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Labour is stalked by treachery Since MacDonald, its leaders have all been labelled traitors

'Ramsay MacBlair' (Kirsty O’Connor - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

'Ramsay MacBlair' (Kirsty O’Connor - WPA Pool/Getty Images)


January 17, 2024   7 mins

Ramsay MacDonald should be one of the great figures in Britain’s political imagination: the man who rose from nothing through force of personality and circumstance to become the country’s first Labour prime minister 100 years ago next week. But he is not. Few in Labour will even want to mark his anniversary. This is partly because, like most pre-Churchillian prime ministers of the 20th century, he has been eclipsed in our national imagination. But mainly it is because today MacDonald is a shunned figure: Labour’s Judas, the man who betrayed his party for power, a traitor to his class.

To understand Labour’s seething discomfort about its first prime minister is to begin to understand why that great angst-ridden movement seems unable to drag itself into power without cries of treason being raised against its own leaders.

MacDonald is shunned because of his fateful decision in 1931, during his second stint as prime minister, to form a “national government” coalition rather than go into opposition with the rest of his party who wouldn’t back the spending cuts he wanted to balance the budget during the Great Depression. MacDonald had offered the King his resignation, but was asked to stay on at the head of a new emergency government. He accepted and when he was expelled from Labour, created his own “‘National’ Labour Organisation” which he led to the biggest landslide in British electoral history, crushing his old party in the process.

The problem for MacDonald was that the vast bulk of this new national government wasn’t his. There were 473 Conservatives to only 13 new “National Labour” MPs and 68 Liberals. MacDonald had, in effect, enabled a Tory landslide, leaving his old party with just 52 seats. No wonder the Labour party felt betrayed by MacDonald. Imagine if something like this had happened after the great financial crisis of 2008, with Gordon Brown creating a national government to impose George Osborne’s austerity programme.

To understand just how appalled Labour was — and still is — by MacDonald’s behaviour, you need only take a look at its official account of what happened. “The 1924 government lasted only a few months,” reads the quickfire history of its first prime minister published on the Labour Party website. “Five years later came the election of the second. Dominated by the world economic crisis, the following two years were focused on action to tackle the unemployment of the Great Depression. It was not an easy Parliament and the 1931 election saw only 52 Labour MPs elected.” I suppose “not an easy parliament” is a fair description.

The party’s refusal to even mention MacDonald’s break reveals far more than it conceals: both how uncomfortable it is about that first failure as a political party, when it proved itself singularly incapable of managing the crisis it faced, and about the dangers of its own kind abandoning the cause once in power. “The fear of the great betrayal starts with MacDonald,” one senior Labour figure put it to me. “It starts there and has never left us.”

There have only been three other elected Labour prime ministers — Clement Attlee, Harold Wilson and Tony Blair — each of whom faced repeated claims of betrayal, all of which were indelibly shaped by MacDonald’s memory. Throughout his premiership, Blair was, rather straightforwardly, accused of being “Ramsay MacBlair”. And Clement Attlee, despite loathing MacDonald for his actions, ended up being accused of treachery for introducing prescription charges.

Even Harold Wilson, who had made his name as a Bevanite man of the Left, was tarred, particularly during the depths of the “July crisis” of 1966, when he announced a fresh round of austerity to protect the value of sterling. To fend off such comparisons, Wilson used a centenary lunch that year, intended to mark 100 years since MacDonald’s birth, to claim Labour’s first prime minister had died in 1931 when he joined the national coalition and not, in fact, five years later when he actually passed away. An appalling assessment by any measure.

For some, the depth of their loathing for MacDonald has a lot to do with class snobbery. He was easily Britain’s most working-class prime minister. And as such, he could not win, assailed from both sides for getting above his station — for enjoying the company of the rich and the royal far too much. A century on, Angela Rayner must know how he feels. As ever, class remains the sedimentary rock of British life upon which all else is built. And much as I think this is true, the tragedy of MacDonald is far more profound. MacDonald could have rejected the King’s advances and taken Labour into opposition. But he could not have avoided the charge of betrayal forever, for it is the fate of all Labour leaders to campaign as liberals but govern as conservatives.

