Fightback in 2020: Tides of History Books of the Year

Last Christmas I advised readers to check out these titles in an attempt to understand the causes of Brexit and the increasing disconnect between the Labour Party and its heartlands.’

The disastrous defeat of December 12th has only sharpened the need to win back working-class supporters.

Below is a list of books reviewed of the past year or so that should be essential reading for any Labour supporter.

To all the followers of the Tides of History, have a very Merry Christmas and we will be back in the New Year.

Books For A New Decade

The Land Labour Forgot?

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‘St Helens is not the only town to have had its high street decimated. The sense of loss and an urge for revival within working-class communities goes along way to explaining the Brexit vote. Labour must address it, if it is to credibility state that it is back ‘as the party of the working class’. Goodall admits that when he listens to working-class people: “I wonder how long, in its current form they’ll keep voting Labour”. For the new left, the answer lies in ‘Fully Automated Communism’ and the hipster policies of Universal Basic Income. In St Helens, jobs and place still matter and it will be the toughest political sell since Thatcherism. Yet a positive solution seems impossible to find. Britain is again in a transition from an old order to a new one. The role of the Labour Party, its place within the community and its relevance to the modern age will be questioned like never before.’

Read the full review here

Left for Dead?: The Strange Death and Rebirth of the Labour Party
Lewis Goodall
William Collins, 352pp, £20

The Women of Westminster

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‘History shows us that it is women MPs that have been at the forefront of the battle against misogyny. Battling ‘against the odds’ is a prevalent theme of  Rachel Reeves new book the Women of Westminster: The MPs who Changed Politics. Whether it was Ellen Wilkinson challenging her own party over the cause of the Jarrow Marchers or Barbara Castle fighting for equal pay,  the injection of women into Parliament has radically altered our national life.’

Read the full review here 

Women of Westminster: The MPs Who Changed Politics is by Rachel Reeves MP. Published by IB Tauris (£18.99) 

All Mod Cons?

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‘When Tony Blair became Labour leader in 1994 it was Clinton’s approach that influenced his strategic thinking. Carr points to the similarities in Blair’s ‘symbolic’ removal of Clause IV and Clinton’s ‘Sister Souljah’ moment. In 1992 Clinton had defined himself against the left, and the unpopular Jesse Jackson, by attacking the comments of rap artist Sister Souljah (who had caused controversy when she asked ‘if black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?’) To the left, Souljah was bringing attention to the treatment of black Americans in the era of the Rodney King riots.’

Read the full review here 

Richard Carr’s book March of the Moderates: Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and the Rebirth of Progressive Politics is out now. and is published by I.B.Tauris.

The Rise and Fall of Council Housing

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‘Britain is a divided country. Among its fraught battle lines are the obvious; Leave v Remain, North v South and the Graduates v Non-Graduates. Yet nowhere is the division starker than in the widening political priorities of the owners and the renters. There are now two factions; those who have financial support from their parents for a deposit and those who don’t. For decades the media judged the success of a government on their ability to stimulate house prices. Now a new generation of middle class workers are locked out of the house party. With it marks the end of the forty-year crusade towards a property-owning democracy. In the next decade, the number of renters will outnumber the rent-seekers and the clamour for affordable rents will be insurmountable. We have been here before of course. In a bid to defeat tyrannical landlords, sub-human conditions and inflated prices, successive post-war British governments embarked on a mass house-building programme. For the millions and millions of people housed after 1945, council housing offered the basic human right of stability and comfort, enabling them to flourish. But is Britain ready to become a nation of renters again? As housing becomes the dominant issue in British politics, John Boughton’s timely Municipal Dreams: The Rise and Fall of Council Housing is essential reading for the modern activist.

Read the full review here 

Municipal Dreams: The Rise and Fall of Council Housing by John Boughton is published by Verso (£18.99) 

The New Working Class

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‘In The Road to Wigan Pier, Orwell looks at a piece of coal and admits that he knows little of its journey to his fireplace. Back then, few had knowledge of the herculean efforts undertaken to keep the country fuelled. In 2018, every consumer has the opportunity to read about worker exploitation in the ‘gig’ economy. As we hail the Uber or order that cut-price book, we understand the conditions that brought it to our front door. Many know and fully understand the Amazon working practices and have no interest in boycotting it. Should the care worker on less than the minimum wage go out of their way to pay extra for a product or a taxi? In using the services we can all convince ourselves that we are exploited in the marketplace together. That includes many low paid workers who enjoy the fruits of cheap produce and ease of having their relatives cared for by an un-trained stranger. Bloodworth writes of the people who are engaged, informed and articulate about the situation they are in, but for many low paid workers class consciousness does not exist. They wake up, they go to work, they get on with it with a smile and a joke. They go home to their lives and don’t think about work until its time to clock on again. Bloodworth does allude to this, arguing that “Thatcherism’s greatest success was probably in the gradual erosion of class solidarity.’

Read the full review here 

Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain by James Bloodworth: Atlantic.

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