Crossing the floor

Reg Prentice and the crisis of British social democracy

By Geoff Horn

Crossing the floor


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-9991-5
  • Pages: 256
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £18.99
  • Published Date: December 2015
  • BIC Category: Politics, Politics & government, POLITICAL SCIENCE / General, Society & social sciences / Socialism & left-of-centre democratic ideologies, Society & social sciences / Politics & government


Reg Prentice remains the most high-profile politician to cross the floor of the House of Commons in the post-war period. His defection reflected an important 'sea change' in British politics; the end of the post-war consensus and the beginnings of the Thatcher era.

This book examines the key events surrounding Prentice's transition from a front-line Labour politician to a Conservative minister in the first Thatcher government. It focuses on the shifting political climate in Britain during the 1970s, as the post-war settlement came under pressure from adverse economic conditions, militant trade unionism and an assertive New Left. Prentice's story provides an important case study on the crisis that afflicted social democracy, highlighting Labour's left-right divide and the possibility of a realignment of British politics. This study will be invaluable to anyone interested in the turbulent and transitional nature of British politics during a watershed period.


"the strongest impression the book leaves on this reader is as a reminder of the weakness and fragmentation of the Labour right during the 1970s and the exposed position in which neo-revisionist social democrats such as Prentice and Jenkins found themselves"
(Peter Sloman, Contemporary British History 2014), Peter Sloman, New College, Oxford University, Contemporary British History, 2014


1. Introduction
2. Labour moderate
3. The rule of law
4. Stand up and be counted
5. Cabinet Cassandra
6. Retribution in Newham
7. Staging a fightback
8. Anti-party man
9. Crossing the Rubicon
10. Conservative member
11. Epilogue


Geoff Horn teaches Politics at Newcastle University

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