I make no apology for my politics – I’ve always carried a torch for the left of centre approach to government. It’s not a perfect system, but I always felt that Socialism was just a little fairer to Society as a whole and, when properly executed (note, I said ‘properly executed’), it is just a little fairer for everyone. Hence, then, my interest in the current Labour Party leadership election – it’s certainly asking some interesting questions of the party’s past and future, sparked by Jeremy Corbyn’s inclusion in the race – and apparent poll lead.
Those with any interest in politics will be following his effect on the leadership election with interest. He’s from the traditional left of the party, and speaks in a way I’ve not heard in a long time from a front-line politician. He talks about anti-austerity, re-nationalisation and nuclear disarmament. And that’s left the more traditionally centre-left politicians, Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, rather on the defensive.
On the re-nationalisation issue, it’s interesting that, after all these years, British Leyland still remains a politically toxic issue. When answering Corbyn’s claims that bringing vast swathes of our infrastructure back into public ownership, our beloved car company came sharply back into focus. My favourite, Liz Kendall, said, ‘nothing new about Corbyn’s politics’ while Yvette Cooper said what we don’t need is, ‘a return to the days of British Leyland’.
Why not? Thing is, it amazes me that British Leyland’s failure in the 1970s and ’80s could still be referred to by front-line politicians, more than 40 years on. For one, it could be argued that the company was a creation of Labour or, more precisely, Tony Benn, through the merger of BMC and Leyland. This was nothing to do with nationalisation.
Sadly, British Leyland’s execution was shonky between its inception in 1968 and its initial collapse in 1974. But it wasn’t the fact that the company was then taken into Government ownership in 1975 that killed it – no way. If anything, it saved it. Instead, it was poor management, union belligerence, interference from Government (both red and blue) and a poorly-executed model range, that killed BL (both before and after Government ownership) – a badly thought out merger of unequals.
I’d not be averse to a dose of re-nationalisation of what’s left of our infrastructure – and, if that means people start bringing up British Leyland again, then all the better. It’s always nice to have our cars in the limelight, whatever the reason.
Some of us probably do want a return to the days of British Leyland