Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Michael Foot and the 1983 Manifesto - by Jon Williams
It's interesting to look back to when Labour was at its most unpopular. I think unjustly so - given the harsh treatment by the press at the time - especially of Michael Foot. From his last interview there is one line that highlights his foresight many years ago - amazingly true. He said " Yes, well, they got it all slightly wrong, I thought, when they attacked that manifesto back then. 'The longest suicide note in history', that was what Gerald Kaufman called it. Gerald was actually elected on the same manifesto, so I do still hold that against him, you know. We proposed taking over the banks, not being at the mercy of capitalist forces and all the rest of it. Although it was Jill who suffered the worse from all of that media attention."
The Labour Party Manifesto of 1983 is quite relevant in today's economic troubles. Below is an opening summary of four years of Tory Government from 1979. It all seems very similar to the current Tory (Lib) Government's policies!!
"When the Tories took office in May 1979, unemployment was falling and the economy growing. Living standards had gone up by a sixth in two years, and North Sea oil held out the prospect of economic growth, high levels of employment and better social services.
All this was thrown away by the Tories. Nearly three and a quarter million men and women are now out of work, even on the official count. Plant after plant forced to close. Manufacturing production down by a fifth. Investment cut by a third. Our domestic markets captured by imports of manufactured goods.
After four years of Mrs. Thatcher, Britain is a poorer country. We have fared far worse than any other major industrial country. The unprecedented advantage of North Sea oil and gas - worth, in tax revenues alone, 8p in the pound on income tax - has been squandered, with nothing whatsoever to show for it.
What have all these sacrifices achieved? Our economy today is weaker, not stronger, than in 1979. There is no prospect of real economic growth. Indeed, the Tories no longer dare to predict when unemployment will begin to fall. True enough, inflation, after being forced to record levels by the Tories, has been brought down. But look at the cost in jobs, in poorer housing, in living standards, and in lost opportunities for our youth. And now inflation is set to increase again, with interest rates and mortgage rates likely to rise too.
The legacy of four Tory years goes beyond unemployment and industrial decline; beyond the damage done to our social services; beyond even the dangerous commitment to new nuclear weapons. It is expressed in the deep sense of bitterness, distrust and despair now felt among so many sections of the community. Our task will be to heal these wounds and rekindle among the British people a new sense of unity and common purpose."
Unbelievable how the above words still apply today, in particular after the recent riots - "heal these wounds and rekindle among the British people a new sense of unity and common purpose."
At first glance there are several good ideas in this manifesto - that could be used even today. I believe all were agreed at Annual Conference, when it was still permitted.
On Michael Foot also see here and here.