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Left for Dead?

The Strange Death and Rebirth of the Labour Party
Narrated by: Alex James-Cox
Length: 15 hrs and 12 mins
Categories: Non-fiction, Politics
4 out of 5 stars (10 ratings)

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Summary

A timely and provocative account of the fall of New Labour, the rise of Corbyn, and what it means for the left in Britain.

In the 21st century the Labour Party has undergone the most extraordinary transformation in its history. After more than a decade of political dominance, the party lost two consecutive general elections and found its leadership usurped by the obscure far-left MP Jeremy Corbyn. As Britain voted to leave the EU, Labour seemed destined for long-term irrelevance.

But then it all changed. Far from being the death of the party, as many had predicted, at one fell stroke the general election of 2017 heralded its strange and unexpected rebirth. Against all the odds, Corbyn became the first Labour leader since 1997 to gain the party seats and was simultaneously hailed as the saviour of the British Left and a harbinger of doom for its New Labour elite.

In Left for Dead? journalist Lewis Goodall tells the full story of this political revolution with unprecedented access to all its key players, from Blair to Corbyn. Weaving together personal memoir, exclusive interviews, juicy gossip and incisive critique, he travels from the streets of his childhood in the shadow of the Birmingham Rover factory to the corridors of power in Westminster, tracing the journey of the party from the twilight of the ‘Third Way’ to the tumult of the financial crisis to the ravages of Brexit and Corbynism.

Because one thing is for certain - while the left in Britain might not be dead, the traditional social democratic centre-left which we have known since the war is barely twitching in the road. But what has replaced it? Where has it come from? And what does it mean for the long-term future of the Labour Party?

©2018 Lewis Goodall (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers

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A beautifully written and wonderful book

I loved this book containing as it does political history, passion and a warm personal history intermingled with thoughtful analysis and facts. It is most unusual and also a real wake-up call to the current political madness. I can't recommend it highly enough.

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good story badly narrated

really interesting subject matter but was ruined for me by the narrator who read each word haltingly and if he was reading badly from an autocue.

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Avoid

Turgid prose with a regularly contradictory analysis. Swings from stating Jeremy Corbyn's ideas such as borrowing to invest make him unpalatably far left in one chapter, then states he's actually not particularly radical at all in the next and that Corbyn and McDonnell's economic platform was actually similar to Ed Balls'. (An example of this, in Goodall's eyes, is that higher education fees of £5k and of £0 are pretty much the same thing)

He suggests working class people love Blair still (obviously no citations on this fact), though he never tries to qualify who the working class actually are - he makes a point of (rightly) saying Seamus Milne is absolutely not but Jess Phillips somehow us and so too is a woman identified by Goodall of only receiving a salary of £30k per year in a part time job. Amusingly, too, there's obligatory demand that neoliberalism, as a concept, should not be used to identify neoliberalism.

I assume the author began work on the book pre GE 2017 and had to make multiple changes afterwards when his premise that Corbyn would be a disaster didn't pan out; it's the only possible explanation for this post-hoc, incoherent, poorly structured and wildly contradictory tome. The main conclusion to make is that the British media, which has been caught short in its assumptions on every election from 2015 (including the Labour leadership campaigns, Brexit, Trump and two GEs) is no closer to beginning to understand the contemporary political climate.

The most telling anecdote here is Goodall preparing to cover the 2017 GE - he and Sky TV practised multiple scenarios for polling night coverage in which the Tories won by varying degrees and, in one instance, even Diane Abbot lost her seat. At no point did anyone at Sky even consider the possibility of a hung parliament. Goodall and most of the media class do not understand modern politics and this book is a great example of that. He further recounts visiting Hartlepool pre-election where he tries to persuade people to vote Tory to fulfil his own notions on how Leave voters think. When they tell him they won't, Goodall can't comprehend it - even when the evidence was in front of him he chose to discard it in favour of his own narrative and assumptions, refusing to listen to or countenance viewpoints which could unsettle media groupthink. This bandwagon thinking besmirches our media and it's beyond alarming there has not been existential-level introspection in the industry.

A mea culpa would have been a decent read but, as is often the case, a well remunerated journalist is rewarded for peddling banal received wisdom even when it is demonstrably wrong. If you really want to know why Blairist triangulation is dying across the globe or why Corbyn polled at 40%, speak to his voters and do something Goodall refused to - listen to them.

3 people found this helpful

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Negative Regurgitation of Media Assassinations

Firstly, the narration; while it's lovely to not have to listen to Upper RP accents, this narrator was very robotic and disjointed. It took away the warmth of the author's words and reminded me of primary school children who read one word at a time.

Secondly, whilst a lot of the book is interesting, inciteful and helped me to question my attitudes to past and future leaders, it was also an extremely negative look at the party and especially the current leader (Jeremy Corbyn). I expected a balanced view of recent events but, instead I was offered a recap of recent newspaper articles and interviews from MP's on the right of the Party. There was no surprise when the familiar media viewpoint of anti-Semitism within the party was not balanced with information or quotes from Jewish organisations or factions of the Party who supported Corbyn.

The author, as with much of the media and right-wingers, have forgotten that the working and 'underclass' (I hate to use that label) are also part of the electorate; there was no mention, or recognition, of their renewed interest in politics due to Corbynism giving them a reason to take notice of the political class.

To summarise, Part 1 was educational and interesting but, Part 2 was half a story; it only provided one view point by a person who, caught up in the media world, writes from a cynical distance, providing one-sided arguments consisting of throw-away statements with little exploration or substance behind them.

2 people found this helpful