Nemesis

David Marquand

  • Change and Fortune by Douglas Jay
    Hutchinson, 515 pp, £16.00, June 1980, ISBN 0 09 139530 5
  • Life and Labour by Michael Stewart
    Sidgwick, 288 pp, £12.50, November 1980, ISBN 0 283 98686 7

After a decade of decline, the old, Fabian right of the Labour Party is now so chastened that it is hard to remember that it was once the dominant tradition in British left-wing politics. These two volumes of autobiography bring back its great days: in doing so, they also throw a good deal of unintentional light on the reasons for its fall. Michael Stewart and Douglas Jay were both awarded Firsts at Oxford in the Twenties, entered Labour politics in the Thirties, held junior office in the Attlee Government in the Forties, supported Gaitskell in the battles of the Fifties and were appointed to Wilson’s Cabinet in the Sixties. Both served their country and party honourably, faithfully and as selflessly as anyone can reasonably be expected to do. Both exhibited, to an almost alarming degree, the characteristic Fabian virtues of rationality and reliability. Both are so obviously fish out of water in the Labour Party of the Eighties that the reader can almost hear them gasping for breath. Neither has the remotest idea why.

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