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Labour and the Left in the 1980s$
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Jonathan Davis and Rohan McWilliam

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781526106438

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781526106438.001.0001

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Labour’s liberalism: gay rights and video nasties

Labour’s liberalism: gay rights and video nasties

(p.69) 3 Labour’s liberalism: gay rights and video nasties
Labour and the Left in the 1980s

Paul Bloomfield

Manchester University Press

This article covers a time in which the defence and improvement of the Lesbian and Gay community was employed as a political stick with which to beat Labour. It highlights the tensions and contradictions with Labour’s liberalism and considers how a Party which, in the 1950s and 60s, had facilitated a relaxation of censorship laws in Britain, was unsure how to react to the great ‘Video Nasties’ furore of the mid-1980s and did little to provide constructive criticism of the legislation when it was presented. The Party stumbled over the path it wished to take in pursuit of a more liberal country, and this represented the classic dilemma faced by Labour in having to appeal to both the (perceived) liberal-minded middle classes and the more socially conservative working class which it was set up to serve. This article shows that, despite the upheaval that was taking place within Labour, it could still be a reforming force. It maintained its commitment to minority rights at a time when such sentiments were viewed with downright hostility, particularly in the eyes of the tabloid newspapers. In spite of the divisions within the Party, Labour found common ground in the promotion of social liberalism.

Keywords:   Lesbian and Gay community, Labour’s liberalism, Video Nasties, social liberalism, social democracy, socialism

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