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-stabilisationÂ 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 leaderÂ James CallaghanÂ and election ofÂ Michael FootÂ 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 theÂ House of LordsÂ by creating one thousand peers and then abolishing the peerage. Benn received tumultuous applause.
In 1981, he stood against incumbentÂ Denis HealeyÂ forÂ Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, disregarding the appeal fromÂ Michael FootÂ 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, includingÂ Neil Kinnock, to abstain triggered the split of theÂ Campaign GroupÂ from the Left of theÂ 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”