrade the trade unions in its structure because of the contracting industrial base and pivot to new social bases: ‘Black political organisations should be affiliated to the Labour Party, as should various feminist groups’.137 After Livingstone became an MP and engaged, to some extent, with the Policy Review, he developed a new language for this. In his 1989 book Livingstone’s Labour, which he advertised as ‘an achievable package of modernising reforms’, Livingstone included a robust defence of the Black Sections movement, arguing: ‘until Labour is truly prepared to listen to what its black members are saying, we will fail to modernise our party let alone create the unity which can help defeat the Tories’.138 133 Beatrix Campbell and Martin Jacques, ‘Goodbye to the GLC’, Marxism Today (April 1986), 6–10. 134 Ken Livingstone and Tariq Ali, Who’s Afraid of Margaret Thatcher? In Praise of Socialism (London, 1984), 66–67. 135 For the connections between Jesse Jackson and the London left, see Bunce and Linton, Diane Abbott, 210–212. 136 Ken Livingstone, If Voting Changed Anything They’d Abolish It (London, 1987), 242–243. 137 Ken Livingstone, interviewed by Martin Boddy and Colin Fudge, in Boddy and Fudge (eds), Local Socialism, 260–283, at 270. 138 Livingstone, Livingstone’s Labour, 113, 124.

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There were, therefore, some hints of an emerging interpretation of modernisation in 1980s left-wing discourse. This understanding of modernisation was a response to the broader upheavals of the long 1970s, which drew on debates within Gramscian Marxism about the importance of race, and the wider Hobsbawmian spectre of the ‘forward march of labour halted’. Grounded on the perception of a transforming social base, with profound implications for a vote-seeking left-wing party in modern Britain, it represented initiatives like Black Sections as part of a necessary ‘modernisation’ of Labour to respond to contemporary society. Absence However, as may be apparent from the above discussion, linkages between ‘modernisation’ and race are scattered, infrequent, and difficult to piece together. When considered as a whole, they do not possess enough coherence to be described as a fully fledged ‘modernisation’ agenda that shaped national Labour politics. Indeed, the literature connected to the Black Sections campaign itself avoided the topic of ‘modernisation’. The campaign’s attention was of course devoted to the gruelling trench warfare of Labour Party constitutional and organisational debates. This meant that the energies of Black Sections activists were expended on procedural battles over standing orders and model resolutions. Yet, even in their longer reflections on British society, detached from the day-to-day manoeuvres, Black Sections activists did not use the language of modernisation. For example, in 1989 Kingsley Abrams internally circulated a paper on ‘Building for the 1990s’ that drew on the increasingly popular concept of a culturalist ‘New Racism’, but within this discussion, languages of ‘modernisation’ (that their cause was increasingly relevant to either ‘modern Britain’ or a ‘modern Labour Party’) were mostly absent.139 Moreover, as many scholars like Meg Russell and Christopher Massey have convincingly established, other disputes about Labour’s organisation and constitution, such as the structure of the Policy Review (1987–1991), the introduction of ‘OMOV’ (1993), and the revision of Clause IV (1995), were invested with discourses of ‘modern socialism’ or ‘modernisation’.140 The fact that the Black Sections debate pivoted on questions of procedure and constitutional legality is not an explanation in itself. Nor is it easy to find discussion of modernisation and race together in other parts of the left. Bill Morris is quoted in 1990 speaking in support of the Black Socialist Society by saying that ‘Black representation is 139 Kingsley Abrams, ‘Building for the 1990s’, June 1989, BI BG/P/11/5/5. 140 Massey, The Modernisation of the Labour Party; Russell, Building New Labour, 19.

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a cause whose time has come’.141 But supporters of the Black Socialist Society, including Morris, seemed to justify it most often on ‘the principle of adequate black representation’, and did not usually link it to the wider discourse of ‘modernising’ the party.142 The 1989 Policy Review report Meet the Challenge, Make the Change did, like the 1983 and 1987 manifestos, discuss Labour’s policies on migration and racial discrimination. However, it expressed these commitments through a discourse of ‘equal rights’, not a ‘modernising’ project.143 A similar observation could be made about the 1992 manifesto. Its policies on anti-discrimination and migration were placed within the section ‘A modern democracy’. However, as Chapter 5 will show, this title referred to an emerging constitutional interpretation of modernisation, in which questions of racial inequality were subsumed within seemingly race-neutral terms like ‘citizenship’. The specific policies on race and multiculturalism were, again, underpinned by a discourse of equality.144 Nor was race a feature of arguments about ‘modernisation’ during the 1992 leadership election. In his speeches as candidate and as leader John Smith considered British and Scottish national identity in his discussions of constitutional ‘modernisation’, but not race or ethnicity.145 Bryan Gould devoted a pamphlet to the issue of racial equality during his leadership campaign but, unlike his other pamphlets which sometimes referenced ‘modern socialism’, this did not deploy a language of modernity.146 What about the 1990s arguments for ‘modernisation’ that fuelled the emerging agenda of New Labour? Again, race and multiculturalism are noticeable by their relative absence. The burgeoning centre-left think tank world did sometimes engage with the issues. The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) published essays on multiculturalism, religious identity, and the utility or otherwise of political blackness by Tariq Modood and Bhikhu Parekh.147 Similarly, the 1995 Demos pamphlet The Battle over Britain considered the implications of multiculturalism for national identity.148 Yet, again, ‘modernisation’ or ‘modernity’ were 141



142 143 144 145 146 147 148

Patrick Wintour and Nicki Knewstub, ‘Black Groups Win Own Organisation’, Guardian, 5 October 1990, 6. Letter from Bill Morris to Bernie Grant, 4 January 1988, BI BG/11/5/5. Labour, Meet the Challenge, Make the Change, 62–64. Dale (ed.), Labour Party General Election Manifestos, 307. John Smith, ‘Reforming Our Democracy’, in idem, Guiding Light: The Collected Speeches of John Smith, ed. Brian Brivati (London, 2000), 176–188, at 183. Bryan Gould, Labour and Race (1992), MRC BICKERSTAFFE 657/34. Tariq Modood, ‘Ethnic Difference and Racial Equality: New Challenges for the Left’; Bikhu Parekh, ‘Comment: Minority Right, Majority Values’, in Miliband (ed.), Reinventing the Left, 86–111. Phillip Dodd, The Battle over Britain (London, 1995), 25, 27, 31.

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not key intellectual resources. Though the Battle over Britain pamphlet even managed to represent ‘Georgian doors’ on former council houses as a ‘sign of modernisation’, it did not frame multiethnic national identity in these terms.149 Similarly, while the IPPR did try and consider multicultural debates, it appears not to have conceived these questions as ‘modern’. Consider its Next Left pamphlet of 1992, an extended attempt by Patricia Hewitt, James Cornford, David Miliband, and Tessa Blackstone to rejuvenate social democracy for ‘the 1990s’, which other chapters discuss. Early in the pamphlet, they revealingly suggested: ‘Old questions of race, nation and religion are regaining prominence, while issues concerning gender, the environment and demographic change have to be central to new political thinking.’ Thus, they recognised the growing importance of race, nation, and religion in 1990s politics, but conceptualised these issues as ‘old questions … regaining prominence’, not as modern issues. The distinction may seem subtle, but it had important implications for an agenda so obsessed with ‘modernisation’ and novelty. The rest of the pamphlet highlighted the ‘modern’ agenda that a social democratic government in the 1990s should pursue: European models of managed capitalism, the embrace of transforming gender relations, support for European macroeconomic integration, and constitutional reform. In contrast, despite the odd allusion, this pamphlet did not explicitly discuss multifaith and multicultural policies, or legislation tackling racist discrimination. The polarised politics of race and multiculturalism was, it seems from this pamphlet, a bear-trap to avoid, rather than a constitutive theme for the politics of a modern social democracy.150 Faction, Vote, and the Enlightenment This relative absence sheds light on the emerging project of a modernising social democracy in late twentieth-century Britain. Partly, it underscores the enduring importance of a familiar theme: the factional nature of the Labour Party and its organisation. Factional contexts not only limited the support for Black Sections. They also increasingly defined the meaning of modernisation in the 1990s. As this book shows more generally, there were a wide array of modernisation discourses across the left and right of the Labour Party in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s. With the emergence of ‘New Labour’, however, this began to change. As alternative modernisation discourses fell by the wayside, ‘modernisation’ increasingly came to mean the agenda of Tony Blair and Gordon 149 Ibid, 15. 150 Blackstone et al., Next Left, i.

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Brown: welfare to work, human capital, constitutional reform, the minimum wage. Thus, for left-wing activists opposed to New Labour, ‘modernisation’ came to take on evermore negative connotations. As a result, during the 1995 Conference, Diane Abbott pointedly told a television reporter that she wanted Blair to give a ‘stirring’ speech endorsing ‘real, old-fashioned socialism’.151 As she well knew, saying this in the year that the party voted to revise Clause IV clearly signalled her opposition to the ‘modernisation’ agenda of Blair’s leadership. But it also meant that her positioning to the call for ‘modernisation’ was to defend ‘old-fashioned socialism’, rather than outline an alternative ‘modern’ agenda. Yet, while factionalism is clearly relevant, it is far from sufficient. Though the Black Sections cause was strongly associated with the Labour left, this began to break down in the later 1980s and 1990s: Boateng, for example, joined the frontbench team under Kinnock, contributed to the Policy Review, and later became a New Labour minister. Moreover, when the political boundaries of a ‘modernisation’ agenda were fluid and open in the late 1980s, there was the potential for an interpretation of modernisation that foregrounded the agendas of vocal antiracism and multiracial representation. Livingstone’s attempt to forge his own ‘modernising’ agenda in 1989 shows that the raw materials of left-wing politics in the late 1980s did provide the opportunity for such an interpretation. As the concept of ‘modernisation’ gained prominence during the Policy Review, the Black Sections controversy and the Rushdie Affair demonstrated the topicality of race and multiculturalism. Why did they not make a greater mark on the modernisation debates? A crucial reason must be the emergence of a powerful competing interpretation of a successful electoral strategy for Labour, which undermined the very foundations on which politicians like Livingstone constructed their case. The arguments of those like Livingstone, Hall, and Wainwright depended on the idea that a corollary to a declining ‘traditional’ white, male, unionised working class was the growing electoral importance of race, gender, and sexuality politics. Yet, for other leftwing thinkers and many Labour strategists and politicians, while antiracist politics may be right in principle and of growing social relevance, it was far from clear that it would help to rebuild an election-winning voter base. This was, firstly, due to the imperatives of vote-seeking under first past the post. Many Labour figures (on the party’s left as well as its right) put a far higher premium on seeking ‘target voters’. For example, after the 1983 disaster, Labour Co-ordinating Committee activists Peter Hain and Nigel Stanley concluded that Labour already had a strong 151



The interview clip can be seen here: [www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iWdRI-cOCQ].

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voter base among ethnic minorities and that the focus should instead be on winning over Thatcher-voting constituencies. Labour needed to ‘go beyond our existing vote – the inner-city, “old”, declining working class in heavy manufacturing, middle-class Left and blacks’ and develop a ‘“modernising socialism” appeal’ to the ‘“upwardly mobile” … new working class’.152 It is notable that one of the authors of this article was Hain, a prominent anti-apartheid campaigner and anti-fascist activist who fled South African persecution as a teenager. While antiracism was utterly central to Hain’s politics, he did not interpret it through the lens of ‘modernising socialism’ – they were simply separate issues for him. Similarly, in 1986 Kinnock himself argued that Labour needed to add to its strong support among the ‘traditional’ working classes and ‘minority groups’ the ‘modern working classes’ experiencing ‘upward social mobility, increased expectations, and extended horizons’.153 Because ethnic minority voters tended to already vote for Labour, and live in Labourheld constituencies, strategists habitually excluded them from the ‘modern working classes’ in swing seats that they identified as target voters. Moreover, party political competition over the 1980s seemed only to strengthen this argument. Firstly, as discussed earlier, the hostile tabloid media seized on the Black Sections controversy and the various antiracist initiatives of left-wing councils. While much of this reporting was either sensationalist or at times pure fiction, it had political implications. Crucially, when combined with changing practices in opinion research within the upper echelons of the Labour Party, the ‘loony left’ smear helped marginalise Livingstone’s GLC as a model for an electorally successful ‘modern socialism’. From the mid-1980s onwards, Labour began to use focus groups of target voters. Several of the resultant reports produced for the party leadership argued that, rather than pioneering a new social bloc, municipal socialists like Livingstone were actively dragging Labour’s vote downwards among target constituencies, partly because voters were hostile to their championing of pro-minority politics. These focus group and polling reports mainly explained this target voter opposition to the municipal left in terms of hostility to same-sex relationships (more visible during the AIDS crisis), but they also talked about voter aversion to performative anti-racist politics. One suggested that even if voters ‘acknowledge that Blacks get a rough deal, it’s a low priority’.154 152



153 154

Peter Hain and Nigel Stanley, ‘The Modernising of the Labour Party’, Tribune, 7 October 1983, 9. Neil Kinnock, The Future of Socialism (London, 1986), 2. Anonymous, ‘The London Labour Party: Voters’ Perceptions’ (n.d.), CAC KNNK 2/1/95. See also Shadow Communications Agency et al., ‘Labour & Britain in the

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As I have argued elsewhere, these opinion research practices – situated in a rancid political atmosphere, poisoned by ‘loony left’ smears from the right – encouraged Labour’s leadership to downplay, though not abandon, its policies on minority rights.155 None of this meant that Labour politicians did not support racial equality in principle. Yet, because opinion research influenced the attempts of Kinnock, Blair, and Brown to ‘modernise’ their party’s policies and image, it did help ensure that an emphasis on racial equality was largely absent from their arguments for modernisation.156 The role of electoral strategy and the leadership’s political practice in undermining the assumptions of an argument that linked race and ‘modernisation’ becomes clear if we compare race to another ‘new social movement’: feminism. In the ‘rainbow alliance’ arguments on Labour’s future electoral coalition, race and gender were often bundled together. Yet, their actual trajectories within Labour’s electoral strategy over the 1980s and 1990s were different. As Chapter 3 demonstrated, while it was never central, a distinct gendered interpretation of modernisation did develop over the 1980s and 1990s in left-wing policy circles, which influenced some figures in New Labour. Electoral considerations encouraged this association between gender relations and modernisation. Qualitative opinion research by consultants like Deborah Mattinson helped influential politicians like Harriet Harman flag the importance of women’s support for the party and argue for some longstanding feminist policies. Indeed, they used focus group data and electoral arguments to support their own campaign for more positive discrimination for women in the party’s constitution.157 While feminism did not influence the Labour leadership’s ‘modernisation’ as much as they would have liked, their arguments did shape Labour’s policies and campaigning. It seems a safe bet to make changing practices of opinion research and electoral strategy formation at least a part of the explanation for this divergent prominence. Women were extensively focus-grouped as target voters (even gaining the shorthand ‘Worcester woman’ to accompany ‘Basildon man’), who were more likely to vote Conservative than men and were spread across the entire country. Ethnic minority voters already mostly supported Labour and were more likely to live in seats that Labour already held.

155 156

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1990s’, 19 November 1987, PHM The Papers of Philip Gould (hereafter: PG), fol. 16r; Gould Mattinson Associates, Qualitative Research amongst Waverer in Labour’s Southern Target Seats (London, 1992), 16. Murphy, ‘The “Rainbow Alliance” or the Focus Group?’ Smith was not as keen on qualitative opinion research, though the extent to which he ignored it is disputed. Stuart, John Smith, 309–310. Hewitt and Mattinson, Women’s Votes, 2, 21; Mattinson, Talking to a Brick Wall, 51.

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The different trajectory of race and gender shows the role of electoral strategy in shaping, even if subconsciously, the ‘modernisation’ arguments of a party exiled from power and desperate to find a way back. Yet, important as it was, the debates over ‘modernisation’ were never just about electoral strategy. As Chapter 2 showed with the marginalisation of the ‘stakeholding economy’ idea, focus groups could be overpowered by other forces, including intellectual debate. Ideas mattered in discussions of the future of the left, and that includes the debate on the place of race and multiculturalism. There were intellectual tensions lurking within any attempt to connect ‘modernisation’ and race or multiculturalism, which only magnified as the 1980s moved into the 1990s. To discern these barriers, we must return to the work of Hall and Gilroy. As we saw, both Hall and Gilroy sometimes drew on languages of ‘modernisation’ in the 1980s, and both were convinced that left-wing politics had to place the struggle against racism at the heart of its agenda. In Hall’s case, this also shaped the way he analysed the prospects of the 1980s Labour Party. Yet, in the 1990s, both became more uneasy with this language. The concept of ‘modernisation’ usually draws on an Enlightenment temporality and is therefore heavily reliant on ideas of ‘progress’.158 Yet in the 1980s and 1990s, the confidence of many theorists in these ‘grand narratives’ was severely shaken by the growing strength of post-structuralist philosophy in British academia. This in turn shaped how these theorists, including Hall and Gilroy, analysed politics. The influence of Foucault and other critics of structuralism is clearly apparent, for example, in Hall’s emerging scepticism of ‘political blackness’.159 But it also meant that left-wing social scientists increasingly complicated their use of terms like ‘modernity’. Hall had always been conscious of the possibility of plural modernisations; he had discussed the co-existence of both ‘socialist’ and ‘conservative’ modernisation in the 1980s. However, in the 1990s he went further. In sociology textbooks, Hall began to draw from the post-modern idea of the deconstructed self and critiqued Enlightenment metanarratives and totalising theory. While Hall continued to stress transformative change – particularly the process of ‘globalisation’ – he saw its effects as plural and contradictory. Indeed, he discerned in the resurgence of nationalism and ethnic particularism a profound challenge to ‘the modernizing Enlightenment’ perspective and to both ‘liberalism’ and ‘Marxism’.160 Similarly, in his hugely influential 158 Margetts, Perri 6, and Hoods (eds), Paradoxes of Modernization, 9. 159 Hall, Essential Essays Vol. 2, 65–66, 77. 160 Stuart Hall, ‘The Question of Cultural Identity’, in Hall, David Held, and Tony McGrew (eds), Modernity and Its Futures (Cambridge, 1992), 273–327, at 275, 314.

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Black Atlantic, Gilroy ditched the demand for ‘modernising’ Marxist class analysis and moved towards a more ambivalent language. He instead conceptualised the ‘Black Atlantic’ as simultaneously a ‘modern political and cultural formation’ and a ‘counterculture of Modernity’. Gilroy also criticised Enlightenment philosophy for its blindness to the constitutive role of slavery for modernity and suggested that particularity and ethnocentrism resided within its claims to universality.161 These arguments unsettled appeals to ‘modernisation’. As a result, though they had used the term in a positive sense in the 1980s, during the 1990s intellectuals like Hall largely stopped calling for ‘modernisation’. By the late 1990s and 2000s, they even seemed to become hostile to the concept. In 1998, writing for Soundings, a journal Hall co-founded, the academic Alan Finlayson critiqued Blair’s use of ‘modernisation’, perceiving within Blair’s rhetoric a suffocating determinism, ‘populist patriotism’, and ‘nationalism’.162 In 2000, Hall himself gave a lecture on ‘multiculturalism’, in which he pitted ‘modernisation’ against ‘multiculturalism’: Multiculturalism is also contested by modernizers of different political persuasions. For them, the triumph of the universalism of Western civilization over the particularism of ethnic and racial belonging established in the Enlightenment marked a fateful and irreversible transition from Traditionalism to Modernity … [which] must never be reversed.163

Thus, while New Labour loudly predicted and celebrated sweeping transformations of the modern world, Hall and Gilroy increasingly critiqued the universalising and neophilic Enlightenment assumptions of progress that underpinned these discourses. For them, a framework of ‘modernisation’ was now harmful, rather than helpful, to any agenda that wished to accommodate cultural difference, reduce racial inequality, and tackle discrimination against ethnic minorities. When situated in a changing intellectual context, the origins of ‘modernisation’ in a Eurocentric Enlightenment complicated any attempt within the left to tie it to multiculturalism. 1997 and After Given the marginality of race and multiculturalism to the 1990s Labour debates on a modernising social democracy, it should not surprise us that 161



162 163

Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (London, 1993), 19, 36, 38–39, 42–43, 55. Finlayson, ‘Tony Blair and the Jargon of Modernisation’, 24–25. Hall, Essential Essays Vol. 2, 96.

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neither Blair nor Brown addressed the issues in any great depth while in opposition. Symbolic of this absence is Labour’s landslide-winning 1997 manifesto. Neither racial equality nor multiculturalism were mentioned much at all and were largely irrelevant to New Labour’s promise to ‘modernise Britain’.164 Yet, this brings us back to the historical puzzle introduced at the beginning of this chapter. If both race and multiculturalism awkwardly fitted in the ‘modernisation’ debates of the late twentieth-century left, then where did the association of the 2000s and 2010s come from? To a significant extent, it appears that Labour’s agenda on discrimination and multiculturalism arose once the party entered government, rather than in the ‘modernisation’ debates of its opposition years. The policy and strategy debates over Labour’s ‘modernising’ agenda in opposition did not significantly shape the party’s post-1997 governance of cultural difference. The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry is a case in point. In their memoirs, New Labour politicians highlight their facilitation of the Macpherson report on police racism, which introduced the concept of ‘institutional racism’ to the agenda of government. Yet, as admitted by Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, the Lawrence murder was barely on the radar of the Labour leadership when they were in opposition. While Doreen and Neville Lawrence had campaigned for justice since his murder in 1993, Labour avoided mentioning the case in its manifesto or election campaign in 1997 as they did not want to make an ongoing investigation a ‘political football’. It was only once in power that Straw began to investigate an inquiry, and that cause gained momentum only after a wider public campaign (spearheaded by the Daily Mail, of all things) jolted the government into action.165 Even landmark reports on multiculturalism published during the first New Labour government, such as the Runneymede Trust’s major, controversial report into the ‘future of multi-ethnic Britain’, confirm this impression of New Labour. Chaired by Bhikhu Parekh (and thus known, against his wishes, as the ‘Parekh report’), it was launched in 1998 by Straw and used focus group research by Philip 164



165

Labour pledged to create a new criminal offence of racial harassment, promised to reform migration controls and end ‘arbitrary and unfair’ outcomes, and pledged to tackle ‘unjustifiable discrimination wherever it exists’. But none of these pledges were linked to the ‘new centre-left politics’ and none appeared in the ten key pledges to ‘modernise Britain’. See Dale (ed.), Labour Party General Election Manifestos, 343–383. Straw, Last Man Standing, 231, 234. See also Richard Power Sayeed, 1997: The Future That Never Happened (London, 2017), 84–85; Stuart Hall, ‘From Scarman to Stephen Lawrence’, History Workshop Journal 48 (1999), 187–197, at 196–197.

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Gould ­Associates. Its argument, which attempted to synthesise communitarianism and ­liberalism by conceiving Britain as a ‘community of citizens and a community of communities’, was ‘Third Way’ in style. It also drew on ‘modernising’ temporal arguments. For several decades, transformations and trends including devolution, globalisation, European integration, shifting gender relations, changing attitudes to sexuality, and rising multiculturalism, had ‘come together so powerfully and momentously’ to bring Britain to a ‘turning point’: the country could either ‘turn the clock back’ with a ‘narrow English-dominated, backward-looking definition of the nation’ or ‘seize the opportunity to create a more flexible, inclusive, cosmopolitan image of itself’. All this shows clear synergies with New Labour ‘modernisation’. Yet the report was, to Straw’s annoyance, critical of New Labour in revealing ways. It noted the relative absence of racial equality and cultural diversity in Blair’s speeches and in key 1990s social-democratic texts. It accused New Labour of adopting a doomed ‘colour-blind’ and ‘culture-blind’ approach to its key projects, like the Social Exclusion Unit and the New Deal for Communities. Its criticism was muted by the observation that Blair’s government had more recently begun ‘to drop its colourand culture-blind approaches to social policy and modernisation’. But this had only happened from 1999.166 Accidents and contingency, like the Mail’s unexpected stance on the Lawrence case, do not explain everything. It did matter that the New Labour government came from the centre-left: it was far from inevitable that Blair’s government would stand by the Macpherson inquiry’s labelling of the Metropolitan police as institutionally racist. New Labour’s policies and initiatives drew on equal opportunities agendas of the 1970s and 1980s, and its appointees to key positions had backgrounds in antiracist organisations.167 Subsequent legislation like the Equalities Act (2010) (a recommendation of the Parekh report)168 also reflect the liberal and centre-left origins of New Labour’s ministers. Nonetheless, it does seem that New Labour only really did serious policy work on multiculturalism after it was elected, when the pressures of government forced it to tackle head-on issues like the Lawrence inquiry and, later, the ‘War 166



167 168



The Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain (London, 2000), 2, 14–15, 47, 82, 250–251, 344n1, 350–351. On the savaging of the report by the press and Straw’s later criticism, see Bhikhu Parekh, ‘The Future of Multi-ethnic Britain: Reporting on a Report’, The Round Table 90:362 (2001), 691–700. See Camilla Schofield, Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, and Rob Waters, ‘“The Privatisation of Struggle”: Anti-racism in the Age of Enterprise’, in Davies, Jackson, and Sutcliffe-Braithwaite (eds), Neoliberal Age?, 199–226, at 200–206. Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain, 267.

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on Terror’.169 The New Labour agenda of ‘deliberative multiculturalism’ was real, but it was reactive and pragmatic, rather than strategic. By its very nature, therefore, it wrestled with contradictory impulses and internal tensions.170 It is perhaps in helping to explain the reactive nature of Labour’s multiculturalism agenda in government that the significance of ‘modernisation’ lies. The key strategic debates within the left in the 1980s and 1990s extensively drew on the concept of ‘modernisation’. While developing an agenda of ‘modernising social democracy’ helped the party reformulate its economic policies, constitutional reforms, and electoral strategy, its psephological and intellectual assumptions pushed against an explicit and coherent approach to the politics of race, ethnicity, and multiculturalism. The ‘modernisation’ debates of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s were thus of only limited use to New Labour when it entered Downing Street, suddenly obliged with the task of governing the fraught and paradoxical politics of race and multiculturalism in early twenty-first-century Britain.

169 See, for example, the scramble to develop a positive action agenda in the latter months of 1997: Alan Travis and David Rowan, ‘A Beacon Burning Darkly’, Guardian, 2 October 1997, 17. 170 Nam-Kook Kim, ‘Deliberative Multiculturalism in New Labour’s Britain’, Citizenship Studies 15:1 (2011), 125–144, at 138.

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5

‘A Modern Democracy’



Modernisation, the Left, and Constitutional Reform

The last Labour leader who successfully overthrew a Tory majority … was Harold Wilson. But he was able to cast himself in the role of an economic moderniser. Such an option is closed to Kinnock because Thatcher is evidently the pace-setter of economic modernisation … Labour need to take up the banner that Wilson so conspicuously left furled, that of political modernisation —Anthony Barnett, 1988.1

It is impossible to modernise Britain ­without modernising government. We seek, therefore, to retrieve the true ­ideological basis of democratic socialism – action by the community for the benefit of the individual – and set it to work for the modern age. This requires, in turn, a new constitutional settlement for our country —Labour Party, 1993.2

In July 1997, new Prime Minister Tony Blair, still riding the wave of the party’s landslide victory in May, publicly reaffirmed his government’s commitment to seismic constitutional reforms to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. His government’s manifesto had promised to hold referendums on the creation of a Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly, to overhaul the House of Lords and remove hereditary peers, to establish a Greater London Authority and London Mayor, to investigate regional devolution, to introduce a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, and to incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Blair argued that Labour’s ‘mandate is clear: to modernise what is outdated and to make fair what is unjust’. Others, though, were detecting signs of ambivalence. The journalist John Lloyd, a strong supporter of both New Labour and constitutional reform, warned of 1

Anthony Barnett, ‘Can the Opposition Win the Filofaxes and Cordless Telephones?’, Samizdat (November 1988), 15–16, at 16. 2 ‘A New Agenda for Democracy: Labour’s Proposals for Constitutional Reform’ (1993), in Robert Blackburn and Raymond Plant (eds), Constitutional Reform: The Labour Government’s Constitutional Reform Agenda (London, 1999), 443–468, at 445–446.

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‘post-modernisers’ in government who could block pledges such as a referendum on the electoral system for the House of Commons.3 Two noteworthy points emerge from these comments. First, when placed in a longer historical context, it was astonishing that Labour was committed to constitutional reforms like this at all. ECHR incorporation and devolution resembled continental European constitutional models, rather than the majoritarian, Crown-in-Parliament constitution to which Labour had been attached since the Second World War. Second, it is equally striking that constitutional reform was associated with a ‘broader programme of modernisation’.4 Lloyd’s use of ‘post-modernisers’ implied that a ‘moderniser’ must by definition support these reforms. This poses several questions: when, how, and why did new, distinctly European models of constitutional reform become an important British left platform, and why did they become associated with ‘modernisation’? While most histories of Labour and ‘modernisation’ discuss battles over the party’s constitution (especially Clause IV), the constitution of the United Kingdom is neglected.5 Blair and Lloyd’s comments show that this lacuna should be addressed. This chapter will respond to these questions. It will not dwell on Northern Ireland, although the strife of the six counties will feature.6 This is mainly due to logistical limitations and should not be taken to imply marginality. The legacy of the Home Rule debates and the Irish revolution, the eruption of the ‘Troubles’ in 1968, and then the 1990s peace process, are deeply significant and badly underestimated influences on modern ‘British’ history.7 Violence and injustice in the north of Ireland raised the profile of constitutional innovations, such as a bill of rights and proportional voting systems, in wider UK debates, especially in the 1970s. As Richard Bourke has suggested, Ireland’s violent twentieth century also provides an illuminating case study for unresolved problems in modern political thought.8 Nevertheless, politically, the key partisans of the Troubles worked through a distinct party system, only loosely connected English, Welsh, and Scottish party politics (for instance, the Labour Party did not stand candidates in Northern ­Ireland); it was accordingly often bracketed off in British politics. As this 3

For Lloyd, see John Lloyd, ‘Labour Needs a Genius of the Constitution’, The Times, 20 June 1997, 20. Both Blair and Lloyd are quoted in Michael Foley, The Politics of the British Constitution (Manchester, 1999), 252, 254. 4 Peter Riddell, ‘Labour’s Conversion to Constitutional Reform’, in Andrew McDonald (ed.), Reinventing Britain: Constitutional Change under New Labour (London, 2007), 31–35, at 50. 5 For Clause IV, see Cronin, New Labour’s Pasts, 383–387. 6 To reflect a contested history, several terms for the region are used. 7 Margaret M. Scull, ‘The Place of Irish History in Modern “British History”’, Twentieth Century British History 31:1 (2021), 143–148. 8 Richard Bourke, Peace in Ireland: The War of Ideas, 2nd ed. (London, 2012).

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chapter focuses on English, Scottish, and Welsh left-wing debates, the Troubles is a crucial influence, but one that lurks in the background. After considering the existing literature on Labour and constitutional reform, the first section of this chapter will trace the left’s attitudes towards the British constitution from the mid-1970s to 1993. Over these years, a conception of constitutional ‘modernisation’ gradually emerged. In the 1970s, alongside some Fabian interest in parliamentary reform, the Labour Party mainly engaged with devolution, albeit unenthusiastically. Nonetheless, devolution marinated into Labour’s platform over the following two decades. From the late 1980s, it also became strongly associated with ‘modernisation’. This was because, more widely, influential sections of the British left embraced previously unpopular constitutional reforms. Particularly after the 1987 general election, they gravitated towards new constitutional ideas, rather than the party’s traditional attachment to securing socialism through an unfettered parliamentary majority. There was growing support for devolution, an elected second chamber rather than unicameralism (a single legislative chamber), and for incorporating the ECHR. Some leftists embraced more radical reforms, including a new written constitution and proportional representation (PR), and attempted to add them to Labour’s platform. Conceptually and discursively, many commentators enfolded all these reforms into ‘modernity’ and ‘modernisation’. The second section will consider several crucial elements that fed into these developing arguments for constitutional ‘modernisation’. Rising Scottish nationalism, European integration and the end of the Cold War all contributed, as did Thatcher’s exploitation of British constitutional centralism. A key development was the growing influence of the ‘Nairn– Anderson thesis’ on the intellectual left, which supplanted an ‘Englishradical’ tradition. It will also show how prominent proponents of this ‘new constitutionalism’ saw constitutional reform and the diffusion of economic power as fundamentally interlinked, returning to a theme first broached in Chapter 2. However, this unintentionally downgraded the latter in Labour’s actual agenda. Finally, the momentum for ‘modernising the constitution’ stalled in the later 1990s. The concluding section will suggest how Labour’s constitutional reform package diluted under Blair’s leadership, due to the concentration of constitutional reformists in narrow networks and growing differences between Blair’s and John Smith’s understandings of ‘modernisation’ over the decade. Nonetheless, this dilution should not be overstated. By 1997, ‘modernising the constitution’ was a fixed feature of both Labour’s policy platform and broader political argument on the liberal left, with historic and lasting consequences.

