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Raymond Challinor

The customer is always right

(Winter 1960/61)

From International Socialism (1st series), No. 3, Winter 1960/61, p. 30.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Must Labour Lose?
Mark Abrams and Richard Rose
Penguin Books, 2s 6d.

Unless we are careful, the spiritual inspiration of the Labour Party will be neither Marx nor Methodism, but Messina. Pandering to political prejudice, soliciting votes, the Labour Party acts more and more like a prostitute. Stripped of all principles, it just strives to give the customer what he wants. What does it matter if nationalisation or nuclear disarmament are justified on economic, political or moral grounds? Everything must be sacrificed on the altar of electoral expediency.

This book attempts to analyse the electorate. Ralph Samuels has already pointed out in New Left Review that some of the author’s statistical data are highly suspect. This makes the book of dubious value. But even if all the data were accurate, it is a pretty naive view of politics that leads a party slavishly to follow public opinion. Successful politicians, of whatever persuasion, have succeeded because they have anticipated, not followed, public wishes. Had Labour’s present methods prevailed in days bygone the whole history of the party might have been startlingly different. History books would doubtless have recorded thus:

‘One day Keir Hardie thought of forming a new political party, to be called the Labour Party. He first consulted the Gallup Poll. This showed little support for the project and no chance of a Labour majority for at least, two decades. Being a political “realist”, Hardie abandoned his futile project, advised his supporters to remain in the Liberal Party, and went back to bed.’

Come to think of it, after finishing this book, that’s precisely what I intend to do – go back to bed.

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Last updated: 25.9.2013