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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

There is a tide in the affairs of men. There is also freak flash flooding.

The BBC, commendably, has taken to occasionally giving over a spare channel to its election coverage from days gone by, without modern commentary. The programme about the general election of 1955 can be seen here or here.

At 2 hours 25 minutes there is an interview with former Liberal Chief Whip Frank Byers. At 2:29 he says,

I should say that the major issue which has arisen as a result of the election, now that we know it, is the future of the Labour Party. Because quite frankly I think that if that party is gong to remain as the official opposition – and I don’t see it doing so, but if it is – it’s got to do a great deal of fresh thinking. It’s got to have, I think, a policy that does not include all this nationalisation and control, and I think they’ve got to bring a good deal of business experience into their academic economics; and until they do that I don’t see them getting back into power. In fact I hope they don’t, until they’ve got a proper policy. It may well be that this is the beginning of the Liberal Party transplanting the socialist party as the official opposition.

Byers was wrong. Nothing remotely like that came to pass in the years following 1955. But I predict that his prediction might be dusted off and sold as “mint condition vintage” in 2020.

This whole Jeremy Corbyn thing is a cosmic rebuke to the idea that chance plays no role in history. For those who do not follow British politics, what happened is this. The declining Labour party, desperate to attract more recruits, made it easy and cheap to register as a supporter. After Ed Miliband’s resignation at first all the candidates for the next leader were fairly centrist. There was a consensus among Labour MPs that they should take on board what the British electorate had told them in unexpectedly giving the Conservatives a majority in the 2015 election. Then a few MPs decided to give the perennial left wing rebel Jeremy Corbyn a chance to play too, basically out of pity. Thanks to their intervention he reached the threshold number of nominations from MPs needed in order to go on the ballot two minutes before the deadline. Big mistake. First some mischievous Tories decided to register as Labour in order to screw the Labour party around by voting for Corbyn the electoral no-hoper. Then the far-left entryists awoke from their thirty-year slumber and saw that this was a chance for them, too. Social media spread the idea among left wing students and beaten-down old socialists suddenly aflame with new hope. The role of social media, perhaps, could have been predicted – but nobody did predict it. Thousands then hundreds of thousands paid their £3 and registered to vote. It now looks almost certain that Corbachov will be the next Labour leader. Next prime minister, not so likely.

Though now it is established that in the ever-branching tree of alternate worlds we live in a stunted little twig poking out at an odd angle, I dare not predict anything with confidence any more. Johnny English did become head of MI7, after all.

13 comments to There is a tide in the affairs of men. There is also freak flash flooding.

  • Mr Ed

    One should never underestimate the stupidity, brutishness and venality of the Labour Party and its supporters. In the 2015 General Election, the Labour Party candidate was convicted of fraud shortly before voting day. He still received nearly 10,000 votes (9,839 to be precise).

    I fear that the ‘brand’ of Labour remains so strong (at least in England and Wales) that it will press on with Mr Corbyn as leader who does not face the obvious problems of Michael Foot in 1983, there being no Soviet Union to threaten the UK, and he is not obviously a crackpot. Mr Corbyn may yet be Prime Minister should he prevail in the Labour leadership contest.

  • Mr Ed

    (Edit: “for Wellingborough’ omitted from my post.)

  • Patrick Crozier

    I was trying to remember what the Labour government elected in 1964 nationalised. They nationalised steel but apart from that I can’t think of anything.

    Perhaps they’d learnt something.

  • Patrick Crozier

    Oh hang about. And they also (effectively) nationalised the car industry.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Corbyn and Sanders are just what is needed to revive the special relationship!

  • Brian Swisher

    Good God, man, bite your tongue – and bite it really, really hard.

  • Paul Marks

    They also raised the taxation of investment income to nearly 100% Patrick.

    Then complained that private investment dried up.

    British industry limped on for awhile – but it was walking collapse (although Mrs Thatcher got the blame for the inevitable collapse of manufacturing that had been starved of investment for years).

    As for Mr Corbyn – he is not a joke (as too many people assume he is).

    Mr Corbyn is a cunning and deeply nasty individual.

    Part of a vile movement that aims at nothing less than the destruction of Western civilisation.

    “You are over egging the pudding Paul”.

    No I am not.

  • Nicholas (Rule Yourselves!) Gray

    Labour lost at the last election, so you won’t need to worry about them for years yet. What is the Tory government doing with its’ majority- that is more interesting. Is it doing anything? Is Cameron ready to slay the Eurodragon? What form will the referendum take?

  • Schrodinger's Dog


    Corbachov: I like it – and it deserves wider circulation.


  • Rich Rostrom

    “Corbachov”? Is this an allusion to the man with the big red birthmark on his forehead? Because that chap was, in his context, a realist who challenged the entrenched follies of his organization. He had no useful answers, and ended up destroying the organization – but he did see the problems.

    Corbyn does not seem to have any contact with reality.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Corbachov wasn’t my coinage – it’s been in circulation for a few days. I agree that so far it looks unfair to Gorbachov, but, who knows, maybe having to live with the consequences of his actions will shock some sense of reality into Corbyn, as it did Tsipras.

  • Runcie Balspune

    the inevitable collapse of manufacturing

    What “collapse”? Stop peddling the myth. UK manufacturing certainly has not kept up with overall UK growth and has declined as a percentage compared to other sectors, in some cases the bulk of “manufacturing” is being done in other sectors (such as distribution), but it has never really declined let alone “collapsed”. The UK regularly makes the top ten manufacturing countries, it leads the world in certain products (mobile CPUs, aircraft engines, etc), it still contributes a bulk of UK exports. The only “decline” has been investment (because the money is going elsewhere) and employment (which is actually healthy for manufacturing).

  • Mr Ed

    I agree that so far it looks unfair to Gorbachov

    Well can we contract ‘Jeremy Corbyn‘ into a predecessor of his and make ‘Jezhnev‘?