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Interpreting Thatcherism : the British labour movement and the political legacy of the period of Conservative rule

Marc Lenormand
p. 163-179

Résumé

This contribution focuses on the debates within the labour movement over the nature and significance of the Conservative period in power and of Conservative policies in the 1980s. The contention of this paper is that, besides the direct impact of Conservative policies on trade unions and on working-class living and working conditions, which were indeed central to what the new right planned as the irreversible shift from collectivism and statism to individualism and marketization, the lasting legacy of Thatcherism rested on how Conservative policies and their direct impact were mediated through analysis and discourse, on how Thatcherism was constructed and interpreted politically. First, the debates over the significance of Thatcherism will be located within older and broader policy debates and political debates in the labour movement, between left and right. Second, the interpretation of Thatcherism as a decisive break with post-war politics and as a successful programme for new times will be examined as central to the ideological and political impact of the Conservative period in power on the labour movement. Third, it will be argued that the internal dynamics of the Labour Party were a key factor of the entrenchment of the Thatcherite settlement in British politics, and of its lasting impact on the labour movement. Finally, concluding remarks will draw on the observation of the dynamics of Scottish politics.

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Texte intégral

Introduction

1This contribution focuses on the debates within the labour movement over the nature and significance of the Conservative period in power and of Conservative policies in the 1980s. A broad definition of the labour movement is used here, to include the Labour Party and the trade unions, but also the other left parties in Britain and the whole range of intellectuals, groups and magazines which contributed and have continued to contribute to political analysis and strategic thinking in the labour movement since the late 1970s. The contention of this paper is that, besides the direct impact of Conservative policies on trade unions and on working-class living and working conditions, which were indeed central to what the new right planned as the irreversible shift from collectivism and statism to individualism and marketization, the lasting legacy of Thatcherism rested on how Conservative policies and their direct impact were mediated through analysis and discourse, on how Thatcherism was constructed and interpreted politically. This paper therefore both has a fairly narrow scope in relation to the breath of Thatcherism and its legacy in British politics, and makes larger claims about the centrality of discourse and interpretation in lasting political change. This is not arguing for the primacy or the self-sufficiency of ideas, but rather a call to look at how analyses and interpretations combine with political and party dynamics. In the case of the labour movement, notions of a new Thatcherite era and consensus were instrumental to the entrenchment of the Thatcherite settlement. First, the debates over the significance of Thatcherism will be located within older and broader policy debates and political debates in the labour movement, between left and right. Second, the interpretation of Thatcherism as a decisive break with post-war politics and as a successful programme for new times will be examined as central to the ideological and political impact of the Conservative period in power on the labour movement. Third, it will be argued that the internal dynamics of the Labour Party were a key factor of the entrenchment of the Thatcherite settlement in British politics, and of its lasting impact on the labour movement. Finally, concluding remarks will draw on the observation of the dynamics of Scottish politics.

Left and right

  • 1 Jones, H., and Kandiah, M. (ed.), 1996; Kavanagh, D., 1992; Kerr, P., 1999; Marlow, J., 1996; Pimlo (...)
  • 2 Gamble, A., 1981; Hickson, K., 2005, p. 21-23.

2The debates in the labour movement about Thatcherism and its significance may be seen as part of an older, longer debate between left and right in the Labour Party. Indeed, the long period of Conservative administration, from 1979 to 1997, is reminiscent of another long period of Conservative administration in post-war Britain, from 1951 to 1964. There has been much debate over the nature and the very existence of a relative political consensus from the Second World War to the late 1970s1, and in retrospect there indeed seems to have been such a thing – if not a consensus, at least the sense of a relatively stable middle ground of British politics, with both major parties committed to the Western alliance, free trade, broad elements of welfare state, and accommodation of trade unions2.

  • 3 Abrams, M., and Rose, R., 1960; Butler, D., and Rose, R., 1960, p. 15, 197; Crosland, A., 1956.

