Monday, March 19, 2007


Victory With Victor?

Victor Meldrew is supporting Peter Hain for the Deputy Leadership of the Labour Party. I go a step further and keep pressing Peter to stand for the Leadership itself.

So what have Richard Wilson (who played the roll of Victor Meldrew) and I got in common which leads us to see just what it is that Peter has to offer the Labour Party?

The Wisdom of the Aged

Simply that we are old enough to know a thing or two about both Peter and the needs of the Labour Party. Victor and I are both "threescoreyearsandten" being born within a fortnight of each other. We, therefore, have memories which go back to the triumph of the real Labour Party under Attlee in 1945.

Our knowledge of Peter goes back to the 1970s. We saw Peter's anti-apartheid work with the campaigns on Stop the Seventy Tours against the white-only South African rugby and cricket teams. My banner at the latter said "Hit Apartheid For Six".

We have both probably absorbed many of the 21 books and pamphlets which Peter has written since 1971, where his advocacy of libertarian socialism has matured over time.

We also saw Peter's involvement in the setting up of the Anti-Nazi League and his move into the Labour Party in 1977. Twenty years later we saw him set off on a commendable Front Bench career, where he often pushed the boundaries as far as he could under New Labour with responsibilities for Wales, Africa, the European Union, the Leadership of the Commons and Northern Ireland.

To Boo or Not To Boo?

Mind I wasn't always a fan of Peter's. When he moved from the leadership role he had played in the Young Liberals to join the Labour Party at the age of 27, I was annoyed when he immediately appeared on a Tribune platform at a Labour Party Conference before he had served his apprenticeship with us. So I roundly heckled him from the body of the meeting.

Then in the pages of Tribune, Neil Kinnock condemned the unruly mob who had attempted to disrupt the meeting. I responded with a letter defending the right of the little people to boo.

Peter has not forgotten the incident. As Leader of the Commons in 2003, the prefaces to a question and answer on ex-miners chest diseases went as follows -

Harry Barnes: "May I welcome the new Leader to his post? I have obviously changed my opinion since I heckled him at a Tribune Rally just after he moved over from the Liberal Party....."

Peter Hain: "First, I thank my hon.Friend for his historical reference. It was 26 years ago, if I am right in September 1977 and, as I recall, it was a very friendly heckle....." ( Which, of course, it was not. HB.)

I was in the Commons last week for a St. Patrick's (Early) Day Reception. Unfortunately, duties arising from the Northern Ireland Election results prevented Peter turning up. It was a pity because I would have put my case to him for his standing for Leader. And if he had rejected what I had to say, I could always have booed him again.

You never know what 70 year olds like Victor and myself will get up to.


calgacus said...

I don't think Peter Hain is a bad MP - and he voted against the Iraq war which shows integrity and politcal judgement.

I'm not convinced Labour need to be absolutely in the centre to win elections though.

I recall a certain Margaret Thatcher and Norman Tebbit who weren't too centrist (bat-shit crazy right wingers would be a fair description.

They managed to keep power for over a decade

John McDonnell seems considerably more moderate in his policies and views than they were in theirs on most issues.

Given the total mess and waste of money and lives that PFI, rail privatisation and the Iraq war are opposing them is nothing but moderate, sensible and progressive.

calgacus said...

sorry - meant to say this is Duncan (McFarlane) who you replied to on trade unions :-) - interesting reply - i learned from it - i'm writing a reply which i'll post a link to when it's finished

Harry Barnes said...


I look forward to your response. Unfortunately as a member of the Government Peter Hain will have voted for the invasion of Iraq - and recently with them over Trident. If he had voted against either, then he would been sacked -which is what I would have liked him to do. If he was absent for either vote it would only be for reasons to do with his job and he would have needed permission from the whips, but this is still being on the Government's side.
He has obviously decided to tuck in with the Government, but keeps putting out signs that he looks to move in a different direction. Time is running out on my idea that he should detach himself from the Government and stand for leader.

Did you see John McDonnell's response in my comment box to the item I posted on 1 March, entitled "So far, everyones a fruit and nut case" ?

calgacus said...

Damn it - you mean you've retired?
And to think i thought an MP had deigned to debate with a lowly letter and website writer like myself.

Well - at least a left wing former MP who voted against the Iraq war did - and that's worth between ten and a hundred ordinary lobby-fodder MPs.

I checked The Public Whip website and it claimed he'd voted against war on Iraq. If he didn't then maybe i've been relying on the wrong site for info.

susan press said...

Harry, Peter H ain't going to stand.I share many of your thoughts. I think he's way better than the weasels around Blair and would probably prefer him as leader if I had no left option.
However the reslity now for those of us on the left is we have to get behind John McDonnell. The thought of a fight between Miliband and brown with no red water inbetween is frankly dismal. You have consistently underestimated John's grassrots support.Given a chance, most people in my CLP will be voting for him. There are thoudands of McDonnellsupporters all overthe country. So stop banging on about Hain. He will be well looked after in a future Govt whatever happens. Solidarity, Harry!

Harry Barnes said...


Did you see this -