Give MacDonald his due

Ramsay MacDonald's ranking as the worst Labour leader in a poll of Labour MPs ("Wilson is still rated higher than Blair", 28 February) was as predictable as it was unjust. Certainly his actions in 1931 were a betrayal, but surely it is time we recognised MacDonald's incomparable contribution to the development of the Labour Party in the first 30 years of its existence. Blairites ought to praise him for coining the term "the Third Way" in 1912, and the rest of us ought to acknowledge that he possessed both the pragmatic nous to guide Labour from obscurity to government, and the intellectual ability to provide the party with an ideology of "evolutionary socialism". If, once in power, this ideology left him bereft of practical policies and a slave to economic orthodoxy, this makes him no worse than the fourth-ranked leader, one Tony Blair.

Dr David Stack
Department of History
Queen Mary and Westfield College, London E1

This article first appeared in the 06 March 2000 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Profile - Caprice