I often find that people who feel the need to bring up 1983 in the context of this leadership election are the ones who are looking into the past rather than those of us who are backing Corbyn because we believe he will improve the future of the Labour Party. It’s a lazy comparison to make and depending on your view of history and your relationship with facts and figures, an incorrect comparison.
We are often told that the 1983 was lost because Labour were too far to the left, as if this was the only thing that could possibly have lost them the first election since Thatcher’s 1979 landslide. Margaret Thatcher, although unpopular in the first two years of her premiership, secured a decisive victory in the Falklands War and the economy improved which meant a considerable rise in approval ratings and polls.
In addition to Thatcher’s increasing popularity, in-fighting in the Labour Party led to a split forming the SDP. The results showed that Labour were only 700,000 votes ahead of the electoral alliance of the SDP and Liberals. The collapse in support of Labour in favour of the SDP-Liberal alliance meant that the Conservatives won in many seats.
There is a serious contrast between the internal factions of the Labour Party when it comes to infighting. There are those, such as SDP splitters, who when things aren’t quite going their way, spit their dummies out of their prams, throw an almighty strop and go and do things their own way in a completely different party at the expense of a Labour government and there are those, such as socialist MPs like Jeremy Corbyn who stay in the Labour Party to fight for their views and convictions in a principled fashion. Surprisingly, centrists like Denis Healey stayed and fought for their convictions and beliefs, despite being in a minority.
Talk of splits in Labour has been minimal- especially internally. One of the only things that still unites people from all factions of the Labour Party is the need for a Labour government. The difference, is how we do that and whether or not Labour is a deserving party of government. There is no sense in Labour winning if it doesn’t offer a real alternative or a real sense of transformative change. That’s why Corbyn is doing so well. The dominant Blairism of the 1990s was a dramatic change from “old Labour” and arguably, it is not because of the centrist policies developed by Blair, but because of a desire for change and a Tory party that was embroiled in sleaze scandals.
After a decade of Tory rule in Britain come 2020, there may be that same desire for change in Britain after a government that has overseen a shambolic reform of the welfare state directly resulting in deaths of disabled people, the burgeoning use of food banks and zero hour contracts and lying to the country about Syrian air strikes and subverting parliamentary democracy amongst many other things. After another five years of this, Labour needs to offer people a real alternative, real hope and real change. Jeremy Corbyn embodies this need with his alternative politics and economic policies. If he wins on Saturday, the Labour Party apparatchik need to ditch their pre-conceptions and paranoia of the past and look to the future.