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The 1980s were the heyday of the Thatcher counter-revolution, with mass deindustrialisation destroying Britain's manufacturing base. It was a period of significant setbacks for left politics, most notably the crushing of the miners' strike, Tony Benn's defeat in the Labour deputy leadership contest, and the abolition of the left-controlled Greater London Council. The surcharging and disqualification of councillors who resisted central government rate-capping, Labour's loss of the 1983 and 1987 general elections and the notorious 1983 Bermondsey by-election were also a part of the events during this period. This book resists the view that Labour's political and economic thought was moribund during the 1980s. It shows that Labour embraced new views on the role of the state and state intervention in the economy. The idea of a national investment bank, continental social democracy, and the 'Brexit' referendum of 2016 are discussed. Nostalgia was built into the New Labour's psyche, making it seem adrift from a changing society. Neil Kinnock replaced Michael Foot as leader in 1983 after Labour's defeat in that year's general election, and formed a party that brought changes that coincided with those made by Mikhail Gorbachev. Two major struggles between the Militant-led, Labour-run Liverpool City Council and Margaret Thatcher's Conservative Government damaged the reputation of the Labour Party, harmed its fortunes in the 1987 general election. The Race Today Collective was the most influential group of black radicals in the UK, 'the centre, in England, of black liberation'.

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New histories of Labour and the left in the 1980s
Jonathan Davis
Rohan McWilliam

Neil Kinnock's Labour Party and intellectuals around the periodical Marxism Today offered a fundamental revision of the standard left-wing project. Labour sought to develop dynamic responses to secure growth in an age of increasing globalisation. Local government, the media, trade unions, pressure groups, the arts and academia: all were often dominated by left-of-centre voices that created networks of opposition to the recently elected Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher. In the 1975 referendum on the Common Market, Michael Foot and much of the left opposed Britain's continuing membership, while many on the right of the party supported the remaining in Europe. Any evaluation of Labour politics needs to consider the question of class and organised labour. The radicals of the 1980s generation were heirs to a strand of internationalism that had been a feature of left-wing politics since the Chartists and which had shaped the Labour Party throughout its history.

in Labour and the left in the 1980s