With Benn’s death, it’s time to bury the myths of Old Labour

In 1994, Tony Benn’s career was winding down. His moment had passed; his movement was finished. He was the Betamax to Margaret Thatcher’s VHS. His supposed victories had been overshadowed by their unintended consequences. He won the right to eschew his title and remain in the Commons, which allowed Alec Douglas-Home to do the same and become Conservative prime minister. He forced the Labour Party to change its electoral system, and was beaten in the contest that followed. His acolytes took over the party’s structures; the decade that followed belonged to the Conservatives.

Fittingly enough, he owed his renaissance to another unintended consequence. Continue reading

Why does Paul Kenny hate wine bars so much?

At the beginning of the twentieth century I would have been a mongrel, in the middle I would have been half-caste. Now I’m mixed-race; and it is not a coincidence that there has never been a better time to be mixed-race in Britain than today. Language, George Orwell once wrote, “becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish”. Foolish language, though, makes it all the easier for us to have foolish thoughts.

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Rather than dismissing Ed Miliband’s reforms, the Tories should be trying to emulate them

“This is our party – and we are going nowhere.” Len McCluskey’s half-right at least; the Labour Party is the child of the trade unions, and it always will be.  A glorious past, though, doesn’t always guarantee a successful future. More than a third of trade union members are over 50, and fewer than one in ten are under 25. Meanwhile, the organisation that McCluskey’s Unite most closely resembles is Lehman Brothers – rising liabilities and declining revenues obscured by constant merger – and we all know what happened to them.

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