With all the constitutional changes in Labour over the weekend, a correspondent points to the UK in the 80s and the similar changes made by UK Labour, and the subsequent de-stabilisation by Tony Benn.
The hallmarks and history are remarkably similar to what we are seeing now:
In a keynote speech to the Labour Party Conference of 1980, shortly before the resignation of party leader James Callaghan and election of Michael Foot as successor, Benn outlined what he envisaged the next Labour Government would do. “Within days”, a Labour Government would gain powers to nationalise industries, control capital and implement industrial democracy; “within weeks”, all powers from Brussels would be returned to Westminster, and abolish the House of Lords by creating one thousand peers and then abolishing the peerage. Benn received tumultuous applause.
In 1981, he stood against incumbent Denis Healey for Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, disregarding the appeal from Michael Foot to either stand for the leadership or abstain from inflaming the party’s divisions. Benn defended his decision with insistence that it was “not about personalities, but about policies.” The contest was extremely closely fought, and Healey won by a margin of barely 1%. The decision of several moderate left-wing MPs, including Neil Kinnock, to abstain triggered the split of the Campaign Group from the Left of the Tribune Group.
Luckily there is a documentary about all this on Youtube. It is fascinating. This is the first part of the documentary called “The Wilderness Years”