Conference examines Labour's wilderness years

Published: 17 October 2014 at 13:39

Anglia Ruskin event will focus on the 1980s – a ‘challenging’ decade for the left

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A one-day conference dedicated to the Labour Party in the 1980s will be held at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge on Saturday, 8 November.

Sandwiched between the Labour Governments of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan, and the emergence of New Labour in the 1990s, the event examines a decade which can best be described as Labour’s “wilderness years”.

The conference, which is open to the general public, is organised by Anglia Ruskin’s Labour History Research Unit, and brings together leading historians and political scientists.

There will be contributions on the Labour Party at a national level, with papers considering the SDP, the origins of New Labour, and the party’s electoral fortunes from 1979 to 1992. 

Consideration will be given to local labour activities in cities such as Liverpool, Sheffield and London, while Labour’s relationship with Thatcherism and Margaret Thatcher herself will also be discussed, as will the miners’ strike.

Speakers include Professor David Howell (University of York), Dr Robin Bunce (University of Cambridge), Dr Diane Frost (University of Liverpool), Dr Paul Corthorn (Queen’s University Belfast), Dr Eric Shaw (University of Sterling), Dr Robert Saunders (Queen Mary, University of London), and Professor Peter Ackers (Loughborough University).

And on a similar theme to the recent movie Pride, Dr Natalie Thomlinson (University of Sussex) and Dr Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite (University of Cambridge) will examine the relationship between the Women’s Liberation Movement and women’s mining support groups during the miners’ strike.

Dr Richard Carr, Lecturer in History at Anglia Ruskin and author of One Nation Britain and The Foundations of the British Conservative Party, said:

“The 1980s was very challenging for the British left to say the least. “It not only saw the Labour Party out of government, but also the wider labour movement having to deal with the impact of significant cuts to public spending.  David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband all came of age during that decade – and in many ways our politics remains shaped by that period to this day.
“As we approach a general election next May, it’s vital to explore the various impacts seen not only in the 1980s itself, but also the ways in which they still resonate today.”

The event runs from 9am-6pm and costs £12.95 per ticket, which includes teas and coffees throughout the day and a buffet lunch.  For further information and to book a place, visit