Echoes of the 1970s and 1980s as Labour MPs choose to indulge in opposition

Purists and clever theorists are putting what they wrongly see as their interests above those of the

If the latest reports are correct, the Liberal Democrats are now swinging back to the Conservatives, with whom they may even strike a deal today. If that is the case, and the progressive alliance representing the progressive majority in the UK is to go down as nothing more than a dream, there is one group to blame above all others: those Labour MPs who are giving up and backing a Tory government.

One senior back-channel negotiator for the prog-alliance tells me: "They want to go into opposition. It reminds me of 1979, when Labour thought it was better to go into opposition because it thought Margaret Thatcher would be in for a short period while it regrouped -- and then, 18 years later . . ."

Throughout the 1980s, there were still some who sought ideological purity over a compromise with the electorate. Labour figures who want to go into opposition to "renew" are a combination of purists on the left and figures on the right who either are driven by their hatred of Gordon Brown or take part in clever-clever discussions about seminars instead of recognising their duty to govern. From a Labour point of view, after all, surely it is better for the country to have Labour cuts inflicted on it, rather than Tory cuts.

But these MPs appear to prefer what they (probably wrongly) perceive as their own, short-term interests to those of the country.

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James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Liam Fox as International Trade Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for International Trade.

Only Nixon, it is said, could have gone to China. Only a politician with the impeccable Commie-bashing credentials of the 37th President had the political capital necessary to strike a deal with the People’s Republic of China.

Theresa May’s great hope is that only Liam Fox, the newly-installed Secretary of State for International Trade, has the Euro-bashing credentials to break the news to the Brexiteers that a deal between a post-Leave United Kingdom and China might be somewhat harder to negotiate than Vote Leave suggested.

The biggest item on the agenda: striking a deal that allows Britain to stay in the single market. Elsewhere, Fox should use his political capital with the Conservative right to wait longer to sign deals than a Remainer would have to, to avoid the United Kingdom being caught in a series of bad deals. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.