Sunday, September 26, 2010

Reds - Ed, Ted and Poplar

Yesterday I heard the news of the Labour leadership whilst preparing to speak alongside Janine Booth, author of "Guilty and Proud of It" (http://www.merlinpress.co.uk/acatalog/GUILTY_AND_PROUD_OF_IT_.html) at Houseman's bookshop.



Janine's book covers the legendary struggle of the Poplar Councillors, imprisoned for doing right by working class voters in the 1920s, a struggle which in turn inspired the stand taken by Lambeth Councillors in the 1980s when Ted Knight's administration were surcharged for having delayed setting a rate in opposition to ratecapping.



If the new Leader of the Opposition really was the "Red Ed" of Daily Mail mythology then it would have been all the more apt to have been considering the contemporary relevance of the tradition of struggle by Labour in local government as news of his triumph came through.



As it is, the most that can be said about Miliband Minor is that he is not his brother and that - in stopping his elder sibling - he has blocked the Blairite succession plan. This opens up a political space in which we can try to regrow the sort of socialist politics of which you can read in Janine's book.



At the moment Labour Councillors may generally see little relevance in stories of Poplar 90 years ago or Lambeth in the mid 80s. There are few if any Labour representatives in our Council chambers currently identifying with those traditions.



However, the intensification of attacks on public services by the ConDems will change everything and will force us both to revisit our history and to consider how to apply it in changed and different circumstances.



The solid technocratic certainties of New Labour with its faith in private provision and the wisdom of senior managers and expensive consultants are about to melt into air.



Socialists need to be ready to offer an alternative.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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