I went to see “This House” last weekend, it’s the second time. Last time was before the Euro-referendum, and with Mrs. L who like me had lived through the period; this time I was with my boys, one of whom said it was a poor history lesson. 😣 ( I still think it’s better than that.)
Firstly, the lines on the last EU referendum are both funnier and sadder than last time.
Secondly, I felt that their treatment of the Northern Irish politics and vote was a trivialisation and also inaccurate. This time, perhaps because of the re-opening of the issues around the Union as a result of the EU referendum, despite an attempt to tell a different story the crucial importance of devolution to that government is in the spotlight.
The play tells the story of the steady erosion of the Wilson/Callaghan government’s four vote majority for various reasons, including several deaths, a fake suicide and crossing the floor (Prentice) and the defection of Sillars and Robertson to the Scottish Labour Party, a name unused by Labour at the time.
The vote of confidence was held after Labour had failed to get an Act on Devolution through Parliament. This was partly due the opposition of large parts of the Scottish PLP, a conversation well represented in the play. Less well represented was the politics of Northern Ireland leading to the abstention of both non-Unionist Northern Irish MPs, one of whom came to London to abstain in person. The vote of confidence was lost by one vote.
The Government fell due to its inability to command a majority on Devolution and a failure of vision on how to keep the UK together; the policies on Northern Ireland split their polity with the Unionists voting against the Government and the nationalists abstaining.
These centripetal forces are being uncaged today. It’s not going to be fun.
The play is almost silent about the September election that didn’t happen and the Winter of Discontent. But it’s telling a different story
Oh yeah. Ed Miliband was sitting next to me, but didn’t ask for my advice, and I didn’t offer it.