3However, the Labour Party in opposition was not content with watching the Conservatives in power accept and preserve the legacy of the 1945 Labour government. There were debates in the party about the post-war trajectory of British society, and about the best policies and strategy for recovering power. The left saw the results of the 1951 election primarily as a Labour defeat, as the result of the policies of consolidation and of the failure to move further towards socialism, and advocated internationalism, disarmament, and further measures of nationalism. The right of the party saw the results of the election primarily as a Conservative victory based on the ability of the Conservatives to tap into frustration and resentment after years of rationing and austerity. Drawing on popular sociological work arguing that the affluent post-war society was drawing working-class people away from class politics, they advocated middle-ground policies, the abandonment of any notion of a further push towards socialism, a reconciliation with capitalist society in which workers never had it so good, and more emphasis on liberal social policies3.

  • 4 Heffer, E., 1973, p. 169.
  • 5 Bogdanor, V., 2004.

4It is unnecessary to repeat the analysis for every single election in the 1960s and 1970s, precisely because the same pattern kept on being repeated. The pattern was that Labour election victories in 1964, 1966 and 1974, were analysed by the left as demonstrating that there existed a broad working-class constituency which demanded left policies of further nationalisation, redistribution of power and resources to the working class, and disarmament4. The very same Labour victories were analysed by the right of the party as demonstrating the voters’ confidence in the party’s ability to be a party of government and to kick-start and accompany the modernisation of British society and of Britain’s economy5. The Labour election defeats in 1970 and 1979 were analysed by the left of the party as stemming from a failure to use state intervention to plan for economic growth and preserve and create jobs, from a failure to stand up to the pressures exerted by the financial markets, from a failure to carry out promises to redistribute power and resources to the working-classes, and on the contrary from the use of incomes policies which reduced wage packets and antagonised the trade unions.

  • 6 Coates, K., 1979, p. 30.

Not only on any moderately reforming view, but on any moderately conservative perspective it had been an undistinguished Government. Not only did it run away from all its more important commitments on industrial democracy, the regeneration of a manufacturing industrial base, and the maintenance of employment: it went beyond these denials of its own programme into a hitherto unlooked for major attack on public spending, which at the instance of the IMF, opened up the prospect of the holocaust which is now to come6.

5By contrast, the right of the party saw the defeats as resulting from the Labour government’s inability to fully implement necessary economic remedies due to trade union resistance and sabotage, and from the Conservatives’ ability to project themselves as better suited to carry out the modernisation of the British economy.

  • 7 Healey, D., 1989, p. 462.
  • 8 ibid., p. 467.

This shambles was of course a triumph for Mrs Thatcher. The cowardice and irresponsibility of some union leaders in abdicating responsibility at this time guaranteed her election; it left them with no grounds for complaining about her subsequent actions against them7.
All the evidence suggested that we had lost the election mainly because the Winter of Discontent had destroyed the nation’s confidence in the Labour Party’s ability to work with the unions
8.

6The left-right divide, which is used here as the major analytical tool for the sake of clarity, fails to account for the amazing complexity of the Labour Party, which is actually made up of the Parliamentary Party, the various internal bodies and forums, the Constituency Parties, the societies and the trade unions. These components interact in a complex way, have their own interests and agendas, and this produces a bewildering range of opinions and self-definitions. In policy debates and political debates, there was rarely one single identifiable left position and one single identifiable right position. However, because decisions were made by majority voting, a left bloc and a right bloc usually ended up coalescing around often composite motions, and the decisions made contributed to solidifying these blocs.

7The contours of these political blocs evolved and changed in the second half of the 20th century. One of the major evolutions in the 1970s, so just before the onset of Thatcherism, was the trade unions moving from loyal support to the Parliamentary leadership to being a more fractious, less reliable source of support for the Parliamentary leadership. However, what did not change over the period was the dominance of the right over the Parliamentary Party, with the left forming a perennial opposition with the Parliamentary Party. This also helped solidify the left-right divide in the party.

The success of Thatcherism

  • 9 Gamble, A., 1981, p. 157-168.

