Saturday, April 14, 2007

Tony Benn - True Blue

An Old Blogger

One of the advantages of being an Old Blogger like me is that you can always find an anniversary to celebrate - although sometimes by I remember I am a day or two out as with this one.

10 years ago my son, Stephen and I saw a classic FA Cup Semi-Final at a full-house at Old Trafford in which Chesterfield (our Local League Team) played Middlesbrough of the Premiership.

We Was Robbed

Chesterfield rushed to a 2-0 lead, but the Bro pulled one back. The defining moment arrived when Chesterfield clearly scored a third that would have established a commanding lead.

The TV evidence showed the ball to be well over the Bro goal line, but the Ref and the Linesman did not see what had happened. The Bro then fought back and took a 3-2 lead.

In the dying seconds, Chesterfield broke down the right-wing. The ball was centred and took a high bounce for Jamie Hewitt to rise and head it into the net. It was a great 3-3 draw.

The fact that Chesterfield lost the reply 3-0 does not take away from us what very nearly happened - a dream trip to Wembley to see Chesterfield play in an FA Cup Final with the chance of becoming the first team outside of the top two Leagues to take the trophy.

The Politics Of Football

All of this occurred in the middle of the 1997 General Election Campaign when I was the Labour Candidate for North East Derbyshire, which is a huge "C" shape around Chesterfield itself. Tony Benn and his late wife Carolyn were on the same coach. Tony being Chesterfield's Labour Candidate.

We had to abandon our red Labour favours as that was the Bro's colours. We transferred to the Tory blue of Chesterfield.

Labour went on to win a landslide electoral victory with my own majority trebleling in size. But that would have been put in the shade if Chesterfield had been able to clinch the Cup.

Such a win would have brought Tony up to speed on soccer. For when we passed a crowd in red shirt and red and white scarves he was heard to say "Oh! Are they Bro supporters ?" Perhaps he had in mind the alternative thought that they might have been Labour canvassers !

Whilst it was certainly a day for celebrations for Stephen and myself 10 years ago, we had much more to celebrate 2 years ago tomorrow. It was just 4 days after I retired as an MP. I will report on that later, but not tomorrow itself as we will be too busy with the anniversary celebrations.


Bob Piper said...

Harry, as I recall from Tony's diaries, a few days later he walked the length of the queue for tickets to the replay, speaking to everyone as he went. A real opportunity for a candidate to speak to the thousands of voters, so I suppose he wasn't too upset by the fact that there was a replay.

Harry Barnes said...

I was away this week-end (posting from my son's) and did not have my magic shirts with me. So Sheffield FC lost out to rivals Retford 2-0 and Sunderland seemed to be distinctly off form, but scambled a 2-1 victory over QPR. I am back now to prepare for my 100th Blog !

calgacus said...

Going off at a tangent here but Hillary Benn despite an unpromising start has refused the World Bank funding till it dropped privatisation conditionalities on loans - and is now saying terrorism should be fought through ideas and example - not through wars.

How about a McDonnell-Benn Leader & Deputy ticket? Could that unite the party if the two men would agree to it?

Harry Barnes said...


As it is Hilary Benn and not Tony Benn, he will not stand in a joint ticket with John - for that would end his chance of becoming Deputy Leader. I will not give up on Peter4Leader yet. But if he does not come forward, then I will probably vote for John but only as an emotive response- as hope will then be dead.

The reality of politics in this country is displayed in connection with the events Bob Piper refers to above. After Tony Benn walked the length of the football queue he refers to in 1997, his majority dropped in the following General Election from 6,414 to 5,775 whilst mine in the neighbouring Constituency rose from 6,270 to 18,321. Principles must never be put aside, but politicians also need to know how to play their hands.

calgacus said...

sorry - you're right - silly idea of mine - Benn would almost certainly be Blairite on policy again the minute he was elected - and re-reading that article he didnt rule out war as a method of defeating terrorism (which is like using petrol to try to put out a fire).

John Cruddas would make a much better deputy leader.

Congratulations on reaching 70 and 100!

Harry Barnes said...


Thanks. A century ago the causalities in Wars were 80% troops and 20% civilians. Now it is a 80-20 split the other way round. The person giving the most thought to changing the nature of international conflicts is Mary Kaldor of the University of Sussex who can be Googled.