Labour’s fourth successive electoral defeat in 1992 rekindled the muffled controversy over its future
If a sanitized Labour Party could not win in the depths of a Tory-manufactured recession, when, if ever, could it? Labour, by common agreement, was doomed to eternal opposition unless it undertook drastic remedial action: the pursuit of the ‘modernizing’ agenda to the point where it ceased to be a social-democratic party of any kind.
Combining a synoptic history with contemporary advocacy, Labourism and the English Genius contests the verdicts of Labour’s Right and Left alike. Elliot argues that the true cause of the party’s past failures and present predicament is to be found, not in the presence or absence of ‘traditional socialism’, but in Labourism itself. For integral to Labour’s electoralism and parliamentarism has been a fantasy projection of ‘England’: the sovereign, imperial United Kingdom as the basis of a radiant future, attainable by subservience to the British Constitution. This was a chimera, the pursuit of which, amid interminable decline, has delivered the nation to its Conservative masters and reduced Labour to the decorative function of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.
In place of the foredoomed adaptation to the post-Thatcher settlement urged by so many pundits, Labourism and the English Genius advances an alternative strategy for the democratization of the English ancient regime and the emergent European order to which there is now no alternative for Britain. If Labour does not renounce its own great power illusions and contribute to that project—a precondition for any future socialism—it is fated to remain in opposition or to enjoy office without power.