The conservative philosopher Maurice Cowling wrote that the essence of liberalism was the belief that “there can be a reconciliation of all difficulties and differences” in life (which he said was plainly false). In The Meaning of Conservatism, Roger Scruton argued that this was the liberal faith that lay at the heart of today’s “spirit of improvement” — the inclination of the liberal, as he put it, to “change whatever he cannot find better reason to retain”. Conservatives like Scruton and Cowling, by contrast, do not believe all difficulties and differences can be reconciled — or, in fact, should be. To govern is to weigh up competing goods and to make least worst choices based on incomplete information.

The fate of all Labour prime ministers, then, is to campaign with the “spirit of improvement” but to be forced, once in power, to choose between options which you previously hoped could be reconciled. Harold Wilson promised to modernise Britain and to protect its global influence, but as prime minister was forced to sacrifice one to save the other — maintaining the value of the pound to protect Britain’s overseas commitments at the cost of dousing the flames of his very own “white heat of technology”. (In the end, of course, the austerity he chose to protect the pound did not work and he lost both his economic plan and Britain’s global influence.)

This Wilsonian attempt to reform Britain at home and conserve the country’s influence abroad lies at the heart of many of the Labour Party’s difficulties over the years. Tony Blair sought to protect British influence in Europe and the United States, but was forced to choose between the two when George Bush insisted on the invasion of Iraq. Clement Attlee was similarly forced to accept the reality of Britain’s financial restrictions after the war, forcing him to betray the Left by chipping away at the NHS’s founding principle of “free at the point of use”.

There is little reason to believe Keir Starmer can avoid the fate of his predecessors. In one obvious sense, he has already been tried and found guilty of betrayal by the Left for breaking the promises he made to secure the leadership. During the Labour leadership campaign, Starmer pledged to “reverse the Tories’ cuts to corporation tax” only to then order his MPs to vote against the Tories’ own decision to reverse their own cuts themselves. He also pledged to “defend free movement as we leave the EU”, only to then make keeping out of free movement a red line in any future relationship with the EU. But the fundamental challenge for Starmer is that it is impossible for him to reconcile all of the competing promises he has made to the wider electorate and so will, inevitably, betray someone.

In his speech at the Labour Party conference in October, he turned to the party’s history to illustrate the scale of his ambition: “If you think our job in 1997 was to rebuild a crumbling public realm, that in 1964 it was to modernise an economy left behind by the pace of technology [and] in 1945 to build a new Britain out of the trauma of collective sacrifice, then in 2024 it will have to be all three.” It was a neat formulation, connecting Attlee, Wilson, Blair and himself — and yet, what if these goals cannot be reconciled, but end up in competition with each other, as they did for Attlee, Wilson and Blair? What if, like Wilson, the truth is that Starmer will have to choose between his ambitions? Modernising the economy and rebuilding public services after the trauma of the pandemic might mean dramatically reducing the amount of money spent on sickness or old age benefits, for example. Good luck with that.

Even Starmer’s neat account of Labour’s record of government is, on closer inspection, as incomplete as the party’s account of MacDonald’s second spell as prime minister. Did Wilson really modernise an economy left behind by the pace of technology, as he promised? That’s certainly not how it looked in 1966, when he abandoned economic planning to protect the pound. “The 1964 Government had been elected with the slogans of ‘purposive’, and ‘scientific’ planning held high,” writes the author Ben Pimlott in his largely sympathetic biography of Wilson. “Wilson had believed in planning, and built his rhetoric upon it. Now planning
 had to be set aside. A hole was created in Labour’s raison d’ĂȘtre which, arguably, has never been filled.”

Pimlott published this in 1992, five years before Blair became prime minister. But Blair did not seek to return Labour to any sort of Wilsonian economic planning either. Instead, he largely accepted the structure of the economy built by Margaret Thatcher and attempted to fill the hole left in Labour’s raison d’etre by using the proceeds of this new economy to improve public services and reduce poverty. The problem for Starmer is that even this option has now gone, blown apart by the financial crash of 2007/08. And so what is left?

Today, Labour’s economic plan remains markedly empty. Rachel Reeves’s £28 billion a year green investment package has already been scaled back. Labour does not plan to rejoin the EU, its single market or customs union — and nor does it show much appetite for a trade deal with the United States. If anything, Reeves’s “securonomics” offers more barriers to growth in order to offer the country more security of supply. Today, it is very hard to see how Labour can fulfil its pledge to make Britain the fastest growing economy in the G7.

