Enemies Within

Peter Clarke

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.

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[*] Scargill and the Miners, 160 pp., £2.50, 3 January, 0 14 052355 3.