8 Such was the situation in the Labour Party as Margaret Thatcher began her administration in 1979. The analyses of Labour left and of the union left did not change much over the next decade – and even decades. The economic policies of the Thatcher government were perceived as an unmitigated disaster. The idea was that, if Labour stood its ground and promised to reverse the Conservative policies, it would eventually be returned to power by the broad working-class constituency which was bound to support Labour left policies which, in the 1970s and early 1980s, came to be known as the Alternative Economic Strategy: nationalisations, investment, the abandonment of free trade, the reining in of finance capitalism, industrial democracy, participative politics. This combination of “national economy”, as Andrew Gamble called it9, and of “new left” politics, was probably the fullest, most coherent and perhaps the first and only economic programme which the left in Britain ever put together. Labour’s failure to return to power in the first half of the decade was blamed on the split of the anti-Thatcher vote created by the right-wing secessionists of the Social Democratic Party.

  • 10 Britton, A., 1991, p. 20; Thompson, N., 2002; Thompson, N., 2006, p. 223-224.
  • 11 Crouch, C., 1979; Middlemas, K., 1979; Nossiter, B., 1978.

9What is more striking is the evolution of the right. In government in the 1970s, Labour had become associated with orthodox budgets, incomes policies, and what a number of observers called “corporatism”, that is to say the use of tripartite negotiations and tripartite bodies to bring on board employers’ groups and trade unions. The 1970s were a moment of intellectual disarray for the right of the Labour Party, as Keynesian-style beliefs in the workings of economic policy were rocked by stagflation and exchange rate instability. So they clung to the few tools they thought they were left with – incomes policies, tripartism – to help Britain weather the crisis10. After they lost power in 1979, people like James Callaghan and Denis Healey, who were respectively Prime Minister and Chancellor in the 1976-1979 Labour government, still held those tools and policies – corporatist, big state social-democracy – as the better remedy for Britain’s predicament in the world recession of the late 1970s11.

  • 12 Reid, A., and Pelling, A., 2005, p. 170.

10In less than a decade, this agenda was gone, and was replaced by a new centre-right social-democratic agenda, which was no longer predicated on corporatism and big state policies. The “modernisation” of the Labour under the Parliamentary leaderships of Neil Kinnock, John Smith and Tony Blair led ultimately to the acceptation of the Thatcherite settlement12. This swift, staggering shift can be attributed to a series of factors. A first element of discussion is the role actually played by a group outside of the Labour party, namely the editorial team of Marxism Today. Marxism Today was the monthly theoretical journal of the Communist Party of Great Britain. It drew on the strength of the CPGB academic network to produce a research-based journal, but also attracted writers from the rest of the left, and its influence went well beyond the confines of the small CPGB, because it was a highly readable monthly journal, because it tackled problems of organisation and strategy for the left, and because the Labour Party had no such journal – but then nor did the Labour have the organisation cohesiveness of the CPGB.

  • 13 Hall, S., 1983; Hobsbawm, E., 1978.

11In the period of editorship of Martin Jacques, between 1977 and 1991, Marxism Today became ever more associated with the Eurocommunist, revisionist, moderate wing of the CPGB, while the daily Morning Star remained the preserve of the orthodox wing of the party. The Eurocommunists were highly sensitive to the predicament of the left in the late 1970s and early 1980s, caught between the shortcomings of socialist states in Eastern Europe, the growing disconnection between working-class aspirations to better living conditions and the austerity policies of the Labour government, and the revival of a radicalised right under Thatcher’s leadership of the Conservative Party. Starting with a series of articles by Stuart Hall about Thatcher’s “Great Moving Right Show” and Eric Hobsbawm about the “Forward March of Labour Halted?”13, Marxism Today progressively developed a coherent, full-blown analysis of the situation which revolved around two central ideas: “new times” and “Thatcherism”. The idea of “new times” was that societies were undergoing a deep, irreversible transformation :

  • 14 Hall, S., and Jacques, M. (ed.), 1989, p. 11.

Britain and other advanced capitalist societies are increasingly characterised by diversity, differentiation and fragmentation, rather than homogeneity, standardisation and the economies of scale which characterised modern mass societies14.

  • 15 ibidem.

12On this basis, the objective should be “to realign the Left with that new world”15. And indeed, the “Manifesto for New Times” drawn up by Marxism Today highlighted :

  • 16 ibid., p. 17.