The obvious danger for a future Starmer government is that without an economic strategy, there won’t be enough money to build a new Britain or fix its crumbling public realm. Instead of doing all three of the missions Starmer set himself, he will not be able to do any. And so difficult choices will follow. Should this happen, it will not be long before the ghost of Ramsay MacDonald once again starts to haunt the Labour party.


Tom McTague is UnHerd’s Political Editor. He is the author of Betting The House: The Inside Story of the 2017 Election.

TomMcTague

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J Bryant
J Bryant
5 months ago

I’m a mere American and can’t speak from first-hand knowledge of UK politics, but I’ve read a few of this author’s articles, and listened to some of his podcasts with Helen Thompson, and he strikes me as a very knowledgeable political commentator, and, no doubt, a valuable asset to Unherd.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
5 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

“Mere”? Then perhaps you should embrace MAGA.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
5 months ago

To the leftist, the good is the enemy of the perfect. The goal is to transform politics from the art of compromise into the science of obduracy.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
5 months ago

I don’t think anyone in Labour, or indeed anyone with any sense at all (same people I suppose), will worry too much about what the far right thinks about us.
McTague and the bums he supports can forget about being in power for a generation. Personally I’m looking forward to the Tory bloodbath which seems to be getting into full swing! Braverman for leader of the swivel eyed loons!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago

Pipe down Fisher, you know nothing.

Caradog Wiliams
Caradog Wiliams
5 months ago

Ginger and swivel-eyed!! No hope.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago

Well spotted Sir!

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
5 months ago

I see that Racist Grandpa appears to have found the sherry bottle….

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
5 months ago

The real problem with Labour is that it’s stuffed full of pretentious middle class teenage poseurs.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Of which Andrew Fisher otherwise known as ‘Champagne Socialist’ is a prime example.

Andrew D
Andrew D
5 months ago

Good sleuthing! As a rule I think that if contributors wish to remain anonymous that should be respected, but I make an exception for out-and-out trolls and wind-up merchants. How did you manage to ‘out’ him? I see AF has a wiki entry, and the cap certainly fits.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

GCHQ.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
5 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

You’ll get a chance to know them much better over the next 10-15 years as they run the country. I bet you are looking forward to that!!!

N Satori
N Satori
5 months ago

Good grief sham brain! Did I not alert you several weeks ago to the fact that you sound like an ignorant football yobbo raving about the imagined virtues of your chosen team while jeering at the opposition? You’re still doing it and, frankly, I am NOT HAPPY!

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
5 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Oh look, my yappy little chum is still following me around like a faithful wee puppy!
Heel, boy!

Jon Morrow
Jon Morrow
5 months ago

I’m looking forward to Labour trashing the pound and making me a millionaire, to be honest.

AC Harper
AC Harper
5 months ago
Reply to  Jon Morrow

…although a loaf of bread will cost ÂŁ10 and fuel will be reserved for food distribution.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Jon Morrow

Likewise!

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
5 months ago
Reply to  Jon Morrow

If you didn’t make your money when Truss had her little whoopsie then you missed the boat, champ.

P N
P N
5 months ago

“If socialists understood economics they wouldn’t be socialists.” – Hayek
Have some shame.

Peter B
Peter B
5 months ago

This nails it:
<< “If you think our job in 1997 was to rebuild a crumbling public realm, that in 1964 it was to modernise an economy left behind by the pace of technology [and] in 1945 to build a new Britain out of the trauma of collective sacrifice, then in 2024 it will have to be all three.”  It was a neat formulation, connecting Attlee, Wilson, Blair and himself — and yet, what if these goals cannot be reconciled, but end up in competition with each other, as they did for Attlee, Wilson and Blair ? >>
Of course, there’s no comparison between the state of Britain in 1945 and today. Starmer is somehow asking us to believe that the Britain of 2024 is far worse than 1945 ? Or that Covid was worse than WWII. All Socialist arguments begin with a lie …
And, of course, there will be conflicts between these goals. Even assuming that government is actually understands what is broken and why and is capable doing anything effective about them.
But I see no evidence that the Labour party today:
a) Understands why the public sector is so broken and lagging the private sector in using new technologies, ways of working and productivity.
b) Understands technology and how to create an environment in which it thrives (hint: Labour MPs don’t get elected in constituencies where tech employment is high – so why is that ?).
c) Had any alternative to the 2 year lockdown trauma. In fact, they wanted more lockdown and trauma – not less. And show no signs of learning anything.
On point a), one astute commentator noted that the awful Horizon Post Office IT system was basically replicating something that’s been done successfully by many large private companies in the UK and abroad. It was a solvable (indeed solved) problem. Just not for the toxic combination of Post Office and Fujitsu. But don’t worry – there will be more public-private partnerships like this coming our way if Starmer gets into power.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
5 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

