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Battle joined over Labour’s future

1st March 1998 Socialist Action 0

First published: March 1998

The first nine months of the Labour government have confirmed that Tony Blair is not simply ‘another’ right wing Labour leader. Blair’s project is to dismantle the Labour Party as a party based on the unions, to destroy the elements of democracy which exist within the party and to transform the British political party system, through electoral reform, to make possible a long-term governmental alliance with the Liberal Democrats and, if possible, the Heseltine-Clarke wing of the Tory Party. The obstacle to this project is the Labour left – linked to the growing opposition to Blair’s attacks on the welfare state in the labour movement.

Blair and Mandelson believe, like those who walked out of Labour to form the SDP in 1981, that the risk of political radicalisation by the trade unions linking up with the left in the constituencies and parliament, makes the traditional mechanisms for right wing control of the Labour Party unsafe. But, unlike the SDP, Blair is using the central apparatus of the party and of government, to try to break up the Labour Party’s structures from within.

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Votes on 1 May – a Tory collapse, not a Labour landslide

1st July 1997 Socialist Action 0

First published: July 1997

The 1 May general election did not simply close 18 years of Conservative government. It brought to an end an entire era in British politics – a 111 year-long political party system based on the dominance of the Conservative Party.

This assertion may cut against the grain of the media coverage – which has been mesmerised by the scale of Labour’s majority in parliament – but it nonetheless corresponds to the facts.

On 1 May Labour won its biggest parliamentary majority in history – an overall majority of 179 seats. But it did so with a share of the UK vote, at 43.2 per cent, which does not remotely qualify as record-breaking. The party won a larger proportion of the vote in 1945, 1950, 1951, 1955, 1959, 1964 and 1966 – that is, in every single general election between 1945 and 1966. That included three elections which it lost and Harold Wilson’s 44.1 per cent in 1964 which gave him a majority of just four seats.