The proliferation of the sites of antagonism and resistance, and the appearance of new subjects, new social movements, new collective identities – an enlarged sphere for the operation of politics, and new constituencies for change16.

  • 17 Gamble, A., 1988.

13Marxism Today and the Eurocommunist wing of the CPGB were much maligned on the left for what was seen as their retreat from class, when actually one could argue that they were among the first advocates and thinkers of the movement of movements which reached its high mark at the turn of the new century. Marxism Today argued that there was a left way forward out of the crisis and into the new times, and that Thatcherite hegemony was one only possible future for Britain. Indeed, Thatcher’s programme advocating “the free economy and the strong state”, to use again an Andrew Gamble phrase17, was seen as simply one successful programme for the new times. A programme which drew on traditional Conservative themes of “nation”, “law and order” and “authority” with a cross-class appeal, but was also seen by Marxism Today writers as a programme of Conservative modernisation whose emphasis on individualism and privatisation was likely to gain traction in new times structurally characterised by “diversity, differentiation and fragmentation”.

  • 18 Jessop, B., Bonnett, K. and Bromley, S., 1984, 1985, 1990.

14This analysis was criticised vigorously inside the CPGB, in the Trotskyist groups and in the left of the Labour Party by those who argued that notions of an irreversible shift towards post-fordist, post-modern capitalism and of a disintegration of class were superficial, deluded and only likely to lead to political failure18. Now, because Marxism Today was the theoretical journal of the CPGB, and actually the journal of one of the warring factions in the party, it was not likely ever to translate directly and faithfully into a mass political movement. However, it indirectly fed the debates in the Labour Party, where the analyses regarding the “new times” and “Thatcherism” was seized by the revisionist right of the party.

The modernisation of the Labour Party

15Indeed, the revisionist right in the Labour Party was able to seize and use the analyses offered by Marxism Today because they were in a different party and because they were relatively free from the academic rules of engagement of the journals and magazines of the left. The writings of Philip Gould, who was a key political consultant for the leadership of the Labour Party from the mid-1980s onwards, are a case in point :

  • 19 Gould, P., 1999, p. 396.

Over 60 per cent of people now believe that they are, to one degree or another, middle-class. This new middle class does not just include people in white-collar jobs: 50 per cent in skilled manual occupation consider themselves to be to some extent described by the term ‘middle-class’. The middle class can no longer be viewed as a small, privileged sub-sector of society. Mass politics is becoming middle-class politics. Winning the century means winning middle-class support19.

16Here, one may see both echoes of 1950s revisionist analyses, and full use being made of the notion that the new times had irreversibly fragmented the working-classes, and even altered its very nature and politics.

  • 20 ibid., p. 83-84.

The strengths of the 1987 campaign were clear enough: apart from its professional organisation, it had developed a strong strategic focus – social, emotional, passionate. But there were weaknesses too. We were still fighting on our own ground, not taking back Conservative territory, or even reclaiming neutral ground. Effectively we gave up the economy, taxation and personal finance to the Conservatives, and in doing so forfeited any chance of winning the election20.

17Here again, there is inspiration from the sort of new social politics advocated as part of the new times project, alongside the conviction that the Labour defeat was due to the successful appeal of Thatcherite policies. This led to a damning criticism of Labour left policies, seen as dominant in the party :

  • 21 ibid., p. 3-4. These views were not Philip Gould’s own, idiosyncratic take on the situation of the (...)

The party I loved instinctively was to betray the people who lived here, its natural supporters: ordinary people with suburban dreams who worked hard to improve their homes and their lives; to get gradually better cars, washing machines and televisions; to go on holiday in Spain rather than Bournemouth. These people wanted sensible, moderate policies which conformed to their understanding and their daily lives. Labour became a party enslaved by dogma: it supported unilateral disarmament, immediate withdrawal from the Common Market, nationalisation of the twenty-five largest companies, and marginal taxation rates at 93 per cent. It abandoned the centre ground of British politics and camped out on the margins, forlorn and useless, offering a miasma of extremism, dogmatism, intolerance and wilful elitism which put the hopes and dreams of ordinary people last21.

