My formative years (my teenage years) were the 1980s. It was in the 1980’s that I really developed my deep interest in politics. I think it was always there but I became an ‘angry young man’ in the early 80s seeing my dad die of leukaemia. He was in and out of the Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield for 18 months and every time he was admitted, it would take maybe 7 or 8 hours to get him a bed. Maybe it is no different now, but when you are a teenager seeing your dad in incredible pain with just a set of vomit bags for company, you become quite angry. Combine this with a miners strike when you live in a mining area (the east of the Rotherham borough) when many of your family work in the pits and you go to school in a pit village (Dinnington), the anger builds.
I will say it now, I hated, absolutely HATED Margaret Thatcher and her Conservative government with a passion in my teenage years. I joined the Labour party when I was 16 because I came from a family of Labour supporters and Labour was the party you supported where I lived and it was the antithesis of the Thatcherite Tory party.
Of course as you age and mature, not only does the anger subside to a certain extent (though there is still quite a bit there because of how my dad lived his last 18 months and how my community had its heart and soul ripped out with little thought to what would come after) but you become more thoughtful, more rational and your thinking becomes more nuanced and yes, you drift away from some of the more idealistic left wing ideals you may have had because you realise that these things cost a lot of money and often have the reverse effects to what you intend. Also I no longer use the word hate when directed towards a person. I no longer hate Margaret Thatcher, though I very much stay angered at the heartless way many of her policies – which I now believe for the future of the country, an argument can be made for their need – were delivered with far too much brutality and not enough thought given to the swathes of the country that would be left decimated by them (and later of John Major when he ultimately closed the coal mines down).
What I am trying to do is give some context and background to what I want to say in this post, that I remember the 1980s well and was politically aware and active at the time. I very much remember the speech by Neil Kinnock in 1985 because my dad had died just over three months prior to him delivering it. Everything then was raw and seared into my memory. I remember Militant. I remember what they helped – yes helped – Thatcher do to the North. I remember feeling incredibly proud that at long last a man of principle in Neil Kinnock was tackling the rotten parasitic militant tendency and their far left allies which really was a weight around the neck of the Labour party at the time. I remember his words like they were yesterday…
“You start with far-fetched resolutions. They are then pickled into a rigid dogma, a code, and you go through the years sticking to that, out-dated, misplaced, irrelevant to the real needs, and you end up in the grotesque chaos of a Labour council – a Labour council – hiring taxis to scuttle round a city handing out redundancy notices to its own workers.”
These people were not interested in helping the working people out – they just wanted to turn our country into a rose-tinted socialist republic which wouldn’t have been able to afford to look after itself nor defend itself.
I look now – over 30 years on – the Labour party, the party I was a member of for nearly 30 years – is not only back to where it was in the 1980’s, it really is worse than that. The far left didn’t hijack the machinery of the Labour party in the 1980s. There were still (as there are now) rational and sane people serving as its MPs. It had a leader that would take it to the brink of electability again and it had people in positions of power who were not rabid class war trots. The difference between now and then is that the class war trots are the leadership and they really do control the levers of power in the party and they’ve attracted thousands of willing fellow cultists who are taking over local Labour parties.
Unfortunately I cannot see how the Labour party can become electable again. The only reason they surged in the polls in 2017 is because they promised the world to naïve people without thinking about how they were going to pay for it and they were facing a robot who was quickly found out to be incompetent in a national campaign – and they STILL didn’t win! The Conservatives won’t make the same mistakes in the next election that they did in 2017 and lots of people won’t be as gullible as they were in 2017.
The breakaway of 4 leading Labour members which formed the genesis of the SDP in the early 1980s did not cause 18 years of Conservative government as many with red tinted spectacles would like to think. The attempted far left take over and many of their policies damaged the Labour party so much it took 18 years for the damage to be repaired and for the party to once again be seen as a one that could govern Britain. The SDP was a symptom of the disease that was infecting the Labour party. Thankfully, the central nervous system of the party was not infected and was able to fight back and eventually regain full control. The seven who left the Labour party yesterday are again a symptom but this time the disease has infected the central nervous system of the party and I fear there is no cure. Hopefully something, post Brexit, will develop which can come in its place to challenge an ever more right wing Conservative party which is struggling itself with its own infiltration by ex-UKIPers from a rational, electable position.
However, for now, the Labour party is slowly dying – the infection it seems has become too deep-rooted. This has become apparent when people like Luciana Berger and Chuka Umunna leave the party and those that infected the party in the 1980s, like Derek Hatton, are welcomed back with open arms. The party I supported for most of my life has become a personality cult which will, if elected (it won’t because the British people aren’t that stupid), leave this country undefended, bankrupt and the Venezuela of Europe.