Tag Archives: labour party conference

Labour reliving the 1970s and evading democratic accountability

Watching the Labour Party “show of hands” vote in the Brighton conference hall (we Lib Dems know from our own party conferences there) and the absence of proper counting mechanisms:
• no stewards counting specific parts of the hall, and
• no card or paper vote to verify if the impression of the chairwoman (or the party secretary beside her) was right,
– reminded me, a graduated historian born in 1956, of nothing so much as the infamous wildcat walkouts let by (closed-)shop stewards at the Ford, Vauxhall and British Leyland car factories, and at nationalised industries, of the 1970s.

According to Andrew Marr in his “A History of Modern Britain” (about Britain in 1945-2000; Pan Books/Macmillan, London, 2007, p. 133), those very militant shop stewards became powerful in the war and Attlee years (1940-’51), arranging local deals at their plant specifically for their union’s members, in preference to having national union executives call national strikes.

These sorts of goings-on were comically portrayed in the 1959 film “I’m All right Jack” with Peter Sellers playing the steward. That picture is affirmed by Anthony Sampson in his “The Changing Anatomy of Britain” (Coronet/Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1983, p. 65): the general secretaries of national unions may look impressive on the stage of the TUC annual conferences; but in reality they have (or had) to defer to the shop stewards representing the local shop floors.

Posted in Op-eds | 7 Comments

Tim Farron writes: Corbyn is handing the incompetent Tories the next election

The guilty pleasure of my political life is the years I spent involved in student politics. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, I attended no fewer than 10 conferences of the National Union of Students – as a result I accidentally became a connoisseur of the various factions of theLabour party. Even as a Liberal, if one spends much time in student politics you are bound to make friends with folks in Labour. To me, Labour is like a fascinating enemy country. We are at conflict with them, but I am somehow fond of their natives and traditions.

Those who today are running Her Majesty’s Opposition, were – back then- selling newspapers outside the Student Union building. Who’d have thought it?

I don’t know Jeremy Corbyn very well but quite like him on a personal level having had the occasional chat over the years. WhenLabour were in power, he was always in the Lib Dem lobby…

Jeremy and his former newspaper selling mates have a problem. They don’t know how to talk to people who aren’t already converted. Jeremy Corbyn has a 40 year history of talking only to friendly audiences on left-leaning causes. He speaks in favour of Palestine to pro-Palestine meetings, speaking up for Irish Republicanism to pro-Republican audiences, promotes unilateral nuclear disarmament to crowds who already agree with him.

The Labour leader is a master of preaching to the converted. I’m not sure how principled this is, but it is neither brave nor wise. If all you do is to go with the grain of the earnest and like-minded people around you, you will ruffle no feathers, win no converts and never get to test the effectiveness of your arguments.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 26 Comments
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