18And to the notion that a new Thatcherite settlement had been achieved, that it was irreversible, and that Labour should adapt and accept its broad contours.

  • 22 ibid., p. 4.

Labour had failed to understand that the old working class was becoming a new middle class: aspiring, consuming, choosing what was best for themselves and their families. They had outgrown crude collectivism and left it behind in the supermarket car-park22.

19One of the notions which was decisive in the fight of the revisionist right against the left, was the notion of a necessary modernisation of the party. Again, they could rely on the writings of the Marxism Today team.

  • 23 Hall, S., and Jacques, M. (ed.), 1989, p. 452.

Moreover, the transition to new times is creating another point of commonality. There is a vital division between those parts of the opposition to Thatcherism which have shifted on to the terrain of the new times and those who still hanker after the familiar past. The modernisers in different parties may have more in common with one another than they have with traditionalists in their own parties. Thus, alongside left and right, we need a new vocabulary to describe political polarities. That will turn on the line between progressive and regressive politics, modernisers and traditionalists23.

20Here, the revisionist Communists were obviously arguing for an alliance between the moderates in the CPGB, the Labour Party and the SDP. However, framing it in terms of modernisers versus traditionalists was central to claims made then, and later by Tony Blair, that the right of the Labour Party was fighting the fight for radical modernisation against the forces of conservatism within the labour movement.

  • 24 This notion of acts of interpretation used as tactical blows in party infighting is loosely derived (...)

21One should be careful not to give the impression that this was a purely intellectual debate, in which the right eventually prevailed. As with the debates of the period 1951-1979, these arguments were mostly used as blows in the bruising internal battles of the Labour Party, and after general elections to discredit or justify the action of the leadership of the party, on the basis of antagonistic interpretations of the results24.

  • 25 Benn, T., 1979; Meacher, M., 1982, p. 228.

22In the post-war history of the Labour Party, the period of 1979-1981 was probably the period of highest uncertainty in terms of what the future leadership of the party might be, and therefore the policies it might implement once it returned to power. The defeat in the 1979 general elections gave renewed impetus to the calls from the left for more democracy in the Labour Party25. 1980 and 1981 were decisive years, when both the rules for the elections in the party were debated, and when elections to the positions of leader and deputy leader of the party took place. There was a flurry of activism on the left and the right of the party, with campaign groups on both sides counting and mobilising MPs, trade unions and constituency parties. James Callaghan and Michael Foot, who were respectively leader and deputy leader of the party at the beginning of the period worked a compromise formula for the elections together with the trade unions. When Michael Foot’s election as leader was followed by Denis Healey’s election as deputy leader and by a loss of left powerbases in the unions in internal party bodies, what had seemed earlier as the inexorable forward march of the Bennite left in the Labour Party was stemmed. In a sense, the advance of the left in the Labour Party started ebbing away in 1981.

  • 26 Reid, A., and Pelling, H., 2005, p. 163.

23From then on, the right’s dominance over the leadership of the parliamentary Party, which had been challenged more strongly than ever in 1979-1981, never again faltered. The successive election results were then used as justification for the modernisation of the Labour Party. For the left, the 1983 Conservative landslide originated directly in the betrayal and secession of the right. The right, however, saw the 1983 defeat as an opportunity to discredit the Alternative Economic Strategy26. Election defeats between 1983 and 1992 were invariably seen by the left as resulting from the inability of the Labour Party to articulate a true left socialist agenda, and by the right as signifying the need to push ahead with modernisation as Thatcherism was now the lay of the land. The 1997 election victory was again seen by the left as reflecting the existence of a constituency for left policies, while the right saw it as a vindication of modernisation. These conflicting interpretations were attempts by the left to dislodge the right’s dominance and reclaim the Labour Party for the left, and endeavours by the right to demonstrate that the party was able to win and retain power under its stewardship. However, the decisive factor remained the ability of the right to keep, and steadily expand, its political and organisational control over the Labour Party.

