Commenting on an argument in the Labour Party some years ago as to who should write the manifesto Frank Johnson once asked: ‘who should read it?’ It was a good question, since nothing written by human hand is quite as dull as a British Party political manifesto. Many months ago, as a duty to the Literary Review, I fought my way through Dr David Owen’s latest book, an interminable manifesto for the SDP. It patched together a lot of what were called ‘practical policies’ which had nothing in common save their practicality. The thing was uninspiring and tedious beyond belief.
Roy Hattersley’s book is of an altogether different order; and not merely because, unlike his former Cabinet Colleague Owen, he enjoys the English language and writes fluently. Roy Hattersley’s first chapter is called ‘In Praise of Ideology.’ He argues that Labour cannot succeed unless it sets its policies in a framework of socialist and egalitarian ideas. It can no longer expect to get office as the ‘Mugwump Party’, promising everything to everyone, if only because that job is now done so expertly by the Alliance Parties.
So Roy Hattersley sets out the basic political aim which inspires him: freedom through equality. He is a fan of R H Tawney, and indeed by far the best bits of his advocacy of Equality are quotations from Tawney’s classic of that name. Equality, he repeats, is not sameness but