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The Rules of the Game: Labour and the Constitution

Despite some valuable scholarship, Labour’s relationship with the British constitution remains neglected compared to the more obviously controversial topics of nationalisation and electoral strategy. Logie Barrow and Ian Bullock have highlighted the debates over delegation versus representation between the Social Democratic Federation and the Fabians in the late nineteenth century.9 Miles Taylor rightly stresses that since 1918 Labour has harboured constitutional enthusiasts and pioneered major reforms like abolishing plural voting.10 Still, the party’s default attitude was usually either indifference to technical reforms or outright hostility to some alternatives common in Western Europe, such as constitutional ‘safeguards’ involving the judiciary and PR. The default stance was that the UK’s centralist, formally unfettered state had to be captured through democratic means (though whether these means were exclusively parliamentary was the source of bitter conflict) and directed to the interests of labour. If any changes were to be made, they should simply remove roadblocks to socialism.11 Our understanding of left-wing approaches since the 1970s is limited. There is a cottage industry examining New Labour’s policies in government and asking whether they inaugurated a ‘new British constitution’.12 But these accounts tend to swiftly deal with the decades leading up to 1997; an unpublished PhD thesis by Robert Copeland is one of the few texts to explore this topic in depth.13 Elsewhere, scholars have studied pressure groups, dominated by liberal and left-wing figures, that spearheaded a ‘new constitutionalism’, especially the campaign organisation Charter 88 (f. 1988).14 These accounts, however, are written largely from the perspective of those groups.15 While they foreground 9 Logie Barrow and Ian Bullock, Democratic Ideas and the British Labour Movement, 1880–1914 (Cambridge, 1996). 10 Miles Taylor, ‘Labour and the Constitution’, in Duncan Tanner, Pat Thane, and Nick Tiratsoo (eds), Labour’s First Century (Cambridge, 2000), 151–191. 11 Peter Dorey, The Labour Party and Constitutional Reform: A History of Constitutional Conservatism (Basingstoke, 2008). 12 Vernon Bogdanor, The New British Constitution (Oxford, 2009). 13 Robert Peter Copeland, ‘The Labour Party and the Politics of Constitutional Reform, 1983–1997’, unpublished PhD thesis, University of Manchester (1998). 14 Mark Evans, Charter 88: A Successful Challenge to the British Political Tradition? (Aldershot, 1995), 53–54. Also David Erdos, ‘Charter 88 and the Constitutional Reform Movement: A Retrospective’, Parliamentary Affairs 62:4 (2009), 537–551; Stephen Howe, ‘Some Intellectual Origins of Charter 88’, Parliamentary Affairs 62:4 (2009), 552–567; Patrick Dunleavy, ‘Assessing How Far Charter 88 and the Constitutional Reform Coalition Influenced Voting System Reform in Britain’, Parliamentary Affairs 62:4 (2009), 618–644. 15 Especially Peter Facey, Bethan Rigby, and Alexandra Runswick (eds), Unlocking Democracy: 20 Years of Charter 88 (London, 2008).

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Charter 88’s role in pushing constitutional reform to the ‘centre of the Labour Party’s modernisation agenda’, Charter 88 nonetheless failed to fully secure their proposals.16 They are not the only noteworthy characters in this story. Their own explanations for this failure tend to blame a rival Blairite agenda.17 Yet, as will be shown, while Blair’s lukewarm enthusiasm for Charter 88’s reform agenda may have become obvious by 2000, it was far from clear in the early 1990s, suggesting that, if it suited him politically, Blair was happy to embrace a reformist agenda. Explanations for the diluting strength of the constitutional reform movement thus need to move beyond appealing to the perfidy of Tony. Most relevantly, none of this literature has probed the increasing use of the term ‘modernisation’ by left-wing proponents of constitutional reform.18 It more often repeats the term uncritically.19 Peter Dorey notes the use of ‘modernisation’ to frame changes to parliamentary procedure by Wilson’s governments, but this interest, as Dorey says, did not endure after the creation of departmental select committees.20 Steven Fielding recognises in a review essay that by the late 1990s ‘it became a cliché that the constitution had to be modernized’, but does not have the space to explain why reformers called for ‘modernising’ the constitution, rather than just ‘democratising’ or ‘reforming’ it.21 In the 1990s, influential figures on the British left saw constitutional reform as an imperative of modernity, revealed by this language of ‘modernisation’, but the reasons why are at present unclear. From the 1980s onwards, there arose at least four ways in which constitutional reform could be framed as a ‘modernising’, all of which appear in this chapter. First, actors denigrated the British constitution as inherently ‘archaic’. Foundational to many was a historical interpretation popularised by the 1960s New Left, which emphasised regressive constitutional continuity since the 1688 ‘revolution’, rather than progressive change through the expansion of the franchise. Either implicitly 16

Matthew Flinders, ‘Charter 88, New Labour and Constitutional Anomie’, Parliamentary Affairs 62:4 (2009), 645–662, at 660. 17 Anthony Barnett, ‘The Rise and Fate of Charter 88’, in Facey, Riby, and Runswick (eds), Unlocking Democracy, 18–37. 18 Charter 88 veteran Stuart Weir interestingly claims that they made a ‘fundamental mistake in accepting the government’s modernisation label’, rather than sticking to the ‘principles’. However, this raises further questions about when and why they ‘accepted’ the label. Indeed, as shown below, it seems as if Charter 88 figures were co-authors of this ‘modernisation’ language. Stuart Weir, ‘Tilting at Windmills: The First Years of Charter 88’, in Facey, Rigby, and Runswick (eds), Unlocking Democracy, 3–18, at 14, 16. 19 Evans, Charter 88, 1, 169. 20 Dorey, The Labour Party and Constitutional Reform, 7, 59–60. 21 Steven Fielding, ‘The Labour Party and the Politics of Democracy’, Journal of British Studies 38:4 (1999), 486–492, at 487.

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or explicitly, this view contrasted the UK unfavourably with much of Western Europe. Second, sociological arguments envisaged a ‘modern Britain’ of growing pluralism and declining deference, and increasingly polarised by region and nation. The constitution must be ‘modernised’ through decentralisation and pluralism to better reflect contemporary society. Third, there was the belief that modern politics itself had become more plural, with multiple parties creating the potential for maldistribution of seats. Though linked to the sociological argument, this was a psephological contention against the constitution’s simple plurality (‘first past the post’, FPTP) voting system. Finally, there emerged a sense, always vague but sometimes powerful, that coursing through wider geopolitics were winds of change, blowing in favour of constitutional reform. This became especially forceful in the early 1990s, which witnessed the fall of the Soviet Union and the flowering of democratic reform in Eastern Europe, along with a new constitution for the emerging European Union. By the early 1990s, all four gained potency within the intellectual left and, to a significant extent, the Labour Party.

‘Single-Handed’ Rule: 1974–1983

Before the late 1980s, proposals to ‘modernise’ the constitution were sparse. Labour pledged to ‘modernise’ parliamentary procedure in the late 1960s, but this language declined after the creation of departmental parliamentary select committees.22 Controversial constitutional overhauls were avowedly on the left’s agenda. Yet, apart from the intellectual New Left (to whom this chapter will return) the left’s proposed reforms mostly worked with the grain of a longstanding constitutional trend over the twentieth century – the rising power of the executive through its control of an unrestrained Commons. They also tended to justify these reforms by appealing to an enduring value of ‘democracy’, rather than modernity. Labour’s star-crossed governments of 1974–1979 did attempt radical constitutional reforms. Through the mercurial stewardship of Michael Foot and methodical efforts of John Smith, Labour pushed bills for Scottish and Welsh devolution referendums through an unenthusiastic parliament at the height of political polarisation, though backbench amendments which required 40 per cent of the total electorate to vote in favour scuppered the narrow Scottish yes vote.23 However, these efforts were born of necessity rather than belief. There were supporters 22 See, for example, Labour’s 1966 manifesto: Dale (ed.), Labour Party General Election Manifestos, 147. 23 Mervyn Jones, Michael Foot (London, 1994), 410–413, 422.

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in Labour, from government ministers like Smith to ­prominent ­student activists like Gordon Brown.24 Yet, Labour’s devolution bills were a response to the Kilbrandon Commission – set up after shock ­by-election victories for Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party in the late 1960s – and, more generally, the emergence of separatist Scottish nationalism. They were also a direct product of Labour’s desperate need to maintain a parliamentary majority through deals with the nationalist parties, given its tenuous position after the razor-tight 1974 elections and the deaths of several MPs. Actual enthusiasts for devolution within Labour were few and far between, and there were many eloquent opponents, from Tam Dalyell (originator of the ‘West Lothian question’) to the young Welsh MP Neil Kinnock. This was also the case for electoral reform. Labour’s government proposed PR for European Parliament elections, but purely to secure the ‘Lib-Lab’ deal that kept them in office. It was thus a free vote, with multiple Labour Ministers and MPs declaring their hostility.25 Powerbrokers on both the right and left of Labour also made clear their aversion to other constitutional reforms that restricted the power of the Commons. This can be seen in the reactions to proposals for a bill of rights that emerged in the 1970s. The issue arose first in Northern Ireland, in response to the destructive fiasco of British internment of Irish republicans in 1971, which simultaneously failed to capture leading figures in the IRA, swept up swathes of innocent Catholics, and left active Protestant loyalist terrorists alone.26 But a bill of rights was also proposed for the rest of the UK by liberal Lord Justice Scarman and the veteran Conservative Lord Hailsham, who warned against the possibility of ‘elective dictatorship’ in his 1976 Dimbleby lecture.27 Elements of the new right, like Keith Joseph, also discussed constraining democracy for its own good, drawing on a recurring theme of neoliberalism.28 There were some leftwing proponents of a bill of rights in the 1970s, notably a Fabian Society group that reviewed Labour’s Programme 1972.29 The Human Rights 24

Brown, ‘Introduction’, in idem (ed.), The Red Paper on Scotland, 19. 25 Michael Hatfield, ‘Government Opts for PR in Europe Vote’, The Times, 17 June 1977, 1; Peter Jenkins, ‘What the Opponents of PR at Westminster Really Have to Fear Is not Contagion but the Development of a Three or Four Party System in British Politics’, Guardian, 9 December 1977, 12. 26 Diarmaid Ferriter, The Transformation of Ireland, 1900–2000 (Dublin, 2005), 625–626. 27 Alan Smith and Michael Zander, ‘Britain Needs Bill of Rights Says Scarman’, Guardian, 5 December 1974, 1; Lord Hailsham, ‘Has the Time Now Come for a Bill of Rights?’, The Times, 19 May 1975, 12; Quintin Hogg, Elective Dictatorship (London, 1976). 28 ‘Recruit for Bill of Rights’, Guardian, 18 June 1975, 7. 29 Fabian Society, Towards a Radical Agenda: Comments on Labour’s Programme: Ten Fabian Task Forces (London, 1972), 60.

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Subcommittee of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) also recommended that the ECHR be incorporated – but still be amendable to preserve parliamentary sovereignty – in November 1977.30 But even these cautious voices were rare and often shut down in Labour debates. Judicial constraints on majoritarian democracy were an anathema to much of the left. The Human Rights Subcommittee hoped to send their recommendation of ECHR incorporation to a Lords Select Committee. But the more powerful Home Policy Committee spiked the idea after interventions from Foot, Eric Heffer, Ian Mikardo, and Barbara Castle.31 Part of the opposition stemmed from an enduring suspicion of the political motivations of the judiciary, dating back at least to the infamous Taff Vale judgement of 1901, when the courts had ruled that unions could be sued for taking strike action.32 In 1977, Labour MP Robert Kilroy-Silk dismissed a bill of rights as ‘essentially conservative’ and ‘yet another potential means of thwarting socialism’.33 Opposition along these lines also featured among the metropolitan left. In a 1982 New Socialist article, Patricia Hewitt, then general secretary of the National Council of Civil Liberties (NCCL), railed against proposals for a bill of rights in terms of democratic principles. A bill of rights would mean ‘a fundamental and no doubt irreversible shift in the balance of power from the elected House of Commons to the unelected judicial committee of the House of Lords’.34 None of this is to say there was not a burning interest in radically reshaping the workings of the British state among much of Labour’s left. In reaction to Labour’s failure to implement the AES in the 1974– 1979 government, discussed in Chapter 1, radicals accused not only the Labour leadership but also the civil service of sabotaging these policies. Tony Benn deployed his own ministerial experience to claim that the civil service had undue power, and this accusation was dramatised in Bennite journalist Chris Mullin’s potboiler novel A Very British Coup (1982).35 The left also grew supportive of opening up government to scrutiny with an FOI bill and reform of the Official Secrets Act, encouraged by the state’s attempt to censor Richard Crossman’s diaries and later the Spycatcher controversy. This policy became a recurring Labour pledge 30

Home Policy Sub-Committee on Human Rights, ‘Memorandum Submitted by the Labour Party to the Select Committee of the House of Lords on a Bill of Rights’, RE:1351/November 1977, PHM LPA Box 10. 31 Minutes of Home Policy Committee, 7 November 1977, PHM LPA Box 10. 32 Bogdanor, The New British Constitution, 43. 33 Robert Kilroy-Silk, ‘Wrongs of the Bill of Rights’, Guardian, 4 February 1977, 12. 34 Patricia Hewitt, ‘Wrong for Rights’, New Socialist (January/February 1982), 25. 35 Benn, Arguments for Democracy, 12, 47; Chris Mullin, A Very British Coup, reprint ed. (London, 2011).

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until, somewhat reluctantly, Blair’s government enacted it in the 2000s.36 However, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Labour left were more preoccupied with changing the constitution of the party itself.37 The left wanted to empower party activists (through the policies they adopted, MPs they selected, and leaders they helped elect) to direct a Labour government and transform society.38 Supporters justified these reforms – such as mandatory reselection of sitting MPs – in terms of ‘democracy’, or as a way of securing socialism against ‘betrayal’ of the manifesto.39 Though in many ways radically novel, these proposed changes harmonised with one existing trend in British constitutional history – the rising power of the executive in the Commons through the party system. The major difference was that the executive would, effectively, be the extra-parliamentary delegates at the party’s Conference that voted on the party’s manifesto commitments, rather than the parliamentary Labour leadership. This was indeed constitutionally unprecedented, but it would not challenge the executive’s de facto supremacy; it would merely change its identity when Labour was in government. Consequently, when the left did consider changing the UK’s constitution rather than the party’s, it explicitly sought to further bolster the Common’s (and executive’s) power. This can be seen in the revival of calls for abolishing the House of Lords. During the passage of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill in 1975, Lord Goodman proposed an amendment, arguing that a National Union of Journalists’ closed shop threatened freedom of the press. Goodman’s move led Foot, Heffer, and Benn to accuse the Lords of defying democratic rule.40 At the 1977 Labour Party Conference, an abolition motion passed with over six million votes.41 Importantly, these proponents advocated outright abolition over an elected second chamber – the problem was not just democratic legitimacy but constraints on a Labour government.42 In The Times, Heffer argued that an elected second chamber would act as a barrier to socialist legislation. This was later reflected in the 1983 Labour manifesto, which called simply for the 36

Philip Howard, ‘Cabinet Did Not Pass Crossman Diaries’, The Times, 27 January 1975, 1; Dorey, The Labour Party and Constitutional Reform, 9. 37 Seyd, Rise and Fall, 34–35. 38 Dorey, The Labour Party and Constitutional Reform, 75. 39 For the importance of ‘betrayal’ in Labour’s folk history, see Jon Lawrence, ‘Labour – The Myths It Has Lived By’, in Tanner, Thane, and Tiratsoo, Labour’s First Century, 341–367. 40 HC Deb, fifth series, vol. 899, cc. 624–626, 1533–1543; Eric Heffer, ‘Who Is Pushing the Lords toward the Chopping Block?’, The Times, 15 November 1976, 14; George Clark, ‘Abolition of Lords Sought by Mr Benn’, The Times, 13 November 1976, 1. 41 ‘Huge Majority for Scrap Lords Call’, Guardian, 6 October 1977, 4. 42 See, for example, Benn, Arguments for Democracy, 39.

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Lords to be abolished ‘as quickly as possible’.43 This instinct also dovetailed with the left’s opposition to a bill of rights. Generally, Labour’s radicals saw majoritarianism and the existing supremacy of the Commons as actively beneficial. During a later Marxism Today debate in 1983, Heffer argued in favour British constitution’s features, including FPTP, because it enabled Labour to take control of the state ‘singlehanded’, allowing for a socialist transformation of society.44 On Labour’s right, most were more concerned by the left’s advance, inflation, and incomes policies, than the constitution. But leading figures of the breakaway Social Democratic Party (SDP) considered constitutional reforms. Chapter 2 discussed John Mackintosh, a mentor of SDP defector David Marquand, who hypothesised a reformed second chamber as a way of democratically legitimising corporatism. Other post-Croslandite revisionists also turned to constitutional reform. Roy Jenkins raised electoral reform in a Cabinet meeting in April 1974, citing the problems exposed by the return of a minority government. Later, he publicly endorsed PR during his famous call for a ‘radical centre’ party in the 1979 Dimbleby Lecture. Following its creation in 1981, SDP made changing the electoral system a key policy.45 Nonetheless, this should not be overplayed. British constitutional reform was not the main cause fuelling the SDP’s creation, and indeed the defectors saw themselves partly as defenders of parliamentary democracy against intra-Labour campaigns for activist empowerment. The SDP’s subsequent outspoken support for electoral reform also toxified the issue for many on the left. To summarise, when the left endorsed constitutional reforms like Lords abolition or challenging government secrecy in the 1970s and early 1980s, they were framed in terms of democracy or achieving socialism. Reforms that constrained the power of the Commons were usually rejected and demands for a ‘modernisation’ of the constitution were mostly absent.

Benn, the Maverick

One potentially important exception could be the eloquent interventions of Tony Benn, who not only made constitutional reform central to his wider vision for transforming Britain but also occasionally appealed to modernity. In his 1982 book Arguments for Democracy, written at the 43

Eric Heffer, ‘Beware of Swopping the Lords for Something Worse’, The Times, 30 January 1978, 12; Dale (ed.), Labour Party General Election Manifestos, 275. 44 Eric Heffer, ‘Alliances Aren’t the Answer’, Marxism Today (December 1983), 50–53, at 51. 45 Bogdanor, New British Constitution, 41; Roy Jenkins, Home Thoughts from Abroad (London, 1979); Robert Morgan et al., ‘Party Promises an All-Out Fight for PR’, The Times, 15 September 1983, 2.

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height of his influence on the left, Benn argued, strikingly, that the UK’s Crown-in-Parliament constitution made the British nation the ‘last colony’ of the British Empire, with the Whitehall establishment, the International Monetary Fund, NATO, and multinational capitalism replacing the redcoats. He proposed several far-reaching reforms, including abolishing the Lords and the monarchy, an FOI bill, a ‘constitutional civil service’ and withdrawal from the EC.46 These policies were the culmination of maverick constitutional thinking spanning more than a decade, through which, relevantly, Benn sometimes engaged with conceptions of modernity. In a 1968 speech at Llandudno, for example, Benn envisioned the use of modern technology to construct a new popular democracy, where sovereignty lay with the people, not Parliament.47 He justified his techno-futurist, direct democratic vision partly on the basis that the modern electorate were more educated. Robert Saunders highlights this speech when explaining Benn’s advocacy of the referendum in the lead-up to the 1975 European Communities plebiscite.48 In 1973, Benn invoked a more dystopian vision of the power offered by modern science and technology, when arguing for greater scrutiny on government decisions.49 Finally, Benn often attacked the ‘medieval’ elements of the British state, which was conceptually important for later ‘modernising’ framings of constitutional reform.50 Nevertheless, it would be a distorted reading to make ‘modernisation’ a central theme of Benn’s constitutional thought. Benn only rarely appealed to modernity in relation to the constitution. In addition, the policies he justified in these terms were held inconsistently: the tool of referendums, which Benn championed in 1968, is conspicuous by its absence in Benn’s 1982 book Arguments for Democracy (perhaps reflecting the outcome of the 1975 European referendum!). In contrast, what remained consistent was Benn’s appeal to a democratic-radical tradition. In a 1983 Guardian column, he argued that the jailing of feminist anti-nuclear protestors at the military base on Greenham Common was comparable to abuses during the English Rising of 1381, and Thatcher’s anti-trade union legislation to the nineteenth-century Combination Acts, to argue that ‘[a]lmost every victory for freedom and democracy in our history is now under attack again’.51 This article is typical of Benn’s writing on the constitution. His

46

47 48 49 50 51

Benn, Arguments for Democracy. Benn, Speeches, 201–207. Saunders, Yes to Europe!, 71, 74–78. Benn, Speeches, 62–67. ‘Eric Hobsbawm Interviews Tony Benn’, Marxism Today (October 1980), 5–14, at 10. Tony Benn, Guardian, 3 October 1983, 9.

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position was much more deeply informed by an ‘English-radical’ historical tradition, his own ‘constitutional idiom’, than ideas of modernity.52 This tradition emphasised successive constitutional changes, especially those that expanded the franchise, secured through popular agitation over centuries. Hence, Benn’s ubiquitous authorities were the Levellers, the Diggers, the Chartists, and the Suffragettes.53

‘Snatching Victory from Defeat’: 1983–1987

Arguments for ‘constitutional modernisation’ did not become significant until after the 1987 election. However, the tenor of discussion slowly changed during the mid-1980s. The canary in the coalmine was a tussle over electoral alliances. Following the SDP split and Thatcher’s 1983 landslide, an angry debate emerged over whether Labour should seek alliances with other parties – an anti-Thatcher coalition. In 1983, historian Eric Hobsbawm penned a contentious piece for Marxism Today, which represented a left-wing victory as impossible if the anti-Thatcher vote was split.54 Hobsbawm’s case was rooted in his pessimistic sociological-psephological analysis of contemporary Britain, which we have already encountered. This identified an erosion of a working class ‘base’ and called on the left to adopt ‘new strategies’ in response. Simultaneously, influential economist Bob Rowthorn publicly advocated an electoral alliance, and even endorsed PR.55 Hobsbawm was more cautious. Still, many of his readers interpreted him as endorsing an electoral alliance with the SDP. His intervention thus raised howls of protest from across the socialist spectrum.56 This argument returned with a vengeance in 1987, Labour’s second landslide defeat of the decade. Hobsbawm, for one, abandoned subtlety and explicitly advocated an electoral alliance. Based on his reading of electoral and sociological evidence, he argued that ‘some kind of central mass in politics is here to stay’ and thus there ‘is only one logical conclusion for those of us who put the defeat of Thatcher first’: tactical voting.57 He was joined by other left-wingers who supported Tactical 52 James A. Epstein, ‘The Constitutional Idiom: Radical Reasoning, Rhetoric and Action in Early Nineteenth-Century England’, Journal of Social History 23:3 (1990), 553–574. 53 Hence, Labour-supporting comedian O’Farrell could jokingly allude to the ‘bit about the Levellers and the Chartists’ when discussing Benn’s oratory. O’Farrell, Things Can Only Get Better, 207. 54 Eric Hobsbawm, ‘Labour’s Lost Millions’, Marxism Today (October 1983), 7–14. 55 Bob Rowthorn, ‘Think Positive – Rethink Labour’, Marxism Today (September 1983), 7–14. 56 Guardian, 7 November 1983, 10; Guardian, 10 November 1983, 14. 57 Eric Hobsbawm, ‘Snatching Victory from Defeat’, Marxism Today (May 1987), 14–18, at 15.

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Voting 87 (TV87), like the editor of New Socialist Stuart Weir, Labour MP Frank Field and SDP defector Michael Young. Although this was also due to the publication’s financial difficulties, Weir’s advocacy of tactical voting triggered his resignation as editor of Labour’s intellectual magazine.58 This debate’s importance should not be overstated. Rowthorn aside, Hobsbawm was not advocating constitutional reforms but short-term political strategies. One did not necessarily lead to the other. In a reply to Hobsbawm’s 1987 piece, the prominent Scottish Labour MP Robin Cook dismissed tactical voting as dewy-eyed, failing to account for the reality that many Alliance voters would, when pushed, vote for the Conservatives over Labour; yet, at the same time, he endorsed PR on sheer principle.59 Nevertheless, the interpretation of structural sociopolitical change that underpinned Hobsbawm’s endorsement of tactical voting had seeped into the left’s public sphere. It would prove influential on those who decisively turned towards electoral reform.

Charters and Think Tanks: The Wider Left after 1987

For some sections of British left, especially intellectuals, the aftermath of the 1987 Conservative landslide saw a decisive shift in attitudes to the constitution. For constitutional reform, 1987 was a bigger turning point than 1983. The left still wanted to ‘democratise’ Britain, but the balance of views on a second chamber, a bill of rights, and electoral systems, changed substantially. Additionally, ‘modernisation’ became an important reference point for these new-found converts. Most prominent was the creation and unexpected growth of the campaign group Charter 88. Launched in late 1988 from the New Statesman and Society offices under the direction of its new editor – the erstwhile New Socialist editor Stuart Weir – the Charter called for a written constitution, PR, and an elected second chamber, and invited signatures declaring agreement. Accruing several famous backers, from celebrity activists like the actor and Stonewall co-founder Ian McKellen to public intellectuals, its prominence increased rapidly, with 15,000 signatures accumulated in its first half-year, 35,000 collected by 1992 and 75,000 by late 1997. The campaigners also staged several media-friendly stunts, such as a series of candlelit vigils at the turn of the decade and 58

David Butler and Dennis Kavanagh, The British General Election of 1987 (Basingstoke, 1988), 98. 59 Robin Cook, ‘Beware a Tactical Vote Hijack – The Case for Electoral Reform’, Guardian, 8 May 1987, 22.

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a ‘Democracy Day’ (knowingly abbreviated to ‘D-Day’) the Thursday before the UK went to the polls in 1992.60 Charter 88 involved many in the Liberal and SDP parties, including Roy Jenkins. However, notably, signatories also included leading socialist figures, including New Socialist former editor James Curran, socialist feminist Hilary Wainwright, Marxist theorists Perry Anderson, Tom Nairn and Ralph Miliband, and left-wing journalist Anthony Barnett, who became the campaign’s first co-ordinator. Moreover, the campaign devoted considerable effort to converting the Labour Party. It tried hard to appeal widely, seeking cross-partisan alliances, and organisers attempted to appeal to Conservative voices. But, as internal documents recognised, into the 1990s, its lobbying efforts became increasingly dominated by the task of converting the Labour Party.61 The campaign’s embrace of a bill of rights, previously denounced as anti-socialist, indicates the changes occurring within the British left. This is also shown by its increasing divergence from the constitutional roadmap of Benn, even though many involved in Charter 88 had been Bennite sympathisers in the early 1980s.62 Unlike Benn’s earlier appeals, the campaign proposed the power for a (‘reformed’) judiciary to rule government policies unconstitutional, and supported PR. Wainwright wrote a column praising Benn’s highlighting of democratic issues during the latter’s forlorn 1988 leadership challenge to Kinnock, but still regretted that he did not embrace electoral reform.63 Benn himself moved closer to the new wave of reformers: in 1991 he advocated a written constitution and an elected second chamber. However, this constitution explicitly endorsed the supremacy of parliament over the judiciary on legislative matters and rejected PR, showing that on key issues Benn still diverged from the new platform.64 60

‘Charter 88’ (1989), ASL CHARTER 88, Box 1; ‘Is Britain Rotting from the Inside’ (1992), ASL CHARTER 88, Box 16; Martin Linton and Patrick Wintour, ‘A People’s Bill of Reform Fare’, Guardian, 30 November 1988, 23; Seamus Milne, ‘10,000 Sign Charter 88’, Guardian, 3 January 1989, 2; Anthony Barnett, This Time: Our Constitutional Revolution (London, 1997), ix; Interview with Anthony Barnett, 21 October 2018. 61 Anthony Barnett, ‘Co-ordinators Report’, 9 June 1990 Council, f. 2r and ‘Charter 88 and the General Election’, Council Paper 17 November 1990, f. 3r, ASL CHARTER 88, Box 3; Anthony Barnett, ‘Charter 88’s Response to the Government: Policy Discussion Document’, 27 January 1994, ASL CHARTER 88, Box 4; Colin Darracott to Executive, ‘Labour’, 22 March 1995, ASL CHARTER 88, Box 13. 62 Some were members of Benn’s ‘Independent Left Corresponding Society’. See Benn, End of an Era, 396, 407–408 [1 February and 5 May 1985]. 63 Hilary Wainwright, ‘The Battle to Save Democracy’, Guardian, 18 April 1988, 34. 64 Tony Benn, A Future for Socialism (London, 1991), 50–55, 59; Tony Benn and Andrew Hood, Common Sense: A New Constitution for Britain (London, 1993), 20. See also Andrew Blick, Codifying – or not Codifying – the UK Constitution: Literature Review (London, 2011).

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Importantly, Charter 88 repeatedly linked their constitutional reforms to ‘modernity’. ‘Modernisation’ was perhaps not the dominant concern of Charter 88, whose main stated aim was to ‘democratise’ the United Kingdom.65 Nonetheless, the language of modernity peppered their published output. One pamphlet stated that ‘the Charter aims to bring about as soon as possible a modern written constitution in Britain … The need for modern democracy and entrenched rights in Britain is clear’.66 Similar formulations were considered internally when the group considered alternative titling for some publications, such as ‘Towards a Modern Democracy’.67 This frequent use of ‘modern’ language about constitutional reform was not confined to Charter 88. This can be shown through other initiatives of the late 1980s that we have encountered in previous chapters. The Communist Party’s 1988 ‘New Times’ manifesto published in Marxism Today, which made ‘socialist modernisation’ an organising principle, argued that the left ‘must be politically modernising to reform Britain’s political structures to match a more plural diverse society’.68 Similarly, the newly created Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) devoted much of its time into drafting a new written constitution for the UK, under the direction of James Cornford.69 The think tank’s 1992 Next Left publication framed these constitutional proposals in ‘modernising’ terms: forging a ‘modern democracy’ must be part of the agenda of the ‘next left’ for ‘the 1990s’.70

Labour’s Turn to Reform

This building momentum outside Labour for creating a ‘modern democracy’ developed just as the party was undergoing its pivotal Policy Review. The Review not only in itself offered the opportunity for a constitutional rethink, but the activism of groups like Charter 88 pushed policies like a written constitution and PR up Labour’s agenda.71 Charter 88’s growing influence is apparent in the Policy Review papers. During the Review, the head of Labour’s research department Geoff Bish wrote to influential trade unionist Tom Sawyer, enclosing a paper by the Scottish lawyer Derry Irvine (one of Blair’s patrons) that endorsed ECHR 65

Interview with Barnett, 21 October 2018. 66 Charter 88, We Can Make It Happen in the Next Ten Years (1990), 2–3, ASL CHARTER 88, Box 1. 67 See the alternative titles scribbled on the draft of ‘Charter 88 and Citizens Rights’, 29 September 1989, ASL CHARTER 88, Box 1. 68 CPGB, ‘Facing up to the Future’, Marxism Today (September 1988), supplement. 69 IPPR, A Written Constitution for the United Kingdom (London, 1995 [1991, 1993]). 70 Tessa Blackstone et al., Next Left: An Agenda for the 1990s (London, 1992), i, 39, 49. 71 Hughes and Wintour, Labour Rebuilt, 160.

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incorporation. Bish noted the ‘sensitivity of this issue among senior trade unionists’ but argued ‘I think the paper makes a lot of sense – and it would certainly help to buttress any new package of “democratic rights”’ adding ‘(It is also a key plank of the Charter 88 approach)’.72 The Policy Review also received submissions from other reformist campaign groups like the Campaign for Electoral Reform, which stressed democratic rights and denigrated an ‘out-dated voting system’.73 Ian Snaith, a L ­ abour-supporting academic, submitted the ‘socialist case for a second chamber’ rather than unicameralism.74 Meanwhile, an increasingly vocal section in the party itself agitated for changes. The Labour ­Co-ordinating Committee (LCC), an influential soft left ginger group, called for Labour commitments to a bill of rights and elected second chamber and to ‘take electoral reform seriously’ in December 1988. Robin Cook doggedly advocated for electoral reform and another leading MP, Jack Cunningham, ‘came out’ as a supporter. According to the account of two lobby journalists, Neil Kinnock flirted with supporting electoral reform in late 1988, which seems plausible given that later, after stepping down as leader, he would sign Charter 88.75 This increasing pressure inside and outside the party led Labour to move on the constitution. In private memos, leading figures in Kinnock’s office and Walworth Road considered radical reforms. Peter Mandelson, director of communications, expressed support for a bill of rights – and he may have removed claims of judiciary bias from a Policy Review interim report draft.76 Kinnock’s advisors Charles Clarke and Patricia Hewitt also discreetly explored ECHR incorporation and electoral reform.77 Their discretion was, however, due to countervailing political realities. The relevant Policy Review group was led by deputy leader Roy Hattersley, who opposed much of the Charter’s agenda. Hattersley 72

Letter from Geoff Bish to Tom Sawyer, 15 February 1989, PHM LPA Policy Review Papers. 73 Campaign for Electoral Reform, ‘Labour and Electoral Reform: A Submission to the Labour Party Policy Review’, n.d., PHM LPA Policy Review Papers. 74 Ian Snaith, ‘The Socialist Case for a Second Chamber: A Submission to the Policy Review Group on Democracy for the Individual and Community’ (October 1988), PHM LPA Policy Review Papers. 75 Patrick Wintour, ‘Labour Group Says Party Must Support Constitutional Change’, Guardian, 1 December 1988, 7; Alan Travis, ‘Labour PR Move Spurned’, Guardian, 7 August 1989, 2; Patrick Wintour, ‘Present Voting System “Outrage”’, Guardian, 2 October 1989; Hughes and Wintour, Labour Rebuilt, 161–162. 76 Memo from Peter Mandelson to Patricia Hewitt, and Comments from Peter Mandelson on draft of Democracy and the Individual Policy Review Group report (between March and May 1988). CAC KNNK 2/2/5. 77 Clarke asked Hewitt to draft a document deliberately without Roy Hattersley’s knowledge. Charles Clarke, ‘Section of Policy Review Dealing With Constitutional Reform’, n.d. [1989]. CAC KNNK 2/2/10.