The private sector productivity has also been stagnant for decades now, it’s not something unique to the public sector. I’ve worked in both and in my experience large private companies are little different to the public sector, both are top heavy and inefficient

N Satori
N Satori
5 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Condemned out of your own mouth (or keyboard). Presumably, you were making a tidy living from both domains. Doesn’t that make you part of the problem? Or did you think that merely noticing all that top heavy inefficiency set you apart?

Andrew D
Andrew D
5 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

To be fair, not just Billy Bob but everybody works in the private or public sectors

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
5 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

What a ridiculous ‘ad hominem’ attack! If we are being very honest, most of us are probably “part of the problem” in one way or another. The public isn’t notably consistent in its desire for lower taxes and high quality and extensive government services, for example.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

I refuse to settle for merely being “part of the problem.” Either I’m the entire problem or I’m nothing!

Liam F
Liam F
5 months ago

I gotta fess up.
it’s me. I am the problem.

andrew harman
andrew harman
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Agreed, a ridiculously stupid post.

Peter B
Peter B
5 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

It would be interesting to know whether that’s for the private sector not involved with the public sector (Nissan, Screwfix, Tesco, etc) or the private sector which is involved with large public sector contracts (Fujitsu, Capita, HS2 contractors, etc). I can easily imagine that there are differences.
You also need to consider the effect of ever increasing regulations (and associated costs and labour) that have been imposed on companies over the last 3 decades. I’m not arguing against all regulation here – merely noting that it usually makes end products and services more expensive, often for no gain in quality – and so impacts productivity. Consider the money laundering regulations which have made it harder for the vast majority of people to do things whilst doing little to catch the big fish. And do ULEZ zones and 20mph speed limits raise or lower productivity (I know what my answer is there) ?

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
5 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Certainty does not catch the Turkish barbers, taxi firms, vaping stores ad takeaways that are money laundering fronts

P N
P N
5 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

That’s because this country is no longer a capitalist country but a corporatist one. The regulatory and tax burden makes it impossible for small businesses and entrepreneurs to challenge the big corporations, who can keep out the little guy by lobbying. Everything from the minimum wage to health and safety to consumer protection to NICs makes it easier for big businesses to stave off competition. A higher minimum wage? Great news for Amazon who can afford a higher cost base but terrible news for anyone trying to compete with Amazon with a smaller balance sheet.

Chris Bradshaw
Chris Bradshaw
5 months ago
Reply to  P N

Thank you for using the word corporatist.
It is a vastly under-explored word because it is subsumed into capitalist in all its positive and negative connotations, depending upon speaker and audience. When collectivists attack capitalism as it exists in Britain today, it is attacking corporatism from one side. When liberals (British version, not American) attack collectivism and socialism as they exist in Britain today, they are attacking corporatism from the other side.
A facet of this is that every government giveaway, subsidy, benefit and fund seems to emerge as a tax rebate rather than a tax cut. The cash has to go through the corporatist meat grinder to come out as a chipolata at the other end.

Andrew Armitage
Andrew Armitage
5 months ago
Reply to  P N

Corporate sums up Starmer perfectly

Brian Thomas
Brian Thomas
5 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

In my experience the Public Sector is far less productive than the Private Sector. You can’t sack anyone unless they commit murder on camera.

Alex Stonor
Alex Stonor
5 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Absolutely. Management is the problem.

