AbstractIt seems to me that the lessons to be learned from the British Labour Party's defeat in 1992 were precisely the opposite of those proferred by Stuart Hall and other commentators of a 'New Times'/postmodernist persuasion. One has to do with the inbuilt limits (or the self-defeating character) of a pragmatist approach that goes all out for electoral appeal by abandoning even the most basic standards of reason, consistency, and truth. In this sense there was justice in the charge against Labour - exploited to maximum effect in the Tory press - that its turnabout on the issue of nuclear disarmament was merely a tactical ploy, having nothing to do with any change of conviction or (still less) any realist assessment of the altered geopolitical state of affairs. By taking the line of least resistance (very much in accordance with 'New Times' wisdom) Labour relinquished not only the moral high ground but also its chance to argue a case much strengthened by this turn in real-world events. For their policy shift was all the more absurd when set against the obvious benefits to be gained by sticking to the unilateralist case on pragmatic as well as principled grounds and thus pointing a sensible way forward from the deadlock of entrenched Cold War attitudes. On fiscal policy, by contrast. Labour came up with a justified (fully workable and right-minded) set of arguments, despite all the sage advice from opinion poll watchers, media pundits, and those - like Stuart Hall - who counselled a more 'pragmatic', 'realist' or consensus-based line of approach. Quite possibly this cost them dear in the election, though the case is by no means proven. What seems more likely is that various things combined to sway people's voting intentions at the last moment, among them the distorted press coverage, the 'aspirational' factor (as Hall defines it), and no doubt a measure of greed and self-interest on the part of those high-bracket earners who wished only to protect their own pockets. But none of this touches the central issue, that is to say, the question whether Labour was right to adopt such a policy, or whether - on a more 'realistic' assessment - it should have switched course and fine-tuned its message to the signals coming back with each new opinion-poll or latest media sounding. For on this account what is right (pragmatically effective) in any given context just is what produces the required results by appealing to the widest possible range of in-place values and beliefs. That the voters might actually be wrong - and that a 'failed' policy might none the less be justified on reasoned and principled grounds - is simply inconceivable, along with all that old-style enlightenment talk of 'ideology', 'false consciousness' and the like.