Labours old and new : ideological, political and organisational fragmentation on the parliamentary right of the British Labour Party, 1970-79
This thesis explores the complexity, divisions and eventual fragmentation of the parliamentary right of the British Labour Party in the late 1960s and 1 970s, and its implications for Labour's intra-party politics. It argues that the Labour right in this period, in contrast to the Labour left, has been comparatively under-researched. It further stresses that the detail of inherent complexity and divisions on the parliamentary Labour right was previously concealed within broad agreement around an adhesive framework of Keynesian social democracy and the basic principles of '1950s revisionism'. As the core pillars of this adhesive ideological and political framework collapsed in the particular economic and political context of the late 1960s and 1970s, the complexity and divisions of the parliamentary Labour right were made explicit. Attempts at intra-party organisation on the parliamentary Labour right in the 1970s further reveal its ideological and political fragmentation. The nature and development of this endeavour served only to emphasise the depth of ideological, policy and political divisions on the Labour right, to marginalise an influential segment of Labour right thought and practice, and to indicate the possibility of a (future) split with the Labour Party. The study adopts case studies of four critical policy themes to demonstrate the emergence of these divisions from the late 1960s onwards: European membership, industrial relations and trade union reform, issues of public expenditure and attitudes to race and immigration policy. The study concludes that ideological and political divisions and fragmentation severely undermined the cohesion and unity of the parliamentary Labour right. In the circumstances, the Labour right was unable to mount a credible coherent intellectual or institutional challenge to the Labour left, and the seeds of secessionist activity on the Labour right were sown long before Labour's introspective 1979-81 period. Given recent debates concerning the nature and relative novelty or otherwise of New Labour, a postscript argues that one important consequence of the failure to reconcile the complexity and fragmentation of the 'old' Labour right has been an inability to conceive of significant parallels and continuities between elements of this coalition and New Labour.