Mike Michaels
Mike Michaels
5 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Answer to (b): Because those people are clever.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
5 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

I don’t disagree with some of the points you make, but extolling “the private sector” tout court, when Fujitsu and many others perform so poorly is simplistic.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Thanks to idiotic remarks like that Fujitsu’s share price has fallen by over 4% today. Fortunately year on year it is still up over 7%.
The blame for this fiasco, particularly the frankly malicious prosecutions, rests firmly with the Post Office and all the Public Sector‘ ‘poison’ it has so very obviously inherited.
The Liverpudlian creature who recently appeared at the Public Enquiry to explain his role as an investigator being a prime example.

carl taylor
carl taylor
5 months ago

Fujitsu were complicit with Post Office. They had a vested interest in covering up the faults in their system, and they did, even to the extent of their witnesses arguably committing perjury. While I agree that the buck stops with Post Office, Fujitsu were conscious and willing collaborators in this scandal.

P N
P N
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

What? Are you seriously claiming that because one company does something bad (maybe even criminal) that undermines the case for individualism? There is no logic in that argument. It’s piffle, thin air, toilet paper. It’s like saying that because Iran bombs Pakistan, extolling the nation state tout court is simplistic.

“Simplistic” is not a counter argument. Often the best solutions are the most simple.

Bad actors exist everywhere. There is no nexus between a bad actor and the political system in which they operate.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  P N

What a simply splendid personal attack Sir!
And one that is so richly deserved if I may say so!

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
5 months ago

Good article.

The nub of Labour’s problem surely must be that you can’t represent the wealthy professional classes that live off the state at the same time as the people working in small businesses who nowadays make up the majority of the UK workforce – just as the Tories cannot represent the latter group at the same time as Hunt’s hedgie chums in the City. All these groups have radically different interests.

That this duopoly survives at all owes more to the Oxbridge mafia’s absolute control of the media than it does to any genuine representation that it offers. It can’t be sustained for much longer. I suspect the current collapse of the Tory vote is just the beginning of a sea change in British politics like that which we are now witnessing in the US.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
5 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

The only thing stopping this in Britain currently is the lack of a third party with a recognisable media savvy figurehead.

Until there is an Afd here or the new party founded by the Der Linke lady we’ll struggle to move away from the Uni party

P N
P N
5 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

“
just as the Tories cannot represent the latter group at the same time as Hunt’s hedgie chums in the City.” Why not? Both groups want a smaller state. How are they incompatible? You think Crispin Odey wants to see an increase in NICs or corporation tax?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  P N

What? Not that Crispin Odey, that gargantuan lump of quivering Harrovian lard who recently had to flee the ‘City’ due to allegations of hanky panky?

j watson
j watson
5 months ago

Holding your own counsel on what you may do once you really see what you inherit not unique to Starmer/Reeves. There’s a budget too to come and will Tories further increase national debt as last bribe in some tax cuts? Whatever they are getting a proper Hospital pass from the Tories.
Quite frankly just some stability and not the Brexit and Tory fratricide psychodrama of last 7 years would be a good start.
The far Left are already yelling traitor at Starmer. That won’t change and it’s standard. Won’t bother them and in fact probably helps their electoral prospects.

P N
P N
5 months ago
Reply to  j watson

Labour has only two policies so far. One is to destroy the private education industry and the other is to destroy the oil and gas industry. That doesn’t sound like a good start to me.

Why would tax cuts increase the national debt? Only if you hold the fallacious belief that tax rates and tax takes necessarily move in the same direction would this be so.

Stability? The dead are stable.

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
5 months ago
Reply to  j watson

I wouldn’t say it helps them. The tendency of the left to tear itself apart over relatively minor disagreements (which calling their leaders traitors is just one way that tendency shows itself) is a massive hindrance to their cause.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
5 months ago

Twas ever thus. The Right looks for Converts. The Left looks for Traitors.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
5 months ago

The UK’s economic fortunes are largely beyond the control of any UK government, regardless of their ideology. The best any can do is tinker at the edges. Such tinkering would have been better if we had grasped the opportunities of BREXIT, rather than deliberately shooting ourselves in the foot time and again so remoaners could say we told you so (Starmer was one of the key foot shooters).
Starmer will not genuinely improve anything all he will do is introduce a load of woke BS to deflect attention for the fact that he has achieved none of the promises that got him elected in the first place.

