Harold Wilson, the begetter of so many of the Labour Party’s problems today, was at least right about one thing. A week is a long time in politics – and half a week at Bishops Stortford even longer.
The Battle for the Labour Party, one of the many spin-offs of the SOP’s launch, was completed in October last year; its depressing postscript was written in November, just after Shirley Williams’ victory at Crosby. (I met enough mendacity on the doorsteps of Crosby to last a lifetime, ferrying more ‘declared Labour supporters’ to the polls that day than the Labour candidate received in total votes – or so it felt.) That by-election – where Labour’s vote slumped alarmingly – really did appear to suggest that the Labour Party was about to disappear down the tube. The Labour Party was in a state of collective neurosis: even the ‘Outside Left’, the subject of this book, was worrying that its decisive victories inside the Labour Party might, in the face of electoral collapse, turn out to be hollow.
Then there was Christmas, the New Year, Bishops Stortford, the astonishing report – with film to confirm it – of relative harmony within the upper ranks of the Party, and my own experience of a surprising change in the atmosphere of the Parliamentary Party. ‘The truce wouldn’t last’ we were