As yet, the Social Democrats have no historian. There have been a few breathless attempts to recall the more obvious events. Roy Jenkins's memorable (and memorably pronounced) announcement in his Dimbleby Lecture of a runway ready for a take-off, the page of signatures in the Guardian, the Lime-house Declaration, and the constitutional convention in Kensington. There have been pieces - not least in this paper - which sketch the start of a political explanation - invoking the Parliamentary Labour Party's inability to control the unions after 1960, the failure of the Campaign for Democratic Socialism in the 1970s, and the successes of the very differently-inclined Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, and the outcome of these and other changes in the new electoral college in 1981. There is the frequently flaunted economic fact that there is no future in Anthony Crosland's sort of socialism because there is no firm future for the growth which - although less unequivocally than subsequent commentators have assumed - Crosland supposed adequate public spending to require. There have even been a few sociological reflections: Gareth Stedman Jones's, for instance, which fix on the reforming middle class's long and slow but now perhaps terminal loss of faith in the working class in whose name the reforms were to be made. But there has been, as yet, no connected account.
LRB 15 November 1984 | PDF Download