WI: Shore becomes Labour Leader in 1980

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Politibrit, Feb 13, 2018 at 9:24 AM.

  1. Politibrit Well-Known Member

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    Apparently, Michael Foot had to be talked into running for the Labour leadership in 1980, and was initially going to back Peter Shore. From what I hear, Shore seems like an interesting party leader for this era. He was opposed to the electoral college, was in favour of the nuclear deterrent and the Falklands War, and didn't get on with Tony Benn, so he likely would have been more willing to taken on the hard left than Foot or even Healey. But he also had opinions that would make him acceptable to the trade unions and the soft left, being strongly Eurosceptic, and an economic interventionist.

    So, lets say Foot doesn't stand, Shore goes through to the last round, and wins it by taking votes from the left and from those on the right who are disillusioned with Healey. How does his leadership go? I think it's still likely Jenkins creates a new party, but would the Gang of Three follow, if faced with a leader who holds some views they strongly oppose but is also willing to take on the left? Could he stop Labour drifting to the left, at least on defence issues? Obviously Labour wouldnt win in 1983, but how well would they do under Shore?
     
  2. Politibrit Well-Known Member

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    Any takers?
     
  3. V-J Old Gay Boozer (R-LA)

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    I'm not at all sure the premise is correct; that Shore would have won had Foot not stood. Foot was pressured into standing precisely because people thought that he was the only person on the left able to beat Healey.
     
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  4. Politibrit Well-Known Member

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    But from what I have read, a lot of people didn't think of Shore of being on the left at all. Tony Benn said he was a left winger that had moved to the right, basically another Callaghan. He was perceived more as a moderate who had some things in common with the left and who they might back over the alternative, like Wilson. If Foot could appeal to enough right wingers to beat Healey, I think it's very much possible that Shore could. If anything, the main difference between him and Foot that could prevent him winning would actually be because he'd be too combative toward the left, when some right wingers wanted Foot just for a quiet life, or in a small number of cases, to give the SDP the best possible start in life. But if Shore promised to fight the left on a number of issues, I think he could win support from a lot of right wingers who felt that Healey wouldn't have done that for them.
     
  5. V-J Old Gay Boozer (R-LA)

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    If Shore was such an obvious cross-party candidate, then it begs the question of why he did so miserably in both 1980 and 1983. In fact in 83 he did so badly he came behind Heffer, the hard left/Tony Benn stand-in candidate, even in the PLP section!

    Where you're reading broad appeal, I think the reality with Shore was that he had very little appeal because his position by that point was so eclectic and he was so thinly spread; my reading is that in a 'cultural' sense he seems like he should be of the right in how obviously antagonistic he could be to the left, but he was firmly anti-EEC and interventionist, which would have prevented him from ever being considered by the right. In consequence I don't think it's surprising that he did so badly in the two leadership elections. I don't see any evidence of him being a super centrist candidate in those elections at all, quite the opposite; he seems like he'd become equally alienating to just about everybody.
     
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  6. KingCrawa Prayed for by a brace of Monks

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    Considering Tony Benn - with all due respect for Wedgie - was basically the only man in Labour history to get more left wing the older he got I'm not convinced he's a good judge of someone's left wing credentials
     
  7. clem attlee Well-Known Member

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    Not at all, Sir Stafford Cripps did also.
     
  8. KingCrawa Prayed for by a brace of Monks

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    Oh yeah I forgot about him.
     
  9. Politibrit Well-Known Member

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    Yes, but the judgements of Tony Benn aren't the only bit of supporting evidence. I also saw reference made to it in Anthony King and Ivor Crewe's book on the SDP that I have been reading. He had gone from a prominent supporter of CND in the 1960s to a supporter of the nuclear deterrent by this time. So all of this is not without foundation.
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2018 at 3:44 AM
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  10. KingCrawa Prayed for by a brace of Monks

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    Again changing from being a member of CND to not is not indicative of him being left wing.

