Thursday, November 09, 2017

60 Years Hard Labour : Easington and Beyond

Postcard photograph entitled Welfare Hall, Easington Colliery, showing the exterior of the front and side of the building; four indistinct small figures can be seen in front of the building

Easington Colliery Welfare Hall : Venue for Labour Party Branch Meetings -  Past and Present

60 years ago today (at the age of 21) I attended my first Labour Party event. It was a meeting of the Easington Divisional Labour Party in County Durham and was held at the Workmens' Club Hall at Blackhall Colliery. It was well attended, for I am aware that a later annual meeting I went to had 76 delegates present.

I had applied to join my local Labour Party as a means of entering an essay competition on nationalisation which was being run and paid for by the local Labour MP, Manny Shinwell. I don't know how many people entered this contest, but my essay was numbered 16.

I was given the second prize of £3 (which is considerably more at today's prices) and went to the meeting at Blackhall for Shinwell to present me with my winnings. The first prize went to John Alderson who was an English Teacher at Shotton Colliery Secondary Modern School. Ann, the girl I was later to meet and marry was one of his students around that time, being seven years younger than myself. Within the following two years an active local Fabian Society was established at nearbye Peterlee, with John as Chair and myself as Secretary. 

The first Labour Party Branch meeting which I attended was held the following month at Easington Colliery where I lived (the above photo shows the venue). At the following year's Annual Meeting a few months later I became their Branch Secretary, acting as a sub-agent for Manny Shinwell at the 1959 General Election. Shortly before then I was also runner-up for the position of Constituency Party Secretary, when the former long serving Secretary stood down and five of us sort his post.

But my initial burst of Labour Party activity came to a halt after almost three years, when I went to study Politics and Economics full-time at Ruskin College in Oxford from October 1960.  Because of the clash of dates, I even pulled out of being my constituency's delegate to the 1960 Labour Party Conference - missing Gaitskell's famous "fight, fight, fight and fight again" speech. Yet it was a resolution adopting a "ban the bomb" position (in opposition to Gaitskell's stance) which I had drafted which had become our Constituency Party's policy.

Whilst attending Ruskin College for two years and then during the first year of my subsequent studies at Hull University, I still retained my Easington Colliery Labour Party membership. But when Ann and I married in 1963 and we moved to Hull, I stopped being a card holder for the following five years. I was now studying politics and philosophy at University, whilst keeping links with the Labour Movement by attending Tribune and similar meetings.

My lapse of Labour Party membership was due to the fact that Ann and I were moving around via Hull, Worksop and Sheffield until we finally settled in Dronfield in Derbyshire; where I have now been an active member of the Labour Party for the past 48 years. This has included a spell as the local Labour MP for 18 years. At the moment as an octogenarian I hold the positions of Political Education Officer (for our activities, click here ), delegate to the Constituency Labour Party and member of its Executive Committee. But at my age and hobbling with a stick I tend to let my fingers do my walking - a bit like writing that essay for Shinwell's competition.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Vote, Vote, Vote for Harry Barnes


I first attended an internal Labour Party meeting at Blackhall Colliery in County Durham on the 9th November 1957, almost 60 years ago. It was a prelude to my quickly becoming a local Labour activist via its Easington Colliery Branch.

I later became an adult full-time student studying politics and related matters and eventually settled in Dronfield in North East Derbyshire. I have been an active member of its local Labour Party Branch now for over 48 years. I moved to Dronfield when teaching politics and industrial relations to classes of trade unionists.  This was a role I went on to fulfill for 21 years, until I became the local Labour MP for North East Derbyshire from between 1987 to 2005.

After my retirement I became Political Education Officer for the Dronfield Branch of the Labour Party and have run over 120 discussion meetings for activists since then - mainly involving outside speakers as can be seen via this link.

Over all this time I have never sort to serve on the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party, but to my surprise I was nominated to stand for that position at my local Constituency Annual Meeting which was held in Dronfield on Saturday. Thinking that I had nothing to lose and perhaps something to offer after years of Labour Party involvement,  I accepted the nomination.

My problem now is that this was an entirely unplanned move and I now need another four nominations from Constituency Parties to get my name onto the ballot paper. And these have to be submitted exceptionally soon - by 5pm on 16 November.

One means of checking me out is to look at the blog which I have been running since my 70th birthday. It can be found via this link. (i.e. here, so scrawl down).

Nominations will need to contain my Labour Party Membership number, which I can forward to any Constituency Party which approaches me via (for instance) the two links given above. Those without a blog facility can more easily approach me via the first of these.

For those who wish to check me out, then in addition to my parliamentary record a glance at my above blog may help. It is called "Three Score Years and Ten" to mark its birth.

In parliament I was a member of the Socialist Campaign Group, but I was not just a camp follower and both inside and outside of the Group was willing to express views which sometimes departed from the consensus.  For I believe that socialist politics requires more than rubber stamps - even to those I associated myself with.

Yet if that makes me seem a moderate, what about this ?   On 28 September 1998, the "Independent" published an article entitled "Revealed : Blair's 'bastard' MPs who could make his life a misery in No.10.".  It pointed out that "Since 1992, 38 Labour MPs have voted more than 20 times against their party instructions in the House of Commons. Indeed, 12 of them have rebelled 40 times or more. Unsurprisingly, Dennis Skinner, the "Beast of Bolsover", heads the list with 95 separate acts of parliamentary defiance, followed by Harry Barnes (Derbyshire NE) with 75 and Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) with 64.".

Hat Tip - the Guardian for the photo. Luckily this is not a beauty contest.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Standing Without Clapping - Assessing Corbyn's Labour

An article of mine with the above title has just appeared on the web-site of Independent Labour Publications. It is the successor organisation to the Independent Labour Party. I have had links with them for over 40 years. Click here to find both the article and them.

Hat Tip - Matthew Brown.