Many political writers, sadly not all right-wing apologists for continuing austerity and relentless cutbacks, appear to swallow fully the Blairite agenda with the description of the radical Labour manifesto of 1983 as the "longest suicide note in history". This was originally written by the New Labourite, Gerald Kaufman, who blamed the left-wing nature of many of the proposals for the disastrous election defeat for Labour, and the majority of 144 for Margaret Thatcher`s Tories. Ever since then, the term has been dug up by Blairites to remind the Labour party that it can never hope to win an election with principles the party traditionally held dear for over a century. The proof they use is, of course, that when Labour sacrificed its principles in favour of Blair`s neoliberalism, Labour won elections. Now, the same old scare-mongering is being adopted, because Jeremy Corbyn is winning support for his outspoken views against austerity and inequality.
Obviously, some facts are sorely needed: blaming the `83 defeat on the left-wing manifesto is totally misleading, as it ignores the "hatchet job" done on Labour`s then leader, Michael Foot, by the right-wing media. Who will forget the criticism he received because he wore, at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day in 1981, a short blue-green overcoat, bought for him by his wife, "at considerable expense" at Harrods according to Foot`s official biographer, Lord Morgan? His enemies, many of whom were in the Labour party, had a field day, saying how he looked like an "out-of-work navvy" in his "donkey-jacket", even though the coat lacked the necessary leather shoulders.
Simply putting the blame for the defeat on the "note" also ignores the facts that the anti-Tory vote in 1983 was almost evenly split between the SDP/Liberal alliance and Labour, that the Tory vote fell by 700,000, and that Thatcher had to resort to an unnecessary war in the Falklands to bolster her own, and her party`s, support, so badly was she doing in the polls. Corbyn is being blamed for not playing by the usual party political rules, and for sounding different from the other "Stepford" candidates for Labour`s leadership, but look where following such rules has got Labour!
If such rules, as Blairites insist, forbid Labour to argue against Trident, they presumably also prevent support for any form of re-nationalisation, despite its popularity in the polls, or of wealth tax, or of strict regulation of the banks; anything, in fact, which copies or resembles proposals from the 1983 manifesto. That same "suicide note" included pledges to raise living standards by a minimum wage, and to introduce a National Investment Bank, with a commitment to "attract and channel savings, by agreement, in a way that guarantees these savings and improves the quality of investment in the UK". Also promised was a Keynesian £11bn "programme of action", and the re-imposition of exchange controls to "counter currency speculation". How our bankers would have loved that!
Many of the 1983 pledges were enacted, such as the Freedom of Information Act, a ban on foxhunting, and devolution to Scotland and Wales, but, of course, most were not, and the opportunity to prevent the disastrous
neoliberalism taking hold, and with it the inevitable rise in inequality, was lost. Were the months prior to the 1983 election really, as the likes of Toby Young imply, the "days of delusion" for Labour?
Why should it be assumed, as the Tories clearly do, that the monstrous £12bn benefit cuts will be forgotten by 2020, especially by the 63% which did not vote Tory last May? A Labour party misled into mimicking the Tories by its own right-wing, because it fails to understand its own history, could well be writing its own "suicide note", but this time, for real!