So Tony Benn was, according to his liberal critics turned Benn Fans for a day, too far to the left of the mainstream. But whose mainstream are they talking about? The mainstream that said Nelson Mandela was a terrorist? That the ANC was a terrorist organisation? The mainstream that thought Trade Unions were not needed to protect working class jobs? The mainstream that wanted US missiles on UK soil? The mainstream that thought the media was safe in the hands of the crook Robert Maxwell and the revolting Rupert Murdoch? It’s just a thought but perhaps it was the media and their “liberal” lackeys who left the mainstream, the people’s mainstream.
Leftism Let Thatcher In
It wasn’t the left leaning Labour Party policies of the early 1980s that cost Labour power and let Thatcher in. If I remember correctly, it was the right wing of the Labour Party which led Labour to defeat by Thatcher in 1979, the same right wing which defected from Labour to form a vehicle for their own naked ambition, the SDP.
Splitting The Party
As the left wing of Labour had bitten its tongue and served under a right leadership, the left had every right to expect that, following Callaghan's defeat at the polls, the right would accept that it was its turn to support a Labour Party whose activist base demanded change. Instead, the right’s treachery split the anti-Tory votes and let Thatcher consolidate her power in the 1983 election. So much for the left “splitting the party”.
Press Bias against Benn’s Labour Party
The right wing press were never going to play a democratic or fair role in any election. Look at the treatment of Ed Milliband. If press has the cheek to call a centrist like him Red Ed then just think how much more extreme the treatment of a left leaning Labour party was. The voters never heard a fair representation of 1980s Labour policies. So to say that they "rejected" them is inaccurate.
Benn Took Labour Leftwards
Comparing the Benn-inspired Labour Party of the early 1980s manifesto to Clem Atlee’s 1945 manifesto, one could make a case for Atlee’s Labour Party being to the left of Labour of 1983 and yet Atlee is revered nostalgically by the “liberal” media though of course at the time Atlee too was subjected to reactionaries hostility. If anything, Benn was simply trying to bring Labour back to its roots, roots that were electorally more successful than Callaghan’s rightward-drifting -and losing – 1970s Labour Party.
So, let’s not leave history – or Tony Benn’s legacy – in the hands of “liberals”.