24Once in government, the right was keen on proclaiming and justifying its embrace of the Thatcherite settlement. Indeed, one of the key aspects of New Labour discourse was the idea that the eighteen years of Conservative rule had produced a radical, irreversible shift in social, industrial and economic policy which was irreversible and synonymous with the advent of a modern Britain. At the 1997 TUC conference, Tony Blair famously declared :

  • 27 « Join the real world, Blair tells unions », The Times, 10 September 1997.

We will not go back to the days of industrial warfare, strikes without ballots, mass and flying pickets, secondary action and the rest. You don’t want it and I won’t let it happen. And I will watch very carefully to see how the culture of modern trade unionism develops27.

25The rhetoric of then and now, past and future was used by Tony Blair and his allies in the New Labour leadership to suggest the acceptation and entrenchment of the legacy of Thatcherism:

  • 28 Mandelson, P., 2002, p. 1.

[New Labour’s] strategy is to move forward from where Margaret Thatcher left off, rather than to dismantle every single thing she did28.

  • 29 ibid, xv.

Gone is the winter of discontent, replaced by low inflation, low mortgage rates and social security bills under control. Gone is the International Monetary Fund crisis, replaced by record sums available for investment. Gone is opposition to the sale of council houses, replaced by the patient-centred NHS. Gone is the advocacy of nuclear unilateralism, replaced by the willingness to deploy troops as peacekeepers alongside our United States and European allies in support of a just and stable international order29.

26The Thatcherite legacy was used here to consign left nostrums of trade union power, nationalisation, state-run public services and disarmament to the irrelevance of the past, and prevent discursive and political challenges from the left to the New Labour leadership and its agenda.

Conclusion : The Labour Party and the Thatcherite legacy in Scottish perspective

27The specificities of Scottish national politics within broader UK politics were brought to the fore spectacularly at the May 2015 general elections, when the surge of the SNP vote practically eliminated the traditionally-dominant Scottish Labour Party. The observation of Scottish politics over a longer period of time may further illustrate the case which this paper has endeavoured to make. The 1980s saw a progressive political divergence between England and Scotland, when Scottish voters returned an increasingly overwhelming majority of Labour MPs, while England allowed the Conservatives to remain in power. For more than two decades now, the political scene in Scotland has been dominated by two political parties positioning themselves as centre-left parties, with the SNP moving steadily to the left over the period.

28As with the evolution of the Labour Party in the UK, leadership and internal party politics may be argued to have played a central role here. Indeed, the Scottish National Party moved to the left because a number of activists in the party managed to convince a majority of members in the party that the right course of action was to adopt more progressive, social-democratic policies. These nationalists, one of them Alex Salmond, had originally formed in 1979 the “79 group”. It was called the 79 group not because of the historic nature of the Conservative general election victory, but because of the historic devolution referendum which had returned a majority “yes” vote, albeit with an insufficient share of the Scottish electorate. What caught the attention of these left nationalists was that the cause of increased autonomy for Scotland had received higher support among working-class voters. They therefore argued that adopting more left-leaning, working-class-friendly policies would be good for Scottish nationalism. They thought that their analysis was proven right as Thatcherite policies inflicted a heavy toll on Scottish industries, and exacerbated dissatisfaction with the Westminster regime. However, there was no easy victory for the left-leaning activists in the SNP. They were actually expelled from the party in 1981 by the moderate leadership. There is room for comparison here with the infighting and the bitter divide in the Labour Party at the same period. However, these left nationalists were allowed back into the party a month later. Alex Salmond rose through the ranks of the party, became an MP then Deputy Leader of the SNP in 1987, then successfully contested the SNP leadership of the SNP in 1990.

