The former Labour MP Brian Sedgemore writes in The Independent today:
I've been a Labour MP for more than a quarter of a century. In my last speech in Parliament, I described New Labour's descent into Hell and added that Hell was not a place where I wanted to be. Some MPs thought it was just rhetoric. It wasn't. I meant it. I am going to leave the Labour Party and join the Liberal Democrats so I can help them in this election campaign. To my former comrades, I say, 'Sorry but all nightmares have to end'. I'm renouncing Tony Blair, the Devil, New Labour and all their works. I don't do this lightly. I know that some of my friends will be angry, and I will be rubbished by the New Labour spin machine. Mad Dog [John] Reid will be set on me. John Prescott will say, "Brian? Brian who?"
I can help Prescott out. In the 1974-79 Parliament, Sedgemore was considered some sort of intellectual influence on the Labour Left's "Alternative Economic Strategy". Martin Holmes, in The Labour Government, 1974-79: Political Aims and Economic Reality (1985, p.96), takes up the story:
To the right of the Labour Party, the "alternative strategy" was neither an alternative nor a strategy. One Tribunite MP recalled that: "In 1975 the Tribune Group put forward an alternative strategy which was printed in Tribune at the end of 1976. We were like a government in exile. When Brian Sedgemore saw [Chancellor of the Exchequer Denis] Healey to put the alternative strategy, Healey just fell about laughing."
That marked the summit of Sedgemore's influence in public policymaking in his chosen specialist subject. When you consider that the alternative economic strategy (known by the initials AES, which was a talisman of the Left for another decade) comprised import controls, directed investment, compulsory planning "agreements" with industry, price controls and the nationalisation of the largest 25 companies, you begin to wonder why Healey was so generous.
Sedgemore later distinguished himself as a member of the Treasury Select Committee by shouting "snivelling little git" at the then Chancellor, Nigel Lawson. On being quizzed on this in a television interview, Sedgemore said he had probably been wrong to use the word "little", because Lawson was, in fact, fat.
Sedgemore is, in short, a man of neither ability nor attainment who held a safe Labour seat for 22 years (he was out of Parliament between 1979 and 1983) for no obvious reason except that constituency Labour parties of the 1980s were largely uninterested in ideas, and few talented people other than Blair and Brown chose to become Labour politicians at that time. Even The Independent delicately observes that Sedgemore "was never trusted with a ministerial post higher than the unpaid PPS job", but fails to draw the obvious inference about why this was.
I am glad that Sedgemore has found his political home, and hope he will be happy there.