Alice Devitt
Alice Devitt
5 months ago

All true….but IMAGINE another five years of this Clown car government? Seriously?

carl taylor
carl taylor
5 months ago
Reply to  Alice Devitt

Yes, but I look forward to your assessment of Labour’s clown car government in six years time. The wheels are coming off no matter who wins the GE.

andrew harman
andrew harman
5 months ago

Maurice Cowling was a historian, not a philosopher.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  andrew harman

And a damned good one at that, and sorely missed!

In case anyone has forgotten:-
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujrE4H5mpwI

P N
P N
5 months ago

Politicians always have to compromise when reality hits home. Maybe it’s more of a problem for the left as according to arguments put forward by Thomas Sowell, they tend to have the Vision of the Anointed, whereby they believe utopia can be achieved by making a few adjustments, but even the right tend to promise the earth and deliver very little. As Sowell said, there are no solutions, only trade offs.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  P N

The ‘Left’ in all its various guises cost humanity more than 100 million lives in the 20th century, far, far outperforming the Right in all its guises. FACT.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
5 months ago

Oh dear. It looks like Racist Grandpa finished the sherry and is into the hard stuff. FACT!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago

Pipe down Fisher, you’ll only get hurt.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
5 months ago

Sherry isn’t the hard stuff? You mean my grandmother lied to me?

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
5 months ago

Fortified wine.
Racist Grandpa has gone way past that stage!
FACT!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago

“imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” FACT.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
5 months ago

You copied that from me!

Damon Hager
Damon Hager
5 months ago

It’s bloody delicious, is what it is.

P N
P N
5 months ago

This is a very odd comment. What’s with the deeply offensive personal attack for a perfectly valid comment? Where’s the racism?
No one could seriously dispute Stanhope’s statement and if you did, why would you get so riled about it? Very bizarre.
You don’t seem a very pleasant person.

Mark Gourley
Mark Gourley
5 months ago

Interesting to recall that RMcD got on very well with King George V. (Evidence in Jane Ridley book etc) Wonder about King Charles and Starmer !

Damon Hager
Damon Hager
5 months ago
Reply to  Mark Gourley

Wilson and Blair both got on well with the Queen, but then so did President Trump, so she was clearly flexible.

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
5 months ago

I notice that (curiously)  US party politics has had a similar problem, though it cannot be said to be exactly parallel. McTague’s thesis is that Labour has tended to make more promises than possibly it can keep, and so must betray at least some of them — thus betraying its electoral constituency. 
The Democratic party has long been accused of treason, in the sense of betraying not just its own constituents but the entire nation. (This well predates current talk of Blue/Red civil war.) The Dems were said to have “lost China” in the 1940’s. As Garry Wills points out (Nixon Agonistes), a content analysis of the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debates shows that Kennedy took the harder line against Communism, even though he was perceived to be softer. In the 2004 Bush-Kerry presidential election, the decorated combat veteran was mocked as a traitor and unfit to be commander-in-chief while the toff who marked time in a cosseted air reserve unit was upheld as the patriotic choice.
This would seem an even more far-reaching sense of treason.

John Dewhirst
John Dewhirst
5 months ago

The problem for Starmer as he knows full well, is that his party membership want far more than the electorate when it comes to radical, ‘progressive’ or socialistic policies. And Starmer, like his predecessors faces an impossible task to paper over the contradictions. He’s currently benefiting from the fact that all the attention is on the implosion of the Tories. It won’t take much for the spotlight to expose what’s behind his rhetoric. So far the only red meat he’s been able to offer his activists is to withdraw VAT on private education but that alone will not satisfy or indeed pacify them.

Pip G
Pip G
5 months ago

Ramsay Macdonald: The brief review in Jon Cruddas’s excellent “A Century of Labour” is worth a look. He explains the ‘cultural’ make up of RM while simply narrating that he joined the Conservatives rule rather than joining Labour in opposition.
After the 2024 GE Labour will inherit an economy and public services wrecked by the scorched earth policies of HMG – high debt, some high taxes, and nothing to show for it. They must learn from 1931 and 1966 – if they react to the latest figures and adopt austerity they will fail.
Rather they must establish priorities and explain clearly what they cannot do yet and why. Example: As part of the £28B ‘green fund’ we shall oversee renewal of the national grid, allocating £x this Parliament, while enabling the private sector to add finance and do the work (having transformed the terrible public procurement process).