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The Lost World of British Communism
I. The Waning of Collectivity
British political life at the present moment seems peculiarly fissiparous. [*] Four major parties are competing for the popular franchise (in Wales and Scotland five) where previously there were two, and there is an amoeba-like growth of minorities and tendencies within the parties themselves. With the rise of the Alliance, Labour can no longer claim monopoly rights as the Party of ‘conscience and reform’, nor Conservatives enjoy undisputed hegemony in the outer suburbs—a heartland of their electoral support ever since the rise of the modern Party system.  Party organization is increasingly molecular in character, with competing centres of influence rather than a clearly marked hierarchy of command. At the top there is no ‘magic circle’ from which leaders can emerge, as Mr Gaitskell did in the Labour Party of the 1950s, Lord Hume in 1963, or Mr Thorpe in 1967; while at the base, in the constituency associations, there is a far more assertive sense of autonomy and rights. The Labour Party tolerates degrees of indiscipline that would have been unthinkable in the days when Herbert Morrison swept the steps of Transport House, and its decision-making processes are almost as dispersed as those of the Liberals.  At all points on the political compass there is a secularization of loyalties, a vertical disintegration of authority, a Balkanization of thought.
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