Monday, 25 February 2019

The SDP: Reflections from our Archives

There are some striking parallels between the latest fissure in the Labour Party and the formation of the breakaway Social Democratic Party by the ‘gang of four’ in 1981. Then as now, there was a sense that the two main parties had moved to the extremes of the political spectrum, leaving a large empty space in the centre. But readers of this collection from the archive will be struck by the singular dimensionality of the political argument in the 1980s: the SDP primarily promoted itself as defending liberal Keynesianism against the depredations of Thatcherism on one side and Labour’s plans for heightened state intervention on the other. While the party did adopt a pro-EU position, the arguments about citizens of somewhere or nowhere that have come to define ‘Two Englands’ and have given such heat to Brexit were absent. This has at least one striking consequence. The voices from the past agree that the SDP was handicapped, in the first past the post system, by the wide geographical spread of its support. By contrast, the new group could benefit from the stark geographical divides that Brexit has opened up. This virtual issue gives a sense of the hopes vested in the SDP at the time, along with the sober reflections of some of the participants as they looked back on the party’s failure to break the grip of the two main parties.

Deborah Mabbett


The Social Democrats and the Constitution by Vernon Bogdanor 52 3 (1982)
The SDP and the Media  by Colin Seymour Ure 53 4 (1982)
The SDP’s Plans for Britain’s Constitution by Wilson Finnie 54 1  (1983)
The SDP and Liberal Party in Alliance by William Rodgers 54 4 (1983)
Commentary: Ten Years On by David Marquand 68 1 (1997)



Friday, 8 February 2019

Britain Beyond Brexit edited by Gavin Kelly and Nick Pearce

Brexit represents a critical juncture in British politics. In this new collection edited by Gavin Kelly and Nick Pearce, leading economists, political scientists, historians and public policy experts analyse what the Brexit decision might mean for Britain’s economy, society and politics. Anticipating the challenges of the 2020s, the authors explore how Britain might change in the aftermath of the current Brexit storm. The contributions analyse: the future of the British economic model; migration and the labour market; the UK’s constitution and political parties; the politics of housing; the challenge of generational conflict; tax and public spending; the prospects for the City; and the future of UK trade. It is essential reading for anyone interested in how today’s Brexit decision will shape the future of the country. This book will be open access when fully published in March and we will be previewing chapters over the coming weeks.

You can read the introduction of Britain Beyond Brexit here.

1. Introduction: Brexit and the Future of the British Model of Democratic Capitalism
GAVIN KELLY and NICK PEARCE
2. The British Model and the Brexit Shock: Plus ├ža Change?
DUNCAN WELDON
3. Brexit and the Future of Trade
SWATI DHINGRA
4. The City and Financial Services: Historical Perspectives on the Brexit Debate
CATHERINE SCHENK
5. Macroeconomic Policy Beyond Brexit
SIMON WREN-LEWIS
6. The Prospects for the UK Labour Market in the Post-Brexit Era
PAUL GREGG and STEPHEN CLARKE
7. Dual Disruptions: Brexit and Technology
DIANE COYLE
8. Brexit and the Future of the UK’s Unbalanced Economic Geography
ANDREW CARTER and PAUL SWINNEY
9. Can a Post-Brexit UK Grow a Knowledge-Based Economy that Works for Everyone?
GEOFF MULGAN
10. Tax and Spending in the 2020s
GEMMA TETLOW
11. Brexit and the Politics of Housing in Britain
BEN ANSELL and DAVID ADLER
12. Energy Supply and Decarbonisation Beyond Brexit: Politics and Policy
MATTHEW LOCKWOOD and ANTONY FROGGATT
13. My Generation, Baby: The Politics of Age in Brexit Britain
TORSTEN BELL and LAURA GARDINER
14. British Culture Wars? Brexit and the Future Politics of Immigration and Ethnic Diversity
MARIA SOBOLEWSKA and ROB FORD
15. The Divergent Dynamics of Cities and Towns: Geographical Polarisation and Brexit
WILL JENNINGS and GERRY STOKER
16. Brexit and the Nations
MICHAEL KEATING
17. The Realignment of British Politics in the Wake of Brexit
ANDREW GAMBLE
18. Brexit and the Future of UK Capitalism
MARTIN SANDBU




Sunday, 3 February 2019

Norman Birnbaum obituary

Norman Birnbaum, who has died at the age of 92, was a highly valued and regular contributor to Political Quarterly over many years. In 2011 he received the Crick Prize at the Orwell Awards for the best article in PQ in 2010. He travelled to London especially for the prize and delivered a memorable speech. The prize was awarded for his article ‘American Progressivism and the Obama Presidency’ (read it here) (PQ 81:4) and was typical of his writing which always embodied the qualities PQ exists to promote – engaged, direct, authoritative, and written in plain English. Norman was a public intellectual of a rare kind. Born in Manhattan to a Jewish family (his grandfather was an immigrant from Eastern Europe and his father a school teacher) he was raised in the Bronx, graduated at Harvard and taught at many Universities across the Atlantic, including LSE, Oxford, the New School and Amherst College, and for twenty years at Georgetown University. He remained on the political Left his whole life, unlike many of his contemporaries, and was noted for the range of his contacts with intellectuals and politicians across the political spectrum. They included Willy Brandt, Edward Kennedy, Isaiah Berlin, Iris Murdoch, Herbert Marcuse, Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz. He was involved with many journals such as Commentary, Dissent and Partisan Review, but he had a particularly long association with The Nation and was a founding member of the editorial board of New Left Review in 1960. His many books include The crisis of industrial society (1969), The radical renewal: the politics of ideas in modern America (1988), After Progress: American social reform and European socialism in the twentieth century (2001), and his absorbing memoir From the Bronx to Oxford and Not Quite Back (2018). Norman won respect from all who knew him for the breadth of his knowledge and understanding, for his civility and wit, and for his strong and unwavering commitment to radical politics and progressive ideals. He once declared ‘I never believed in a social science made by and for academics, a dispassionate account of the world. I do believe that the present is history, but that we are not its prisoners. Only a God can make the world anew, but humans fail in their humanity if they do not try to make it better.’ His life is an example of how to be an engaged public intellectual even through the most difficult political times.

Andrew Gamble

You can read some of his other PQ articles here: