What might have been…
by Elias Blum
Since everyone is looking back to the 1980s (Theresa May being the retro-Thatcher revival and all that), I’m somewhat lamenting the fact that the UK didn’t get a SDP-Liberal Alliance government in 1983. Maybe it was never very likely, but that was the closest the UK came in its post-war history to breaking the two party duopoly.
It could have set us off on a different course: the selfish amoralism of the market could have been corrected and restrained by an old fashioned Non-Conformist social conscience; necessary industrial restructuring could have been carried out in a less blind, brutal and doctrinaire way, with more emphasis on the needs of communities in industrial areas; the inevitable inequalities of capitalism could have been more intelligently mitigated and ameliorated by a decent welfare system; our political institutions could have been fundamentally reformed, to build a modern, constitutional, proportional and federal democracy. We could have achieved a more balanced, moderate, harmonious and humane relationship between the government and the citizen, the market and the community, the city and the unions, the north and the south, the present and the future.
I’m not saying these things would have happened, but the SDP-Liberal Alliance had a lot of good ideas, at the right time; they might, if they’d been elected, and been true to their word (big ‘ifs’), made a difference. They might have made the UK not only salvageable, but worth saving. But that didn’t happen. We are where we are. And I think the chance of reform has passed. The UK cannot be saved and is not worth saving, because it has lost the ability to change itself within its existing framework. The change must come from new states.