It is time to look afresh at the 1970s. It was not a grey decade of decline, defeat and power blackouts. Bursting with cultural experimentation, sexual liberation and industrial militancy, the 1970s saw the ruling elites of Britain challenged at every level, most especially by a Labour left led by Tony Benn which aimed to effect a "fundamental and irreversible shift in the balance of wealth and power in favour of working people".
That Option No Longer Exists reveals a hidden history - how Benn and the left tried to reform British industry, to introduce democracy in the workplace and overturn the power of Finance; and how Whitehall, the security services and the City fought back, paving the way for Thatcher to re-establish the rule of money and the markets.
Britain almost took a different path in 1974-76 to that of massive wealth inequality, the dominance of the City, and the slow death of the welfare state. This is the story of a struggle within government almost forgotten, and of a tragic turning point in British history.
REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS
An excellent outline of the political landscape of the 1970s is a welcome antidote to cliched analyses of the decade, http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-618d-Myth-buster#.VIdWAtKDmSp ~ Steve Andrews, Morning Star
The 1970's were a turning point in a fiercely contested transition between the exhaustion of the post-war order and what was to follow the welfare state. Because of the radical directions and possibilities opened up by the wider left of the 70s – and the powerful interests challenged by their self-confident democracy - the period has since been demonised by media, corporate and political establishments alike. And yet retrieving the real history and ideas born in the experimental turmoil of those years, is vital for breaking out of the present era of reaction. In That Option No Longer Exists John Medhurst has done the left a huge service by carrying out exactly this retrieval and doing it with rigour and flair. A really excellent book. ~ Hilary Wainwright, editor Red Pepper, author Beyond the Fragments.
In That Option No longer Exists, John Medhurst provides a lucid and powerfully argued case for returning to the middle years of the 1970s to understand what social, economic and political progress could have been made in Britain. He shows that these years were a turning point, with the potential for progress stymied by the forces of right-wing conservativism and reaction.
Critically, he suggests that we have in our power the ability to re-imagine that sort of potential today. ~ Gregor Gall, Professor of Industrial Relations, University of Bradford.
John Medhurst has produced a brilliantly written polemic, with real verve and style, on leftwing politics and policies in the Britain of the 1970s. He demonstrates how the left of the Labour Party had both cogent analysis and viable policies to move the country forward but was undermined by right-wing colleagues, the media, and the entire panoply of the secret state apparatus.
The book redefines the 1970s and will be widely read as a contribution to the current debate on the future of the Labour Party and the labour movement. ~ Roger Seifert, Professor of Industrial Relations, University of Wolverhampton Business School.
John Medhurst offers a important and well-informed account of the state of the UK during the early and mid-1970s, and a new perspective on the Wilson and Callaghan governments of the mid to late 70s. The analysis challenges the prevailing mainstream view of this period as one dominated only by crisis and instability and offers a more positive interpretation. As such the book present a long overdue alternative perspective on the period before the advent of the Thatcher era, particularly when it comes to the role of the trade unions and broader left. Medhurst presents a thorough analysis of the internal and external challenges the Labour governments in Britain faced during that period.
The book is written in an approachable and readable style and Medhurst avoids becoming a hostage of unreasonable bias himself. His observations are well-founded and based on evidential historic analysis. This book is a highly recommended read for anyone with an interest in British political history. It will hopefully contribute to a new perspective on Britain under Labour in the 1970s. ~ Christian Schweiger, Professor of Government and International Affairs, Durham University.