Letter: Philip Gould and Labour myths

Letter: What won the spectacular majorities for Labour in 1997 and 2001 were the vagaries of the primitive British electoral system and the fact that the Conservatives lost significantly in both elections

Nothing so became Philip Gould as his dignity in facing his tragically early death (Obituary, 8 November). But affection for him is no reason to perpetuate the myths surrounding Labour's "victories" in 1997, 2001 and 2005. In not one of these elections did the Labour percentages (44%, 42%, 36%) exceed the Conservative percentage in 1979 (45%). What won the spectacular majorities for Labour in 1997 and 2001 were the vagaries of the primitive British electoral system and the fact that the Conservatives lost significantly in both elections.

Labour would have won handsomely with John Smith at its helm in 1997. Labour might still be in power now if it had tailored its policies less to the chimera of unfocused "focus groups" and had not existed largely in a jargon-ridden intellectual vacuum. With its large majorities, Labour might even have considered a grown-up constitution to anchor its more serious reforms in a structure which would not permit meaningful social progress to be unpicked by a regressive future government. The difference, perhaps, between the paternalistic welfare state (Britain, at times) and the advanced "social and democratic state" (German basic law), in which these reforms become part of the fabric of a decent society? But then I suppose that too was the ultimate failure of the 1945 Labour government. And it's the poor who again pay the price, as the transfer of wealth from them to the rich accelerates once more.
John Clifford

The GuardianTramp

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