In this article, it is argued that the Labour left's 'rise to power' in the 1970s and early 1980s, like other aspects of its politics in this period, merits fuller attention than it has recently received. Using new sources, and with more attention to the discourse of politics than has
been usually applied to this period, it is argued that the popularity of the left in the constituencies stemmed from its capacity to attract and absorb existing forms of discontent within the party, and to marry these with a new rhetoric. First, focusing on Manchester and Salford, the nature
of rank and file beliefs and discontents are analysed. In subsequent sections, the ways in which party values were expressed and constructed by radical elements within the party from the 1960s onwards and how this mobilized support are examined. 'Local' events are tied to the 'rise of the
left' nationally during the 1970s and 1980s. It is suggested that this approach to discourse and politics may have broader applications for the writing of contemporary political history.