I disagree with Andrew's analysis for a number of reasons. Although any
compressed account of complex political history must involve
over-simplifications, he goes too far. Above all, he seems to believe
that there was a cadre of intellectuals who all agreed on the crucial
issues of the day but were at odds with the party leadership. That
simply is not so. For a start, intellectuals do not form cadres; they
are not consensual characters.
He argues that by refusing to rule out
any engagement with the Euro, the party ensured that it would lose the
1997 Election. A) John Major did negotiate an opt-out at Maastricht. B)
If he had said "no, no, never", the split in the party would have been
even worse. Remember, the big beasts of Europhilia were much more
powerful then than now.
An explanation for the scale of the 1997
defeat would require a book, not an article. There is, however, a
one-sentence summary: "everything that could go wrong did go wrong". To
blame it all on a breakdown of relations with the intellectuals is
Post-1997, Andrew thinks that the party should have listened
to the intellectuals who wanted to reform health and pensions by
introducing market radicalism. Post-1997, the leadership knew that one
of the major obstacles to electoral recovery was the myth about Tory
cuts. If we had done what Andrew wanted, we would have been accused of
wanting to abolish the Old Age Pension and privatise the NHS.
of the Labour party, I wrote that many intellectuals were more
interested in ideas than in power. I suspect that this is true of
Andrew. Nothing wrong with that; we need original thinkers who
eventually mould the debate; the IEA is a classic example. But wise
leaderships keep their distance. Toryism has always been a dialectic
between principles and possibilities. Intellectuals can extend the
horizons of possibility – but not all at once.