The showing of the SDP in the last General Election cannot entirely be explained on the supposition that it enjoyed widespread support from readers of the LRB, but they have as much right as anyone to know what has happened to it since. Let us begin by acknowledging that it is not yet a fit subject for ‘Where are they now?’ and to that extent things could be much worse. The strong popular vote for the Alliance – nearly two-thirds of the Tory poll and virtual parity with Labour – might have been the end of the road. The miserable Parliamentary representation of the SDP might have been enough to stifle it. At the time this unanswerably demonstrated the grotesque anomalies of our electoral system, and it still takes a bit of explaining to incredulous foreigners: but the presence of nearly ten times as many Labour members in Parliament inevitably handicaps the Alliance in presenting itself as an alternative opposition. Twelve months ago, while Neil Kinnock was enjoying his brief ascendancy in an aura of sweetness and light, the Labour Party relapsed into its know-nothing strategy for seeing off the Alliance: scorn and vituperation until it simply went away.
[*] Scargill and the Miners, 160 pp., £2.50, 3 January, 0 14 052355 3.
Vol. 7 No. 4 · 7 March 1985
From John Robson
SIR: As a relatively new subscriber to the London Review of Books I think I could be forgiven for thinking that your writers are there to review books. I therefore read Peter Clarke’s article (LRB, 7 February) with astonishment. The only book referred to was Michael Crick’s Scargill and the Miners and all that is said about it is that it is ‘informative and well-documented’. The article turns out to be a tired and totally partisan attempt to do a propaganda piece for the Social Democratic Party. From any political viewpoint, the miners strike must rate as one of the most important political events in recent times: Crick’s book surely deserves a serious review? Perhaps Mr Clark had difficulty in finding any difference between the SDP’s policy on the strike and Mrs Thatcher’s? Perhaps he had difficulty in finding any SDP policy at all? Or does the LRB have a special relationship with the SDP? I think we should be told.
From Editor, ‘London Review’
I am astonished that this relatively new subscriber was astonished. The SDP directorate might not have thought the article a puff, had they read it, and I can assure Mr Robson that the LRB’s ‘special relationship’ with the SDP is no more authentic than the one Harold Wilson used to talk about.
Editor, ‘London Review’