    Left wing doesn't equal being anti nuclear.
     
  11. Politibrit Well-Known Member

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    He switched from being member of CND to take an opposing view to CND. And it was one of the major dividing lines between right and left at that time. I can't think of any left wingers, from soft or hard left, who were in favour of the nuclear deterrent at this point. It doesn't automatically mean he is a right winger, but it would be a pretty major indicator to many. As this article makes clear he was someone who often had a foot in both camps. Some people had the impression of him as a left winger, other saw him as a right winger, including people who weren't from the left of the party. And according to the writer of that obituary, he was thought of as a viable contender against Healy at one stage.

    What is clear that he was to the right of Foot but to the left of Healy. That means he might find it harder to rally left wing support, but if there was no major left wing contender such as Kinnock or Foot, he'd have a good (though not certain) chance of making the final round, where his broader appeal to the right would kick in, and left wingers would be faced with either voting for him, voting for Healy, which most would never do, or abstaining. I'm not saying that Foot not entering the leadership contest makes a Shore victory inevitable, or even likely, but I'd say it is well within the realm of possibility, and would be an interesting idea to explore.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2018 at 7:14 PM
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  12. anarcho_liberal Servant to Rob Muldoon

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    I can see Shore winning an election provided Thatcher wins a minority government in October 1978. Or if she is ousted in 1981 as she had confided she would if there was too much resistance in cabinet.
     
  13. Blackadder mk 2 Well-Known Member

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    The more I read about Shore, the more I get the impression that his sympathies for siege economics and absence of such for the EEC kept him from going for the SDP. The only way I see him becoming leader is in a world where Foot is standing down, a larger SDP has meant all the senior Right are gone, and it's Tony Benn or someone worse on the horizon. Even then, such a coronation may be resisted at that point. I've seen him come up in a No Kinnock discussion, but I'm not sure how much of that is from the absence of alternatives and whether Hattersley was just a bad campaigner or not.

    Honestly, I think Roy Hattersley as Labour leader is the question fewer people ask. His gradual leftward drift in the 1980s has been overstated in some quarters, but it was still there, and I doubt he would have had the '87 campaign that Kinnock did.
     
  14. V-J Old Gay Boozer (R-LA)

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    I don't think Hattersley is much discussed as a potential leader because it's effectively structurally impossible for a member of the right to be elected in 1983. (Or indeed at any point in the early eighties post-electoral college introduction) The CLPs (which didn't yet have to ballot) were just not going to go for a candidate from the right - any candidate from the right - at that point in time, it's that simple, and the PLP and the unions were in a roughly soft-left position at that point. The PLP had gone a little more to the left since 1980, and early union block vote backing was part of what sewed it all up for Kinnock. (Though even when unions balloted, Kinnock romped home - no solace for the right there)

    People keep bringing up Smith when this is discussed, but I think that's massively anachronistic, 1992 is not at all a reflection on the situation that existed just a decade before, either for Smith or the party.

    I'm okay with going with the consensus that Kinnock had a good campaign in 1987, bar his defence wobble.
     
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  15. Politibrit Well-Known Member

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    So let's say that Kinnock is killed in that car crash he was involved in 1983, or for whatever reason he can't stand for leader. Who becomes leader? There don't seem to be many alternatives to the right then- the soft left doesn't seem to have a great deal in the way of major figures besides Foot and Kinnock at this time, and I'm sceptical they'd back someone from the hard left like Heffer.
     
  16. V-J Old Gay Boozer (R-LA)

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    I think it would be a mess without Kinnock, but tbh I think this is a question which goes into a degree of Kremlinology of the Labour Party in the early eighties which I don't think I'm qualified to answer - as I say, the union bloc vote was a strong part of getting Kinnock's candidacy off the ground.

    I wonder what John Silkin and Robin Cook's relations with the unions were like in 1983.
     
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