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favoured unicameralism and opposed the ideas of a written constitution and electoral reform as giving too much power to judges and smaller parties respectively.78 Hattersley and fellow group member Jo Richardson also attacked the ECHR as ‘being entirely based on the negative version of liberty’ and as a weak statement of human rights with few social dimensions.79 Other members of Hattersley’s review group also diverged from Charter 88: while Irvine and Paul Boateng were keen to push ECHR incorporation, and managed to convince Alistair Darling, it was passionately opposed by Richardson, Clare Short, and Diane Jeuda.80 Thus, the Review’s landmark 1989 report backed a ‘Charter of Rights’ passed through several parliamentary bills, rather than a bona fide written constitution. By 1991, though, Hattersley sought ‘common ground’ with Charter 88 and conceded that this might be accompanied by a ‘statement of principles’ akin to a Bill of Rights. These rights would be enforced by an elected second chamber, potentially elected with PR.81 Other issues, like an FOI bill, were wholeheartedly reaffirmed by the party during the Review. Devolution to Scotland, Wales, and the English regions was also embraced.82 Labour’s new platform was insufficiently radical for Charter 88, and also the insurgent Green Party, who argued that Labour were not ‘modernizing’ because they did not promise electoral reform for the Commons.83 But one can see the influence of wider activism on the Policy Review. Despite this attempt of the Greens to reclaim the language for themselves, Labour’s Review framed their new policies as ‘modernisation’. The constitutional section of the 1989 report was titled ‘A modern democracy’, and policies were justified in terms of creating a ‘modern constitution’. In his preface, Kinnock argued, similarly to Charter 88, that ‘[t]he constitutional settlements of 1688 and 1707 are an inadequate basis for Britain at the turn of our century’, hence the pledges for ‘modernising the constitution’.84 It should be noted, though, that the review groups framed their policies in terms of ‘modernisation’ partly because the Review’s coordinators decided that ‘modernisation’ should be the organising principle, primarily with reference to other policy areas, like 78

Roy Hattersley, ‘The Charter of Despair’, Guardian, 12 December 1988, 20. 79 Roy Hattersley, ‘Constitutional Reform’, n.d., HULL HATTERSLEY U DRH/3/13. 80 Letters from Roy Hattersley to Neil Kinnock, 18 June and 19 July 1990, HULL HATTERSLEY U DRH/3/1. 81 Roy Hattersley, Extract from speech to the Civil Liberties Conference, 8 June 1991, PD:2877, CAC 2/3/1/38. 82 Labour Party, Meet the Challenge, Make the Change, 55–67. 83 Hughes and Wintour, Labour Rebuilt, 164–165; Patrick Wintour, ‘Labour Bill of Rights Does Not Go Far Enough, Says Pressure Group’, Guardian, 6 January 1990, 3. 84 Labour Party, Meet the Challenge, Make the Change, 7, 55.

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economic policy.85 Constitutional reform was not yet central to ‘modernisation’ for the Labour Party leadership. Reformist pressure only increased in strength after this 1989 report. Perhaps the most important developments were happening north of the Anglo-Scottish border. Up in Edinburgh, 1988–1989 witnessed the birth of the cross-party Scottish Constitutional Convention. Building on the Scottish campaign for an assembly, it involved Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens, some smaller parties, and many institutions of civil society. The Convention issued a declaration of Scottish sovereignty, the ‘Claim of Right’, and began negotiating the precise form by which Scotland should exercise that sovereignty, a devolved Parliament being the preferred option from early on.86 Scottish Secretary Murray Elder participated in and reported on the Convention for the national Labour Party.87 Its proposals became very influential and were approvingly cited in 1992 by Shadow Chancellor and long-term supporter of devolution, John Smith.88 Meanwhile, Charter 88 organised its own ‘Constitutional Convention’ at Manchester in 1991, attended by the great and good of the policymaking and intellectual left, from Patricia Hewitt and Anthony Giddens to Geoff Mulgan and Hilary Wainwright.89 In Labour itself, electoral reform was becoming an increasingly hot topic. PR was decisively rejected at the 1989 Labour Party Conference, but constituency sections had actually voted in its favour – it had been rejected by block votes.90 The following year Conference voted to establish a working party led by academic Raymond Plant to examine different electoral systems. Against the wishes of the leadership, their remit included the Commons.91 In this context, diverse parts of the left showed growing interest in constitutional reform, and the cause continued to gain ground in the Labour Party. It was also increasingly central to Labour’s debates about ‘modernisation’. An internal NEC consultation paper on regional devolution from 1991, for example, argued that Britain’s centralisation ‘bucked the European trend’ of the past decade, citing not just Western European 85

Patricia Hewitt, ‘Policy Review: Key Themes’ (May 1988), CAC KNNK 2/2/8. 86 Scottish Constitutional Convention, Towards Scotland’s Parliament: A Report to the Scottish People (Edinburgh, 1990). 87 Murray Elder, ‘Scottish Constitutional Convention’, PD:2366/January 1990, PHM LPA Box 103. 88 Smith, Guiding Light, 154–159. 89 Charter 88, Proceedings of the Charter88/The Independent Constitutional Convention, Manchester 1–3 November 1991 (1991), ASL CHARTER 88, Box 23. 90 Martin Linton, ‘Electoral Reform: Let’s Be Practical’, Samizdat (January/February 1990), 20–21. 91 LCER, Conference Newsletter, November 1990, PHM LPA Box ‘LP Electoral Systems 1990–1993’; Labour Party, Democracy, Representation and Elections: A Summary and Guide to the Interim Report of the NEC Working Party on Electoral Systems (London, 1991), 2.

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devolutions and increased engagement between the European Commission and regions but also democratisation in Eastern Europe, which left ‘Britain even more isolated as the one country in which the centre has grown stronger’. Consequently, it asserted the ‘modern’ as well as ‘democratic’ reasons for devolution: ‘Modern society is too complex to be run by one institution, and in a mature pluralist democracy there should be different centres of government, locally, regionally, nationally and supranationally, working together in partnership.’92 Kinnock responded to these political forces by increasingly emphasising Labour’s constitutional platform in his annual conference speeches – the constitution was marginal in 1989 and 1990, but prominent in 1991.93 At that conference, there was a lively debate on ‘a modern constitution’. One delegate, Islington councillor Margaret Hodge, contended that ‘[a] modern constitution for a modern Labour Party requires radical democratic reform – everything from changing the hours in the House of Commons to using our power in government to empower people in their regions and communities’.94 By the 1992 election, Labour was committed to a strong and prominent platform of reform. Introducing these policies, the manifesto declared that ‘[i]t is time to modernise Britain’s democracy’.95 It was in 1993 that arguments for ‘modernising the constitution’ reached their apotheosis in Labour. The shock of the 1992 defeat, and the accession of sympathetic leader John Smith, were vital. During his 1992 leadership contest against Bryan Gould, Smith argued that Labour needed to ‘produce policies which are relevant to modern society’, among which was the ‘need to modernise our system of government and our constitution … Modern government should be both pluralistic and decentralised and should be underpinned by recognition of individual rights’. He thus supported devolution and a bill of rights (but avoided electoral reform, kicking the can to the ongoing Plant Commission).96 Once leader, these pledges became even more prominent. Following the precedent set by his ambitious protégé Gordon Brown, Smith gave a landmark speech to Charter 88 in March.97 His office asked Charter 88 92

Labour NEC, ‘Devolution and Democracy’, March 1991, PHM LPA Box ‘LP Electoral Systems 1990–1993’, ff. 1r, 14r. See also Democracy PRG Regional Government Working Party, ‘Devolution and Democracy: Draft NEC Consultation Paper’, PD2723/ February 1991, PHM LPA Box 104. 93 [www.britishpoliticalspeech.org/speech-archive.htm?speech=195; www.­britishpolitical​ speech.org/speech-archive.htm?speech=196; and www.­britishpoliticalspeech.org/speech-­ archive.htm?speech=197]. 94 Conference 1991, 184–185. 95 Dale (ed.), Labour Party General Election Manifestos, 321. 96 Smith, Guiding Light, 161. 97 Gordon Brown, ‘Constitutional Change and the Future of Britain’, 7 March 1992, reprinted in Facey, Rigby, and Runswick (eds), Unlocking Democracy, 172–192.

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if he could give their Sovereignty Lecture, which itself shows the heightened influence of the group. In his speech, he framed reforming the ‘crumbling’ constitution as fundamental to changing society.98 Charter 88 recognised the significance, and repeatedly put excerpts from Smith’s March speech on their literature targeting Labour members.99 Labour subsequently organised a new policy commission, involving frontbench spokesman Graham Allen (who was closely coordinating with Charter 88) and Tony Blair in his role as Shadow Home Secretary, which published A New Agenda for Democracy (1993).100 It argued that the constitution was ‘urgently in need of radical change and modernisation’: a ‘new constitutional settlement, a modern notion of citizenship … It is impossible to modernise Britain without modernising government’. It further extended the already reformist 1992 manifesto. Labour now supported the incorporation of the ECHR. It only offered a referendum on electoral reform, despite the Plant Commission advocating a supplementary vote system, but this echoed Charter 88’s demands for a ‘preferendum’.101 The New Agenda championed Labour’s battalion of reform policies as ‘the creation of a modern democracy for the 21st century’.102 As leader, Smith seized both these policies and the accompanying rhetoric. His set-piece conference speech in Brighton that year made these constitutional reforms a centrepiece of Labour’s overall pitch: our Party is offering the British people a new and exciting agenda of ­constitutional reform. We are proposing nothing less than a new constitution for a new century: a new and modern conception of citizenship … a revitalised democracy which protects the fundamental rights of each and every citizen … a system of government that is open, accountable and close to the people it is elected to serve.103

Under Smith’s leadership, therefore, constitutional reform became critical to the ‘modernisation’ of the Labour Party and the UK’s democracy.104 98 Barnett, ‘The Rise and Fate of Charter 88’, 32. 99 Charter 88, ‘A Key Difference between Labour and the Tories’ (1994) and ‘Why Every Labour Supporter Should Sign’ (1994), ASL CHARTER 88 Box 16. Barnett also highlighted the speech: Barnett, This Time, 21–22. 100 Caroline Ellis, ‘Report on Political Officer’s Activities’, 14 May 1993, ASL CHARTER 88 Box 9; Letter from Graham Allen to Anthony Barnett, 4 November 1992, ASL CHARTER 88 Box 39. 101 Raymond Plant, ‘Proportional Representation’, in Blackburn and Plant (eds), Constitutional Reform, 66–82, at 70–71; Caroline Ellis, ‘Report to Charter 88 Executive’, 16 March 1993, ASL CHARTER 88 Box 9. 102 ‘A New Agenda for Democracy’, 447. 103 [www.britishpoliticalspeech.org/speech-archive.htm?speech=199]. 104 Hence, I disagree with the assessment in John Morrison, Reforming Britain: New Labour, New Constitution? (London, 2001), 5.

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Freedom and the Strong State

By 1993, therefore, the British left’s approach to the constitution had changed substantially since Labour had last been in government. Major socialist figures now advocated new and previously unpopular policies like PR and a written constitution, while Labour itself was committed to an elected second chamber, incorporation of the ECHR and a referendum on electoral reform – and was much more enthusiastically behind devolution. Moreover, Labour’s rhetoric and policy analysis was peppered with variations on ‘modernising the constitution’. There were multifarious and overlapping forces that drove this transformation. International developments suggested that the ‘modern world’ was transforming in ways that strengthened the case for constitutional reform. These included the successful New Zealand referendums on electoral reform in 1992 and 1993, which shaped Smith’s decision to pledge a referendum on the electoral system.105 Much more symbolically significant, however, was glasnost, perestroika, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Soviet Union’s collapse, and the campaigns for democratisation across eastern and central Europe. Charter 88’s coordinator Anthony Barnett appealed to this when he argued that Labour, by not approving electoral reform and a bill of rights in 1989, ‘did not understand the extent to which the issue of modern democracy was gripping European politics’.106 Yet, Labourites saw their movement as part of this momentum. During the Policy Review, Labour MP David Clelland argued that ‘[g]lasnost and perestroika have long been our party’s philosophy. We mean to put that philosophy into practice in the 1990’s and build a modern democracy’.107 In his 1991 conference speech, Kinnock argued that the impulse for constitutional change ‘increased beyond measure six weeks ago when the drunken conspirators in the Kremlin were defeated. The world became a different place’.108 These geopolitical upheavals fostered the sense that constitutional reform was increasingly appropriate to a rapidly transforming, post-Cold War world. Closer to home, longer-term shifts pushed the constitution up the agenda. These included rising Scottish nationalism in the 1960s and its resurgence in the late 1980s, and the challenge posed by accelerating European integration, encapsulated in the birth of the European 105 Plant, ‘Proportional Representation’, 70. 106 Wintour, ‘Labour Bill of Rights Does Not Go Far Enough’. 107 David Clelland, Draft of ‘Democracy, The Individual and the Community’ speech, CAC KNNK 2/2/44. 108 [www.britishpoliticalspeech.org/speech-archive.htm?speech=197].

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Union in 1993. At the 1991 Manchester Convention, Hewitt argued that ­‘constitutional modernisation’ was driven by ‘two engines … one is Europe, the other is Scotland’.109 The Scottish Constitutional Convention not only increased the political prominence of constitutional reform; it also tended to have a radicalising effect on Labour’s policies. For example, the negotiations in Edinburgh ensured that Labour endorsed the Additional Member System for elections to the Scottish Parliament, despite powerful countervailing pressures on the leader’s office from constituency Labour parties.110 Similarly, the growing socialist support for Jacques Delors’ ‘Social Europe’ (discussed in Chapter 1) tended to bolster support for more Europeanist constitutional systems. The much-trumpeted European principle of ‘subsidiarity’ – or governance at the lowest level practically feasible – was influential in Labour debates. Even the relatively conservative shadow minister Jack Straw used the subsidiarity principle to claim that ‘[d]ecentralisation and devolution are the dominant political and economic trends in the developed world today’.111 In political circles, the growing popularity of single-issue and post-materialist politics was also important in stimulating interest, Charter 88 being a prime example.112 While Europe and Scotland were two powerful engines of the ‘new constitutionalism’, the seeming dominance of ‘Thatcherism’ welded them to vehicles for Labour’s ‘modernisation’. When the Conservative peer Hailsham broadcast his ‘elective dictatorship’ warning – a phrase that gained increasing usage across the spectrum, finding its way into Labour publications113 – he was castigating a Labour government. However, to the 1980s left, the term appeared increasingly appropriate for Thatcher’s political supremacy. Far more than her recent predecessors, Thatcher exploited the potentiality of Crown-in-Parliament sovereignty to the fullest, pushing through deeply divisive policies on the back of votes geographically concentrated in the South and Midlands of England. Her government also centralised power further, such as through its abolition of the metropolitan authorities in 1986, which muzzled Livingstone’s Greater London Council. Despite her party’s increasing electoral

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110 111 112 113

Charter 88, 1991 Constitutional Convention: “Towards a Written Constitution”: The PreConvention Debate (1991), 3, ASL CHARTER 88 Box 23. Letter from Raymond Plant to Neil Kinnock, 6 January 1992, and Labour Party Working Party on Electoral Systems, ‘The Electoral System and the Scottish Parliament’, PD:2996/January 1992, CAC KNNK 13/30. Jack Straw, ‘Let the People Have a Vote for Regional Rule’, The Times, 6 November 1993, 16. Erdos, ‘Charter 88 and the Constitutional Reform Movement’, 540–541. Labour Party, Meet the Challenge, Make the Change, 56.

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weakness north of the border, Thatcher also used Westminster majorities to impose controversial policies on Scotland; most infamously, her government piloted the poll tax in the nation.114 Thatcher’s n ­ on-consensual governance pushed the left to reconsider simple plurality Crown-inParliament sovereignty. The argument that it was a benefit that Britain could be ruled ‘single-handed’ rang hollow after successive years where the state had been in the iron grip of the Conservatives. Tony Wright, a Labour MP and political scientist, thus argued that Thatcher provided ‘a crash course of constitutional education for the Labour Party’.115 Thatcher’s ‘strong state’116 made constitutional reform seem urgent, but it was the left’s protracted opposition that encouraged many to conceive it as ‘modernisation’. This was where anguished debates over tactical voting had an important environmental impact. They normalised the sociological and psephological view that Labour’s electoral base was in proportional decline, and that society was pluralising and becoming less deferential. This was foundational not just for those who argued that Labour needed to change its economic and social policies, but also for others who demanded a constitutional rethink. It underpinned arguments, made by everybody from Charter 88 to the Communist Party, that the current constitutional settlement was inappropriate for a ‘modern, plural society’, and that reform would join a ‘wave’ of change.117 In 1997, Barnett argued that: Britain has been modernised through the long years of Thatcherism, and British society is far less deferential and much more modern than it was twenty years ago. The centralised and archaic nature of the British polity is today not just an anachronism in modern European terms, it is also anachronistic in terms of British society itself.118

Although less dramatic, similar sociological justifications can be seen in Labour-centric publications in the early 1990s, such as the Plant report on electoral reform, which identified ‘growing pluralism’ as bolstering the case for a new voting system.119 Labour’s 1993 policy statement on constitutional reform thus argued: ‘The idea of a highly centralised,

114 Bogdanor, The New British Constitution, 44. 115 Quoted in Riddell, ‘Labour’s Conversion to Constitutional Reform’, 37. 116 Andrew Gamble, The Free Economy and the Strong State: The Politics of Thatcherism, 2nd ed. (London, 1994). 117 Charter 88, ‘Why Charter 88 Is Part of a Wave’, ASL C88, Box 1; CPGB, Facing up to the Future, 7. 118 Anthony Barnett, ‘Constitutional Possibilities’, The Political Quarterly 68:4 (1997), 361–371, at 367. 119 Labour Party, Report of the Working Party on Electoral Systems, 1993 (London, 1993), 9.

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paternalistic state handing out improvements to a dependent public belongs to a different age’.120 This was an incongruous cocktail of political and sociological processes, in contexts spanning Scotland, the UK, Europe, and geopolitics. However, they all dovetailed with each other in the early 1990s, bolstering that moment as the high tide of constitutional ‘modernisation’. They contributed to the sense that constitutional reform was an ‘idea whose time has come’, a phrase used repeatedly by Charter 88 and its supporters.121 Confronting a geopolitical world transformed by the breakup of the Soviet Union, and a domestic political settlement unsettled by the Scottish Claim of Right and the Maastricht Treaty debates, many observers drew the understandable conclusion that constitutional reform was critically important. This includes Labour leader John Smith, who revealed the influence of many of these strands in a speech at Strathclyde University in October 1992. ‘Three separate factors have convinced me that new structures have to be found for the reform of our democracy’, he told the audience: The first is the experience of recent years under a government that has centralised as much power as possible, largely at the expense of local democracy. The second is the European dimension – an additional layer of government which calls for a radical reappraisal of existing structures and competences. The third is a discreet but significant sociological shift: a movement away from the traditional perception of ourselves as subjects to a more modern view of ourselves as citizens.122

By invoking this wider context, Smith could claim that: ‘we need a new system of government, appropriate to a modern European state, which puts the citizen at the centre of our picture’.123

1688 and All That

Given the likely familiarity of his Strathclyde audience with the Scottish nationalist Tom Nairn, Smith’s demand for a ‘modern European state’ would have resonated in more ways than one. Intentionally or otherwise, he echoed an increasingly influential historical framework on the British intellectual left, the ‘Nairn–Anderson thesis’, the advance of which drew oxygen away from the ‘English-radical’ tradition popularised by Tony Benn. While the Nairn–Anderson thesis had been percolating among the intellectual left since the 1960s, its constitutional implications gained 120 121 122 123

Labour Party, ‘A New Agenda for Democracy’, 445–446. Charter 88, An Idea Whose Time Has Come (March 1993), ASL CHARTER 88 Box 1. Smith, Guiding Light, 180. Ibid, 178.

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new resonance in the late 1980s. This helped spread some of its major assumptions into wider socialist discourse, including within Labour. Crucially, it provided another conceptual-historical framework for those who argued for constitutional reform as ‘modernisation’. Initially, however, this left-wing intellectual turn to new constitutional reforms must be situated in a moment of destabilisation for British Marxism. With the defeat of 1960s–1970s industrial militancy, Mitterrand’s reversal, and the collapse of the Soviet Union, many socialist assumptions were fundamentally challenged in the 1980s and 1990s.124 The rising prominence of constitutional reform should be situated alongside this growing realisation among Marxists that the socialist millennium was not imminent and that the left may have to rethink state power. Grappling with this profound crisis, many Marxists made a notable turn towards the constitutional reform. Gregory Elliott, for example, argued in 1993 that one of the roots of Labour’s weakness was its ideology of ‘labourism’, which included its acceptance of a constitutional settlement inherited from a pre-democratic past. He argued that the British left should pursue, among other strategies, PR, and a written constitution. Elliott conceived this platform in a fundamentally ‘modernising’ way by casting the current constitution as ancient: the ‘radical agenda of the last century was never completed’, leaving Britain with an ‘old constitutional settlement’. Consequently, the left must undertake constitutional reform as a first priority. Reform was a ‘precondition of progressive politics … Her Majesty’s subjects will one day have to be “citizens” if they are ever to become “comrades”’.125 Elliot’s arguments repurposed an older historical thesis developed by Perry Anderson and Tom Nairn in the New Left Review. In the 1960s, Anderson published a landmark essay ‘The Origins of the Present Crisis’, which argued that Britain was sui generis because it had experienced an incomplete bourgeois revolution in the 1640s, and that the feudal aristocracy and bourgeoisie had subsequently merged following the restoration and the 1688 ‘Glorious Revolution’.126 This subjected Britain to a uniquely ‘feudal’ hegemony, reflected in its constitution, to which the working class were subordinated after Chartism was crushed. Central to their interpretation, as his implacable critic E. P. Thompson contended, was a normative conception of ‘modern’ as the ‘bourgeois’ French Revolution of 1789, with its written constitution and declaration

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125 126

Robin Blackburn (ed.), After the Fall: The Failure of Communism and the Future of Socialism (London, 1991). Gregory Elliott, Labourism and the English Genius: The Strange Death of Labour England? (London, 1993), xiii–xv, 64, 168, 191–193. Perry Anderson, ‘Origins of the Present Crisis’, New Left Review 23 (1964), 26–53.

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of rights.127 Nairn’s Break-Up of Britain (1977) thus argued that continental and American constitutions were ‘truly modern’ whereas Britain’s ‘unique’ seventeenth-century settlement was caught between ‘feudalism’ and ‘modernity’.128 Nairn and Anderson were not unique. Elements of this interpretation appeared elsewhere in other ‘declinist’ views of British history across the political spectrum.129 But their interventions memorably and influentially advanced these ideas among the left. As Alan Finlayson and Stephen Howe have observed, the assumptions underwriting this historical interpretation – the chronology, its normative view of what constituted a ‘modern state’ and the importance of political (super)structure for broader development – began appearing in a wide array of socialist thought from the late 1980s.130 It provided a conceptual framework for arguments that Britain needed a constitutional ‘modernisation’. This historical interpretation was central to Elliott’s demand for a ‘modern democratic constitution’; he cited Anderson and Nairn and emphasised that ‘unlike the Bastille, the Tower of London never fell’.131 It also clearly shaped Charter 88. In a 1997 article, Charter 88 coordinator Anthony Barnett engaged repeatedly with Nairn and rehearsed the idea that Britain’s constitution was ‘archaic’, defined by the 1688 settlement, and in need of overhaul.132 Nairn even trialled part of his argument in Gordon Brown’s edited book Red Paper on Scotland in 1975, which drew a response from the editor.133 This testifies to the wider audience of this thesis beyond Marxists. In a 1989 pamphlet on the future of Labour, for example, the centre-left journalist John Lloyd alluded to the thesis approvingly, noting that on the ‘far left’, the ‘view that Britain’s democracy is a flawed and partial one which, by the relative ease of its development … has created neither a thoroughgoing bourgeois class nor a relatively transparent governing structure, has been strongly put and has gained ground’.134 The Nairn–Anderson thesis also, in a roundabout way, shaped the arguments of the Observer columnist Will Hutton, who – as discussed in 127

Scott Hamilton, The Crisis of Theory: E. P. Thompson, the New Left and Postwar British Politics (Manchester, 2012), 111–116. 128 Tom Nairn, The Break-Up of Britain: Crisis and Neo-Nationalism (London, 1977), 17, 19, 22. 129 Richard English and Michael Kenny, ‘British Decline or the Politics of Declinism’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations 1:2 (1999), 252–266. 130 Howe, ‘Some Intellectual Origins of Charter 88’, 556–557; Finlayson, Making Sense of New Labour, 70–71. 131 Elliott, Labourism and the English Genius, xiii–xv. 132 Barnett, ‘Constitutional Possibilities’. 133 Brown, ‘Introduction’ and Tom Nairn, ‘Old Nationalism and New Nationalism’ in Brown (ed.), Red Paper on Scotland, 16–17, 22–58. 134 John Lloyd, A Rational Advance for the Labour Party (London, 1989), 36.

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Chapter 2 – had made constitutional reform central to reversing ‘decline’ in his bestselling book The State We’re In.135 Deploying the same language, Hutton argued that Britain must ‘modernise its institutions’ because of its ‘pre-modern’ and ‘quasi-feudal’ state ‘handed down intact from the seventeenth century’.136 Importantly, the thesis diverged in crucial respects from the ‘Englishradical’ historical tradition, which had underpinned Benn’s influential arguments for ‘democratisation’ in the 1970s and early 1980s. It emphasised ‘archaic’ continuity with 1688 rather than successive expansions of the franchise through agitation and relied on unfavourable continental comparisons rather than a ‘national history’. To be sure, Benn’s historical framework shared some DNA with the New Left: for example, all placed great importance on the legacy of Empire as conditioning the exercise of power. Still, as Nairn–Anderson’s influence waxed from the late 1980s, intellectual justifications for constitutional reform increasingly reached, sometimes purely instinctively, for their version of ‘modernity’. Throwaway references to Britain’s ‘archaic’ constitution referred to the lack of a bill of rights and appeals to ‘modernisation’ rather than just ‘democratisation’ became more central. This trend is apparent in Labour Party documents.137 As a result, Benn was marginalised: his whole worldview was derided as outdated by other left-wing reformists. When Benn published his Commonwealth of Britain proposals in 1991, Barnett dismissed them as ‘almost like arguing for a better 19th century’.138 One major implication of the Nairn–Anderson thesis was that constitutional and economic reformation were critically interlinked – in their language, superstructure helped determine the base. The foundational importance of constitutional structures for Britain’s political economy was also a key contention for authors like Hutton and Paul Hirst, who, as well as supporting constitutional reform, also advocated forms of socio-economic democracy like the expansion of worker cooperatives and decentralised corporatism. As suggested in Chapter 2, this had important implications for other interpretations of modernisation. The constitution 135



136 137 138

Hutton’s main influence was David Marquand. But Marquand had some history with the New Left, and they perhaps influenced each through Charter 88. See David Marquand, ‘From Bodmin Moor to Cardiff Bay: A European Education?’ and Will Hutton, ‘David Marquand and Liberal Social Democracy’, in Hans Schuttle and Jeremy Nuttall (eds), Making Social Democrats: Citizens, Mindsets, Realities: Essays for David Marquand (Manchester, 2018), 287–303, at 290, 300–301. Other scholars have also noted the similarity between Nairn–Anderson and Hutton. See Madeleine Davis, ‘Labourism and the New Left’, in Callaghan, Fielding, and Ludlam (eds), Interpreting the Labour Party, 39–57, at 49; Tomlinson, The Politics of Decline, 44. Hutton, State We’re In, xi, 21–23, 26. Such as Labour Party, Report of the Working Party on Electoral Systems, 1993, 6. Quoted in Evans, Charter 88, 223.

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began to take precedence over questions of economic power in visions of ‘modernisation’, and even marginalised the latter. Indeed, this was the logical conclusion of claiming that, without constitutional reform, durable and progressive economic strategies were impossible in Britain. This marginalisation can be seen most strikingly in an article published by Barnett in 1988. Writing in the first edition of Samizdat, a liberal-left publishing project, Barnett argued that Wilson’s ‘economic modernisation’ was ‘closed to Kinnock because Thatcher is evidently the pace-setter of economic modernisation’. Thus, Barnett declared, ‘Labour need to take up the banner that Wilson so conspicuously left furled, that of political modernisation’.139 Though not the central point of the article, Barnett’s concession betrayed a striking lack of confidence in the left’s ability to speak to the economy. Only recently, as Chapter 2 noted, Barnett had waxed lyrical about the radical empowerment of workers in his preface to Lucas veteran Mike Cooley’s book Architect or Bee. The turning point for Barnett seems to be the 1987 general election, which (he has later suggested) combined with the Lawson boom to make the Thatcher ‘regime seem untouchable’ and that, in terms of democratic legitimacy, ‘there was something wrong with the system’.140 Barnett’s subsequent career would not be the same again. He was apparently planning to emigrate to follow his partner to America, but, in the same month that his Samizdat piece was published, Stuart Weir launched the campaign group Charter 88. Weir asked Barnett to co-ordinate Charter 88, which, he decided, allowed him to ‘challenge Thatcherism in a fresh way’.141 Constitutional reform was in many ways Barnett’s political lifeline. Barnett’s political crisis, and the path he took, illustrates how constitutional reform came to overtake socio-economic democracy in visions of power diffusion and ‘modern socialism’. For Barnett, only a radical reformation of the UK’s constitution would make possible the kind of decentralised and socially just economy that he championed as a leftist. While Barnett’s evolution was the most dramatic, this phenomenon is discernible in other thinkers who intervened in Labour debates. For example, while the academic Raymond Plant combined an exploration of ‘citizenship’ with a sustained discussion on markets, (in)equality, and the state’s role in the economy in an influential 1984 pamphlet for the Fabian Society, over the next decade Plant became increasingly preoccupied by constitutional questions.142 Hence, he suggested ‘citizenship’ as the organising theme 139 140 141 142

Barnett, ‘Can the Opposition Win the Filofaxes and Cordless Telephones?’, 15. Interview with Barnett, 21 October 2018. Ibid; Barnett, This Time, ix. Plant, Equality, Markets, and the State.

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for the Policy Review when asked by Kinnock’s office, and assumed the unenviable responsibility of investigating electoral reform for the party.143 For Barnett, Plant, and many others on the intellectual left, constitutional reform increasingly dominated their agendas.

Slowdown and Legacies

Momentum for ‘constitutional modernisation’, previously at full speed in parts of the Labour and the broader left, faltered in the later 1990s. This is apparent in policy changes after 1994, once Tony Blair became leader. Labour’s policy for a second chamber was turned into a promise to simply remove hereditary peers from the Lords.144 Similarly, Blair also insisted that the referendum for Scottish devolution should be split into two questions, the second on tax-raising powers, which annoyed other reformists like Donald Dewar and the Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown.145 Constitutional reformist campaigners themselves perceived dimming enthusiasm in the Labour leadership. By the end of the 1990s, Plant suggested that Blair saw debates over electoral reform as a ‘distraction’ from ‘modernising the Labour Party’, rather than fundamental to the project.146 While Charter 88’s coordinator Barnett argued in 1994 that a Labour government could represent a constitutional watershed, by late 1997 he worried that this may be foiled by, among other factors, Blair’s ‘presidentialism’ and more ‘adverse forms of modernisation’ that relied on an overcentralised state.147 This does not mean, however, that New Labour’s leaders were inherently lukewarm on constitutional reform or always had a rival agenda. There is far more evidence that they – like many others – were riding the bandwagon of constitutional modernisation in the early 1990s, and that its growing importance shaped their understanding of modernisation. Admittedly, New Labour’s future leaders were never convinced by electoral reform for the Commons. In a 1990 letter to Kinnock, Hattersley named Blair and Brown as internal opponents of Cook’s advocacy of PR.148 This was partly because Blair, and allies like Mandelson, were unconvinced by the idea that Labour could not win again on its own. 143



144 145 146 147 148

Raymond Plant, Citizenship, Rights and Socialism (London, 1988); Hughes and Wintour, Labour Rebuilt, 174. Patrick Wintour, ‘Hereditary Peers “Face Axe”’, Guardian, 8 February 1996, 2. Paddy Ashdown, The Ashdown Diaries. Volume One, 1988–1997 (London, 2000), 441– 442 [26 June 1996]; Campbell, Prelude to Power, 477 [24 June 1996]. Plant, ‘Proportional Representation’, 71–72. Barnett, ‘Constitutional Possibilities’, 369; Barnett, This Time, 2. Letter from Roy Hattersley to Neil Kinnock, 19 October 1990, HULL HATTERSLEY U DRH/3/2.

