Hugh Gaitskell

‘Never more relevant’

Rachel Reeves tells Richard Angell and Conor Pope the subject of her book, Alice Bacon, would have a clear message for today’s moderates

First publish in Progress magazine

The Labour party is full of people whose stories never get heard. Who put in the hours, sit in the rooms where decisions are made and make sure that change happens. They make the history, but are often not recorded in it.

Alice Bacon is one of those people. She was a Labour parliamentarian for almost 50 years, 25 of them as a member of parliament, was a minister in the Harold Wilson government of the 1960s and sat on the National Executive Committee for almost three decades. Having grown up in a working-class community in Yorkshire and working as a teacher before her election, she was an early and tireless champion of comprehensive education, as well as a feared operator – earning the nickname ‘terror of the Trotskyites’ from Denis Healey. She was firmly against attempts to liberalise drug laws but key – alongside her boss at the Home Office Roy Jenkins – to the big liberalising battles of the 1960s, especially on abortion. (more…)

Keep asking till you get the ‘right answer’

First published on Progressonline

We need to talk to about what happened with Trident this week at Labour party conference. Before we do, it is worth remembering the reccurring horror show that this debate has long been for Labour.

The last time Labour was in the wilderness, its unilateral disarmament stance was cited regularly by voters as a reason to not even consider Labour a party fit to govern. Margaret Thatcher was considered strong on defence while Labour was described by would-be voters as ‘lunatics on defence’ according to Philip Gould in his book the Unfinished Revolution. As part of a long and painful march back to respectability, Labour party conference in 1988 voted down a motion backing unilateral nuclear disarmament. By 1992, Gould who worked for Neil Kinnock, was able to report that, ‘Gerald Kaufman [had] brilliantly abandoned unilateralism’. While 1992 was not the result we wanted, Labour was at least respectable to voters again. Winning would only come later and after further modernisation. (more…)