The Fightback of the Traditional Right in the Labour Party 1979 to 1987
The Labour Party, having lost the General Election in 1979 after the Winter of Discontent,d escendedin to internalt urmoil, ast he Left-dominatedN ational Executive Committee( NEC) and conferences oughtr evengeo n the centre-rightP arliamentary Labour Party (PLP) for its alleged failures in government. In 1981, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) split from Labour, leaving the Labour Party facing possible electoral extinction. However, the trade unions - founders of the Labour Party - came to its rescue,le d by a small groupo f dedicatedg enerals ecretariesa nd staff, who set out to regaint he NEC for the moderatesa, ndt o return the Labour Partyt o what they termed "sanity" and electability,b y expellingM ilitant, safeguardingth e position of Deputy LeaderD enis HealeyM P whenc hallengedb y Tony Benn MP, andd eliveringf or Neil Kinnock MP (the Leader they helped install after the 1983 election) an NEC committed to supporting him in changing the party. The thesis documents the organisation of the Right within the PLP before 1981 (the Manifesto Group and Labour First). It then covers the internal party groupings which organised the Fightback of the party's traditional right (the St Ermins Group of trade union leaders, Labour Solidarity Campaign and Forward Labour). It details their role in the leadership and deputy leadership elections, in changing the NEC's political composition and its workings, in the expulsion of Militant, in campaigning for One Member One Vote, and in helping keep Moderate members within the party. Contrary to some academic writings, this thesis shows how this was initially undertaken without the supporto f the Leader,a nd it detailst he amounto f organisationawl ork neededto achievec hangea nd assisti n Labour's re-emergencea s an electablep arty. The researchd rawso n extensivep rivatep apersa nd archives,t ogetherw ith over 70 interviews with key players.
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