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They reached different conclusions from the supposed ‘dealignment’ of voting patterns from social class, arguing that Labour could recapture voters with a bold vision.149 But making support for electoral reform the key marker of whether Labour’s leaders supported a broader agenda of constitutional ‘modernisation’ is too restrictive. After all, Barnett’s favoured leader John Smith did not support electoral reform either.150 If we look beyond electoral reform, it is clear that Blair and Brown substantially engaged with the constitutional reform movements and their arguments. In 1993, both Blair and Brown attended Charter 88’s fifth birthday party together.151 This calculated social appearance would not have been that surprising to the other attendees. After all, that same year Blair had presented the New Agenda as Shadow Home Secretary, which proclaimed Labour’s constitutional agenda for ‘radical change and modernisation’, along with the committed reformist Graham Allen, who later worked on Blair’s leadership campaign.152 By 1993, furthermore, Blair had already presented constitutional reform as crucial for Labour’s future agenda, in essays and speeches that helped establish his prominence in national politics. In his 1991 Marxism Today article, Blair associated reforms like a written constitution with ‘modern society’, tying them to his arguments for a new communitarianism that was influencing Labour’s right in the early 1990s.153 In his 1993 essay for Renewal on ‘why modernisation matters’, Blair discussed a ‘modern notion of citizenship’, referencing the new communitarianism. This meant that ‘constitutional reform becomes integral not peripheral’, particularly the ability for citizens to participate in governance through devolution.154 He reiterated these arguments at a Charter 88 fringe meeting at Labour’s 1993 Conference (again alongside Brown) and during his 1994 leadership campaign, earning enthusiastic press releases from Charter 88.155 Privately, in 1993 Blair was also meeting with the Liberal Democrat leader Ashdown and enthusing about a ‘new contract between citizen and the state’.156 149 Blair, ‘Why Modernisation Matters’, 6; Mandelson, ‘Marketing Labour’, 11. 150 Anthony Barnett, ‘John Smith and the Path Britain Did Not Take’, Open Democracy, 12 May 2019 [www.opendemocracy.net/en/opendemocracyuk/john-smith-and-pathbritain-did-not-take/]. 151 Blair and Brown’s signatures are next to each other, suggesting that they arrived at the same time. Visitor’s Book, Charter 88 5th birthday party, 6 December 1993, ASL CHARTER 88, Box 1. 152 Labour, ‘A New Agenda for Democracy’, 444. 153 Tony Blair, ‘Forging a New Agenda’, Marxism Today (October 1991), 32–35, at 33. 154 Tony Blair, ‘Why Modernisation Matters’, Renewal 1:4 (1993), 4–12, at 6–7. 155 Caroline Ellis, ‘Political Officer’s Short Report to Council on the Party Conferences’, 9 October 1993, 1, ASL CHARTER 88 Box 10; Tony Blair Speech, 15 July 1994, and Letter from Anthony Barnett to Tony Blair, 20 July 1994, ASL CHARTER 88 Box 39. 156 Ashdown, Ashdown Diaries, 242 [1 December 1993].

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Brown, on his part, had also clearly shown his reformist tendencies by delivering Charter 88’s inaugural ‘Sovereignty Lecture’ during the 1992 general election. Sketching a schematic history, where the old left had assumed state and community were the same, but the new right wanted less government to defend the individual, Brown asserted the necessity of the community for individual empowerment, for ‘better’ not ‘less’ government. This, for Brown, made a ‘modern constitution … essential to the task of establishing a modern view of society and in my view a modern view of democratic socialism’.157 Brown’s personal interest in particular should not be doubted. He had supported Scottish devolution for years and retained a burning intellectual interest in constitutional reform. Barnett recalls that the first question he asked after delivering his 1992 Charter 88 lecture was ‘Was Tom [Nairn] here?’.158 Yet, if Blair and Brown were loudly proclaiming their enthusiasm for constitutional reform in the early 1990s, they were less likely to do so later in the decade. Partly, this was simply because of a shifting electoral context. Constitutional reform caused problems for Labour during the 1992 election campaign, when Kinnock refused to rule out PR and consequently exposed divisions in the party.159 While constitutional reformists liked to argue that their package was electorally popular, Peter Mandelson later reflected that, while campaigning in his constituency, ‘I never met anyone on the doorstep of Hartlepool who claimed to be a convert to New Labour because of constitutional reform’.160 Significantly, influential focus group reports of swing voters, such as the research underpinning the Fabian Society’s Southern Discomfort pamphlets, suggested that constitutional reform was not raised by any of the ‘C1/C2’ target voters.161 Even when one such report highlighted voter hatred of the political class, the mooted solution was tax hypothecation (ringfencing taxation revenues for particular spending areas like health or education), rather than more sweeping constitutional reforms.162 These focus group reports apparently influenced Blair more than Smith.163 However, there are other more relevant forces than electoralism in constraining the further advancement of constitutional ‘modernisation’. In the wider international scene, the optimism over ‘democratisation’, 157 158 159 160 161 162 163

Brown, ‘Constitutional Change and the Future of Britain’, 181, 186. Interview with Barnett, 21 October 2018. Foley, The Politics of the British Constitution, 204–206. Quoted in Morrison, Reforming Britain, 495. Gould Mattinson Associates, Qualitative Research; Radice, Southern Discomfort. Giles Radice and Stephen Pollard, More Southern Discomfort (London, 1993), 8, 15. Deborah Mattinson, Talking to a Brick Wall: How New Labour Stopped Listening to the Voter and Why We Need a New Politics (London, 2010), 103–104.

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which had fuelled interest in constitutional reform in the early 1990s, was subsiding. It was viciously confounded by the descent of Yugoslavia into brutal civil wars and ethnic cleansing. Within Labour, the high point for constitutional modernisation was undoubtedly 1993, but the seeds of this disillusionment were already sprouting that year. Smith’s conference speech admitted that ‘here in our own continent of Europe, the optimism generated by the end of the Cold War has been overtaken by new uncertainties. The transition to democracy was bound to be risky, long, and hard – as recent events in Russia and the states of the former Soviet Union show only too clearly’.164 It is also relevant that enthusiastic reformists were unevenly distributed across the party, which limited the extent to which it could define Labour’s agenda. They predominated in the intellectual and journalistic metropolitan left. Admittedly, this fuelled the take-up of ideas of constitutional ‘modernisation’ in the first place. There were several linkages between Anderson and Nairn and socialist constitutional reformists, helping spread this language of ‘modern’ and ‘archaic’ constitutions. Both Nairn and Anderson were signatories of Charter 88 and Nairn was approached to be a trustee (as was David Marquand).165 Barnett not only knew Anderson as a former member of the New Left Review editorial board but was personal friends with Nairn.166 These connections are transparent from the acknowledgements pages of landmark books by socialist constitutional reformists.167 The loudest proponents of constitutional reform, therefore, tended to come from a closely networked journalistic and academic left. This concentration of support had a material basis: Charter 88, the campaign group Common Voice (which arose out of TV87), the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform, and the Plant Commission, were all substantially funded by the Joseph Rowntree Social Service Trust (later the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust), which decided to promote a ‘popular front strategy’ after the 1987 election and deliberately subsidised those exploring constitutional reform.168 Yet, these shared networks raised the common accusation that constitutional reform was simply the hobbyhorse of the ‘chattering ­ classes’. Charter 88 was undoubtedly concerned about the argument 164 165 166 167

168

Smith, ‘Leader’s Speech’, Brighton 1993. Charter 88 Working Party papers, June 1989, ASL CHARTER 88, Box 1; ‘Charter 88’. Interview with Barnett, 21 October 2018. A flavour: Nairn thanked Barnett (twice) in the preface to Break-Up of Britain (1977). Nairn also thanked James Cornford, who later led the IPPR’s work on constitutional reform, and Gordon Brown. Meanwhile, Hutton also acknowledged Barnett in The State We’re In (1995), while Barnett acknowledged Nairn and Hutton in This Time (1997). JRRT, Trusting in Change, 15–18.

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and tried to counter it in its literature, especially its leaflets aimed at Labour members.169 Many in Charter 88 wanted to build a mass movement, encouraged by the rapid growth in signatories. However, on this theme there was tension. Charter 88 was also strongly engaged in lobbying activities among political elites. Internal debates were conducted over how far the group should prioritise this activity and how far it should try to construct a wider movement.170 Undoubtedly, it invested heavily in a lobbying strategy, for instance, by producing regular briefing reports for MPs.171 The close-knit nature of these reformist communities was a source of constitutional reform’s weakness as well as its strength. The fact that proponents of reform were so concerned about the ‘chattering classes’ attack suggests perhaps that they knew it had a grain of truth.172 Copeland has rightly noted that the leftist conversion to ‘new constitutionalism’ was strongest among intellectuals and cultural figures.173 Constitutional reform was not as strongly apparent among other Labourite power bases such as the Parliamentary Labour Party or the trade unions. This should not be overstated. Support was strong enough to ensure that Labour could commit to its 1992 platform – which, in the context of the party’s history, was a radical departure. Hence, the 1992 intake of Labour MPs were often in favour of reform platforms like PR, and according to surveys a majority of party members were supportive of liberal constitutional reforms.174 Some trade unionists were also very supportive, especially Gavin Laird of the AEEU (who was a leading member of Charter 88). Even many of the more cautious and internally divided big unions (UNISON, TGWU, and GMBU) supported ECHR incorporation as part of their shift to supporting ‘Social Europe’ and protecting individual workers’ rights through law rather than collective bargaining.175 Polling done in late 1992 showed that 343 Labour council group leaders were supportive of devolution, an FOI bill and an elected second chamber, and a bill of rights. Nevertheless – even at the high point of constitutional modernisation – these council group leaders were split on PR and (reflecting the endurance of older Labour views) 169



170



171 172 173 174 175

Charter 88, Why Every Labour Supporter Should Sign; Foley, The Politics of the British Constitution, 143–144. Michael Rustin, ‘What Kind of Meetings for Charter 88’, c. 1989, ASL CHARTER 88 Box 1. See ASL CHARTER 88 Box 15. Evans, Charter 88, 119–120. Copeland, ‘The Labour Party and the Politics of Constitutional Reform’, 109–110. Wintour, ‘Back PR’; Foley, The Politics of the British Constitution, 284; Evans, Charter 88, 174, 178. Evans, Charter 88, 228, 231.

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recorded significantly lower trust levels in the judiciary’s impartiality than the other parties, a major roadblock to a fully fledged written constitution.176 Labour MP Clare Short, who supported PR and saw herself as a leading campaigner on rights, continued to reject a bill of rights on democratic grounds (to the annoyance of attendees of Charter 88’s Constitutional Convention in 1991 who – an embarrassed Charter 88 member regretfully reported – ‘howled rude comments while she [Short] was arguing her case’).177 Enthusiastic backers who were signed up to the whole package tended to be concentrated in smaller groups like the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform and the LCC, which had overlapping memberships.178 Furthermore, the policymaking power of the constitutional reformists was always limited; for every supportive Shadow Cabinet member like Robin Cook, there was another more sceptical voice like Jack Straw. The most enthusiastic reformist policymakers also tended to be outside the party’s formal structure. The IPPR, for example, became fulsome proponents of a written constitution similar to Charter 88’s approach.179 Their nature as an autonomous institution allowed constitutional issues to be sidelined when convenient. Working groups established publicly by Labour still caused problems. Smith had to prepare a carefully worded statement and offer the compromise of a referendum on electoral reform in response to the Plant working group in 1993, whose advocacy of supplementary vote was itself a compromise – other members would have preferred either the additional member system or first past the post.180 But the leadership could entirely ignore the IPPR’s comprehensive written constitution, reprinted twice in the early to mid-1990s, which called for a complete overhaul of Britain’s political structures.181 Combined, these forces ensured that the political momentum for constitutional ‘modernisation’ declined from its 1993 highpoint. While in his 1993 Renewal article Blair framed constitutional reform as ‘integral’, these bold statements did not feature in his 1995 Renewal piece, which introduced newer themes of modernisation, such as a third way beyond 176 Joseph F. Fletcher, ‘Rights Culture and Constitutional Reform’, in McDonald, Reinventing Britain, 76–103, at 82–87. For the survey’s methodology, see William L. Miller, Annis M. Timpson, and Michael H. Lessnoff, The Political Culture in Contemporary Britain: People and Politicians, Principles and Practice (Oxford, 1996). 177 Charter 88/The Independent, Constitutional Convention, 9–10. Barnett had a friendlybut-fractious relationship with Short due to this disagreement. See their correspondence from 5 October 1990 to 3 January 1991, ASL CHARTER 88 Box 43. 178 Evans, Charter 88, 126. 179 Hughes and Wintour, Labour Rebuilt, 172–174. 180 Plant, ‘Proportional Representation’, 71. 181 IPPR, Written Constitution.

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‘grand ideologies’.182 By the mid-1990s, this mattered more than ever. As policymaking power had centralised in Labour, the leadership largely chose overall themes, such as ‘modernisation’, and picked ‘symbolic policies’ to embody them. This then-shaped governing priorities. Constitutional reform was central to Smith’s plans for a ‘modern Labour Party’ – hence its prominence in his 1992 leadership bid and 1993 conference address. However, Blair’s symbolic policies increasingly looked elsewhere, such as to the promise of being ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’ after the horrific murder of James Bulger, and – as the next chapter will discuss – to ‘education, education, education’. This may help explain why, once New Labour entered government, initiatives like the Jenkins Commission on electoral reform, and the ‘second stage’ of House of Lords reform, were left at the bottom of Blair’s red briefcase. Nonetheless, despite this undoubted loss of momentum, we should not underestimate the unprecedented nature of Labour’s agenda for constitutional ‘modernisation’ by the time it entered government. Key reforms like ECHR incorporation, devolution, and an FOI bill were all locked into Labour’s platform by the 1997 election. Indeed, following secret meetings between Blair and Ashdown, Labour worked with the Lib Dems prior to 1997 to prepare for the hung-parliament scenario, in which further cooperation would be needed to secure these constitutional changes.183 Labour’s commitment to the creation of a Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly was one of the most prominent and significant survivors. Thus, in 1996, not long before he became Prime Minister, Blair was still arguing that constitutional reform was an ‘essential part of new Britain’, primarily referring to devolution.184 The fact that Blair was speaking at the John Smith Memorial Lecture reminds us of the importance of Smith’s leadership in bequeathing these reformist legacies.185 In another 1996 essay, Blair reaffirmed Labour’s commitments to ‘political reform and modernization, to make our government fit for the twenty-first century’, again arguing that ‘[d]ecentralization of government is essential’ and that ‘[d]evolving power and democratizing power is an idea whose time has come’.186 182 Tony Blair, ‘Power for a Purpose’, Renewal 3:4 (1995), 11–16. 183 ‘Report of the Joint Consultative Committee on Constitutional Reform’ (1996), in Blackburn and Plant, Constitutional Reform, 468–481; Ewan MacAskill, ‘Lib-Lab Body Set Up to Speed Reforms’, Guardian, 30 October 1996, 4. 184 Tony Blair, ‘John Smith Memorial Lecture’, in Richards (ed.), Tony Blair in His Own Words, 137–140, at 138. 185 Indeed, Charter 88 cannily ensured that the invitation came from John Smith’s widow as ‘[i]t will be thought difficult to refuse an invitation from Elizabeth’. See Colin Darracott, ‘Labour’, 22 March 1995, ASL CHARTER 88 Box 13. 186 Blair, ‘Introduction’, in Radice (ed.), What Needs to Change, 3–21, at 14.

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It is of historic importance that, by 1997, this sense that the ‘time had come’ to ‘modernise’ the British constitution still influenced the Labour Party. There are clearly many other relevant forces, but it is partly because these ideas entered Downing Street on the back of Labour’s landslide that British political parties today fight not just for seats in Westminster, but in Holyrood and the Senedd, and that, ironically, a recent Conservative Prime Minister was first able to cultivate his public profile as Mayor of London. Perhaps even more ironically given the attraction of ‘modernising the constitution’ to Smith and Donald Dewar, both opponents of separatist Scottish nationalism, these constitutional reforms also seem to have unintentionally provided a vehicle for the ascendancy of the Scottish National Party.187 The emergence of the intellectual case for ‘modernising the constitution’, and its spread through key powerbases of the British left in the early 1990s, therefore, had lasting consequences. It ensured that, once Labour finally returned to government, it carried with it a historic agenda that has fundamentally reshaped contemporary Britain.

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Ben Jackson, The Case for Scottish Independence: A History of Nationalist Political Thought in Modern Scotland (Cambridge, 2020), 144.

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Modernisation and Labour’s Economic Strategy

It is wishful thinking (in my opinion) to believe that there is any ­alternative to a modernisation and expansion of our manufacturing industries as the means of future prosperity — Nicholas Kaldor to Harold Wilson, 1975.1

It is not a question of whether we modernise the British economy but how we modernise it, on whose terms we modernise it, in whose ­interests we modernise it

— Tom Sawyer, 1988.2

The most important task of modernisation is to invest in human capital — Tony Blair and Gerhard Schröder, 1998.3

In Labour’s political economy, ‘modernisation’ was consistently crucial from the leadership of Harold Wilson to that of Tony Blair. That ‘modernisation’ was an influential economic concept for Wilson is well known; his first government of 1964–1970 is famous for its ambitious and thwarted attempt to harness the ‘white heat of technology’ and ‘modernise’ Britain’s ‘industrial base’. But, in different ways, it was also crucial for every Labour leader subsequently, up to and including Blair. Understanding this is vital if we are to fully grasp the evolution of Labour’s economic strategy and its relationship with new challenges of the late twentieth century. Scrutinising the plural left-wing appeals to ‘modernisation’ from the 1970s to the 1990s throws new light on the thinking behind Labour’s economic policies and their wider significance. Two historical insights emerge, one of continuity and one of change. First, Labour politicians and thinkers, from many factions, were continually obsessed with the 1

Nicholas Kaldor, ‘The Role of Manufacturing Industry in Britain’s Economic Future’, 30 June 1975, TNA PREM 16/363. 2 Conference 1988, 17. 3 Tony Blair and Gerhard Schröder, Europe: The Third Way/Die Neue Mitte (London, 1998). [https://library.fes.de/pdf-files/bueros/suedafrika/02828.pdf].

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task of ‘modernising’ the ‘supply side’ of the British economy, to remain ‘competitive’ and secure sustainable growth. Supply-side modernisation, driven at least in part by the active state, emerges as a Labour fixation throughout the late twentieth century. This historical continuity has important implications. It means that New Labour’s economic strategy in the 1990s shared more DNA with previous Labour leaderships than implied by its own leaden stereotypes of ‘Old Labour tax and spend’ and by accusations from others that it became ‘Thatcherite’. It shows the ongoing influence of powerful strands of social-democratic economic thought on the Labour Party into the 1990s and 2000s. Second, focusing on modernisation shows that Labour’s economic strategy did not just transform in relation to the relative weight of public and private ownership and the broad turn towards marketisation, crucial though both of those changes were. For most of the late twentieth century, Labour politicians and strategists assumed that manufacturing was the most important sector for an economic modernisation. By the early twenty-first century, however, manufacturing had been usurped by ‘human capital’, which became the new ‘commanding height’ of the economy. This evolution partly reflects intellectual change, but also speaks to underlying shifts in the UK’s political economy as it entered the new millennium, whose ambivalent legacies still shape the country at the time of writing. By focusing on economic ‘modernisation’ and Labour together, this chapter engages with several ongoing debates in the literature. Historians of Labour often focus on economic policy. Some divide the period into more or less discrete blocs: Wilsonian ‘Keynesianism-plus’, the ambitious Alternative Economic Strategy (AES), Neil Kinnock’s ‘supply-side socialism’, John Smith’s ‘prawn cocktail offensive’, and Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s break with ‘tax and spend’ and embracing of public and private ‘partnerships’.4 Others prefer to emphasise continuity, often pointing to the persistence of social democratic ‘values’ or ‘ends’, such as ‘equality’, even as the ‘means’ transform.5 If we push economic ‘modernisation’ into the frame, the picture is one of continuity, but not the one usually invoked by those following Anthony Crosland’s distinction between means and ends. ‘Modernising’ the ‘supply side’ of the British economy emerges as a central concern of the Labour Party into the twenty-first century. Ilaria Favretto has shown that 1960s ‘Wilsonism’ represented the political subordination of both the left-wing Bevanites 4 Wickham-Jones, Economic Strategy and the Labour Party; Wickham-Jones, ‘Anticipating Social Democracy’; Driver and Martell, New Labour. 5 Diamond (ed.) New Labour’s Old Roots.

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and revisionist Croslandites to a productivist, technocratic socialism that prioritised state interventions for the ‘modernisation’ of the economy’s capacity.6 Jim Tomlinson valuably points to a ‘longer-term nexus of ideas about industrial modernization’ in British post-war history and identifies ‘modernization’ as a dominant economic ‘narrative’ of the 1950s and 1960s.7 For Labour, this should be pushed chronologically further forward. As the first third of this chapter shows, there was a sustained left-wing interest in ‘modernising’ the ‘supply side’ of the economy, continuing until at least the millennium.8 ‘Modernising’ the economy’s capacity to achieve sustainable, non-inflationary growth, especially using the state to boost the volume or quality of investment, was a stated priority of figures as diverse as Tony Benn, Neil Kinnock, Harriet Harman, and Gordon Brown. This continuity has been obscured by erroneous claims of novelty by many of these political actors. Over several decades, the supply side was repeatedly rediscovered by (somewhat amnesiac) leftwing politicians and intellectuals searching for a ‘modern’ policy platform. Yet, the evidence demonstrates the enduringly seductive appeal of ‘supply-side modernisation’ to the Labour Party across the second half of the twentieth century. It also shows clear intellectual and argumentative inheritances between Brown or Blair and past Labour politicians – whether they were aware of them or not – and an ongoing strategic role for the state in New Labour’s political economy. Crucially, however, what the state should be doing to the supply side changed – and not only in the perennially controversial area of public ownership. As the second third of the chapter demonstrates, over the 1990s, there was a clear dethronement of ‘industry’, especially the manufacturing sector, in Labour visions of ‘modernising the economy’.9 This was accompanied by an elevation of education and training: ‘human capital’ became the ‘commanding heights’ of the ‘modern economy’, a foremost priority for the social-democratic ‘active state’. This change was complex in origin: it had cultural, economic, and international aspects, and arose partly from the contingencies of politics but also from intellectual transformations within British socialism. For most Labour policymakers, moreover, this was a subtle shift in emphasis rather than a complete transformation. Wilson, after all, is famous for 6 Ilaria Favretto, ‘“Wilsonism” Reconsidered: Labour Party Revisionism 1952–64’, Contemporary British History 14:4 (2000), 54–80. 7 Jim Tomlinson, ‘Mr Attlee’s Supply-Side Socialism’, The Economic History Review 46:1 (1993), 1–22, at 20; Tomlinson, Managing the Economy, Managing the People, 15–16, 57. 8 As noted in Hill, The Labour Party and Economic Strategy, 113–115. 9 Politicians often treated ‘industry’ and ‘manufacturing’ as near synonyms. Sometimes they referred to energy resource extraction, especially coal mining.

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the Open University and a careful listener could still hear references to ‘industry’ in New Labour speeches. It is perhaps because of its subtlety that scholars have underestimated the importance of this change. While some earlier studies recognised the prominence of ‘human capital’ in New Labour’s economics, this has rarely been situated within Labour’s enduring attachment to supply-side ‘modernisation’, and it has not been explored by more recent histories.10 Yet, this intellectual evolution is highly significant. For one, it provides historians with a more accurate and illuminating account of the policy frameworks of 2000s Labour governments and their differences with the 1970s. The earliest characterisations of New Labour’s economics essentially accused it of amounting to a surrender to ‘Thatcherism’ and the consummation of ‘neoliberalism’. These accounts were insightful in some ways: it is not credible to deny that the Labour Party conceded ground to its political opponents on direct taxation, trade and financial regulation, and trade union law.11 New Labour clearly embraced a more marketised economy, going further than previous Labour leaderships, which is best described as a broad acceptance of ‘market liberalism’.12 But these pathbreaking accounts were still hampered by the fact that most of them appeared in the late 1990s and early 2000s – in other words, before Labour’s biggest increases in public services spending arrived. More recent assessments have rightly avoided framing Blair and Brown’s economics as mere concession. But there still remains a heated debate about their governments. One side focuses on demonstrable achievements from New Labour’s time in power. These often consist of the minimum wage, the signing of the Social Chapter, increased spending on health and education, initiatives like Sure Start, and reductions in rough sleeping and poverty through targeted schemes and tax credits.13 Another tendency instead points to the vulnerability or timidity of these achievements, arguing that they were easily reversible and were too accepting of free market shibboleths.14 10

In the early- to mid-2000s, some scholars noted the importance of human capital for New Labour. These earlier observations have been neglected as subsequent debates have focused on ‘neoliberalism’. See Noel Thompson, Political Economy and the Labour Party: The Economics of Democratic Socialism 1884–2005, 2nd ed. (London, 2006), 263– 265; David Coates, Prolonged Labour: The Slow Birth of New Labour Britain (Basingstoke, 2005), 31–35. 11 Hay, The Political Economy of New Labour, 42. 12 Offer, ‘The Market Turn’; Kay, ‘Redistributive Market Liberalism’. 13 Andrew Hindmoor, What’s Left Now? The History and Future of Social Democracy (Oxford, 2018), 221, 224. 14 Kayte Lawton, Graeme Cooke, and Nick Pearce, The Condition of Britain: Strategies for Social Renewal (London, 2014), 20–29.

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Both these interpretations have some truth; both, however, miss a crucial intellectual context surrounding Labour as it entered government. By the late 1990s, influential sections of the policymaking left believed that they had developed a ‘modern’ way for the active state to hardwire sustainable, broad-based growth into the economy. This involved pivoting from a privileging of manufacturing to focusing on other ­government- and statesponsored investments, especially in ‘human capital’. To paraphrase Brent Cebul’s recent study (and critique) of the American New Democrats’ economics, this could be called New Labour’s ‘post-industrial policy’.15 Recovering this intellectual context is essential for a historical understanding of New Labour. It illuminates Blair’s famous claim that his party’s top three priorities were ‘education, education, education’. New Labour’s education policies, which included very large increases in expenditure, were not just random ways of spending money to appease social-democratic consciences, nor were they just a soundbite. They reflected new assumptions on how a ‘modern’ state secured the long-term health of the British economy, and thus the livelihoods of its citizens. As Jenny Andersson has argued, this new political economy arose not from ‘neoliberalism’, but instead from an intellectual reinvention of technocratic social democracy.16 Nevertheless, as Andersson also argues, this reinvention was problematic, and from the perspective of the 2020s has aged poorly in many ways.17 This chapter will conclude by recognising that policies which made sense in one context can translate badly into another. The dethronement of manufacturing within Labour’s vision of ‘modernisation’ posed uncomfortable problems concerning job polarisation, regional inequality, and gendered understandings of work. It also had implications for the economy’s relationship with the financial sector. After 2008, all these issues loom large today.

Déjà vu: ‘Modern’ Economic Policy and the ‘Supply Side’

Throughout the late twentieth century, socialists and social democrats tried to articulate a ‘modern’ political economy. In the 1970s, the 1980s, and the 1990s, diverse actors on the left, from the Bennites and the municipal left to Kinnock, Brown, and Blair, claimed to have developed a ‘modern’ economic policy, which left behind an ‘old’ Keynesianism supposedly concerned only with macroeconomic lever-pulling and instead turned decisively to ‘supply-side’ intervention. 15

Brent Cebul, ‘Supply-Side Liberalism: Fiscal Crisis, Post-Industrial Policy, and the Rise of the New Democrats’, Modern American History 2:2 (2019), 139–164. 16 Andersson, The Library and the Workshop, 1, 27. 17 Ibid.

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This pattern was not universal. Some influential commentators continued to champion the potential of demand management, especially given the severity of unemployment.18 While often invoking past achievements and parallels,19 these arguments sometimes also highlighted the computerisation revolution in econometrics. Enthusiasts like the Labour MP Jeremy Bray, for example, claimed that economic modelling and forecasting would deliver a ‘modern economics’ that could transform the efficacy of demand management.20 However, many others in the left and elsewhere rejected this as technocratic wishful thinking.21 While an interesting development among specialists, this hardly captured the imaginations of many. In contrast, both printed and archival sources reveal the seductive appeal of the ‘supply side’ for a wide variety of left-wing policymakers, and many politicians themselves. There was a repeated rediscovery of the supply side and recurrent assertions of its newfound centrality in the ‘modern world’. This claim often relied on a clichéd portrayal of a previous ‘Keynesian consensus’, where politicians were supposedly almost solely concerned with demand and macroeconomic tinkering – an impression that does not reflect either ‘historical Keynes’ or ‘actually existing Keynesianism’.22 It nonetheless proved a powerful rhetorical counterpoint in narratives of ‘modern’ economic policy. One of the most famous invocations of supply-side modernisation was made by Wilson, in his 1963 Scarborough conference speech, which appealed to the ‘white heat’ of modern science.23 Yet, in the 1970s, thinkers on the Labour and extra-Labour left thought that it was they, not Wilson, who had truly discovered a ‘modern’ supply-side policy. The key theorists behind the AES, such as Stuart Holland, contended that secular trends in ‘modern capitalism’ rendered ‘traditional’ demand management ineffective. ‘Keynesianism’ was now insufficient; interventions 18

Peter Kellner, ‘Be Wary of Left’s Secret Thatcherites’, New Statesman, 29 November 1985, 9. 19 The 1930s and the 1945–1951 Labour governments were stalwarts. See, for example, Peter Shore, ‘Anthony Crosland Memorial Lecture’, 7 May 1983, LSE SHORE/13/158. 20 Jeremy Bray, ‘New Models of the Future’, New Statesman, 18 May 1979, 710–715; Letters from Jeremy Bray to Michael Foot, 8 October and 18 November 1982, PHM MF M13/1. See also the ‘modelling war’: A. J. C. Britton, Macroeconomic Policy in Britain, 1974–1987 (Cambridge, 1991), 85–123. 21 Letters, New Statesman, 1 June 1979, 790. Denis Healey was also a sceptic of modelling after his experiences in 1976. See Denis Healey, The Time of My Life (London, 1989), 381–383, 393, 402. 22 For these terms, see Ewen Green and Duncan Tanner, ‘Introduction’, and Richard Toye, ‘The Labour Party and Keynes’, in E. H. H. Green and Duncan Tanner (eds), The Strange Survival of Liberal England : Political Leaders, Moral Values and the Reception of Economic Debate (Cambridge, 2007), 1–37 and 153–185, at 29, 153. 23 Ben Pimlott, Harold Wilson (London, 1992), 302–305.

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in the structure and ownership of production had become vital.24 As discussed in Chapter 1, it was the growth in oligopolistic multinationals, and their perceived economic power, that was the important structural shift for this group, a perception shared by many left-wing politicians across Europe.25 AES champions explicitly tied their perception of a transforming capitalism to the eroding potency of existing macroeconomic tools. For instance, the Labour MP Judith Hart argued at the party’s 1975 annual conference that capitalism was facing a ‘new kind of crisis’, for which the tool of demand management was ‘not enough’ because ‘the whole nature of British capitalism has changed … from a system of medium and small sized firms, to one in which there is a tremendous concentration of ownership of industry into a comparatively small number of leading conglomerates, monopolies and British multinationals’.26 The left’s analytical reliance on ‘multinationals’ became less common over the 1980s. Focus shifted onto other perceived ‘globalising’ trends, especially in capital and currency trading. But the idea that socialist economic policy must move beyond demand management recurred on the Labour and radical left. For example, the Greater London Council (GLC)’s neo-Marxist London Industrial Strategy (1985), which was discussed in Chapter 2, argued that macroeconomic management was ‘inadequate’ for London due to rapid deindustrialisation, a slump in profitability, and unemployment: ‘The limit of Keynesianism is that it does not address the main issues in production’.27 They used this to frame their plans for local industrial intervention. This was not simply a rhetorical trick by Labour’s left to return nationalisation or expanding public ownership to the agenda. The trope was also deployed by Neil Kinnock and his allies in the mid-1980s. For example, the party’s 1985 Jobs and Industry campaign asserted that achieving full employment required the construction of ‘a strong modern economy … Increasing demand will not be enough on its own … Far-reaching socialist changes are needed in the supply side in order to channel new demand into the most productive areas of the economy’.28 Kinnock himself made the same argument in his 1986 book Making Our Way. Macroeconomic reflation without supply-side reform, Kinnock suggested, would merely suck in imports and turbocharge inflation, as it had in the Barber boom of the early 1970s. Thus, ‘[t]raditional Keynesianism is not enough … 24

Holland, The Socialist Challenge, 15, 29. 25 Willy Brandt, Bruno Kreisky, and Olof Palme, ‘A European Correspondence’, New Statesman, 17 September 1976, 366–369. 26 Conference 1975, 211. 27 GLC, London Industrial Strategy, 14–15. 28 Labour Party, Investing in Britain (London, 1985), 5–6.

