A little while ago Derek Hatton was on a political show talking about Labour party politics and Michael Gove’s “New Militancy” nonsense. All perfectly sensible. Hatton was the poster boy for 80s militancy, so dragging him out for that made sense. There were tweets flying back and forth about this show. (It was This Week with Abbot and Costello Portillo and the hairstyle that is Andrew Neil, if you’re wondering.) A few tweets were from 20-something Labour party members asking who Derek Hatton was. So myself and a few others told them. Militant Tendency member, Trotskyist, etc. All good. But then came the responses.
“Ah so Hatton was to do with Smith. Well, the winter of discontent was a long time ago.”
Say that again, says I. And they did. More than one person managed to conflate various combinations of Militant Tendency (1985ish), Winter of Discontent (1978), John Smith (1992), and the three-day week (1973).
It was this that made me realise that a section of the membership are in their 20s and can barely remember a time before Tony Blair. I mean a 26-year-old would’ve been 9 when Tony Blair became leader, and mere toddlers when Kinnock became leader on 2 October 1983. Not that I’m ancient or anything. I don’t remember Wilson, Gaitskill, Atlee, or even Callaghan. I just happen to have studied them all. There was a time when Constituency Labour Parties and Trade Union branches would make sure people knew the history of their movement, but that doesn’t really happen today. Today’s organisations are much more focussed on being election-fighting machines, rather than places to debate, deliberate, and discuss.
So, in light of this, I’ve decided to return to my roots as an academic
historian and blog the history of the Labour Party. It’ll be an ongoing project which I’ll probably post on a separate page of this blog, so as not to interfere with my usual laughing-at-Cameron posts. I’ve dug out my old papers and am working on the first post at the mo, hopefully to post next week. I’d really like to know what you, the people who read my blog, think of this idea, so please do comment with well, er, comments I suppose. Oh, and suggestions and ideas too now I come to think of it.