30 years ago today, the ‘Gang of Four’ (not to be confused with the Socialist R&B band of the same name) – Shirley Williams, David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Roy Jenkins – made their overblown, pompous announcement that they were splitting the Labour Party in two. The party, which had arisen organically from the labour movement in Britain and which was much more than the sum of its democratic socialist, social democratic, christian socialist, cooperative, methodist, Marxist, and Fabian parts, was rocked by this vain, arrogant maneouvre by some of the party’s vainest and most arrogant senior figures.
Now, much water has passd under the SDP, Alliance, Liberal Democrat and now Conservative-led coalition bridge since that day. But let us remember the final paragraph of the declaration, after all the guff about radical change and so on:
“We recognise that for those people who have given much of their lives to the Labour Party, the choice that lies ahead will be deeply painful. But we believe that the need for a realignment of British politics must now be faced.”
Thee Faction would like to ask them how well they think this realignment has gone, given that they are now busy propping up a Tory government that they could have allowed to take its chances in the division lobby. Are they proud that they ripped the Labour Party apart, consigned Britain to 18 years of Thatcherite government, and then did all they could to bring the Tories back again 13 years later? Are these the radical changes they were looking for? Was the presence of a few Trotskyists in the broad church that is the Labour Party that problematic that they needed to do this? Was Owen’s desperation for status that strong that such sacrifices had to be made?
So, as a tribute to the Gang of Four, and all those who have followed them, here’s Thee Faction doing “Conservative Friend” at the DDRofRnB last week.