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Labour’s objective is to build a competitive, innovative, modern industrial sector’, to ‘modernize’ Britain.29 Labour thinkers rediscovered the supply side again, and castigated demand management as inadequate and old-fashioned once more, during the pivotal Policy Review of 1987–1991. One of the Review’s major themes, as defined internally by senior Party figures30 and by the relevant review group, was ‘modernising the economy to be competitive’.31 This was often known as ‘supply side socialism’.32 Labour’s 1990 policy document Looking to the future argued that ‘modern government must be concerned with the supply side’.33 A turn to ‘the micro-economics of change’, away from ‘old-fashioned macro-strategies’, in response ‘the challenges of the 1990s’, was also how economist and Kinnock’s advisor, John Eatwell, represented the key change in Labour’s policy, privately and publicly.34 During the Review, this rhetorical and intellectual déjà vu did not go entirely unnoticed. Veteran Party figures like research officer Geoff Bish and general secretary Larry Whitty were among the few to take note. Whitty commented on an early draft that it ‘keeps using the word “new”; there is nothing new in it; it looks like the Labour policies of the 60’s and 70’s’.35 Similarly, Ken Livingstone described a later version of the Policy Review document as ‘pure Wilson’.36 The supply side kept its pride of place into the 1990s. Indeed, it was the core of Labour’s response to the nasty recession and spiralling unemployment of 1990–1993. During the 1992 election, Labour pledged to reverse ‘supply-side neglect’ and thus ‘decline’ – ‘supply-side policies … are at the core of Labour’s approach to economic policy’.37 After the defeat, while leadership candidate Smith thought some of the policies should adapt to ‘the late 1990s and the new century’, he was clear that Labour’s

29

Kinnock, Making Our Way, 49, 57. 30 Memo from Peter Mandelson to Charles Clarke, 16 August 1988, CAC KNNK 2/1/118. 31 Second draft of ‘Productive and Competitive Economy Policy Review Group Report’, PD:1467 (March 1988), 3, PHM LPA Policy Review Papers. 32 Labour Party, Meet the Challenge, Make the Change, 6. 33 Labour Party, Looking to the Future, 6. 34 John Eatwell, Draft of interim PRG statement ‘A Productive and Competitive Economy’, 21 April 1988, PHM LPA Policy Review Papers; John Eatwell, ‘The Development of Labour Policy, 1979–92’, in Jonathan Michie (ed.), The Economic Legacy, 1979–1992 (London, 1992), 333–340, at 334. 35 Memo from Larry Whitty to Geoff Bish and Peter Mandelson, 6 May 1988; Geoff Bish and Andy Batkin, Comments on 4th Draft of Productive and Competitive Economy PRG, PD:1497 (April 1988). Both in PHM LPA Policy Review Papers. 36 Benn, End of an Era, 544 [25 May 1988]. 37 Neil Kinnock, ‘From Recession to Recovery’, 6 April 1992, HULL HATTERSLEY U DRH/2/25.

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focus on the supply side of the economy remained vital.38 Recalling her period as Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury under Smith, Harriet Harman argues that they secured an ‘essential modernization of our economic policy’ by pivoting to ‘endogenous growth’ and ‘supply-side’ policies, claiming that this was a ‘huge change’.39 Outside the Party, policymakers at influential centre-left think tanks like the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) also (re)articulated this need for a ‘modern’ policy concerned with supply-side intervention and capacity expansion. The authors of the think tank’s pamphlet Next Left, argued that: The oldest slogan of democracy – full employment – remains as important as ever, but its achievement requires a move beyond the half-way house of demand management to the organisation of supply … [necessitating] institutions, ­ ­processes, regulation and investment for the macro management of supply.40

The accession of Tony Blair to the party leadership in 1994 is often represented as a sharp break in Labour’s economic strategy. Yet, at least in the respect of the need to ‘modernise’ Britain’s supply side, both Blair and Brown agreed – Brown was, after all, Smith’s Shadow Chancellor before he was Blair’s. In an October 1994 Guardian article, Brown described Labour’s ‘New Economics’ and emphasised expanding the economy’s long-term capacity as ‘the proper role of government in a modern economy’.41 In one speech, part of a series delivered to the Labour Finance and Industry Group in May 1995, Brown contended that government had a ‘critical role to play’ in Britain’s supply side, ‘preparing Britain for the twenty first century’.42 In another of the series, he echoed the rhetoric of Labour’s leaders past, by describing Labour’s proposals for the modernisation of Britain. We need to move our country from a low investment, low growth, low skill and low productivity economy to one characterised by high investment, high growth, high skills and high productivity … The central challenge of modernisation is to overcome this long-standing problem of under-investment in people, industry and our social and economic fabric.43



Decline, Oil, Europe, the Japanese, and the Microchip

Why did left-wing and Labour figures, from diverse factional standpoints and at various points over four decades, point to supply-side intervention 38 39 40 41 42

John Smith, New Paths to Victory (1992), MRC BICKERSTAFFE 657/34. Harman, A Woman’s Work, 147–148. Blackstone et al., Next Left, 26–27. Gordon Brown, ‘A Chance to Grow on Richer Soil’, Guardian, 22 October 1994, 26. Gordon Brown, ‘Labour’s Macroeconomic Framework’, 17 May 1995, LSE SHORE/ 16/107. 43 Gordon Brown, ‘The Dynamic Market Economy’, 1 May 1995, LSE SHORE/16/107.

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as the ‘modern’ path for economic policymaking? Key contexts, such as the strength of ‘declinism’ throughout, and at specific junctures the appearance of North Sea oil or the European Single Market, galvanised interest. However, politicians did not just advocate intervening in the supply side but modernising it. They sought the ‘modernisation’ of the economy itself, as well as a ‘modern’ policy platform of supply-side interventions. Here, perceptions of managerial, industrial, and technological transformation encouraged claims of supply-side ‘modernisation’. One of the most important contexts was widespread perceptions of ‘decline’ among British elites, labelled by several scholars as ‘declinism’.44 Loosely based on statistical reporting of relative economic decline (which was initially due to competitor ‘catch-up’, but became increasingly pressing in the 1970s), declinism usually morphed into stylised arguments about aristocratic cultures and strike-prone industries that distinguished Britain from its closest economic rivals. An enduring allegation levelled by Labour politicians, from Wilson to Blair,45 was the supposed ‘short-termism’ of British industry and finance, leading to persistent underinvestment and declining competitiveness in comparison to German and Japanese firms.46 The prominence of this attack did vary. While the 1960s Wilson governments famously diagnosed underinvestment in ‘white heat’ science and technology leading up to the 1964 election, David Edgerton has shown that when in government, Labour ministers changed their minds. Analyses demonstrated that levels of scientific investment in the UK were often higher than industrial competitors; consequently, ministers stopped blaming underinvestment in research and development (R&D) for relative economic decline. Nevertheless, following on from Macmillan, they were still concerned with industrial uncompetitiveness. Labour, therefore, pursued microeconomic interventions in government, such as selective financing, shifting state investment from military to civil projects, and restructuring production and management compositions through the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation. While abandoning the assumption that simply boosting R&D was the route to success, their ‘modernisation’ was still deeply concerned 44

David Edgerton, Warfare State: Britain, 1920–1970 (Cambridge, 2006), 7–8; English and Kenny, ‘British Decline or the Politics of Declinism?’; Tomlinson, The Politics of Decline. 45 Even Blair argued in 1995 that the UK’s financial and business sectors lacked ‘highquality investment over many years’ and a ‘long-term perspective’. See Blair, ‘The Economic Framework for New Labour’, in Capie and Wood (eds), Policy Makers on Policy, at 117–118. 46 This is a disputed claim. See Hirst, After Thatcher, 133–134; Edgerton, Warfare State, 265; N. F. R. Crafts, Britain’s Relative Economic Decline, 1870–1995: A Quantitative Perspective (London, 1997), 36–39.

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with industrial intervention.47 Declinism was crucial for many arguments for modernisation. This sense of decline drew energy from widespread perceptions of industrial retardation underpinning a declining balance of payments position and consequent ‘stop go’ growth patterns of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. These problems, and particularly the currency crises of 1967, 1976, and 1992, boosted arguments for strengthening British exports through direct supply-side intervention. As Tomlinson notes, ‘decline’ and ‘modernization’ were frequently linked, rhetorically and analytically.48 Another important context was the discovery of North Sea oil. In the 1970s and early 1980s, several figures championed oil as a transformative source of funds, which could be used to ‘modernise’ industry.49 Especially as manufacturing net exports began to fall precipitously, multiple figures pointed to the great hope of Scottish oil.50 In 1977, Jim Callaghan argued in his conference speech that ‘[t]he oil riches beneath the North Sea properly used can transform our economic future’, and the following year promised that Labour would ‘use the benefits of North Sea oil wisely to adapt and to modernise our society and our industry’.51 At the 1980 Labour conference, delegates submitted conference resolutions ‘for the revenue of North Sea oil to be invested in the modernisation of British industry’, and Denis Healey also championed its potential.52 Elsewhere, Tony Benn made the ‘concentration of most of the oil revenue on the modernisation of Britain’s manufacturing industry’ one of his eight key pledges.53 However, as Margaret Thatcher’s government progressed, the tone became bitter. Oil was privatised, and proceeds and tax revenues were diverted to foreign outflows and unemployment benefits. Just as this angered Scottish nationalists, who saw the oil as Scotland’s rather than the preserve of Westminster and multinationals, it also infuriated the Labour Party as it seethed in opposition.54 In 1986, Kinnock excoriated Thatcher for ‘wasting’ the proceeds of North Sea oil ‘instead of using them to modernize 47

David Edgerton, ‘The “White Heat” Revisited: The British Government and Technology in the 1960s’, Twentieth Century British History 7:1 (1996), 53–82; Jim Tomlinson, ‘The Labour Party and the Capitalist Firm, c. 1950–1970’, The Historical Journal 47:3 (2004), 685–708, at 700–701. 48 Tomlinson, Managing the Economy, Managing the People, 41–63. 49 By the 2010s, though, the left were more likely to argue that North Sea oil should have been used to establish a sovereign wealth fund: Carys Roberts and Mathew Lawrence, Our Common Wealth: A Citizen’s Wealth Fund for the UK (London, 2018), 7–8. 50 For example, Trades Union Congress, Economic Review (1978), 53, LSE SHORE/11/1. 51 [www.britishpoliticalspeech.org/speech-archive.htm?speech=175; www.britishpolitical​ speech.org/speech-archive.htm?speech=176]. 52 Conference 1980, 26–27. 53 Ian Aitken, ‘Benn’s 8-point Plan for “Radical Reform”’, Guardian, 23 January 1980, 4. 54 Jackson, The Case for Scottish Independence, 171.

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Britain’s own industrial capacity’.55 The squandering of petro-riches was also a major theme of rising star Gordon Brown’s published work in the late 1980s, and one of his key denunciations of ‘Thatcherism’.56 By 1990, Labour policy documents adopted a melancholic and accusatory tone: ‘The riches of North Sea oil … could have been used to transform Britain’s economy. Instead they have been wasted on an economic experiment which has produced unemployment and declining competitiveness.’57 As the hope of a petro-propelled modernisation receded, left-wing actors increasingly pointed to the imminent competition through European integration as an imperative for industrial modernisation: British industry needed to be modern, they argued, to be competitive in the new Europe. These arguments were made frequently throughout the troubled history of Britain’s entry into and relationship with Europe.58 But they were especially prominent in the late 1980s, as the 1992 entry into the European Single Market, and the prospect of competing with powerful firms in (West) Germany, loomed. Hence, they featured during the Policy Review. In briefing notes for convenors, Patricia Hewitt wrote that new policies must be ‘rooted in the 90s’, which in the economy meant the ‘completion of [European] internal market … reduction in oil … and hence intense competition in domestic, EEC and international markets’.59 In a specialist paper for one review group, Alan Cawson of the Labour Finance and Industry Group stressed that ‘[a]s 1992 approaches British firms will find themselves competing against more powerful European firms, such as Siemens, Thomson, Phillips and Nixdorf’.60 This does not, however, fully explain the prevalence of appeals to the ‘modernisation’ of industry, rather than just ‘competitiveness’. The words were often treated as synonymous. Yet, the emphasis on modernity was stimulated by two common perceptions of industrial change: the spread of more efficient and harmonious production, and gamechanging technological advancements. Particularly from the mid-1980s, left-wing actors were interested in new managerial and production methods that they observed in some British plants but especially in the plants of competitor firms in Japan, West Germany, and America. They characterised these method innovations as 55

Kinnock, Making Our Way, 28. 56 Gordon Brown, Where There Is Greed …: Margaret Thatcher and the Betrayal of Britain’s Future (Edinburgh, 1989), 25; Gordon Brown, ‘Thatcherism’, London Review of Books, 11:3 (1989), 3–4. 57 Labour Party, Looking to the Future, 5. 58 Saunders, Yes to Europe, 49. 59 Patricia Hewitt, ‘Policy Review: Key Themes’, May 1988, CAC KNNK 2/2/8. 60 Alan Cawson, ‘High-Tech Investment for the Future’, PD1843, December 1988, CAC KNNK 2/2/13.

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‘modern manufacturing’ and ‘modern industry’. For instance, the future dominance of ‘just-in-time’ production was heralded by figures as different as the Marxist economist and GLC employee Robin Murray and the Labour leader Kinnock.61 Here, as will be shown, the theorists behind ‘post-Fordism’ were influential, including Murray, Geoff Mulgan, and Charles Leadbeater. But the sense that manufacturing was evolving past ‘Fordism’ spread well beyond these writers. In 1988, Kinnock’s adviser Eatwell argued internally that one ‘keynote’ of Labour’s new economic strategy must be ‘flexibility’ because ‘[t]he economy will no longer be driven by mass-production’ but instead a ‘leading edge’ of ‘relatively small, highly competitive, always changing group of firms’.62 This perception was also influential at the IPPR, whose staff were, like the writers at Marxism Today, influenced by new managerial and business theories.63 Technological change was an ongoing concern throughout the period, especially microelectronics and major advances in computing.64 Interested politicians like Peter Shore, later Michael Foot’s Shadow Chancellor, collected early publications on microelectronics and its implications for UK manufacturers. One 1978 Department of Industry publication was blunt: ‘manufacturers who ignore, or are unaware of, the revolution microelectronics is bringing run the risk of waking up one day to find the market captured by competitors … inevitably, Britain’s capability as an exporting nation will also be affected’.65 In 1982, Tony Benn was clear: ‘modernisation’ of manufacturing was unavoidable because of technological change, especially the ‘microchip cutting a swathe through administrative work and modernisation transforming the factories’. For Benn, this ‘revolution’ could either be democratically controlled for the benefit of all or workers would instead be left to the mercies of capitalism.66 A joint Trades Union Congress (TUC)-Labour document from 1982 deliberately illustrated their proposed planning agreements and expansion of public ownership with the example of electronics and ­information technology, ‘key industries of the future’.67 61

Kinnock, Making Our Way, 78; GLC, London Industrial Strategy, 35. 62 Eatwell, ‘Interim Draft’, 21 April 1988. 63 Commission on Social Justice, Social Justice [1994], 72–73. For example, see Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman, In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies (New York, 1982), which was cited in Robin Murray, ‘Life after (Henry) Ford’, Marxism Today (October 1988), 8–14, at 12. 64 Tom Crowe and John Hywel Jones, The Computer and Society: Servant or Master (London, 1978). 65 Department of Industry, Microelectronics: The New Technology (London, 1978), 3; Letter from Celia Nield to Peter Shore, 2 July 1981. Both in LSE SHORE/13/10. 66 Benn, Arguments for Democracy, 144–146. 67 TUC-Labour Party, Economic Planning & Industrial Democracy, 31–35.

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Figure 6.1  Tony Blair’s office in 1995, when the roll-out of computers and fibre-optic communication symbolised technological change.

Benn’s solution of a major expansion of public ownership and dirigiste planning was abandoned, but not the focus on technological ‘modernisation’. During the Policy Review, the Productive and Competitive Economy group received several policy papers suggesting various government supplyside interventions that would encourage UK enterprises to ‘modernise’ by adapting to technological change, especially information technology.68 By the mid-1990s, the use of new information technology in the economy was conceived differently, particularly the assumption that manufacturing was under the most imperative to change.69 Nevertheless, the IPPR’s Social Justice Commission referred repeatedly to a technological ‘revolution’,70 and at the 1995 Labour Conference shadow minister Chris Smith presented a flashy video presentation on the new ‘Information Superhighway’, demonstrating the internet to the conference floor. He declared: ‘We stand on the threshold of a revolution as important as that brought about by the invention of the printing press half a millennium ago’ (Figure 6.1).71 68

Patrick Gray, ‘Promoting Industrial Research and Development’, 13 December 1988, CAC KNNK 2/2/13; Jeremy Bray (ed.) ‘Harnessing the Information Technology Revolution’, 24 October 1988, CAC KNNK 2/2/13. 69 Jacob Ward, ‘Financing the Information Age: London Telecity, the Legacy of IT-82, and the Selling of British Telecom’, Twentieth Century British History 30:3 (2019), 424–446. 70 Commission on Social Justice, Social Justice [1994], 64–65. 71 Conference 1995, 17–19; ‘Delegates Given Internet Lesson’, The Times, 3 October 1995, 6.

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Public Ownership?

None of this is to suggest that the differing methods for intervening in the supply side were not important. This was often one of the central controversies among Labour thinkers, politicians, and activists, particularly when public or private ownership, or sometimes protectionism or free trade, was discussed. Accordingly, the methods advocated for intervening in production changed dramatically from the 1970s to the 1990s. In the 1970s, AES proponents argued that, because Keynesian policies were ill-suited for ‘modern manufacturing’, and ‘the old planning techniques of 1954–1970 will prove even less effective in future’,72 a socialist government needed to increase its power over production.73 Consequently, Holland and Benn advocated compulsory planning agreements, controlling shares of 25 of the top 100 companies, and the nationalisation of the top clearing banks. For Benn, these measures would overcome the diversion of funds abroad and ‘short-termism’, and boost investment ‘to improve and modernise British industry’.74 To allow these ‘modernising’ interventions to take effect, many AES proponents also advocated import controls, a policy that gained further support from influential economists at Cambridge University, including Wynne Godley, Francis Cripps, and Nicholas Kaldor.75 Although they attacked Wilson’s National Plan and post-war nationalisation, these arguments drew on longstanding Labour Left rhetoric about the need for ‘planning’ and public ownership to address the challenges of modern society.76 During Kinnock’s leadership, Labour shelved the AES’s import controls, planning agreements and comprehensive nationalisations. While, as shown in Chapter 1, doubts were already emerging in the early 1980s, the landslide election defeats in 1983 and again in 1987 were crucial in stimulating the desire for policy change. These policy shifts were undertaken gradually. Kinnock initially emphasised state ‘planning’ that would allow UK manufacturing to ‘make modern things for modern markets’. Labour would create an expanded National Economic Development Office, regional and sectoral ‘Neddies’, and a National Investment Bank and a state holding company, the latter of which would use 72

Stuart Holland, ‘The New Economic Imperatives’, RD:473/November 1972, LSE SHORE/10/3. 73 Holland, The Socialist Challenge, 10–11, 15, 27, 62–63, 77. 74 ‘Benn’s Plans for Industry’, Guardian, 16 August 1974, 15. 75 Telegram from Nicholas Kaldor to Peter Shore, 5 May 1978, LSE SHORE/11/1. See also Wynne Godley, ‘Britain’s Chronic Recession – Can Anything Be Done?’, September 1978, LSE SHORE/11/1; Paul Levine, ‘Import Controls – on the Left’s Terms’, Marxism Today (December 1980), 13–18, at 15. 76 Robinson, History, Heritage, and Tradition, 27.

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equity stakes to restructure companies. It would also use regulation to repatriate investment funds for domestic investment. Public ownership retained a role, albeit a diminished one. A Labour government would retake a controlling share in British Telecom (BT), moving from 49 to 51 per cent equity, and would direct the company to facilitate the ‘revolution in information technologies’.77 After the 1987 defeat, the Policy Review shied away from planning and capital controls. But it continued to emphasise the necessity of ‘supply-side socialism’. The BT policy was retained and foregrounded, with a pledge to direct the company to undertake ‘the installation of a national broad band fibre optic cable network’ and thus ‘take us forward to the technology of the 21st century’. Review Group convenor Bryan Gould sought to make the BT pledge a ‘symbolic policy’ of the Party’s ‘modern’ platform.78 The Review also discussed boosting R&D, and using regulation to reduce predatory mergers and acquisitions, so that funds were instead spent on long-term investment.79 But, in 1990, it also toned down Labour’s attacks on the City of London to reduce the risk of capital flight in the event of an election victory.80 Under Blair and Brown, there were further major changes in the methods of supply-side ‘modernisation’, as both blamed Labour’s attachment to public ownership for its unpopularity and alleged ineffectiveness in government. Labour thus dropped the pledge to take a controlling share in BT, promising instead to allow it to compete in the emerging broadband market. However, in return, Blair secured from BT a national fibreoptic investment programme, which would link up schools, libraries, and hospitals for free.81 A particularly contentious change was the embrace of public–private partnerships as a mechanism for ‘modernising’ Britain. The Labour leadership framed these partnerships as a modern ‘third way’ between ‘old left’ and ‘new right’. In a 1995 speech, Brown argued that these partnerships would ‘overcome the long-standing problem of under-investment’ and secure the ‘modernisation of the British economy’.82 Blair, in his Mais lecture of that year, argued that the necessary supply-side measures required ‘a new partnership between government and industry’. While they undoubtedly had serious weaknesses (not least the expensive burdens they left on future taxpayers), it is important to stress that in the 1990s these ‘partnerships’ were not simply a code for 77 Kinnock, Making Our Way, 8, 102, 105, 124–125. 78 Minutes of a joint meeting of the Home Policy and International Committees, 9 January 1989, PHM LPA Box 103. 79 Labour Party, Meet the Challenge, Make the Change, 6, 9, 12–13, 15. 80 Wickham-Jones, ‘Anticipating Social Democracy’, 475. 81 Conference Report 1995, 17–19. 82 Gordon Brown, ‘The Dynamic Market Economy’, 1 May 1995, LSE SHORE/16/107.

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privatisation. Blair’s speech was, in large parts, a rebuttal of Nigel Lawson’s famous 1984 Mais lecture, which extolled the virtues of the private sector and proselytised slashing the Public Sector Borrowing Requirement (PSBR) and ditching state intervention. Blair was clear that ‘[d]eregulation alone cannot cure the ills of our economy. The public sector must accept its responsibility to act in partnership with the private sector to transform the supply side of the economy. This is a responsibility which Labour will gladly accept’.83 As he said in his landmark 1995 speech on the ‘national effort’ of creating ‘advanced system of further education for the electronic age’: ‘The market will not do it. A Labour Government will and can’.84 The British government still had a major role in ‘modernising the economy’ through supply-side intervention, but this would be funded through a windfall tax on privatised utilities and public–private partnerships. By the election of the first Blair government, therefore, Labour’s methods of microeconomic or capacity intervention had clearly transformed. It is entirely correct to see New Labour as both a reflection and contributor towards a wider turn to ‘market liberalism’ across the developed world, with ambivalent consequences.85 Nevertheless, New Labour’s focus on the ‘supply side’ was patently not as novel as stereotypes – often peddled by New Labour politicians – of ‘Old Labour tax and spend’ suggested. The post-Wilson British left continually argued that ‘demand management’ was insufficient and that the long-term capacity of the British economy must be ‘modernised’ through an active state, even if they disagreed on how exactly this should be done. Realising this allows us to stop letting the bitter clashes over public and private ownership monopolise our attention, as important as they were, and instead focus on the changing ways in which Labour’s politicians and thinkers understood the ultimate object of this supply-side ‘modernisation’. Doing so uncovers deeper transformations in the political economy of the British left.

A ‘Manufacturing Nation’?

By the millennium there had been a crucial intellectual shift in how Labour thinkers understood the ‘modernisation’ of the British economy. For decades, Labour and left-wing figures assumed that the ‘modernisation’ of the UK’s industry, especially its manufacturing sector, was the 83

Blair, ‘The Economic Framework for New Labour’, 103, 112. For comparison: Nigel Lawson, ‘The British Experiment’, in Capie and Wood (eds), Policy Makers on Policy, 93–103, especially at 101. 84 [www.britishpoliticalspeech.org/speech-archive.htm?speech=201]. 85 Offer, ‘The Market Turn’.

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most pressing priority. However, during the 1990s, manufacturing was ejected from this privileged pedestal. Labour figures were increasingly likely to highlight infrastructure and, especially, ‘human capital’. While gradual and qualified, this development had major implications for Labour’s agenda and shaped the party’s actions in office. When post-war politicians invoked supply-side ‘modernisation’, they almost always meant manufacturing or the ‘traditional industries’ (coal mining, steel, textiles). On the advice of their advisor, leading Cambridge economist Nicholas Kaldor, Wilson’s first government even introduced a selective employment tax that subsidised manufacturing jobs.86 This assumption also coursed through the statements of left-wingers like Benn; in 1982, Benn demanded ‘the modernisation and diversification of our manufacturing industry’.87 In part, this arose from the organised labour movement’s strength in both ‘traditional industries’ like steel and newer industries like automobiles. It was also bolstered by cultural images of what kind of a ‘nation’ Britain was. During his famous television debate with Roy Jenkins during the 1975 European referendum, Benn revealingly portrayed Britain as an ‘industrial nation, a manufacturing nation’.88 However, this instinctive lionisation of manufacturing also grew from a more theoretical belief among most Labour or left-leaning economists, who held that manufacturing was the most important sector for longterm, non-inflationary growth. Firstly, manufacturing could grow much faster than other business activity due to the sector’s capacity for increasing returns. Secondly, it was much more easily exported than services. In practice, it was manufacturing’s contribution to exports that dominated the attention of Labour policymakers, who were haunted by memories of the balance-of-payments crises in 1949, 1967, and 1976. Without a competitive manufacturing sector, Labour-advising economists argued, the current account of the balance of payments would worsen as the UK would import more goods than it exported. In a managed currency system, such as the Bretton Woods agreement of fixed exchange rates or the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, this would deplete foreign currency reserves, necessitating either a currency devaluation, which risked spiralling inflation and further financial instability, or a deflation pursued through painful spending cuts and tax increases. Even floating exchange rates failed to swerve the choice between high inflation and real terms pay cuts or recession and unemployment, as the 1976 currency crisis 86

John E. King, ‘Nicholas Kaldor (1908–1986)’, in Robert A. Cord (ed.), The Palgrave Companion to Cambridge Economics (Basingstoke, 2017), 747–767, at 759. 87 Benn, Arguments for Democracy, 149–151. My emphasis. 88 [www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zBFh6bpcMo].

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and IMF bailout attested. Hence, Stuart Holland stated in one 1972 ­briefing paper for Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) that ‘[m]anufacturing is the key growth promotion sector in the economy’, while Wynne Godley argued, in a 1978 speech collected by Peter Shore, that it was on ‘manufacturing industry … which the present and future prosperity of our country in the form we know essentially depends’.89 There were challenges to manufacturing’s primacy. In 1982, Michael Foot’s advisor Henry Neuburger wrote a remarkably iconoclastic piece, arguing that the UK was much less reliant on non-manufacturing imports than often assumed, that the work was often dangerous, unpleasant, and environmentally degrading, and that the left channelled ‘the crudest chauvinism’ in prioritising these industries.90 Developing this latter theme, socialist feminists like Anna Coote also argued that Labour’s focus on manufacturing was a function less of economic necessity and more of unexamined sexism.91 Nonetheless, these interventions stood out as unusual and incited strong opposition. In 1975, Kaldor sent the Prime Minister a strong-worded critique of ministers Shirley Williams and Harold Lever, who had argued that competitive advantage meant that the state should prioritise service sectors. Kaldor emphasised that manufacturing provided the lion’s share of exports, arguing that ‘it is wishful thinking (in my opinion) to believe that there is any alternative to a modernisation and expansion of our manufacturing industries as the means of future prosperity’.92 Neuburger’s iconoclasm, meanwhile, had no discernible impact on either Foot or his future bosses Kinnock and Bryan Gould. Coote’s arguments did become important for Labour’s platform, but as Chapter 3 showed, not for another decade. Consequently, the championing of manufacturing modernisation by both left-wing economists and politicians continued well into Kinnock’s leadership. Before he became Kinnock’s advisor, Cambridge economist John Eatwell argued in 1982 that ‘[m]anufacturing is key to the modernisation of the economy’ as ‘the basis of national prosperity and economic dynamism’.93 Further left, influential Marxist economist Sam Aaronovitch expressed similar ideas, advocating ‘modernisation and investment, revitalising British industry especially manufacturing … 89

Holland, ‘New Economic Imperatives’, 2; Godley, ‘Britain’s Chronic Recession’. 90 Henry Neuburger, ‘Does Manufacturing Deserve Special Status?’, in David Currie and Malcolm Sawyer (eds), Socialist Economic Review 1982 (London, 1982), 197–213. 91 Anna Coote, ‘The AES: A New Starting Point’, New Socialist (November/December 1981), 4–7. 92 Kaldor, ‘The Role of Manufacturing Industry’. 93 John Eatwell, Whatever Happened to Britain? The Economics of Decline (London, 1982), 51–53, 127.

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a necessity … [to] meet the needs of people into the 21st century’.94 Manufacturing’s importance was also continually invoked within Labour itself. At the 1985 conference, most famous for Kinnock’s denunciations of Militant, John Smith declared: ‘We must unequivocally be the party of manufacturing industry, upon which Britain’s wealth depends’. In the same debate, trade union representative from the NEC, Sid Tierny, presented the Jobs and Industry campaign, where he argued it would achieve the investment needed for ‘[t]he modernisation of traditional industries and provision for growth in new industries’.95 ‘Traditional industries’ like coal and steel were thus a locus for a ‘modernisation’.96 When considering a training levy, members of the committee behind Labour’s mid-1980s ‘Jobs and Industry’ campaign argued that it should be focused primarily on manufacturing.97 During the 1987 election, Smith argued that a ‘healthy, prosperous, modern economy’ demanded much lower unemployment, and to secure this Labour would provide ‘new industrial strength’ through ‘the renaissance of our manufacturing economy’.98 Kinnock himself enthusiastically championed the ‘modernisation’ of British manufacture. The blurb of Kinnock’s Making Our Way (1986) declared: ‘Without a strong manufacturing base, we cannot pay our way in the world, enjoy any real economic independence, or secure social stability’. Labour was therefore ‘committed to the modernization of British industry and society’. In the text, he elaborated that services could not replace manufacturing’s exporting ability, thus ‘Britain needs modern, expanding manufacturing industries’.99 Labourites were still liable to emphasise the importance of manufacturing even during and after the landmark Policy Review. This included rising stars of Labour’s new revisionist right, like Gordon Brown. In his 1989 book, which drew on the advice of post-Keynesian economists like Godley, Brown argued that the export of ‘manufactured goods’ was ‘central to our industrial and economic performance’, especially if the energy trade surplus from North Sea oil disappeared in the near future. Brown elaborated: 94

Sam Aaronovitch, ‘The Alternative Economic Strategy: Goodbye to All That?’, Marxism Today (February 1986), 20–27, at 22–23. My emphasis. 95 Conference 1985, 207, 216. 96 See, for example, Bryan Gould’s emphasis that new technology must be applied to ‘traditional’ industries: Conference 1988, 18. 97 Minutes of Jobs and Industry Joint Policy Committee, 6 May 1986, PHM LPA Box 102. 98 John Smith, ‘Nottingham Rally’, 28 May 1987, MRC BICKERSTAFFE MSS.389/ 6/B/343. 99 Kinnock, Making Our Way, 75.

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Many services such as hairdressing, catering and retailing, while of enormous importance in providing employment, cannot be exported, and even those that can, for example insurance and banking, are simply not undertaken … on a scale that could make good the rapidly growing deficit in manufacturing … It is through manufacturing that we will succeed or fail.100

Leading up to the 1992 election, the leadership continued to suggest that manufacturing was key. In Labour’s policy document on industrial strategy, Kinnock discussed the ‘manufacturing sector on which we rely so much to pay our way in the world’, and argued for improvements reflecting ‘cost-effective production, continuous product and process innovation, the flexibility of a highly skilled workforce’ and new science and technology.101 He strongly believed this privately; in correspondence with a Conservative-voting industrialist, Kinnock underlined his personal belief in the importance of manufacturing.102 Draft policy for the 1992 election claimed that ‘the modernisation of our manufacturing industries will be vital for economic success in every sector’.103 At a charm offensive ‘Industry 2000’ with business and industry, Smith, Brown, and Blair distributed a document called Modern Manufacturing Strength.104 This document argued that ‘the objective of any industrial policy for the 1990s must be to modernise our manufacturing base’.105

Manufacturing Dethroned, and the Rise of Human Capital

Yet, this primacy did not endure into the twenty-first century. I­ ndustry and manufacturing did not disappear, but over the 1990s they receded from this privileged position in Labour’s vision of supply-side m ­ odernisation. Meanwhile, ‘human capital’ ascended in the imagination of Labour’s thinkers. Education and training became crucial not just as a necessary condition for manufacturing expansion or for other goals like ‘equality’, but as critical for the pursuit of economic ‘modernisation’ by the social-democratic state. This is not easy to spot at first. Most obviously, the ‘traditional ­industries’ were largely abandoned as a motor of the UK’s economic future. While presenting a 1994 industrial strategy, Robin Cook stressed 100 Brown, Where There Is Greed, ix, 25–26. 101 Labour Party, Made in Britain: New Markets, New Technology, New Government (London, 1991), 3, 19. 102 Correspondence between R. T. Gausden and Neil Kinnock, 30 January 1991 and 5 February 1991, CAC KNNK 1/3/66. 103 Policy Document for 1991 Conference, Chapter 1: A World Class Economy. Draft. PD:2809/April 1991, PHM LPA Box 104. 104 ‘Labour Strikes a Chord with Business’, The Times, 26 February 1991, 25. 105 Labour Party, Modern Manufacturing Strength (1991), 5, CAC KNNK 6/1/37.

