Labour Blues

Ross McKibbin

  • Defeat from the Jaws of Victory: Inside Neil Kinnock’s Labour Party by Richard Heffernan and Mike Marqusee
    Verso, 344 pp, £9.95, November 1992, ISBN 0 86091 351 1

This in its own way is a formidable book, but not one to hide its argument under a bushel. ‘The book that blows the lid off the Kinnock years’ is how the publisher’s press release describes it. It is the only one ‘to break the conspiracy of silence which has surrounded the rise and fall of the Labour Party under Kinnock’, a man who ‘destroyed the Party’s democratic structures whilst allowing a new careerist clique to install itself in every part of the Labour machine’. The authors ‘expose the machinations of Peter Mandelson ... whose regime and methods can be rivalled only by that of Bernard Ingham’ etc. In fact, although Heffernan and Marqusee have written the book in an ‘openly partisan spirit’ (we ‘have an indictment to make and we make no apologies for pursuing it single-mindedly’) its tone is usually less intemperate than the publisher’s. Yet the press release, if more polemical, is not an unfair précis of the argument. In the authors’ view Mr Kinnock, supported by much of the ‘soft left’, many of the trade unions leaders and a new kind of party apparat, put an end to the Party’s internal pluralism, abandoned their commitment to any kind of socialism, or any sort of principle, foisted on it an opportunist officialdom, encouraged a kind of leader-worship in place of any worthwhile policies, subordinated everything to electoral success, and then, crowning infamy, after all this failed to win the election which was there for the winning. Thus was defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.

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