My theatre blog is honoured to present a guest review of this production at Southwark Playhouse by Lord Scrawdyke of Huddersfield, better known as Malcolm Scrawdyke MP, one of the architects of New Labour and a holder of several top cabinet posts under Tony Blair.
As Enoch Powell famously said, all political careers end in failure. I beg to differ. My own political life began in failure but ended in success; I shall not dwell on my own modest contribution to the Labour party's three election victories under Tony Blair, except to say that our recent defeat at the ballot box shows that the strategic lessons of the New Labour years have to be relearned.
My excursion from my lovely Sussex farmhouse to grimy Southwark to see my early political battles portrayed on stage has left me with mixed emotions. To be brought face to face with a younger version of oneself can be painful; Daniel Easton, however, is thoroughly convincing as the young Malcolm Scrawdyke and sports a splendid 1960s beard. His khaki army surplus greatcoat is authentic, and the decor of his humble flat, complete with gas fire and sink stuffed with unwashed dishes, recreates the un-aspirational, cigarette-smoking era of my youth splendidly. I have now begun to wonder what became of my erstwhile comrades in the Dynamic Erection Party. Did Wick, Nipple and Irwin ever make the transition to modernity, or was I the only one to learn the lessons of defeat? I suspect they lingered on in obscurity in Huddersfield. My short-term followers (our movement only lasted a week) are played with great energy by Scott Arthur, Laurie Jameson and Barney McElholm. Perhaps my memory plays tricks at a distance of five decades, but I seem to recall that in real life none of them displayed a fraction of the physical dynamism I saw from their stage counterparts. Poor diet and the lack of a decent local gym account for a lot.
David Halliwell's play runs for nearly three hours, even longer than some debates in the House of Lords, and I wonder whether some of it might have been cut for a busy modern audience with a short attention span. I am often asked whether the story in the play is true; I say the events on stage are broadly true, except for the portrayal of myself as some kind of sexual failure with women. That part is frankly ridiculous. Modesty forbids me from offering a full refutation, but please allow me to say that my early setbacks were soon overcome once I shed my Yorkshire accent and moved to a flat with a good hot water supply. A modicum of prosperity after my move from Huddersfield to London allowed me to reassess my personal hygiene levels, remove my beard and swap my greatcoat for properly tailored suits. Looking forward, not back, was my motto in all three of my successful marriages.
What of the politics of the play? The Dynamic Erection Party -- although it is now unfashionable to say so -- proved an essential stepping stone towards the creation of New Labour, just like Tony's involvement with the rock band Ugly Rumours. From the viewpoint of the 21st century, the party's unclenched fist salute can be seen to foreshadow the modern era of inclusivity. We understood early on that a broad coalition was essential to enable the party to achieve power. 'Who's going to join?' one of my followers asks in Halliwell's play. My reply : 'Ultimately everybody, whether they like it or not'. Dynamic Erection and New Labour were both movements open to all, designed to overcome outdated divisions of class, creed and background.
I don't want to boast too much about the lessons I learned during the Dynamic Erection party's struggle, but many of them are relevant today. Political assassinations were rightly ruled out, but we learned the hard way that endless political debate over policies is just a handicap. Back then, our party had no policies and no programme, but we had a robust attitude to so-called 'human rights', especially in the criminal justice system. Our pioneering proposal that defendants in criminal trials be allowed to plead either 'guilty' or 'very guilty' is one that has stood the test of time. Above all, the Dynamic Erection Party's history -- too little studied in our universities today -- shows us that having the right policies is no substitute for a charismatic leader who can win absolute power.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Jeremy Corbyn!