As the Conference season ends and Parliament resumes, the Tories are in triumphant mood. The Alliance - even the name now seems to mock them - have disintegrated, no longer preparing for government, but for oblivion. Part of the SDP is to go with Robert MacLennan, a year ago unknown in Britian and today unknown throughout the world. The other part, under David Owen, is being re-launched as the political wing of Sainsbury's. At the Labour Conference there was little rejoicing over the demise of the Alliance: instead, the Party engaged in a self-critical assessment of its own part in bringing about a decade of Mrs Thatcher. What makes things even worse for radical, progressive spirits is that the Ultra-Right appears to be even more in control of the Conservative Party this year than it has been previously. Mrs Thatcher clearly regards herself as a dea ex machina, sent down from on high to 'knock Britain into shape'. She will wield her power over the next few years dictatorially and without compunction. On the other hand, there is a tremendous danger - to which Dr Owen has succumbed - in believing that 'Thatcherism' is somehow now invincible, that it has established a new consensus and that all the rest of us can do is debate alternatives within its framework. It is essential to demythologise 'Thatcherism'.
LRB 29 October 1987 | PDF Download