Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Last Thursday Stuart and I went to see timely drama Limehouse at the Donmar Warehouse in London's glitzy West End.
The story is set in a house in Limehouse in 1981 where the so-called 'Gang of Four' – Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams - meet to plot their future, the future of the Labour Party, and indeed the future of British politics.
At the time of the Limehouse meeting Britain had an adamantine female prime minister with a strong right-wing majority and a Labour Party divided over how to respond, arguing over Trident and in disarray over Europe. Sound familiar?
After Margaret Thatcher's big win in 1979, the Labour Party took a big jump to the Left. And the moderates/right-wingers of the Labour Party like our Gang of Four weren't too happy. So they met in secret to talk it through – do they stay and fight or break away and form a new party?
By the end of the day they had set aside their rivalries, anger, guilt, squabbling, in-fighting, jealousies and bitter recriminations and come up with The Limehouse Declaration. A statement that signalled their intent all to leave the Labour Party and form a Council for Social Democracy.
The Social Democrats were wildly successful for a while polling at 25% but then after Thatcher's Falklands War election win in 1983 they waned until merging with the Liberals to form the Liberal Democrats. And look where *they* are now.
In some ways, the Social Democrats were the New Labour of their day. And if May gets a huge majority in 8 weeks’ time... who knows?... maybe their time will come again.