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a ‘high-tech industrial base’ but did not mention modernising ‘older’ or ‘traditional’ industries, in contrast to before.106 Less obviously, but importantly, Labour invocations of ‘investment’ for ‘modernisation’ increasingly referred to infrastructure and education and training as much as ‘industry’. Early New Labour documents consistently broadened out the scope for ‘investment’. A 1995 Conference document argued that ‘modernisation of our economy’ involved ‘long-term investment’ in ‘people, industry and our social and economic fabric … The failure to invest in capacity – physical and human – lies at the heart of Britain’s inflation and slow growth problems’.107 During a 1998 speech, Brown’s advisor Ed Balls stressed that, for supply-side policy, the government prioritised encouraging ‘investment in the broadest sense – not just in machines, but in technology and innovation, skills and infrastructure – the fuel for growth in the modern economy’.108 These formulations may not seem like much (indeed, they read like they were deliberately ambiguous) but Balls’ words contrasted with Brown’s nine years earlier: no longer was it ‘through manufacturing that we will succeed or fail’.109 In an interview, Patricia Hewitt recognised this trend in the evolution of her own thinking on the economy, as she worked on the Policy Review in Kinnock’s office, and then at the IPPR’s Social Justice Commission: I remember John Eatwell at one point saying manufacturing is really important … you have to have manufacturing because it provides the underpinning for services, it provides the bulk of your exports … And I became less and less persuaded of that, and more persuaded by the kind of Charlie Leadbeater stuff, and also the fact that … technology, services and manufacturing were becoming the same thing.110

She used the example of the car industry where ‘more and more of the value in a car came from the design or the computing or the after-sales service. And therefore, the privileging of manufacturing certainly from my point of view began to feel a bit like a privileging of white male trade union organised structures’.111 As Hewitt indicated, a corollary to the downgrading of manufacturing was that other sectors grew in importance. Thus, infrastructure and education or training were elevated, especially the latter. Of course, all had long been recognised as vital components of a successful economy. 106 Conference 1994, 16–17. 107 Labour Party, A New Economic Future for Britain: Economic and Employment Opportunities for All (London, 1995), 4, 8, 10. 108 Balls, ‘Open Macroeconomics in an Open Economy’, 116. 109 It also marks a shift on the part of Balls himself, who in 1992 called for a ‘manufacturing and export-led recovery’. Balls, Euro-Monetarism, 18. 110 Interview with Patricia Hewitt, 8 February 2018. 111 Ibid.

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The focus on a fibre optic cable network throughout the 1980s indicates a well-established recognition of infrastructure’s role in competitive production. Nonetheless, it was often assumed that investment in these sectors would facilitate the use of new technologies and methods in a ‘modernised’ manufacturing sector. For example, a composite motion moved by an AUEW TASS delegate at the 1985 conference noted the ‘change of emphasis in British manufacturing towards higher technology products and processes’, which required a ‘skilled workforce’, to justify calling for a ‘comprehensive programme of training and retraining’ for ‘the 21st century’.112 Similarly, while Labour MP Bob Cryer appealed to ‘the greatest and most enduring asset we possess … the skill and ability of our people’ to argue for education and training funding in 1983, this was only so that it could help industry – workers needed training to ‘exploit the coal or win the reserves of oil or make the machines which make the machines we all use’.113 Its economic importance was mainly as a necessary accompaniment to an industrial modernisation. Though manufacturing was continually emphasised under Kinnock and Smith, the beginnings of change can be discerned during their leaderships. During the Policy Review, Labour statements began to refer to the idea of the UK becoming a ‘knowledge-based economy’, which in the words of Kinnock made ‘education and training … the key to future wealth creation’.114 Moreover, the submission of trade union GMB to the Review foreshadowed statements of a decade later by arguing that ‘in modernising our industries we should put more stress on the development and care of our human capital than on mere machines and buildings’.115 In 1989, policy statements began to contain more references to a ‘talent-based economy’, meaning that ‘[e]ducation and training hold the key to Britain’s future economic prosperity’, allowing the UK to ‘compete in the knowledge based world of the 1990s’.116 By 1990, both policy documents and the Labour leader made bolder claims: education and training were ‘the “commanding heights” of a modern economy’.117 As a Shadow Minister, Brown argued in a 1991 conference speech that ‘we believe we are on the verge of the first ever industrial revolution to

112 Conference Report 1985, 60. 113 Bob Cryer, ‘Employment and Training’, in Lansman and Meale (eds), Beyond Thatcher, 81–86 at 81. 114 Kinnock, Making Our Way, 131. 115 GMB, ‘Submission to Labour Party Policy Review Groups’, PD:1482 (April 1988), 10–13, PHM LPA Policy Review Papers. 116 Labour Party, Meet the Challenge, Make the Change, 8, 17–19. 117 Labour Party, Looking to the Future, 11–13; [www.britishpoliticalspeech.org/speecharchive.htm?speech=195].

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be built around the talents and skills of working people’.118 That human capital ascended initially alongside a continuing stress on manufacturing is neatly shown in the document Modern Manufacturing Strength, which stated that ‘investment in people … will be – we believe – the key determinant of economic success in the twenty first century’.119 When leader, Smith used this kind of rhetoric more and more often. His leadership pitch argued that ‘[t]he successful modern economy is built around unlocking the potential of its people’, and in a speech to the TUC in 1993, he argued that ‘at the heart of Labour’s policy is our commitment to invest in people’.120 But by the early New Labour era, education and training were becoming the central sites for ‘modernising’ state investment. They were displacing manufacturing. In his 1995 Mais lecture, Blair contended that in the modern world, there was ‘an active role for government – particularly in, though not confined to, the improvement of human capital’.121 Similarly, a policy document of that year pointed to investment in a wide array of areas, ‘industry, businesses … research and development, science and innovation, the communications infrastructure, the environment’, but emphasised ‘and, above all, investment in people’.122 In his 1995 conference speech, a landmark speech in the birth of ‘New Labour’, Blair argued that ‘[e]ducation is the best economic policy there is for a modern country and it is in the marriage of education and technology that the future lies’.123 Human capital, rather than manufacturing, was now repeatedly singled out. These were not minor asides, but key messages: in his diary, Alastair Campbell approvingly noted that Blair had ‘pushed our line on education as key to a modern economy’ on the Today programme in late 1995.124 Brown leant heavily on the ‘skills revolution’ in his contribution to David Miliband’s Reinventing the Left (1994), arguing that, to ‘modernize our policies’, it needed to be recognised that ‘the success or failure of a company is more and more dependent on access to knowledge rather than on access to capital’ and thus ‘the Left’s basic century-old case – that we must enhance the value of labour as the key to economic prosperity – is now realizable in the modern economy’.125 As to be expected, previous 118 Conference 1991, 40. 119 Labour, Modern Manufacturing Strength, 6. 120 Smith, New Paths to Victory; John Smith, ‘Speech to Annual Trades Union Congress’, 7 September 1993, MRC BICKERSTAFFE MSS.389/6/B/343. 121 Blair, ‘The Economic Framework for New Labour’, 120. 122 A New Economic Future for Britain, 22. 123 [www.britishpoliticalspeech.org/speech-archive.htm?speech=201]. 124 Campbell, Prelude to Power, 314 [13 November 1995]. 125 Gordon Brown, ‘The Politics of Potential’, in Miliband (ed.), Reinventing the Left, 113–123, at 116, 120, 122.

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assumptions did resurface – but not without challenge or pushback. During the drafting of Labour’s 1997 manifesto, one document argued that manufacturing was crucial for international trade, and foregrounded British uncompetitiveness in this sector. But this was critiqued by National Policy Forum members, who pointed out that the document’s content discussed human as much as industrial capital and questioned the primacy given to manufacturing in the opening sections.126 The contrast becomes starker by the turn of the millennium. Labour’s Centennial Report (1999) claimed that the UK was becoming a ‘knowledge economy … In the early part of the 20th century the greatest assets of a nation were its raw materials, such as coal and oil. In the knowledge economy of the 21st century the greatest asset of any nation will be the talent and skills of its people’.127 For New Labour, the implications of this for social democrats were profound. This is captured in a landmark pamphlet on the Third Way and die Neue Mitte, co-written by Blair and the SPD’s Gerhard Schröder. While this pamphlet made a bigger splash in Germany than the UK, it nevertheless indicates the state of thinking among the third wayers.128 It argued, strikingly, that the ‘most important task of modernisation is to invest in human capital’. Indeed, when distinguishing ‘[m]odern social democrats’ from ‘neo-liberals’, Blair and Schröder stressed their continuing adherence to the ‘active state’ but argued that its ‘top priority must be investment in human and social capital’.129 Thus, in the worldview that emerged on the centre-left by the turn of the millennium, ‘human capital’ becomes the core focus of a social-democratic, growth-oriented government. As Andersson comments: ‘The Third Way is no laissez-faire Manchester liberalism but rather a highly interventionist productivism based on a new active role of the social democratic state in the economy.’130 State investment and intervention in skills and education had become the prime motor for a long-desired economic ‘modernisation’. Deindustrialisation What happened to manufacturing’s primacy within Labour visions of a state-driven economic ‘modernisation’? The answer to this is complex, reflecting the intersection of several processes operating on different 126



127

128 129 130

Labour Party, A New Industrial Strategy for Britain (draft, 1996), and ‘Report on NPF 18–19 May 1996, Manchester’, MRC MORRIS MSS.126/BM/3/3/5/6. Labour Party, Centennial Report, 16–20. Berger, ‘Wege und Irrwege’, 421. Blair and Schröder, Europe: The Third Way/Die Neue Mitte. Andersson, Library and the Workshop, 33–34.

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timescales over the twentieth century. Crucial were path-defining political developments. Also important were evolutions within both Marxist and Keynesian economic thought on long-term growth, particularly the latter. These will be discussed below. However, as Oliver and Pemberton have observed about the rise of monetarism in the 1970s and 1980s, exogenous shocks and long-term structural change were often necessary to overcome the powerful force of ‘commonsense’ assumptions.131 It is here that the process of ‘deindustrialisation’ becomes relevant. One of the most significant observable changes across the developed world in the second half of the twentieth century has been the decline in manufacturing’s share of employment. In the UK, this deindustrialisation began in the 1950s and had origins in changing industrial production and demand patterns. But it continued throughout the period of this book; indeed, it was accelerated by deregulation, privatisation, the 1981 budget, and Thatcher’s war to the knife with the National Union of Mineworkers.132 Manufacturing provided 25 per cent of total UK jobs in June 1978, 18 per cent in June 1988, and 15 per cent in June 1998.133 In Britain, deindustrialisation also meant a diminishment in manufacturing’s share of the economy, but from a high base. Manufacturing output did not decline absolutely over the long term. Nevertheless, as it fought to regain competitiveness, manufacturing embraced technological automation, and a smaller pool of employees. Meanwhile, service sector output grew at a much faster rate in the last years of the twentieth century.134 The share of jobs in services jumped from 63 to 76 per cent between 1978 and 1998.135 The implications that this deindustrialisation had for regional inequality, unemployment, and job polarisation were not inevitable and relied upon political decisions, such as deflation and deregulation. However, once certain strategies were chosen – such as the Thatcher government’s acceptance of persistently high and very regionalised unemployment – their consequences were difficult to reverse, partly due to what social scientists call ‘path dependence’.136 Moreover, politicians often focused on economic sectors that provided the lion’s share of employment, given that unemployment was a key metric on which they were judged. This was particularly so 131 Oliver and Pemberton ‘Learning and Change’, 435. 132 Tomlinson, ‘De-industrialisation Not Decline’, 78, 84–87. 133 Author’s calculations from the ONS Workforce Jobs by Industry timeseries, seasonally adjusted figures, JOBS02, WFJ SA (as of July 2018). 134 Between 1990 and 2000, manufacturing GVA in constant prices grew by 8 per cent over the decade, while services grew by 37 per cent. Author’s calculations from ONS timeseries KL8V and KL9J (as of July 2018). 135 See n133. 136 Greener, ‘The Potential of Path Dependence’.

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for Labour, which possessed a long-standing symbolic attachment to ‘full employment’. As a result, structural changes in the labour market did, over time, begin to shape the perspectives of political actors. Occasionally over the 1980s and 1990s, some foresaw that ‘modernisation’, particularly automation from technological advances, could produce a downward effect on manufacturing employment. Kinnock admitted in 1986 that he did not expect employment in manufacturing to rise once output was recovered under his government.137 In 1994, the IPPR argued that the ‘tradeable sector’ (within which manufacturing was very prominent) would see ‘high productivity’ but ‘low employment’ growth – thereby admitting that it was ‘in the non-tradeable sector where job growth must come’ to achieve ‘modern’ full employment. In other words, unexportable services.138

Post-Fordism, Post-neoclassical Endogenous Growth Theory, or just Balls?

Still, this is not to imply that Labour’s downgrading of manufacturing simply reflected economic and social developments. They refracted through, and were to an extent stimulated by, intellectual and institutional forces. It is surely significant that those who continued to emphasise the importance of ‘modern manufacturing’ for long-term growth in the 1990s consistently praised West Germany and Japan, which had strong exporting manufacturers. Both were inspirational for Eatwell, and for sympathetic economic commentators such as Will Hutton.139 In contrast, key figures in New Labour were more likely to look to America for economic models.140 Elsewhere, the most important ‘indicators’ for policymakers also shifted over time. As noted by Tomlinson and Ben Clift, the balance of payments became a less prominent economic indicator over the late twentieth century, as changes in statistical collection collapsed the distinction between short- and long-term capital flows, and inflows from other sources (first North Sea oil, then the financial account) ‘balanced’ the burgeoning manufacturing deficit.141 Also revealing is Aled Davies’s work on how the cultural idea of the ‘British 137 Kinnock, Making Our Way, 48. 138 Commission on Social Justice, Social Justice [1994], 6, 155–157. 139 Eatwell, ‘Development of Labour Policy’, 336–338; Hutton, The State We’re In, 20–21. Also Marquand, The Unprincipled Society, 7–8. 140 See Blair’s scepticism of the Germanic model in Blair, ‘The Economic Framework for New Labour’, 118–119. 141 Ben Clift and Jim Tomlinson, ‘Whatever Happened to the Balance of Payments “Problem”? The Contingent (Re)Construction of British Economic Performance Assessment’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations 10:4 (2008), 607–629.

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economy’ began to shift from a manufacturing to a service imagination in the 1960s and 1970s, partly encouraged by financial services lobbyists highlighting ‘invisible exports’.142 Historians have rightly emphasised the importance of Gramscian Eurocommunists at Marxism Today. Among the left, their concept of ‘postFordism’ became a shorthand for a post-industrial society, and at the very least stimulated debates over deindustrialisation, changes in manufacturing, and the future economy. The Eurocommunists argued that ‘[t]owns in the new growth corridors – Swindon, Basingstoke, Silicon Glen – are the cauldrons of the new order. The cultures of steel towns, coal towns and textile towns are in decline’.143 These pieces were often not discussing deindustrialisation per se, but instead changes within manufacturing in the developed world.144 Nevertheless, with their emphasis on the need for a flexible, skilled workforce, they emphasised education and training, foreshadowing later orthodoxies. As Robin Murray put it, the archetypal post-Fordist capitalist firm elevated labour as an asset of production, to the extent that Rank Xerox was supposedly altering its accounting conventions so that labour became a fixed asset and machinery a cost, and put a premium on skills and training.145 The post-Fordists did not just publish in Marxism Today but also in other influential spaces in the British intellectual and political left, such as pamphlets published by the Fabian Society.146 As shown in Chapter 2, Labour politicians like David Blunkett and Bryan Gould engaged with these ideas with some sympathy, though some interlocutors critiqued their determinism and sweeping nature. Paul Hirst took issue with the extravagant exaggerations in this post-Fordist literature and continued to stress the importance of manufacturing.147 These ideas filtered through into other left-wing policymaking vehicles, especially think tanks like the IPPR and Demos; the latter was founded by Marxism Today stalwarts Mulgan and Martin Jacques. Yet, while post-Fordism had an environmental importance, the most influential set of ideas for the dethroning of manufacturing in Labour’s ‘modernisation’ plans was developed by ‘New Keynesian’ economists in America and Britain. Though this would clearly be insufficient, one can tell a stylised history of the centre left’s changing economics by tracing the 142 Davies, The City of London and Social Democracy, 219–220. 143 CPGB, ‘Facing up to the Future’, Marxism Today (September 1988), supplement. 144 Incidentally, a point also made in Tony Benn, ‘A Productive and Competitive Eco­ nomy – An Alternative Draft’ (1989), PHM LPA Policy Review Papers. 145 Murray, ‘Life after Henry (Ford)’. 146 Charles Leadbeater, The Politics of Prosperity (London, 1987). 147 David Blunkett et al., ‘Clearing the Decks’, Marxism Today (October 1988), 34–40; Paul Hirst, ‘After Henry’, New Statesman and Society, 21 July 1989, 18–19. For a contemporary critique, see Edgerton, Rise and Fall of the British Nation, 497.

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diminishing influence of the ‘Post Keynesians’ at Cambridge, England (such as Kaldor, Godley, Cripps, and Eatwell) and the rising stock of the ‘New Keynesians’ in Cambridge, Massachusetts (such as Larry Summers). One key interlocutor seems to be Ed Balls and the politician he most influenced in this direction was Gordon Brown. Before he worked at the Financial Times, after which he joined Brown’s team, Balls undertook postgraduate study at Harvard under economists like Summers. Through this, he was exposed to ‘post-neoclassical endogenous growth theory’. The phrase is mainly remembered today with embarrassment: after Balls used the term in a paper for an international economic conference with Brown, Summers, Robert Reich, and Richard Freeman, the Shadow Chancellor included it in a press copy of a speech. Ridicule ensued, especially after the Conservative Cabinet Minister Michael Heseltine quipped that ‘it’s not Brown, it’s Balls’.148 However, the humorous aspects of this episode have obscured a significant movement in economic thought, the assumptions of which filtered into New Labour policymaking.149 Since the 1950s, the mainstream neoclassical explanation of longterm economic capacity growth awarded ‘exogenous’ factors, especially technological innovation, all the heavy lifting.150 A disembodied force of ‘technology’ was the deus ex machina that drove long-term growth. In the 1980s and 1990s, however, economists from various traditions increasingly challenged this assumption. They argued that long-term growth varied between countries of similar development; thus, there were other factors at play, ‘endogenous’ to a particular economic space or territory, that facilitated the ability of firms to adapt to productivity-enhancing technological advancement.151 They were best explained through reference to insufficiently adaptable, educated, and skilled workforces, infrastructure failings, and antagonistic labour relations. Importantly, for interventionists and those with ‘New Keynesian’ leanings, these ‘endogenous’ factors could be affected and shaped by state investment. But as economic historian Nick Crafts noticed in the 1990s, these theories tended to emphasise ‘human capital’ and infrastructure far more than previous policy frameworks.152 Away from specifically endogenous growth theory, other American economists also increasingly stressed human capital. For 148 Brown, My Life, Our Times, 103–104. 149 Edgerton makes a similar point, in Rise and Fall, 504. 150 The famous Solow model. Even a relative sympathiser admits in an algebraic summary that ‘it is only a small exaggeration to say that we have been modelling growth by ­assuming it’. David Romer, Advanced Macroeconomics, fourth ed. (New York, 2012), 29. 151 Paul M. Romer, ‘The Origins of Endogenous Growth’, The Journal of Economic Perspectives 8:1 (1994), 3–22. 152 N. F. R. Crafts, ‘“Post Neo-Classical Endogenous Growth Theory”: What Are Its Policy Implications?’, Oxford Review of Economic Policy 12:2 (1996), 30–47.

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Labour politicians, Robert Reich’s work – which had been partly shaped by 1980s New Democrat experiments in ‘post-industrial’ policies153 – was particularly important. In a highly publicised book, Reich famously argued that while capital was far more mobile in a globalising economy, ‘brains’ were much more fixed to a geographical space – thus becoming the key factor under the influence of nation states.154 Endogenous growth theory, Reich’s views of globalisation and human capital, and other American economic ideas had a clear impact on Labour-oriented policymakers in the 1990s. An early echo of endogenous growth theory in Labour can be seen in some papers submitted to the Policy Review.155 The theory was more explicitly influential on the IPPR’s David Miliband (another centre-left policymaker who spent formative years in Massachusetts, USA), who penned a pamphlet on ways governments could facilitate ‘technology transfer’ and ‘technology diffusion’.156 The IPPR set absorbed this new exultation of human capital, helping to elevate its place in the intellectual framework of Labour policymakers. In the think tank’s volume Paying for Inequality, co-edited by Miliband, editors and contributors argued that ‘everyone now agrees’ that ‘the central economic resource of any country’ is ‘human capital. In an age of relatively cheap international transportation and worldwide capital mobility, it is the potential skills of a nation’s workforce that are its most precious economic resource’.157 More importantly, these ideas had a demonstrable impact on both Labour politicians and policy documents. In the mid-1990s, Brown repeatedly acknowledged the debt he owed to endogenous growth theory,158 as did his advisor Balls in 1998.159 Brown’s motivations may have been primarily to legitimise Labour’s economic policies on the basis of ‘expertise’, but his words also reveal that he was using these ideas. Furthermore, a detailed policy document from 1995 seemed to draw from Reich’s arguments, by contending that ‘in this new global economy … where inventions, technology, raw materials and capital can be bought 153 Cebul, ‘Supply-Side Liberalism’. 154 Robert Reich, The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for 21st-Century Capitalism (London, 1991). 155 Cawson, ‘High-Tech Investment’, 4–5. 156 David Miliband, Technology Transfer: Policies for Innovation (London, 1990). 157 Andrew Glyn and David Miliband (eds), Paying for Inequality: The Economic Cost of Social Injustice (London, 1994), x, 16, 50. 158 Gordon Brown, ‘A Chance to Grow on Richer Soil’, Guardian, 22 October 1994, 26. Also Gordon Brown, ‘New Policies for the Global Economy’, 15, 26 September 1994, LSE SHORE/16/130: ‘Endogenous growth theory … has, I believe, taken the field of economics beyond the classical paradigm by showing that levels of education and infrastructure can make a real effect on the sustainable potential of economies to grow.’ 159 Balls, ‘Open Macroeconomics’, 116.

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from anywhere by just about anyone it is the level of skill in a company that makes the difference … For this reason, a policy for national economic renewal must mean enhancing individual economic potential as the route to rebuilding the industrial base’.160 Similar arguments were also made by Harman.161 This influence is explicable, given that not only did Brown and Blair visit the States in 1993 and Balls become Brown’s advisor, but others in the British labour movement were cultivating links with American Democrat economists following Clinton’s 1992 victory. The Transport and General Workers' Union’s general secretary, Bill Morris, was one such figure. While Morris was not keen on the diminishing attention given to manufacturing,162 he organised a transatlantic ‘new economic order’ conference in London and enthused about ‘Clintonomics’.163 A year later, at a similar conference involving leading lights of New Labour, Reich and Richard Freeman (now embedded in Clinton’s administration) spoke to the assembled through a satellite link, using the stunt to illustrate the extent of technological advancement and globalisation.164 Endogenous growth theory was not imported wholesale, and Labour did not entirely shed its earlier influences. Nonetheless, its circulation among centre-left policymakers in Britain had a major impact. This elevated education, training, and infrastructure, making them the key sites for government intervention to ‘modernise’ the economy.

Job Polarisation, Disrupted Masculinities, and the City’s Ambivalent Embrace

Manufacturing’s decline in Labour’s economics both reflected and contributed to a profound shift in Britain’s political economy. Most obviously, it shaped assumptions on how a Labour government should try and improve employment levels and workers’ wages. The deindustrialisation of employment meant that a higher concentration of the workforce was concentrated in service sectors with lower wages or fewer hours than 1970s manufacturing. This exacerbated job polarisation, particularly as service sector jobs were less likely to be unionised.165 This put Labour in 160



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Labour Party, A New Economic Future for Britain, draft (May 1995), 6, MRC MORRIS MSS.126/BM/3/3/5/4. Harriet Harman, The Century Gap (London, 1993), 113. In a speech to a TGWU conference on 6 April 1993, Morris argued that ‘we cannot build a successful economy taking in each other’s washing, using our Japanese washing machines’. MRC MORRIS MSS.126/BM/2/1993/7. Bill Morris, ‘Clinton Economics Conference: Opening Remarks’, January 1993, MRC MORRIS MSS.126/BM/2/1993/1. Michael White, ‘Blair Dons His “New Labour” Suit’, Guardian, 28 September 1994, 6. Tomlinson, ‘De-industrialization Not Decline’, 90.

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an uncomfortable position, given its enduring cornerstone commitment of ‘full employment’ and the reluctance of both party and trade union leaders to try and claw back all the union rights lost under Thatcher for electoral reasons.166 If the new jobs were poorly paid, this represented a real decline in living standards for former industrial workers. The labour movement’s turn to statutory wage floors (the minimum wage), and away from craft unionism’s historic attachment to ‘free collective bargaining’, arguably stems from some of these concerns.167 While the minimum wage had been a Labour policy at various points since its foundation a century before, it had powerful opponents in the party.168 Over the 1980s and 1990s, it gained a new resonance and far wider support among the labour movement, which secured its place in New Labour’s governing agenda. New Labour’s interest in ‘modernising the welfare state’ (as they put it) by championing ‘welfare to work’ is also partly explicable in this context. The existing scholarship stresses the undoubtedly important influence of Clinton’s New Democrats and its successful electoral messaging of being ‘tough on welfare’, as well as the revival of communitarianism through writers like Amitai Etzioni.169 However, as Peter Sloman has argued, a key context were these changes in American and British economic thought. During the 1990s, an emerging literature, some of it penned by Balls along with Larry Summers, stressed the debilitating effects of long-term unemployment on the capabilities of the redundant worker, a process often named ‘hysteresis’. Within a new policy framework that lionised an educated, skilled, and capable workforce, welfare-to-work became a key supply-side policy in the eyes of New Labour politicians, as much as a moral crusade.170 It was no coincidence that, on entering office, New Labour used their £5bn windfall tax on privatised utilities to fund a flagship ‘New Deal’ for unemployed young people to find a job.171 In addition, gendered understandings of work, and differences over how Labour should approach them, were exposed by the reduced attention to manufacturing. As shown in Chapter 3, over the 1980s a wide array of socialist feminists argued that the number of women in paid work 166 167 168 169 170

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Hughes and Wintour, Labour Rebuilt, 150–152. On free collective bargaining, see Reid, United We Stand, 278–281. McSmith, Faces of Labour, 46. Carr, March of the Moderates, 214; Cronin, New Labour’s Pasts, 393–395. Peter Sloman, Transfer State: The Idea of Guaranteed Income and the Politics of Redistribution in Modern Britain (Oxford, 2019), 183. It is worth noting, though, that there was some basic continuity in an emphasis on ‘training’ as a solution to long-term youth unemployment. For the controversial ‘Youth Training Scheme’ of the 1980s, see Nick Wikeley, ‘Training for Employment in the 1990s’, The Modern Law Review 53:3 (1990), 354–368. I am grateful to Peter Sloman for this reference.

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was rising; however, they disproportionately took new service sector jobs, often low-paid and part-time, and were regularly constrained in career progression because of unequal distributions of housework and reproductive labour.172 For Hewitt and Harman, therefore, shifting Labour’s policies to boosting the rights and wages of workers in a more service-based economy had many benefits for women’s advancement. They argued that Labour should prioritise developing a ‘modern’ approach to achieving full employment, which facilitated flexible part-time employment, protected with full rights, that would allow both men and women to (for example) raise children.173 Hewitt has later argued that the ‘privileging of manufacturing’ stemmed from the Party’s roots in a male-dominated trade union culture.174 For these feminist thinkers, changes in the economy, as long as accompanied with the right policies, had the potential to be liberating. However, there were others on the left who were more jaundiced and stressed the negative effects for working-class male identities. In the early 1990s, the prominent sociologists Jeremy Seabrook and Trevor Blackwell penned a bitter elegy for the coal mines in the New Statesman and Society as they were closing down: ‘[t]he government talks about training, education. What for? … They don’t know where the fucking jobs are coming from any more than we do’.175 While Labour policymakers were less despairing, some were ambivalent about these changes, such as Ed Balls. In a pamphlet prepared with Paul Gregg for the IPPR’s Social Justice Commission, Balls stressed the social consequences of pushing a generation of male industrial workers out of employment, while the new jobs created were disproportionately taken by women. They pointed to rising inequality between ‘work-rich’ families, where both spouses worked, and ‘work poor’ families, as one of the many baleful consequences. This was far from a lament for a prelapsarian state. Balls’s long-term solution was investment in ‘Britain’s human, as well as physical and social, capital’, in tune with the Labour leadership’s evolving conception of supply-side ‘modernisation’ more generally. His contribution was, however, noticeably interested in softening the blow. Balls discussed the potential need for a short-term palliative to avoid consequences seen in America such as high levels of crime and ghettoisation – including possible state wage subsidisation.176 During the 1990s, New Labour politicians were liable 172 173 174 175

176

Barbara Taylor, ‘Time to Live’, New Statesman, 4 November 1983, 24–25, at 24. Hewitt, About Time; Commission on Social Justice, Social Justice [1994], 187–188. Interview with Hewitt, 8 February 2018. Jeremy Seabrook and Trevor Blackwell, ‘Coal Seams Stitched Up’, New Statesman and Society, 9 July 1993, 18–19. Balls’ contribution was titled ‘Danger: Men Not at Work’. Edward Balls and Paul Gregg, Work and Welfare: Tackling the Jobs Deficit (London, 1993), 12–13, 21–23, 27.

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to criticise state subsidisation of wages by Conservative governments. Yet, some early roots of Brown’s tax credits – which Sloman has recently characterised as the ‘zenith of the transfer state’ – can be seen in these debates.177 Finally, these changes had implications for Labour’s approach to the financial sector of the economy. In part, Labour became more congenial as an attempt to preclude speculative attack on entering office, because financial services were a net exporter in the current account, and due to its lucrative tax revenues.178 However, it also reflected a new situation, where the UK needed a strong financial account to ‘balance’ its current account deficit once North Sea oil exports diminished, as the only apparent alternative would be a nasty deflation and rising unemployment. It became vital for the UK to create a ‘welcoming’ environment for investors and volatile capital and currency flows to maintain living standards given a permanent current account deficit. This provides a further context behind the professed need for ‘macroeconomic stability’.

Social Democracy in an Era of Market Liberalism

This final consequence brings us to the question of periodising Britain’s late twentieth century. At first glance, Labour’s trajectory after 1983 may seem like one aspect of a paradigmatic shift from ‘social democracy’ to ‘neoliberalism’, a common periodisation of modern and contemporary Britain.179 The key problem with this framework, however, is that, under many definitions, both social democracy and neoliberalism are specific intellectual and political traditions as well as synonyms for periods of political economy.180 As a result, just as neoliberalism emerged, evolved, and endured during the entire inter-war and post-war eras, so social democracy remained an intellectual and political presence in the late twentieth century.181 Of course, both the constraints of politicaleconomic settlements and the intellectual challenge of rival traditions were influential. Over the late twentieth century, therefore, Labour’s leadership increasingly saw dirigiste government intervention as fundamentally flawed, and the state’s role as more of a ‘wellspring’ for economic growth182 – and by the 1990s, to a large extent, they believed 177 178 179 180

181 182

Sloman, Transfer State, 177. Wickham-Jones, ‘Anticipating Social Democracy’, 465–494. Vernon, Modern Britain, is a recent textbook that uses this periodisation. Jackson, ‘Social Democracy’; Plehwe, Slobodian, and Mirowski (eds), Nine Lives of Neoliberalism. As argued perceptively in Brooke, ‘Living in “New Times”’, 25–26. Eatwell, ‘Development of Labour Policy’, 334–335.

