The longest suicide note in history
"The longest suicide note in history" is an epithet originally used by United Kingdom Labour MP Gerald Kaufman to describe his party's 1983 general election manifesto, which emphasised socialist policies in a more profound manner than previous such documents – and which Kaufman felt would ensure that the Labour Party (then in opposition) would fail to win the election.
The New Hope for Britain was a 39-page booklet which called for unilateral nuclear disarmament; higher personal taxation for the rich; withdrawal from the European Economic Community; abolition of the House of Lords; and the re-nationalisation of recently privatised industries like British Telecom, British Aerospace, and the British Shipbuilders Corporation. The manifesto was based on an earlier and much longer policy paper with a similar title, Labour's Plan: the New Hope for Britain.
The epithet referred not only to the orientation of the policies, but also to their marketing. Labour leader Michael Foot decided as a statement on internal democracy that the manifesto would consist of all resolutions arrived at in its party conference.
The document's more left-wing policies, along with the popularity gained by Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher over the successful outcome of the Falklands War and the division of the opposition vote between the left-wing Labour Party and the centrist Social Democratic Party – Liberal Alliance, composed of breakaway Labour MPs on the right-wing of the party; contributed to a victory with a substantial majority in Parliament for the right-wing Conservative Party Government. The defeat was Labour's worst result since 1918, and led to a turning point in the history of the party- which thereafter gradually moved to the centre under the leadership of Neil Kinnock then, under the leadership of Tony Blair in the 1990s; rebranded itself as "New Labour" and Third Way, leading to a landslide victory at the 1997 general election, fourteen years and two general election defeats later.
Other uses of the phrase
It has subsequently been used by Peter Gutmann in his paper "A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection" to describe the digital rights management schemes in the Windows Vista operating system.
Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer compared the 2012 Republican House Budget to the manifesto (in terms of comparable unpopularity) and then remarked about the House Budget, "At 37 footnotes, it might be the most annotated suicide note in history."
Daily Beast writer David Frum compared The Path to Prosperity proposed by congressman Paul Ryan in a similar light, saying "This is how a great political party was impelled to base a presidential campaign on the Ryan plan—a plan that has now replaced the 1983 manifesto of the British Labour Party as 'the longest suicide note in history'."
- Mann, Nyta (2003-07-14). "Foot's message of hope to left". BBC News. Retrieved 2008-09-13.
- "The New Hope for Britain: British Labour Party election manifesto, 1983". Keele University Political Science Resources. 1983. Retrieved 2008-09-13.
- New Hope for Britain: Labour's Manifesto 1983, ISBN 0861171047
- Britain in Transition: The Twentieth Century, Alfred F. Havighurst, ISBN 0226319717, p.613
- "1983: Thatcher triumphs again". BBC Politics.
- Peter Gutmann (2006-12-26). "A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection". Retrieved 2007-01-28.
- Jeroen Langelaar (2010-05-10). "'PvdA-programma langste zelfmoordbrief uit geschiedenis'". Retrieved 2010-05-10.
- Krauthammer, Charles (2011-04-07). "After Ryan's leap, a rush of deficit demagoguery". The Washington Post.
- Frum, David (2013-10-08). "Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Political Parties". The Daily Beast.
- Holehouse, Matthew; Rothwell, James. "Ed Miliband's manifesto monolith 'is a Kinnock moment'". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
- Labour Party Manifesto 1983 (Archived)