James Callaghan

This House: The honour in political machinery

First published on ProgressOnline

James Graham’s play, This House, exploring the working-class heroes in the whips’ office –  who fought the Tories and hard left to keep a Labour government in office – feels more poignant now than when it first opened in 2012. Reopening at the Garrick Theatre, Graham’s masterpiece shows the use of tactics, corralling the ‘odds and sods’ in smaller parties and the sheer determination to not give up that characterised the Labour members of parliament who went above and beyond for our party. More importantly, to try and give the voters what they had voted for. They were driven by one main insight: the worst day of a Labour government is better than a Tory government on its best day. When the Tory chief whip goads his opposite with ‘you are not getting anything done’, the retort, from Michael Cocks (played by Downton Abbey’s Kevin Doyle) is simple: ‘We’re keeping you out of power’.

Sadly this spirit was not shared among all comrades. The play retells how Audrey Wise [Sarah Woodward] and Jeff Rooker [Matthew Pidgeon] tabled a backbench amendment – for the first time ever by MPs on the government benches – to the budget. This allowed the Tories to rally round and deliver a body blow to the government. Arguably, it never recovered, and nor did Labour’s credibility on the economy for nearly two decades. (more…)