Tuesday, January 31, 2006

In Political Praise of: Tony Crosland and Denis Healey

Two of my biggest ideological heroes within the Labour Party and the natural heirs of Hugh Gaitskell.
In which case, some may wonder, with good reason, why I havent included Roy Jenkins ! Well the simple reason is, I don't have much time for a party wrecking, self-regarding, gossip mongering, claret-quaffing, intellectual snob of a Euro-elitist!

(BBC Online)
Okay that was a bit personal, but I think you get the idea. Jenkins was the sort of guy with the sort of personality I found difficult to deal with! The man tried to mould the party in his image and when things were not going exactly the way he wanted (which is more than once), he picked up his bat and strode off the pitch, but not before causing mayhem in his wake.
That said, it would be somewhat churlish of me not to give credit where credit's due. The man had also a first class brain, was at his finest as Chancellor of the Exchequer (Yes he did some great things as Home Secretary, but this is where I think he really was splendid!), and wrote some good biographies, but (to coin a phrase I used in one of yesterday's entry's) that is where the admiration ends. When it comes to personality, I have far more time for Tony Benn (from whom I am rather far, politically speaking) .
So what do I admire about Tony Crosland and Denis Healey!
Well Tony Crosland did much to change the way the Labour Party was going. To use an analogy, he didn't change the general direction of the yacht, he simply moved the rudder a couple of notches to the right. But he was very much a socialist, who brought home the need to adapt the ideology to current circumstances. Something the moderate wing of the Labour Party are doing today. Especially with the economic policies of Gordon Brown.

(John Londei)

Denis Healey, whom Roy Jenkins unkindly described as being a 'Heavy gun-carriage carrying light ideological baggage', did much to preserve the Social Democratic wing of the Labour Party (as opposed to Jenkins and his acolytes), and can be credited for helping to make the party re-electable in the long term. As Defence Secretay in the 1960s, he managed to cause cutbacks in millitary expenditure with the minimum of fuss. He is widely miscredited as saying in 1973 that the incoming Labour government would "tax the rich until the pips squeak". What Healey actually said was; "I warn you that there are going to be howls of anguish from those rich enough to pay over 80% on their last slice of earnings". Which is somewhat different.
One of Healey's bravest acts was to secure a loan from the IMF in 1976, in the face of fierce criticism from the hard left (Tony Benn), and some of those from the right of the Party (Tony Crosland). Although to do otherwise, i.e. to take the protectionist route, would have been economically dangerous and politically foolish. Many in the Labour Party saw it as an ideological betrayal, but there is nothing socialistic about refusing to ask for a loan when the alternative is a freefall to economic disaster.
In spite of this, Healey was best placed to succeed Labour leader in 1980 (the last such election that was wholly decided by MP's only), when James Callaghan finally quit. However, he was defeated by a whisker by Michael Foot, and that can be regarded as a self-serving betrayal, as at least four Labour MP's deliberatley voted for Foot, so as to wreck Labour's electoral chances and help prepare a feeble excuse for the SDP's formation (It is worth noting that Foot defeated Healey by a majority of just five).
However, Healey's finest hour in the internal politics of the Labour Party had yet to arrive. Appointed Deputy leader, he quickly found himself challenged by Tony Benn, and by association, the bullying might of the hard left and Millitant. Healey moved quickly and decisively, campaigning up and down the country and bravely facing off his challengers. Unlike Jenkins, Healey's heavy gun carriage came to good effect as he faced down his opponents and boosted the morale of his own side (some of whom were subjected to heavy intimidation by Millitant) and kept the Deputy leadership by a whisker; 50.426% to Benn's 49.574%.
After 1983, Healey remained on the front bench, serving as Shadow Foreign Secretary under Neil Kinnock, before retiring from front-line politics in 1987, and as an MP in 1992. He currently serves in the House of Lords, and has been adding his occasional support to the Social Democratic wing of the Labour Party.


C4' said...

I hope you do a piece on Clement Atlee. Atlee was a great, reforming Prime Minister responsible the economic boom Britain enjoyed during the 1950s.

Paul Burgin said...

I will at some point.
And Churchill too!