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Pocketmags Digital Magazines
Pocketmags Digital Magazines

The red sag

Labour’s problems are far deeper than Jeremy Corbyn, tracing back to the mid-20th century. But things will get worse unless he goes. The great bulk of MPs should now walk away

Is that it for Labour?

Unless something quite unexpected happens the Labour Party will be lucky to win a quarter of the vote at the next election—about half its vote in 1951. Neither the polls nor the recent by-elections suggest that it will be so lucky under Jeremy Corbyn, imposing an urgent conflict of loyalties on MPs and anybody else concerned to avoid the party’s outright ruin. Back in 1951 by contrast, despite falling just short of Winston Churchill’s Conservatives on Commons seats, Labour won more votes—almost 49 per cent of the total; the highest percentage it has ever won.

What was it about 1951 Britain that was so favourable to the Labour Party? There was its social structure. About 70 per cent of the male workforce were manual workers. Britain had, relatively, the largest industrial workforce in the world. Its traditional heavy industries had been given a new lease of life by the Second World War—nearly two million people, for instance, still worked in the mines and were ineradicably Labour in their loyalties— while the newer industries, aircraft, automobiles, light domestic industry were still flourishing, not yet undone by international competition. Britain was a country that made things.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s April issue: Ross McKibbin, John Curtice and Lisa Nandy examine the state of the Labour Party and question its survival at the next general election. McKibbin takes a long view and suggests that the party’s problems started long before Jeremy Corbyn, Curtice argues that breaking the party is unlikely to go as well as some may think and Nandy argues that tackling unaccountable power could help restore faith in the party. Nicholas Timmins says the NHS has always experienced financial crises so is this time any different? Lucy Wadham charts the rise of France’s Front National. Also in this issue: Owen Hatherley explores Edinburgh’s architectural conundrum, Freya Johnston on Jane Austen and Avi Shlaim on the tragedy of Yitzhak Rabin—the last best hope for peace.