David Marquand

David Marquand who was Labour MP for Ashfield from 1966 to 1977, is now a member of the Steering Committee of the Social Democratic Party. His biography of Ramsay MacDonald appeared in 1977.

Putting it on

David Marquand, 12 September 1991

My favourite memory of Roy Jenkins dates from a golden July evening during the Warrington by-election. He is standing in the front garden of a council house, deep in conversation with an elderly Labour housewife, for whose support he is canvassing. Stooping slightly, and with a courtly gravitas that would not have seemed out of place at a European Summit, he is explaining why the ‘fluctooations’ which have characterised British economic policy for the last ten years have done so much damage to our international credit. The housewife is looking up at him with an expression of bemused, yet indulgent admiration, like an aged aunt applauding the exploits of a favourite nephew. In the background is a gaggle of SDP helpers, desperately trying to signal to the candidate that it is time to move on. It is clear that the housewife hasn’t the remotest idea what Jenkins is talking about, and that he hasn’t the remotest idea why his supporters are making faces at him. It is also clear that she is delighted to be talked to as though her opinions matter. Most of all it is clear that she will be switching her vote to him.


David Marquand, 20 December 1990

As the enterprise culture crumbles, and a sadder and wiser society begins to count the cost, two connected themes – one novel and surprising, at least in its present form, the other a ghost from a half-forgotten past – have acquired an unexpected urgency. The first is the theme of citizenship, of civility, of membership of and participation in a community bound together by ties of mutual obligation. The second is the theme of the mixed economy or the developmental state, of a socially just and economically productive balance between market forces and public intervention.

Maximum Embarrassment

David Marquand, 7 May 1987

As the Labour Party continues to unravel, it becomes more and more obvious that the follies and misadventures which have plagued it during the last few months can be understood only against the background of the betrayals, suspicions and hatreds of more than a generation of civil war. It is not, of course, the only mass party of the Left in trouble. The German Social Democrats – only a few years ago, one of the most competent and cohesive governing parties in the Western world – are also going through lean times. So are the American Democrats. But trouble is one thing: systematic self-mutilation is another. Despite their current difficulties, neither the American Democrats nor the German Social Democrats give off the smell of death. With the possible exception of the French Communists, Labour is the only mass party of the Left which has suffered a prolonged and apparently irreversible haemorrhage of support for more than fifteen years. The reason is that – again with the possible exception of the French Communist Party – no other mass party of the Left has found it so difficult to adjust to the technological and social changes which have robbed its traditional themes of their appeal.


David Marquand, 19 September 1985

As late as 1951, the British economy was the strongest in Western Europe. Only the wartime neutrals, Sweden and Switzerland, surpassed us in income per head. In his magisterial new history of the economic policies of the post-war Labour Government, Sir Alec Cairncross shows that our industrial production was larger than that of France and Germany combined. It was 50 per cent above the 1938 figure, compared with 20 per cent in France and 10 per cent in Germany. France and Germany together exported less than we did. The seeds of our subsequent economic misfortunes were, of course, germinating beneath the surface: they had been doing so since the last quarter of the 19th century. But they were still a long way beneath, and they could not have been detected merely by looking at the statistics.

Hello, Fred

David Marquand, 21 March 1985

Hugh Dalton was a Member of Parliament for 35 years, a minister for 12, a Front-Bencher for 30 and a member of the Labour Party National Executive for 25. In the Thirties, as Ben Pimlott shows in this absorbing, perceptive and sometimes moving biography, he played a central part (after Bevin, the central part) in dragging the Labour Party out of the semi-pacifist isolationism of the Twenties into a grudging acceptance of re-armament and, when necessary, the use of force. As President of the Board of Trade in the wartime coalition, he laid the foundations of the post-war Labour Government’s regional policies. As chairman of the policy sub-committee of the National Executive, he did more than anyone else to shape the economic strategy on which the Labour Party fought the 1945 Election. He wrote 12 books, one of which ran to five editions over thirty years, and edited two others. He was an assiduous, not to say relentless patron of bright and, if possible, handsome young men, counting among his protégés Hugh Gaitskell, the most impressive leader the Labour Party has ever had, and Tony Crosland, one of its two or three most important theorists.

Gloomy Pageant: Britain Comma Now

Jeremy Harding, 31 July 2014

What happens when you set out to look the present in the eye but can’t quite bear the thought?

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With or without the workers

Ross McKibbin, 25 April 1991

This book contains reflections on both history and theory, and is written with David Marquand’s usual elegance and intelligence. Its 19 essays concern themes familiar to readers of his...

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