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Is Labour ready to forgive the gang of four split?

June 28th, 2007

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    Will Shirley Williams be able to “re-rat”?

Winston Churchill famously coined the phrase “Anyone could “rat” but it took a certain ingenuity to “re-rat” after being elected as a Conservative MP, switching to the Liberal four years later, and then re-joining the Tories.

With the news that Gordon Brown has been in conversation with Shirley Williams the question arises – will she be able to pull off what Churchill did and “re-rat”.

For in 1981 Shirley, along with Roy Jenkins, David Owen and Bill Rogers famously split the Labour party by leaving in order to set up the SDP. They cited major differences over European and defence policies and were uncomfortable with what they saw as a sharp turn to the left under leader Michael Foot.

    To bring Shirl into the government, even if only in the advisory role being suggested, is a risk. What those four did in 1981 is still remembered by many within the Labour movement who might not be so ready to forgive.

Could reconciling Labour with the SDP split of 1981 be Gordon’s Clause 4 moment?

Mike Smithson






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