This book’s unprepossessing title and cover lend it an unfortunate resemblance to the interminable books sometimes written by Labour MPs but more often ‘ghosted’ by their researchers, which have all the charismatic appeal and thrilling unpredictability of an English weather forecast. If they’re not wet, they’re bound to be windy. The prospect of a book called Labour Rebuilt conjures up an image of the Kinnersley-Hattock ‘dream ticket’ rising up like a New Jerusalem from the apocalyptic wreckage of 1979 and 1983, the false start of Michael Foot’s leadership, the blind alley of Bennism, the ‘looneyisms’ of the London Left, the bear-like embrace of the trade-union bosses and so on – a triumphant tale in which the leader and retinue of party loyalists almost literally come up smelling of (red) roses, clutching their copies of the policy review with a missionary zeal.
Colin Hughes and Patrick Wintour are, however, accomplished political journalists, not party hacks, and – despite a most unpromising subject – have produced a memorable and entertaining account of how the Labour Party was turned around from the lowest ebb (of virtually any equivalent European socialist/social-democratic party in the 1980s), to its current status in polls, which implies that a majority of people are now prepared to believe in it as an alternative government, and in Neil Kinnock as an alternative Prime Minister.
The central thesis, that such a transformation could not have occurred without both considerable political will and dramatic internal struggle, is persuasive. Neil Kinnock himself emerges with credit, not as a rosy-hued visionary ‘inspiring’ unity and renewal, but as a tenacious pragmatist and fixer who does not mind getting his