29Alex Salmond becoming SNP leader certainly did not amount to a left-wing takeover of the party. Under his leadership, the SNP remained committed to fairly moderate, centrist policies. However, Salmond and his colleagues in the SNP leadership were able to continue to strike a distinctively progressive note on foreign policy through the 1990s and 2000s – from Trident to the Iraq War. As Labour was busy modernising and moving to the centre-ground, the SNP ended up looking like a credible centre-left alternative in Scotland. This is a role which the SNP has been more than happy to play up in the Scottish Parliament since 1999, and as the Scottish Government since 2007. Now, the UK as a whole and Scotland as nation have different politics, with different electoral systems since devolution and with a middle-ground evidently more to the left in Scotland. However, the recent history of the SNP demonstrates both the success of a left positioning – if not of left policies – and that the differentiated legacy of Thatcherism on political parties and movements was considerably mediated by antagonistic interpretations and by the internal party dynamics which these interpretations were called on to support. Whether the resurgent Labour left which propelled Jeremy Corbyn to the party leadership in the Summer and Autumn 2015 will be able to effectively challenge the dominant New Labour interpretation of the Thatcher years and replace it with its own counter-narrative within the Labour party as a whole – Parliamentary Party included – remains to be seen.

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Notes

1 Jones, H., and Kandiah, M. (ed.), 1996; Kavanagh, D., 1992; Kerr, P., 1999; Marlow, J., 1996; Pimlott, B., 1988; Seldon, A., 1994.

2 Gamble, A., 1981; Hickson, K., 2005, p. 21-23.

3 Abrams, M., and Rose, R., 1960; Butler, D., and Rose, R., 1960, p. 15, 197; Crosland, A., 1956.

4 Heffer, E., 1973, p. 169.

5 Bogdanor, V., 2004.

6 Coates, K., 1979, p. 30.

7 Healey, D., 1989, p. 462.

8 ibid., p. 467.

9 Gamble, A., 1981, p. 157-168.

10 Britton, A., 1991, p. 20; Thompson, N., 2002; Thompson, N., 2006, p. 223-224.

11 Crouch, C., 1979; Middlemas, K., 1979; Nossiter, B., 1978.

12 Reid, A., and Pelling, A., 2005, p. 170.

13 Hall, S., 1983; Hobsbawm, E., 1978.

14 Hall, S., and Jacques, M. (ed.), 1989, p. 11.

15 ibidem.

16 ibid., p. 17.

17 Gamble, A., 1988.

18 Jessop, B., Bonnett, K. and Bromley, S., 1984, 1985, 1990.

19 Gould, P., 1999, p. 396.

20 ibid., p. 83-84.

21 ibid., p. 3-4. These views were not Philip Gould’s own, idiosyncratic take on the situation of the Labour Party in the 1980s. One may find similar analyses in the writings of the historian Dennis Kavanagh: “Labour was now identified with society’s losers – the unemployed, sick and poor – rather than the succeeders. Voters who wanted to own their own homes, improve their living standards and gain a better education for their children looked to the Conservative Party as a vehicle for meeting their aspirations for greater choice and opportunity. Labour was associated with levelling down and holding back. Meeting the aspirations of such target voters required more than changes in policies; it called for a fundamental makeover of the Party. Labour had to take account of what voters liked and disliked about it, rather than seeking better ways of promoting unpopular policies.” Dennis Kavanagh, 2004, p. 324-325.

22 ibid., p. 4.

23 Hall, S., and Jacques, M. (ed.), 1989, p. 452.

24 This notion of acts of interpretation used as tactical blows in party infighting is loosely derived from the sociology of political crises offered by Dobry, M., 1986.

25 Benn, T., 1979; Meacher, M., 1982, p. 228.

26 Reid, A., and Pelling, H., 2005, p. 163.

27 « Join the real world, Blair tells unions », The Times, 10 September 1997.

28 Mandelson, P., 2002, p. 1.

29 ibid, xv.

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Marc Lenormand, « Interpreting Thatcherism : the British labour movement and the political legacy of the period of Conservative rule », Observatoire de la société britannique, 17 | 2015, 163-179.

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Marc Lenormand, « Interpreting Thatcherism : the British labour movement and the political legacy of the period of Conservative rule », Observatoire de la société britannique [En ligne], 17 | 2015, mis en ligne le 01 mai 2016, consulté le 21 octobre 2017. URL : http://osb.revues.org/1784 ; DOI : 10.4000/osb.1784

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Marc Lenormand

Maître de Conférences en Civilisation britannique à l'Université Paul Valéry-Montpellier 3

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Observatoire de la société britannique

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