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that the private sector competition was often a more efficient provider of services.183 Thus, the Labour Party undeniably conceded ground in the era of market liberalism. New Labour’s post-industrial tone also converged with increasing Conservative disinterest in manufacturing over the 1980s.184 The contrast between 1990s Labour policies and the AES, or indeed Kinnock’s 1987 platform, is strong, real, and well-drawn in the existing literature. Yet, even in the late 1990s, the state retained a critical role in the economy for the Labour leadership, through spearheading an economic ‘modernisation’. This would be achieved through investment in areas like technology, infrastructure, and social service provision, and would (it was hoped) create sustainable economic conditions for redistribution and poverty reduction. Of special importance was, as the famous campaigning slogan went, ‘education, education, education’. Thus, if we recall the Blair and Brown governments’ large increases in spending on education over the 2000s then the significance of the displacement of manufacturing by ‘human capital’ becomes clear.185 This expenditure, and other 2000s policies like Sure Start, were not just random ways of spending money or concessions to party members. They reflected new assumptions on how a ‘modern’ social-democratic state secured the long-term health of the British economy, and thus the conditions for wealth and redistribution. These assumptions directly shaped New Labour’s efforts in office (Figure 6.2).186 Dismissals of Labour’s late 1990s platform as merely a surrender to either ‘Thatcherism’ or ‘neoliberalism’ are therefore not just exaggerated but misconceived. It is true that some in John Major’s Conservative Party, such as Chancellor Ken Clarke, were also starting to stress the economic importance of state provision of skills and education.187 Yet, not only did the Conservatives scorn New Labour’s simultaneous 183 Brown, My Life, Our Times, 81. 184 This was clear for figures like Lawson by 1985 but not for Thatcher herself. See Jim Tomlinson, ‘Deindustrialisation and “Thatcherism”: Moral Economy and Unintended Consequences’, Contemporary British History 35:4 (2021), 620–642, at 643–645. 185 A recent House of Commons publication illustrates the scale of New Labour spending on school-age education, compared to other governments. Expenditure on ages 5–18 education consistently increased its share of GDP in the 2000s, over the whole decade and to its highest percentage, even while GDP itself was expanding and despite no growth in the population of school-age children. Paul Bolton, Education Spending in the UK, House of Commons Briefing Paper, no. 1078 (London, 2019), 22. 186 As outlined by David Coates (not a political friend of New Labour) Blair and Brown devoted significant money and effort to bolstering human capital, although whether they succeeded is more doubtful. Coates, Prolonged Labour, 96–101. 187 Ken Clarke, ‘The Changing World of Work in the 1990s’, in Capie and Wood (eds), Policy Makers on Policy, 153–165.

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Figure 6.2 Education spending as a proportion of GDP. Figures obtained from Bolton, Education spending in the UK, 19. Education and training figures begin in 1987/1988.

adherence to the minimum wage and the EU’s Social Chapter; they also did not commit nearly as much money. New Labour’s inheritance of social democracy’s enduring obsession with supply-side ‘modernisation’ meant that their policy agenda diverged in both scale and quality from recent Conservative governments. To the abiding images of furious spin doctors and the Iraq war, we must add the rebuilding of crumbling schools, the rollout of classroom tools like interactive whiteboards and (more ambivalently for the centre left) the Jobcentre Plus to properly recollect the New Labour years. This does not mean, though, that existing critiques of New Labour’s political economy are without merit. The focus of some on ‘financialisation’ and growing reliance on capital flows, which have become increasingly prevalent since the disaster of 2008, are especially apt.188 Though the UK’s financial sector has been comparatively strong for centuries, the usurpation of manufacturing from the pedestal of Labour’s ‘modernisation’ policies was portentous. Through their effective abandonment of trying to achieve a current account surplus, the Labour governments became dependent on financial flows to maintain living standards. This pushed the New Labour governments into an unusually intense reliance 188



Tomlinson, Managing the Economy, Managing the People, 230.

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on the commercial success of the City of London. The full consequences of this rely on developments elsewhere, notably the rise of a ‘macrofinancial’, dollar-denominated system connecting American and European investment banks to extremely leveraged property investments funded by short-term money markets.189 Nonetheless, even if it was the realistic path to take at the time, New Labour’s abandonment of the restoration of manufacturing, and its consequent reliance on the City, had repercussions. Without a major regulatory agenda, its vulnerability to any financial crisis increased.190 Labour’s political dependency on a successful financial sector spiked its growth model with a particularly strong spirit. In 2008, its aftereffects became apparent.

189



190

Adam Tooze, Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World (London, 2018). As called for by John Eatwell in ‘Unemployment: National Policies in a Global Economy’, International Journal of Manpower 21:5 (2000), 343–373, at 366.

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Conclusion: Contested Futures of Socialism in the Late Twentieth Century

He was a moderniser before the word became current

—Gordon Brown on Tony Crosland, 2006.1

In 1995, newspaper columnists Will Hutton and Larry Elliott interviewed the Labour Party’s shadow chancellor, Gordon Brown. When they asked whether he ‘still considered himself a socialist’, Brown’s ‘instantaneous and unqualified’ reply was ‘Yes. I’m proud. I’m proud of the ethics that that represents. I see modernisation as applying my beliefs to the changed circumstances of the world.’2 This was a revealing response. For one, Brown’s appeal to ‘ethics’ showed the imprint of ‘ethical socialism’ on his outlook. This tradition had long influenced Labour’s political thought and was crucial for New Labour’s ideological self-conception in the 1990s.3 Both Tony Blair and his predecessor John Smith bore the imprint of one strand of ethical socialism, Christian socialism.4 It was also a controversial understanding of ‘socialism’, defining it less through opposition to capitalism, private property, and the market, and more as a moral condemnation of poverty and normative commitment to fellowship and community. The question of whether ‘ethical’ commitments are sufficient to justify the label ‘socialism’, or even ‘social democracy’, has fuelled normative-semantic battles within Labour for most of its history. For the purposes of this book, though, it is more intriguing that Brown immediately followed his identification as a socialist with an (apparently unprompted) stress on his commitment to ‘modernisation’. This was partly a reassurance tactic: chastened by successive election defeats, Brown did 1 Gordon Brown, ‘Foreword’, in Tony Crosland, The Future of Socialism, fiftieth ­anniversary ed. (London, 2006), vi–xi, at vii. 2 Will Hutton and Larry Elliott, ‘Brown Ties Up His Tax Package’, Guardian, 29 September 1995, 21. 3 Blair, Socialism, 2, 4. 4 Tony Blair, ‘Foreword’ and John Smith, ‘Reclaiming the Ground’, in Christopher Bryant (ed.), Reclaiming the Ground: Christianity and Socialism (London, 1993), 9–13 and 127–142.

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not want to spook the horses of ‘Middle England’. However, Brown’s instinctive reach for ‘modernisation’ also reveals its importance for him. It shows his fervent belief that Labour had to ‘modernise’ both itself and, once in power, the country if either were to succeed in a transformed world. This book has shown that Brown was far from alone. Across the British left and throughout the late twentieth century, a diverse array of political actors found genuine meaning and attached real importance to the concepts of ‘modernisation’ and ‘modern socialism’. From Tony Benn to Neil Kinnock, politicians from across the spectrum of Labour politics identified a pressing need for the state to ‘modernise’ Britain’s economy, especially its industrial base. Several on the left called for a ‘modernisation’ of Britain’s constitution, including social democrats like Will Hutton, New Left Marxists like Tom Nairn, and Labour leaders like John Smith. Finally, many socialists and social democrats, within and without Labour, repeatedly demanded the ‘modernisation’ of the party itself, as it struggled in office during the 1970s and seethed in opposition after 1979. Yet, this diversity of meaning has since been obscured. By 1995, the word had become practically synonymous with New Labour’s emerging agenda, the supporters of which were widely known as ‘the modernisers’. Despite these plural modernisations of the recent past, the meaning of the term had crystallised into the preoccupations of New Labour’s leaders. Historians and political scientists have recognised the effect that New Labour’s rhetorical use of ‘modernisation’ had in marginalising alternative political agendas, and have thus subjected it to critical scrutiny.5 There has also long been awareness of the importance of ‘modernisation’ in other related contexts, particularly for postwar governments and economic policy.6 These observations have not, however, been converted into a sustained historical examination of ‘modernisation’ and the left in the late twentieth century: when actors argued for ‘modernisation’ or ‘modern socialism’, how politically plausible those representations were, and how all these aspects changed over time. More commonly, the literature has started from this mid-1990s ‘modernisation’ moment and projected it backwards.7 It consequently tends to portray a single, coherent process of ‘modernisation’, driven by 5 Cronin, New Labour’s Pasts, 16n3; Shaw, ‘Retrieving or Re-imagining the Past?’, in Davis and McWilliam (eds), Labour and the Left in the 1980s, 25–44; Finlayson, ‘Tony Blair and the Jargon of Modernisation’; Robinson, Language of Progressive Politics, chap. 7. 6 O’Hara and Parr (eds), The Wilson Governments; Tomlinson, Managing the Economy, Managing the People, chap. 2. 7 Most recently, and despite its innovative and enlightening use of the Sawyer archive, Massey, The Modernisation of the Labour Party.

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a small vanguard of ‘modernisers’, leading to the rise of New Labour. The crystallisation of ‘modernisation’ in the mid-1990s has thus foreclosed our ability to imaginatively reconstruct other attempts to update Labour for the ‘modern world’, and the alternative pathways available to the party. It has constrained our historical understanding of the left in the late twentieth century. Through its reconstruction of the diverse debates over ‘modern socialism’ from the 1970s to the 1990s, this book has tried to break free of these imaginative constraints. First, I have excavated past understandings of ‘modernisation’ or ‘modern socialism’ on the British left, which diverged in crucial respects from the meanings those terms had acquired by 1 May 1997. At different points, these visions of ‘modernisation’ possessed real political weight, measured in either broad influence across the left or deep influence on Labour power brokers. Chapter 1 recovered anguished left-wing attempts over the 1970s and 1980s to rethink a social-democratic political economy in light of the transnational constraints of ‘modern capitalism’. Initially, influential policymakers sought to reassert the nation state’s economic sovereignty over ‘multinationals’, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Economic Community (EEC); later, they tried to foster a supranational Eurosocialism or Euro-Keynesianism. Chapter 2 reconstructed left-wing attempts to develop various forms of socio-economic democracy and participatory politics – whether industrial and consumer democracy, decentralised corporatism, or the third sector. Over the 1980s, several important British socialists responded to ‘Thatcherism’ by making participative, socioeconomic democracy a cornerstone of ‘modern socialism’. Chapter 3 discussed the arguments of several feminists influential in 1990s policymaking circles, who contended that a truly ‘modernised’ Labour politics would prioritise redressing gender inequalities. Chapter 5 traced the rise, to an early-1990s zenith, of a radical programme of constitutional ‘modernisation’. Many well-connected socialists argued that policies such as a written constitution and electoral reform were crucial if Labour was to ‘modernise’ both itself and Britain. In Chapter 6, I argued that the idea of ‘modernising’ British ‘industrial base’ was foundational for economic strategies across the left (ranging across communists, socialists, and social democrats) until the early 1990s. Second, this book has also explored various forces – especially intellectual, political, and institutional forces – that amplified or muffled interpretations of ‘modernisation’, thus defining the term’s meaning by the mid-1990s. This was a particular theme of Chapter 4, which explored the politics of race and multiculturalism within the late twentieth-century left and explained why scattered attempts to link ­

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these themes to ‘modernisation’ failed to catch on. But in other chapters too, the influence of sites, networks, and practices of left-wing debate were highlighted to show why influential interpretations of ‘modern socialism’ – especially those that stressed national reindustrialisation or socio-economic democracy – fell by the wayside by the time Blair became party leader. Third, this book’s account of ‘modernisation’ not only recovers ­forgotten alternatives. It changes our understanding of New Labour too. It highlights New Labour’s roots in these left-wing debates and shows their influence on Labour’s preoccupations when it reached government. Much of what ‘modernisation’ meant by the ascendancy of Tony Blair arose from these creative currents of revisionism within the intellectual ecosystem of the British left. These origins have been obscured by Blair and Brown’s historically egregious dismissals of ‘Old Labour’.8 But they have also been overlooked by their critics, who have used ‘modernisation’ as a shorthand for the ‘embrace of neoliberalism’.9 In this book, I argued that New Labour’s understanding of ‘globalisation’ was anticipated and enabled by decades-old left-wing debates about the nation state in the modern economy. I demonstrated that a wide array of left-wingers had become, like New Labour, dissatisfied with post-war statism and sensitive to liberal critiques of state intervention and Morrisonian public ownership. I showed that New Labour’s tentative steps towards a new politics of gender equality were shaped by appeals to the ‘modern world’ from feminists who moved in its circles. Part III particularly stressed the origins of New Labour in the ecosystem of the British left. I traced how New Labour’s constitutional reforms arose from a sustained debate on the left over the ‘modernisation’ of Britain’s political structures. I also demonstrated that New Labour’s emphasis on ‘supply-side modernisation’ drew on a longstanding habit of mind among left-wing policymakers, most of whom sought to secure the economic foundations for redistribution, public services, and the reduction of poverty. The rest of this conclusion considers the broader implications of these findings. First, I discuss the contribution of this book to our understanding of Britain in the late twentieth century. Second, I explore the implications of this project for historical scholarship – of the Labour Party but also more widely of modern Britain. I will end by asking what this historical investigation tells us about the political tradition of ‘social ­democracy’, past and present. 8

Shaw, ‘Retrieving or Re-imagining the Past?’. 9 Panitch and Leys, Searching for Socialism, 2, 104.

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Britain by the Millennium

Britain’s late twentieth century has recently enjoyed a rapid growth in research and scholarly attention. Although the 1990s have garnered less attention than the 1970s and 1980s, this is beginning to change.10 After sustained research, the way historians conceive this period has evolved considerably. Where once the 1980s would be defined primarily by ‘Thatcherism’, now the undeniably important impact of Margaret Thatcher’s governments is situated alongside other crosscurrents, such as deindustrialisation, the enduring legacies of empire, technological change, and a ‘new individualism’.11 Through its recovery of the left’s dynamic and creative intellectual world in the last decades of the twentieth century, this book further illustrates the richness of this period. Conventionally, and in many ways understandably, the left is viewed as a bruised and battered victim. In many accounts, especially those of the miners’ strike, the left stages heroic but doomed last stands against the ascendant forces of the right.12 Yet, Alex Campsie, Rohan McWilliam, and Jonathan Davis have all uncovered the vibrancy and creativity of the left in this period.13 Other scholars have rightly pointed to the enduring legacies of the left’s activism after the 1970s on the political, economic, and cultural settlements of the early twenty-first century.14 The findings of this book endorse these representations of both the Labour Party and the wider left. Indeed, some of the ‘modern socialisms’ discussed here have since returned to prominence. In the late 2010s, the intellectual left has been especially productive in generating imaginative ideas and experimenting with new forms of politics. Their ideas have notable similarities with the debates of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. For instance, Martin O’Neill and Joe Guinan’s widely cited 2018 essay on the ‘institutional turn’ in the political economy of the contemporary left echoes the arguments over socioeconomic democracy and decentralisation discussed in Chapter 2.15 In the case of O’Neill, they can even claim a direct influence: in the past, 10

James Baker and David Geiringer, ‘Space, Text and Selfhood: Encounters with the Personal Computer in the Mass Observation Project Archive, 1991–2004’, Contemporary British History 33:3 (2019), 293–312; Paul Betts, ‘1989 At Thirty: A Recast Legacy’, Past & Present 244:1 (2019), 271–305. 11 Hilton et al., ‘New Times revisited’. 12 Vinen, Thatcher’s Britain, 114–116, 154–177. 13 Davis and McWilliam (eds), Labour and the Left in the 1980s; Campsie, ‘Socialism Will Never Be the Same Again’. 14 For example, Paul Bloomfield, ‘Labour’s Liberalism: Gay Rights and Video Nasties’, in McWilliam and Davis (eds), Labour and the Left in the 1980s, 69–90. 15 Joe Guinan and Martin O’Neill, ‘The Institutional Turn: Labour’s New Political Economy’, Renewal 26:2 (2018), 5–16.

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O’Neill has written melancholically about Paul Hirst and Will Hutton as the ‘New Labour that wasn’t’.16 Nor is the relevance of the various alternative modernisations in this book confined to those who supported Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. From the centre-left, Labour MP Bridget Phillipson has written on gender and the future labour market, in ways that echo and draw upon the gendered modernisation arguments considered in Chapter 3.17 In highlighting the left’s creativity and dynamism, this book has also joined others in questioning the idea that modern Britain at the turn of the millennium is best conceived as the ‘age of neoliberalism’.18 It has not denied the relevance of tracing neoliberal thought, nor the existence of a clear shift back to capital in both national and international political economy over the 1970s and 1980s, which Guy Ortolano recently described as a turn to ‘market liberalism’. It is convincing to argue that the ‘terms of political life’ changed after 1979, so long as the existence of market-liberal aspects beforehand or social-democratic features afterwards are borne in mind.19 Nevertheless, there is no escaping the fact that a centre-left party was elected by a colossal landslide on May Day 1997 and ruled for the next thirteen years, with lasting institutional and political legacies, including devolved parliaments, new schools and hospitals, and a rock-solid cross-party consensus on the minimum wage. Broader accounts that rely on ‘neoliberalism’ as the master category for the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries must necessarily emphasise where the ruling Labour Party conceded ground to the neoliberal and neoconservative right, and thus issues like public ownership, financialisation, and trade union law. While undeniably important, this focus comes at the expense of related but distinct areas, such as welfare redistribution, public services investment, global debt relief, constitutional reform, and equal rights. These were not distractions or concessions, but policy areas of great significance. The late twentieth century witnessed not just the rise of market liberalism but also the expansion of the service sector and deindustrialisation in the labour market, the growth of the ‘transfer state’, the rising prominence of gender and sexual liberation politics on the national stage, the erosion of a British national 16

Stuart White and Martin O’Neill, ‘The New Labour That Wasn’t: The Lessons of What Might Have Been’, in Guy Lodge and Glenn Gottfried (eds), Democracy in Britain: Essays in Honour of James Cornford (London, 2014), 31–41. 17 Bridget Phillipson, ‘Labour Loves Nostalgia. But We Succeed When Our Politics is about the Future’, New Statesman, 23 October 2019 [www.newstatesman.com/politics/ feminism/2019/10/labour-loves-nostalgia-we-succeed-when-our-politics-about-future]. 18 Davies, Jackson, and Sutcliffe-Braithwaite (eds), The Neoliberal Age?. 19 Ortolano, Thatcher’s Progress, 257–260.

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economy, and a ‘new British constitution’.20 Moreover, this book has highlighted links between left-wing debates over ‘modern socialism’ from the 1970s to the 1990s and Labour’s subsequent actions in government. As such, ‘neoliberalism’, especially if it is defined as a ‘thought collective’ spreading their arguments through specific institutional channels,21 simply does not adequately reflect the assumptions and thinking of Britain’s political leaders – or explain key decisions they made – as they governed the country over the late 1990s and 2000s. All periodisation comes with a cost, and there are clear explanatory benefits of highlighting the rise of market liberalism across the developed world. Yet, to make neoliberalism the master category of Britain by the millennium demands too high a price.

Historicising Labour and Historicising Modern Britain

This book has not only scrutinised the utility of ‘neoliberalism’. It has also attempted to move beyond other constraints in scholarship on both the Labour Party and modern Britain. For the former, it has posed new questions about the last fifty years of the party’s history. Historians of the Labour Party and wider left are blessed with an array of insightful scholars, across many disciplines. In much of the literature on Labour since the 1970s, though, the authors’ own political commitments are often at the forefront of their interpretations – especially in books on New Labour. A clear division has emerged between scholars who are sympathetic to the New Labour project and those who are hostile.22 Tellingly, many of the foundational texts for this scholarship were written while these political battles were still raging.23 It is not surprising that the factionalised meaning of ‘modernisation’ in the mid-1990s has so profoundly influenced our understanding of Labour since the 1970s. By seeking to destabilise and pluralise the meaning of ‘modernisation’, I have deliberately tried to move beyond these fascinating but now wellcovered arguments and ask new questions. It is, naturally, unavoidable 20 Tomlinson, ‘De-industrialization Not Decline’; Sloman, Transfer State; McCarthy, ‘Gender Equality’, in Thane (ed.), Unequal Britain, 105–125; Edgerton, Rise and Fall; Bogdanor, New British Constitution. 21 Slobodian and Plehwe, ‘Introduction’, in Plehwe, Slobodian, and Mirowski (eds), Nine Lives of Neoliberalism, 2. 22 Recently, sympathetic accounts from Richard Carr and Christopher Massey have been counterbalanced by critical studies from Colin Leys and Leo Panitch. Carr, March of the Moderates; Massey, The Modernisation of the Labour Party; Panitch and Leys, Searching for Socialism. 23 Shaw, The Labour Party Since 1979; Smith, ‘Neil Kinnock and the Modernisation of the Labour Party’; Hay, The Political Economy of New Labour.

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that political contexts will have shaped my account. As recognised by other historians of Labour, the subject is intensely political and its students usually have skin in the game.24 The research project behind this book was first conceived early into the controversial party leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and the manuscript was completed in the second year of Keir Starmer’s equally controversial time as Labour’s leader. However, it should also be noted that its author was a toddler living in the Republic of Ireland when Blair became Prime Minister. The passing of time does allow for new perspectives on the party’s past – for the introduction of fruitful, if no less controversial, new questions. This is one of the insights that history can bring to the table. Accordingly, a useful analogy can be drawn with histories of Labour in the early twentieth century. Scholars like Ross McKibbin and Laura Beers have grappled with questions that may not have been obvious at first, but have gained importance in hindsight, such as whether it was historically possible for Ramsay MacDonald’s government to have used ‘Keynesian’ policies before the publication of General Theory, or the role of a national mass media in Labour’s rise to the top of British politics.25 Similarly, this book has tried to explore different interpretive frameworks – the challenge to the nation state, the various consequences of deindustrialisation, the return of constitutional agitation to the centre of British politics – that throw illuminating light on established debates, and pose new questions for historians to answer. This book has also engaged with some ongoing methodological questions in the history of modern Britain. Through attending to the contested meaning of ‘modernisation’, and through emphasising discursive context, I have drawn heavily on the ‘linguistic turn’, which still strongly influences scholarship today.26 Yet, I did not want to simply catalogue the discourses of elite politicians. Recent work has escaped this trap by attending to the significant gaps between ‘elite’ and ‘vernacular’ discourses and has paid close attention to the ‘subjectivities’ of ordinary people.27 This is an exciting and valuable new agenda, but it did not have a direct bearing on my own research questions. One of my key concerns was to provide an account of how and why the meaning of modernisation 24

Callaghan, Fielding, and Ludlam, ‘Introduction’, in idem (eds), Interpreting the Labour Party, 1–8, at 1–2. 25 Ross McKibbin, Parties and People: England 1914–1951 (Oxford, 2010), 70–72, 82–84. Laura Beers, Your Britain: Media and the Making of the Labour Party (Cambridge, MA, 2010). 26 Saunders, ‘Crisis? What Crisis?’, in Jackson and Saunders (eds), Making Thatcher’s Britain, 25–42, at 25–26. 27 Robinson et al., ‘Telling Stories about Post-War Britain’; David Cowan, ‘“The Progress of a Slogan”: Youth, Culture and the Shaping of Everyday Political Languages in Late 1940s Britain’, Twentieth Century British History 29:3 (2018), 435–458.

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in Labour changed over time. Thus, I made a conscious decision to move beyond discourse, and beyond an overreliance on ‘contingency’, and into the realms of institutions, social networks, material interests, and economic structure. While the bulk of my research still pays close attention to discursive battles, I have consciously situated them in these other contexts, whether they be employment trends or changes in policymaking practice. In doing so, I have tried to write a grounded and historically situated account of political ideas and the Labour Party in late twentieth-century Britain, which pays close attention to the political cultures and social contexts of intellectual debates. This work has, therefore, not only drawn inspiration from historians who have long synthesised ‘constructivist’ and ‘realist’ approaches, like Ross McKibbin and Jon Lawrence, but also consciously rethought the current dominance of ‘political culture’ in political history.28 In doing so, it has looked further afield to political and social science (especially historical institutionalism).29 It has also consciously read ‘cultural’ evidence against the backdrop of a renewed historiographical interest in political economy and the history of capitalism.30 If the conclusions of this investigation are convincing, I hope this can point to some ways in which different forms of political history, old and new, can be combined to fruitful effect.

Social Democracy

Finally, this book provides a historical case study through which to better understand the intellectual tradition of ‘social democracy’. It has shown that ‘modernisation’ was an immensely attractive concept to much of the British left and centre left over the late twentieth century. Thus, its findings highlight the importance for social democracy of linear temporality, normative attachments to ‘modernity’, ‘change’ and ‘progress’, and an urge for ‘revisionism’. It may even suggest that ‘modernisation’ is a uniquely prominent concept in the tradition of social democracy, especially its more technocratic variants. Situated in the ideology’s longer history, this is a plausible 28

McKibbin, Parties and People; Lawrence, Electing Our Masters. For an overview of trends in political history, see Lawrence and Campsie, ‘Political history’, in Berger, Feldner, and Passmore (eds), Writing History, 323–343. 29 Hugh Pemberton, ‘Sink Together, or Swim Together? Contemporary British Political History and British Politics’, paper at the ‘Breaking Boundaries’ conference, University of Birmingham, 29 June 2016. I am grateful to Pemberton for allowing me to cite this paper. 30 Kenneth Lipartito, ‘Reassembling the Economic: New Departures in Historical Materia­ lism’, The American Historical Review 121:1 (2016), 101–139.

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conclusion. After all, the godfather of European social democracy, the German Social Democrat politician and theorist Eduard Bernstein, grounded his case for ‘evolutionary socialism’ in an analysis of how the ‘modern mode of production’ had changed since the mid-nineteenth century, and thus how ‘modern society’ had developed in ways Karl Marx had not anticipated.31 Like Marx, Bernstein emphasised the interrelation between economic ‘tendencies’ and political, legal, and cultural developments (though he critiqued crude determinism). But he perceived an evolutionary rather than catastrophist future for capitalism, which led him to represent socialism as the ‘legitimate heir’ of liberalism and to advocate for democracy. This ‘revisionist’ argumentative move has since been repeatedly echoed by social democrats over the decades. In modern British history, the term ‘revisionist’ tends to mean mid-century social democrats in Labour, especially the adherents to Anthony Crosland’s arguments in his iconic The Future of Socialism (1956). Again, the crux of Crosland’s case was that capitalism in the modern world had fundamentally changed, and that ‘socialism’ had to adapt with it.32 Naturally, this insight comes with crucial qualifications. For one, an emphasis on evolution, an orientation to the future, and an inheritance of Enlightenment assumptions of linear temporality and progress are not traits exclusive to social democracy.33 ‘Modernisation’ has even gained resonance for the Conservative Party at different points in the same period – whether that be Edward Heath’s technocratic advisers or David Cameron’s Notting Hill set.34 For another, social democracy also hosts other countervailing but just as crucial intellectual inheritances. In Britain, the traditions of ethical and Christian socialism, utopian and romantic socialism, and trade union cultures, are also key – as Brown’s words at the beginning of this chapter revealed, they co-exist with this ‘modernising’ impulse. Karl Pike has recently revived Henry Drucker’s insights on the determining influence of ‘ethos’ on the Labour Party, largely inherited from its trade union past, and applied it to the late twentieth century.35 These inheritances encourage different arguments from those implied by ‘modernisation’, especially the need for enduring ‘principles’, the urge to ‘defend’ past gains, and the importance of historical 31

Eduard Bernstein, Evolutionary Socialism: A Critique and Affirmation, trans. Edith C. Harvey (New York, 1909), passim. 32 Crosland, Future of Socialism. 33 Robinson, The Language of Progressive Politics. 34 Charles Lockwood, ‘“Action Not Words”: The Conservative Party, Public Opinion and “Scientific” Politics, c.1945–70’, Twentieth Century British History 31:3 (2020), 360–386; Dommett, ‘The Theory and Practice of Party Modernisation’. 35 Karl Pike, ‘Mere Theology? Neil Kinnock and the Labour Party’s Aims and Values, 1986–1988’, Contemporary British History 34:1 (2020), 95–117.

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Part III  The Search for a Modernising Social Democracy

precedent. An association with ‘modernity’ is thus far from the only source of legitimacy in social democracy. The political power of (imaginatively narrated) appeals to the past in Labour has been highlighted by Richard Jobson.36 Moreover, claims to modernisation in themselves relied on specific and often partial readings of history, such as Weberian ‘modernisation’ theses, New Left interpretations of the late seventeenth century, and laments of the Edwardian ‘progressive dilemma’. Nevertheless, precisely because of its intellectual history, the appeal of ‘revision’, ‘adaptation’, and ‘modernisation’ is most firmly lodged in the ideological makeup of social democracy. This has been noted by others. Michael Freeden argues that New Labour ‘refashioned socialist transcendentalism and future-orientation through an obsessive focus on modernising, on change and renewal’.37 An intellectual tendency to ‘revise’ is, moreover, often precisely what is meant when scholars draw parallels between New Labour and Crosland.38 While arising out of significantly divergent contexts, claims to ‘modern socialism’ in the late twentieth century echoed this revisionist tendency in the tradition of social democracy. Demonstrating the appeal of ‘modernisation’ for the late twentiethcentury left has, therefore, a clarifying effect. It underlines the critical importance of self-conscious revisionism for social democracy, past and present. For social democrats and Labour today, this insight is doubleedged. On the one hand, this obsession with change and renewal has severe downsides, which can easily be discerned if the failures of New Labour are recalled. The rhetorical edge of proclaiming politics as ‘modern’ or ‘old-fashioned’ can stifle political debate and participation, generating resentment. New Labour’s devotion to its ‘modernising’ mission encouraged an authoritarian approach to party management that often backfired, as Ken Livingstone’s time as Mayor of London showed. It came to haunt Labour’s right, the centre left, after 2010.39 Moreover, if a claim of ‘modernisation’ is reliant on flawed views of the past or overconfident predictions of the future, it can lead to an almost messianic faith in misguided agendas. Perhaps most significantly, an overreliance on the idea of ‘modernisation’ can alienate crucial existing bases of support over time. Labour’s sudden collapse in Scotland and, later, the so-called ‘Red Wall’ over the 2010s can be traced to many long-term 36

Richard Jobson, Nostalgia and the Post-War Labour Party: Prisoners of the Past (Manchester, 2018). 37 Michael Freeden, ‘The Ideology of New Labour’, The Political Quarterly 70:1 (1999), 42–51, at 50. 38 Diamond, ‘Introduction’, in idem (ed.), New Labour’s Old Roots, 1–37, at 23. 39 Minkin, The Blair Supremacy.

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changes – including themes of this book, like deindustrialisation and the rise of constitutional debates.40 But it is true that New Labour, among others, took much of their ‘base’ for granted in their search for the ‘new working class’ and ‘new middle class’. There may also be a connection between these electoral shifts and Labour’s 1990s economic strategy of ‘human capital’, given that politics today is increasingly unsettled by the long-term expansion of higher education and polarised by education and generation.41 On the other hand, an enduring virtue of social democracy’s love affair with change is its irrepressible restlessness and creativity. One of the sources of the British Conservative Party’s impressive success in the era of mass democracy – a success few anticipated before universal ­suffrage – is its sharp nose for changing winds and its ‘supple’ agility in response.42 The left is perhaps never going to be as ruthlessly versatile or shamelessly opportunistic (dependent on taste), but in a competitive democracy it cannot stay still. In this light, social democracy’s attraction to ‘revisionism’ is one of the left’s most valuable resources. In our unstable world, where developments in one corner of the world can, in mere weeks, transform everyday lives in another, a predilection to adaptation and innovation is no bad thing. If suitably humble, pluralist, and open-minded, social democracy’s tendency to revision may yet prove to be its blessing.

40

Gerry Hassan and Eric Shaw, The Strange Death of Labour Scotland (Edinburgh, 2012). 41 Sobolewska and Ford, Brexitland, 24–27, 140, 177, 197–203. 42 Ben Jackson, ‘What We Have Learned about the Conservative Party’, The Political Quarterly 92:1 (2021), 5–6.

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Index

Aaronovitch, Sam, 248 Abbott, Diane, 36, 127, 130, 161, 163, 165, 172, 173, 183 Abrams, Kingsley, 180 AIDS crisis, 184 Ali, Tariq, 131, 162, 179 Allen, Graham, 212, 222 Alternative Economic Strategy, 26, 35, 103, 104, 155, 200, 235, 243, 263 afterlife of, 79 and centralisation, 52 and economic nationalism, 51 at a European level, 44, 53–59 and industrial democracy, 96 and modernity, 44 and nationalism, 44, 51, 53 and ‘nostalgia’, 124 and women, 130–133, 139 Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union (AEEU), 225 anarchism, 93 Anderson, Perry, 206, 217 Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM), 160, 184 Ashdown, Paddy, 116, 221, 222, 227 Atkin, Sharon, 166 Australian Labour Party, 62 balance of payments, 239, 241, 246, 248, 253, 255, 262, 264 Balls, Ed, 79, 115, 250, 257, 258, 260, 261 Bank of England, 64 Barnett, Anthony, 15, 90, 193, 206, 213, 215, 218–222, 224 Beckett, Margaret, 82 Bellos, Linda, 165 Benn, Tony, 2, 7, 12, 13, 37, 44, 48, 50–51, 63, 67, 88, 90, 124, 131, 200–201, 206, 216, 219, 239, 241, 246, 267 Bennite wave, 48, 132, 164, 201 and constitutional reform, 202–204

Benton, Sarah, 107 Bill of Rights, 33, 194, 199, 200, 202, 206, 208, 211, 213, 225 Charter of Rights, 209 European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), 193, 195, 200, 208, 212, 225, 227 and the Human Rights Act, 37 written constitution, 205–207, 217, 222 Bish, Geoff, 48, 137, 207, 236 Black Atlantic, 154, 187 black radicalism, 154, 157, 161 and Black Sections, 164, 170 Black Sections, 156 and black radicalism, 164, 170 Black Labour Activists Campaign (BLAC), 169 Black Socialist Society, 168, 173 and class, 176 defeats of campaign in 1980s, 166 divisions within Black and Asian Britain, 167–173 obstacles and reactions to the adoption of, 166–167 origins, 161–166 resolution of the dispute, 173–174 and the Rushdie Affair, 173 Black Wednesday, 76 Blackstone, Tessa, 15, 142, 182 Blackwell, Trevor, 261 Blair, Tony, 1–4, 9, 37, 41, 79, 114–116, 131, 143, 148, 182, 185, 187–188, 193, 195, 197, 201, 212, 221–223, 226, 229, 237, 242, 244–245, 249, 252, 259, 263, 266, 269, 273 Blunkett, David, 63, 98, 108, 111, 256 and Marxism Today, 107–108 Boateng, Paul, 36, 164–165, 169, 171, 173, 178, 183, 209 Bousquet, Ben, 163, 169, 170 Brandt, Willy, 59 Bray, Jeremy, 89, 234

307

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308

Index

Bretton Woods, 58, 65, 246 British Telecom (BT), 244 Brooks, Rachel, 147 Brown, Gordon, 2–3, 9, 14, 37, 41, 79, 115, 116, 147, 182, 185, 188, 211, 218, 221–223, 230, 237, 240, 244, 248–252, 257, 258, 262, 263, 266–267, 269 Bullock Committee on Industrial Democracy (1977), 87, 91, 95 Callaghan, James, 42, 85, 87, 239 Cambridge Economic Policy Group (CEPG), 50, 243 Cameron, David, 152, 275 Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD), 130, 165 Campbell, Alastair, 114, 115, 252 Campbell, Beatrix, 15, 36, 105, 107, 126, 127, 134, 136, 179 and New Times, 139 Sweet Freedom (1982, 1987), 134–135 Castle, Barbara, 64, 86, 128, 160, 200 Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS), 155, 175 Charter 88, 25, 113, 144, 196, 205–208, 210, 213, 215, 218, 220, 221, 224–225 and New Labour, 222–223 and the Labour Party, 207, 209, 211, 225 Chernobyl Disaster, 69 Christian socialism, 148, 266, 275 City of London. See finance Clarke, Charles, 11, 12, 72, 96, 208 Clarke, Ken, 263 Clause IV, 9, 15, 18, 180, 183, 194 Clelland, David, 213 Clinton, Bill, 259, 260 ‘Clintonomics’, 116, 259 Coates, Ken, 88 Cold War, 54–55, 195 anti-Atlanticism, 64, 68, 203 end of, 198, 211, 213, 217, 224 Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), 105, 107, 127, 139, 207, 215 communitarianism, 125, 150, 189, 222, 260 Community Charge. See poll tax community politics, 93, 105 and modern society, 93–95 Confederation of British Industry (CBI), 87, 95 Confederation of Socialist Parties in the European Community (Confed), 59, 60, 73, 76

Conservative Party, 3, 9, 33, 70, 74, 88, 97, 128, 133, 152, 158, 185, 199, 206, 228, 263, 275, 277 Constitutional Convention (Charter 88, 1991), 210, 214, 226 constitutional reform, 9, 193, 210, 212, 220, 271, 277 Bill of Rights. See Bill of Rights and British Marxism, 217 devolution. See decentralisation and electoral reform. See electoral reform freedom of information (FOI). See freedom of information (FOI) House of Lords. See House of Lords reform and the Labour Party, 211, 215, 225 and political economy, 112–113, 219–221 referendum. See referendum and the stakeholding economy, 114 and women’s rights, 144 consumer association (CA), 92 consumption consumer empowerment. See decentralisation consumption boom, 135 Cook, Robin, 60, 153, 205, 208, 221, 226, 249 Cooley, Mike, 89, 99, 220 Coote, Anna, 15, 36, 125, 126, 132, 143, 145, 150, 247 IPPR, 140–141 Sweet Freedom (1982, 1987), 134–135 Corbyn, Jeremy, 2, 165, 271, 273 Cornford, James, 142, 182, 207 corporatism, 35, 84, 96, 113, 115, 202, 219 and modernity, 86, 87, 103, 104 Crewe, Ivor, 133 Cripps, Francis, 44, 48, 50, 53, 56, 58, 62, 243, 257 Crosland, Anthony, 46, 89, 92, 266 Croslandite revisionism, 33, 49, 64, 84, 93, 202, 230, 275 memorial lecture, 1988, 109 Crossman, Richard, 200 Cryer, Bob, 251 Cunningham, Jack, 208 Curran, James, 59–60, 206 Dalyell, Tam, 199 Darling, Alistair, 209 decentralisation, 32, 83 consumer empowerment, 92–93, 109 and the decline of deference, 90, 198, 215 devolution, 33, 193, 195, 198, 209–211, 214, 221, 223, 225, 227

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Index industrial democracy, 3, 26, 35, 51, 82, 84, 87–92, 96, 100–102, 109, 118, 119, 219 and modern capitalism, 90 and modern society, 94, 97–99, 101, 105–108, 113, 211, 214, 215 and modernisation, 82, 103–105 municipal socialism, 36, 84, 98–100, 105, 106, 127, 129, 155, 178, 184 of planning, 100, 104 and socioeconomic democracy, 108–110, 270 subsidiarity. See European Community and Thatcherism, 97 declinism, 238–239 deindustrialisation, 33–34, 38, 176, 254–256, 259, 270, 271, 277 Delors, Jacques, 45, 69, 214 speech to the TUC, 1988, 71, 104 Demos, 25, 78, 119, 143, 181, 256 Derer, Vera, 130 devaluation. See exchange rate developmental state, 103 devolution. See decentralisation Dewar, Donald, 221, 228 Dubs, Alf, 168, 170 Eagle, Angela, 147 Eatwell, John, 71, 72, 236, 241, 247, 250, 255, 257 Edmonds, John, 73 education, 34, 38, 223, 231, 233, 249–253, 256–259, 263, 264, 277 Elder, Murray, 210 electoral alliance, 204–205, 215 tactical voting 87 (TV87), 205 electoral reform, 194, 198, 199, 202, 204–208, 210–212, 217, 221–223, 225, 227 New Zealand referendums on, 213 Elliott, Gregory, 217 Elliott, Larry, 266 empire, 156, 203, 219 postcolonial legacies. See postcolonial legacies use of imperial imagery, 49, 203 EMU. See European Community endogenous growth theory. See human capital environmentalism, 69–70, 98, 152 ERM. See Exchange Rate Mechanism Esping-Andersen, Gøsta, 145 Etzioni, Amitai, 260 Eurocommunism, 35, 85, 97, 105–107, 256 European Community, 8, 32, 33, 112, 195, 198, 199, 214

309 1975 referendum, 64, 203, 246 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), 57, 60 conversion of left-wing Eurosceptics, 64, 67, 75, 77 Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), 69, 71 European Commission, 150, 211 European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM). See Exchange Rate Mechanism European Monetary System (EMS), 57, 61, 64 and the future of social democracy, 35, 45 and globalisation, 74, 78 and Keynesianism, 45 and left-wing Europhilia, 45, 49, 51, 53, 76 and left-wing Euroscepticism, 42, 45, 51, 54, 55, 61, 64, 72, 74, 203 proposals for a Common Industrial Policy, 57 Single Market, 70, 240 Social Europe, 63, 104 subsidiarity, 214 European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), 70 European Union. See European Community Europeanisation of the Labour Party, 62–63, 68 of trade, 56, 57, 67, 72 exchange rate, 50 control over, 57 devaluation, 3, 61, 64, 73, 246 Exchange Rate Mechanism, 8, 41, 42, 246 and devaluation, 71–72 socialist and social-democratic support for, 72 UK exit from, 76 Fabian Society, 14, 25, 87, 91, 117, 137, 195, 199, 220, 223, 256 Socialist Philosophy Group, 100–102 family policy, 36, 124, 128, 149, 232, 261 and economic policy, 148 and modern society, 140–143 feminism, 32, 36, 126, 141, 185, 203, 247, 260 and class, 134–135 and the Labour Party, 126, 129–130 and the left, 128–130, 139–140 use of term, 127–128 Women’s Liberation Movement (WLM), 93, 127, 129

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310

Index

Field, Frank, 149, 205 finance, 34, 53, 238, 244, 256, 262 Big Bang, 66 Eurodollar market, 47 financial ‘vigilantes’, 61, 66, 72, 244 financialisation, 16, 66, 264, 271 first past the post (FPTP), 183, 198, 202 Foot, Michael, 6, 50, 59, 96, 198, 200, 201, 241, 247 Foot, Paul, 131 freedom of information (FOI), 193, 200, 203, 209, 225, 227 Freeman, Richard, 257, 259 full employment, 34, 81, 142, 235, 237, 255, 260, 261 gender gap. See market research General Election 1964 election, 158 1974 elections, 48, 87, 199 1979 election, 87, 148 1983 election, 47, 48, 50, 51, 96, 98, 101, 126, 130, 159, 201, 204, 205, 243 1987 election, 65, 102, 105, 130, 137, 138, 159, 166, 195, 204, 205, 220, 224, 243, 248 1992 election, 1, 73, 81, 83, 111, 112, 117, 138, 149, 181, 206, 211, 223, 225, 236, 249 1997 election, 81, 114, 148, 193, 227, 253, 271 General Municipal and Boilermakers’ Union (GMB), 225, 251 Giddens, Anthony, 43, 77, 145, 210 Gilroy, Paul, 36, 173, 175–176, 186–187 globalisation, 16, 32, 34, 66, 115, 258 in the Edwardian era, 52 and Europe, 71, 73–75, 78 and modernisation, 2, 46, 79 and multinationals, 53, 65 and New Labour, 43, 79 and the left, 46, 67–69 scepticism of significance, 65–66 widespread articulation across the left, 77–80 Godley, Wynne, 50, 243, 247, 248, 257 Gould, Bryan, 15, 35, 46, 64, 66, 70, 76, 85, 101, 104, 111, 112, 113, 211, 244, 247, 256 and devaluation, 71–72 Euroscepticism, 64, 68, 76 and Marxism Today, 107–108 and modern socialism, 81–83, 109–112 resignation, 73, 118

Gould, Philip, 11, 114, 137, 189 Grant, Bernie, 164, 166, 173 Greater London Council (GLC), 84, 98–100, 105, 126, 127, 129, 178 abolition of the, 214 Conservative criticism of as loony left, 159, 166, 184 London Industrial Strategy (1985), 99, 235 Green Party, 69, 209, 210 Gregg, Paul, 261 Grunwick Strike (1977), 95 Hailsham, Lord. See Hogg, Quintin Hain, Peter, 15, 52, 73, 81, 84, 96–98, 118, 127, 131, 183 and community politics, 93–95 and Europe, 74–75 Hall, Stuart, 6, 36, 97, 131, 152, 176–177, 183, 186–187 Harman, Harriet, 123, 125, 126, 130, 132, 135, 145, 147–150, 237, 259, 261 IPPR, 140–141 The Century Gap (1993), 143 Hart, Judith, 235 Hattersley, Roy, 100–102, 159, 162, 167, 208, 221 Hayek, Friedrich, 29 Healey, Denis, 50, 239 Heath, Edward, 3, 87, 158, 275 Heffer, Eric, 55, 63, 200, 201 Heseltine, Michael, 257 Hewitt, Patricia, 11, 12, 14, 68, 109, 126, 132, 135, 138, 143–145, 147, 148, 150, 166, 182, 200, 208, 210, 214, 240, 250, 261 IPPR, 140–143 Hirst, Paul, 15, 84, 112–113, 219, 256, 271 After Thatcher (1989), 103–105 Hobsbawm, Eric, 6, 14, 18, 95, 133, 177, 204 Hodge, Margaret, 211 Hogg, Quintin (Lord Hailsham), 199, 214 Holland, Stuart, 15, 35, 41, 44, 54, 62, 84, 131, 235, 247 defence of Maastricht, 76 and the European Community, 51 and industrial democracy, 51, 91 and mesoeconomics, 46–47 and the nation state, 51–52 Out of Crisis project. See Out of Crisis work with Jacques Delors, 45, 58, 75 Hoon, Geoff, 65 House of Lords reform, 193, 195, 205, 206, 208, 209, 221, 225, 227 abolition, 201, 203, 209 industrial parliament, 86

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Index Howe, Darcus, 158, 162, 170 Howe, Geoffrey, 54, 70 human capital, 38, 115, 147, 230, 231, 233, 249, 251–253, 261, 263, 277 endogenous growth theory, 256–259 and gender, 145 Hutton, Will, 113–116, 118, 218, 219, 255, 266, 267, 271 IMF Crisis (1976), 50, 247 import controls. See protectionism incomes policy, 49, 104 industrial democracy. See decentralisation inflation, 6, 49, 60, 72, 246 information technology, 115, 142, 241–242, 244, 251, 259 Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), 25, 78, 125, 126, 148, 181, 226, 241, 256, 258 About Time (1993), 141–142 Next Left (1992), 142, 182, 207, 237 Social Justice Commission (1992–4), 78, 116–118, 142, 145, 242, 250, 255, 261 The Family Way (1990), 140–141 Institute of Workers’ Control (IWC), 88 institutional turn, 270 International Marxist Group (IMG), 179 IRA (Provisional), 172, 199 Iraq War, 18, 264 Irvine, Derry, 207, 209 Jackson, Jesse, 179 Jacques, Martin, 105, 179, 256 Jenkins, Roy, 49, 202, 206, 246 Jeuda, Diane, 209 Jones, Jack, 86, 88 Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust (JRRT), 25, 224 Joseph, Keith, 199 Kaldor, Nicholas, 229, 243, 246, 247, 257 Kellner, Peter, 133 Keynesianism, 28, 44, 57, 58, 81, 103, 104, 234, 273 coordinated reflation, 49, 56 New Keynesianism, 116, 145, 256, 257 Post-Keynesianism, 257 Kilbrandon Commission, 199 Kilroy-Silk, Robert, 200 Kinnock, Neil, 1–2, 7–9, 11, 62, 72, 76, 100, 108, 111, 130, 133, 145, 148, 167, 184, 199, 208, 211, 213, 220, 221, 223, 235, 239, 241, 247–249, 251, 255, 263, 267 turn to Europe, 59, 68, 71–72, 77

311 Labour Briefing (or London Labour Briefing), 165 Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform (LCER), 208, 224, 226 Labour Common Market Safeguards Committee (LCMSC), 61 marginalisation of, 68 Labour Co-ordinating Committee (LCC), 25, 96, 98, 131, 165, 183, 208, 226 Labour Party 1988 leadership election, 2, 206 1992 leadership election, 81–83, 85, 111, 113, 118, 181, 211, 237, 252 1994 leadership election, 222 acceptance of the European Community, 62–63 Annual Conference, 138, 163, 165, 166, 168, 201, 211, 212, 222, 239, 242, 245, 248, 250 Black Sections. See Black Sections centres of policymaking, 24, 48, 116–118, 227 and class, 8, 30, 133, 176, 184, 277 constituency Labour parties (CLPs), 24, 160, 165 and constitutional reform, 196–202 and ethnic minority representation, 161, 163, 167, 174, 181 factionalism, 156, 182, 272 and feminism, 129–130, 146 Jobs and Industry campaign, 130, 132, 235, 248 Labour Finance and Industry Group, 240 Labour Party Race Action Group, 168 membership, 78, 225 and multiculturalism, 181 National Conference of Labour Women, 129 National Executive Committee (NEC), 24, 46, 48, 49, 74, 116, 132, 137, 146, 159, 163, 166, 173, 200, 210, 247, 248 National Labour Women’s Committee, 138 National Policy Forum (NPF), 78, 114, 253 One Member One Vote (OMOV), 125 Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), 225 Plant Commission on Electoral Reform (1991–3), 210–212, 215, 224, 226 and race, 167, 174, 176, 181 Research Department, 48, 207 and the Scottish Constitutional Convention, 210

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312

Index

Labour Party (cont.) Shadow Cabinet, 116, 137, 144, 146, 226 Shadow Communications Agency, 137 ‘soft left’, 63, 75, 165, 208 and think tanks, 25, 116–118 Women’s Action Committee (WAC), 130 and women, 123, 135, 137–138, 143, 147, 185 All Women Shortlist (AWS), 125, 146 Laird, Gavin, 225 Lawrence, Stephen, 153 Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, 188, 189 Lawson, Nigel, 8, 70, 135, 220 Le Grand, Julian, 101, 119 Leadbeater, Charles, 105–107, 140, 241, 250 Lestor, Joan, 160 Lever, Harold, 247 Liberal Democrats, 117, 210, 221, 222, 227 Liberal Party, 94, 199, 206 Liberal Democrats. See Liberal Democrats liberalism, 37, 94, 128, 189, 220, 275 liberation movements, 6, 32, 271 Livingstone, Ken, 1, 14, 68, 74, 98, 106, 127, 131, 152, 155, 165, 172, 177–180, 183, 236, 276 Lloyd, John, 67, 193, 218 Lucas Aerospace Combine Shop Stewards’ Committee, 89–90, 220 afterlife of, 100 Lucas Plan, 89 Maastricht Treaty, 33, 35, 45, 69, 70, 76, 216 Labour rebellion over, 73 Mackintosh, John, 86, 202 Maclennan, Emma, 58 Macmillan, Harold, 3, 238 Macpherson Report (1999). See Lawrence, Stephen MacShane, Denis, 55 Major, John, 9, 70, 74, 263 Mandelson, Peter, 11, 12, 167, 208, 221, 223 Manley, Michael, 59 manufacturing, 32, 34, 65, 103, 230, 231, 233, 239, 241, 246–250, 254–256, 259, 260 and devaluation, 71–72 and gender, 131–134, 140, 141, 260–262

market research, 18, 114, 130, 143, 167, 189, 223 gender gap, 127, 137–138 and influence on modernisation debates, 184–186 Shadow Communications Agency. See Labour Party market socialism, 35, 85, 100–102, 107, 119 Marquand, David, 15, 87, 112–113, 202, 224 the ‘progressive dilemma’, 276 The Unprincipled Society (1988), 102–103 Martin, David, 67 Marxism Today, 14, 25, 43, 54, 56, 85, 97, 105, 132, 155, 177, 179, 202, 204, 222, 241, 256 and gender, 139–140 and New Labour, 107 New Times, 105–107, 119, 126, 137, 207 Massey, Doreen, 178 Mattinson, Deborah, 137–138, 143, 147 McIntosh, Andrew, 98 McKellen, Ian, 205 Meacher, Michael, 63, 81, 110, 111 media, 25, 126, 145 migration policy, 154, 157–159, 163 Mikardo, Ian, 200 Miliband, David, 142, 182, 252, 258 Miliband, Ralph, 206 Militant Tendency, 1–3, 63, 100, 165, 248 Miller, David, 101 miners’ strike (1984–5), 96, 270 minimum wage, 146, 149, 232, 260, 264, 271 Ministry for Women, 130, 137, 149 Mitchell, Austin, 14, 64, 72, 108 Mitterrand, François, 54, 58, 64, 130 impact on British left, 61–62, 217 U-Turn, 1982–4, 61 modernisation alternative, 2–3, 12–16, 19–21, 82, 98, 99, 101, 106–114, 118, 125, 139–144, 174–180, 230, 241, 267, 268 and the Alternative Economic Strategy, 47, 243 and the Alternative European Strategy, 67–68, 76 and Anna Coote, 125 and Anthony Barnett, 193, 215, 221 and Anthony Crosland, 266, 275 and Beatrix Campbell, 139 and Bryan Gould, 12, 81–83, 104, 107–108, 118, 244

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Index and Charter 88, 207 and class. See new working class competition between different versions of, 83, 85, 107, 112–116, 118–119, 124, 195, 219–221, 226–227 and coordinated reflation, 60 and the Conservative Party, 3, 152–153, 275 constitutional, 26, 37, 112–113, 193– 195, 197–198, 207, 209, 210, 215, 217, 218, 220–223, 226–227, 267 criticisms of, 186–187 and David Blunkett, 118 and decentralisation, 82, 106, 211, 215 and declinism, 239 economic, 34, 37, 50, 62, 104, 145, 210, 220, 229–237, 240–242, 245–248, 251, 253, 255, 263, 267 and education, 38, 227 and electoral strategy, 34, 124, 133, 138, 156, 183–186, 222, 277 and Eurocentrism, 36, 156 and Europe, 67, 68, 79, 240 and Frances Morrell, 67 and gender, 36, 123, 125, 127, 137, 138–151, 185 and globalisation, 2, 46, 67–69, 79 and Gordon Brown, 79, 107, 118, 147, 183, 221–223, 237, 244, 249, 266–267, 267 and Harold Wilson, 3, 12, 229, 234 and Harriet Harman, 126, 147, 150, 237 and human capital, 229 and industrial democracy, 90–92 and the IPPR, 116–118, 145–146, 207 and Jim Callaghan, 239 and John Smith, 9, 195, 216, 249 and Ken Livingstone, 14, 152, 177–180 and linear teleology, 15, 149–150, 186–187, 189, 274, 275 and manufacturing, 247 and Marxism, 175, 275 and Marxism Today, 105–108, 119, 139–140, 207 and Michael Meacher, 2, 110 and multiculturalism, 36, 152–154, 156, 180–182, 186–187 and Neil Kinnock, 7, 11, 12, 68, 209, 236, 239, 248 and the ‘new working class’. See new working class and Nicholas Kaldor, 247 and North Sea Oil, 239 organisational, 9, 10, 124, 180 and Patricia Hewitt, 68, 126, 150

313 and Paul Gilroy, 175 and Peter Hain, 15, 98, 118 and race, 36, 155, 156, 174–182 role in the literature, 3–4, 12, 267–268 and Sam Aaronovitch, 248 and Sid Tierny, 248 and social democracy, 38, 274–278 and socioeconomic democracy, 3, 82, 84, 98, 103–112, 118, 119, 219 and the stakeholding economy, 113–114 and Stuart Hall, 152, 176–177, 187 and temporality, 16, 155, 189 and Tom Sawyer, 229 and Tony Benn, 13, 239, 241, 246 and Tony Blair, 9, 11, 12, 79, 107, 114, 118, 147, 183, 195, 221–223, 229, 244–245, 249, 253, 267, 269 Modood, Tariq, 153, 181 criticism of political blackness, 172–173 monetarism, 54, 135 Morrell, Frances, 41, 44, 48, 53, 63, 108, 124, 130 Beyond One-Nation Socialism (1987), 66–67 influence on modernisation debates, 67–68 turn to Alternative European Strategy, 64 Morris, Bill, 36, 168, 174, 180, 259 Mulgan, Geoff, 100, 107, 143, 210, 241, 256 Mullin, Chris, 200 multiculturalism, 32, 152, 153 ‘Bristol school of’, 173 and the labour market, 135 and local government, 158 and New Labour, 188–190 and partisan competition, 155–160 and social democracy, 182 multinationals, 35, 44, 49, 52, 54, 62, 203, 239 and the Alternative Economic Strategy, 44, 47 and the Alternative European Strategy, 59, 63, 67, 76 and globalisation, 53, 63, 65, 78 and modern capitalism, 55, 60 scepticism of significance, 65–66 municipal socialism. See decentralisation Murray, Robin, 100, 140, 241, 256 Nairn, Tom, 206, 217, 223, 267 nation state, 32, 258 challenges to, 34, 41, 43, 50, 53, 56, 59, 68, 69, 133, 272 National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL), 127, 129, 132, 140, 200

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314

Index

National Economic Development Office, 243 National Executive Committee. See Labour Party National Front, 154, 157 National Investment Bank, 243 National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), 254 National Union of Public Employees (NUPE), 135 nationalisation. See public ownership nationalism criticism of, 57, 66 economic, 34, 48, 50, 51, 53, 64 neoliberalism, 22, 27–28, 43, 102, 199, 232, 253, 269 explanatory limits of, 30, 262, 263, 271–272 market liberalism, 28, 245, 263, 272 neoliberal thought collective, 29–30 Neuburger, Henry, 247 New Democrats, 258, 260 New Labour, 2, 4, 12, 85, 155, 231, 250–253, 255, 257, 259, 260, 265, 267, 272 and class, 30, 222 and communitarianism, 30, 125, 150, 222, 260 and constitutional reform, 193, 221–223 and ethical socialism, 30, 266 and the European Union, 34 and feminism, 125, 146, 149 and globalisation, 34, 43, 45, 79 and multiculturalism, 37, 153, 154, 181, 188–190 and race, 181, 188–190 and social democracy, 18, 27, 30–31, 230, 233, 253, 263–264, 269, 276 and the stakeholding economy, 35, 114–116 and Thatcherism, 10, 17, 19, 38, 232, 263 and women, 36, 124, 127, 149, 150 new left, 84, 93, 98, 160, 165 New Left (New Left Review), 10, 33, 37, 195, 197, 224, 267, 276 and constitutional reform, 216–219 New Socialist, 25, 54, 55, 131, 132, 200, 205, 206 and Kinnock’s turn to Europe, 59 promotion of Alternative European Strategy, 56, 64 New Statesman, 24, 67, 74, 76, 132, 133, 205, 261

new working class, 6, 8, 98, 177, 184, 204, 222, 277 and gender, 133–136 North Sea Oil, 239–240, 248, 255, 262 nuclear disarmament, 54, 60, 203 O’Farrell, John, 97 oil crisis, 1973, 49 One Member One Vote (OMOV), 180 Out of Crisis, 58–61, 77 Palmer, John, 57, 60, 61 Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), 54, 55, 61 Papandreou, Andreas, 54 Parekh, Bhikhu, 181 Parekh Report (2000), 188 Parti Socialiste (PS), 55 PASOK. See Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) Phillips, Anne, 36, 123, 134, 140, 150 Phillipson, Bridget, 271 Pimlott, Ben, 14, 108 Plaid Cymru, 199 Plant, Raymond, 101, 210, 220–221 Plant Commission on Electoral Reform. See Labour Party pluralism, 36, 82, 92, 104, 109, 113, 115, 116, 124, 142, 143, 198, 211, 215 Policy Review, 13, 35, 45, 63, 64, 70, 103–104, 112, 148, 155, 156, 180, 183, 213, 221, 240, 242, 248, 250, 251, 258 and constitutional reform, 207 and Europe, 68 and public ownership, 244 and race, 181 and socioeconomic democracy, 108–110 and supply side socialism, 236 and women, 137, 139 poll tax, 215 Pollard, Stephen, 41 postcolonial legacies, 33, 103, 154, 219, 270 post-Fordism, 38, 100, 106, 107, 110, 137, 139, 241, 256 post-industrial, 133, 142, 143, 145, 233, 256, 258, 263 post-materialist politics, 214 Powell, Enoch, 6, 154, 157, 158 Prescott, John, 73 private finance initiative. See public private partnerships Profitt, Russell, 163 proportional representation (PR). See electoral reform

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Index protectionism, 50, 51, 243 public ownership, 8, 9, 37, 101, 107, 169, 235, 241, 243, 263, 266, 271 criticisms of, 1 and national sovereignty, 53 and planning agreements, 48 public private partnerships, 117, 244 race, 153 anti-discrimination legislation, 158, 159, 189 and class, 165, 168, 176 and Gramscian analysis, 175 and New Labour, 188–190 and partisan competition, 155–160 political blackness, 157, 164, 171, 181 criticism of, 171–173, 186 Race Today, 155, 158 Radice, Giles, 14, 84, 87, 93, 108 and industrial democracy, 91–92 Radice, Lisanne, 87 Ramsay MacDonald, 273 recession early 1980s, 98, 135 early 1990s, 236 referendum, 193, 198, 203, 212, 213 1975 referendum. See European Community Reich, Robert, 148, 257 influence on Labour politicians, 257–259 Renewal, 222, 226 Rentoul, John, 13 Richardson, Jo, 111, 127, 130, 136–138, 209 Right to Buy, 35, 84, 97, 109 Rodgers, Bill, 49 Rose, Hilary, 133 Rowbotham, Sheila, 93, 127, 129 Rowthorn, Bob, 56, 58, 204 Runneymede Trust, 188 Rushdie, Salman, 173 Samizdat, 14, 220 Sawyer, Tom, 11, 63, 116, 207, 229 Scarman, Leslie (Lord Scarman), 95, 178, 199 Schmidt, Helmut, 62 Schröder, Gerhard, 253 Schumacher, E.F., 94 Scottish Constitutional Convention, 33, 210, 214 Scottish National Party, 199, 228 Scottish nationalism, 37, 195, 199, 213, 239 Seabrook, Jeremy, 261 Sealey, Phil, 163 Segal, Lynne, 178

315 Sewell, Terri, 169 Sheffield City Council, 84, 129 Shore, Peter, 41, 50, 72, 96, 241, 247 Short, Clare, 1, 127, 147, 209, 226 simple plurality. See First Past the Post (FPTP) Sinn Féin, 172 Sivanandan, Ambalavener, 157, 170 Smith, Chris, 242 Smith, John, 9, 37, 76, 82, 107, 112, 113, 117, 125, 142, 149, 155, 195, 198, 210, 211, 222–224, 226, 228, 237, 248, 249, 251, 252, 266 advocacy of the ERM, 72 and constitutional reform, 9, 216 and the Maastricht debates, 75 Memorial Lecture, 1996, 227 Social Contract, 85–86, 95 social democracy, 31, 33, 182, 230, 233, 249, 253, 262–264, 266 European, 33, 45, 59 and modernisation, 38, 274–278 and multiculturalism, 182 national, 34 and postwar revisionism, 49 supranational visions of, 59, 60 Social Democratic Party (SDP), 50, 93, 102, 133, 202, 204–206 1981 schism, 6 and electoral alliances. See electoral alliance Liberal Democrats. See Liberal Democrats Social Justice Commission. See Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Social Market Foundation (SMF), 153 Socialist International (SI), 59, 76 sovereignty, 33, 49 economic, 65, 70, 272 and public ownership, 53 parliamentary, 112, 194, 201–203, 214 Scottish, 210 supranational, 70, 72, 74, 79, 211 Soviet Union, 69, 198, 213 Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD), 31, 253 stakeholding economy, 35, 85, 113–116 and constitutional reform, 114 and New Labour, 114–116 Stanley, Nigel, 98, 183 Starmer, Keir, 273 Stonewall, 1, 205 Straw, Jack, 188, 214, 226 Summers, Larry, 257, 260 supply side socialism, 37, 109, 138, 236, 244

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316

Index

tactical voting. See electoral alliance Tactical Voting 87 (TV87), 224 Taff Vale, 1901, 200 Tatchell, Peter, 69 taxation, 223, 232 tax credits, 232, 262 Thatcher, Margaret, 5, 6, 18, 35, 44, 54, 62, 70, 84, 95, 96, 102, 128, 135, 159, 160, 195, 203, 220, 239, 254, 260 Thatcherism, 6–7, 10, 19, 97, 105, 106, 110, 176, 214, 215, 220, 232, 240, 270 think tanks, 25, 116–118, 127, 140–143, 145–146, 226, 256, 258 Third Way, 31, 42, 189, 253 Third World, 55, 60, 102, 160, 164 Thompson, E.P., 217 Tierny, Sid, 248 Tomlinson, Jim, 65 trade unions, 3, 6, 9, 50, 52, 84, 86, 88, 92, 94, 95, 99, 102, 103, 128, 168, 201, 203, 207, 217, 225, 232, 246, 248, 250, 259, 260, 271, 275 and the European Community, 63 and women, 128, 146 Trades Union Congress (TUC), 47, 52, 59, 71, 86, 87, 96, 104, 117, 137, 241, 252 Transport and General Workers’ Union (TGWU), 86, 168, 225, 259 Tribune, 25, 132 Trotskyism, 93, 127, 129 IMG. See International Marxist Group (IMG) Militant Tendency. See Militant Tendency Troubles, the, 33, 171, 194–195, 199

UNISON, 225 United Nations (UN), 52, 56, 150 Varley, Eric, 49 Vaz, Keith, 36, 164, 169, 173, 174 Wadsworth, Marc, 163, 165 Wainwright, Hilary, 90, 99, 127, 129, 131, 178, 183, 206, 210 Ward, Terry, 53, 56, 58, 62 Beyond One-Nation Socialism (1987), 66–67 influence on modernisation debates, 67–68 Weir, Stuart, 205, 220 welfare state, 1, 34, 35, 115, 117, 260, 271 Whitty, Larry, 127, 146, 236 Wilkinson, Helen, 143 Williams, Alan, 49 Williams, Shirley, 49, 92, 133, 247 Wilson, Harold, 3, 6, 12, 37, 42, 46, 64, 85, 87, 158, 193, 197, 220, 229, 234, 238, 243 Winter of Discontent, 95 women All Women Shortlist (AWS), 125 and class, 133–136 and economic policy, 131–133, 144 and modernisation, 36 and the labour market, 36, 124, 132, 134–136, 136, 143, 144, 261, 271 and the trade unions, 128 representation of, 126, 146, 185 Wright, Tony, 215 Young, Hugo, 67 Young, Michael, 83, 92, 205

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