Listening to listening to the radio discussing the Labour Party and the contempt momentum supporters have for those who have been members for years but do not agree with their policies takes me back to the 1980's. In my novel An Ordinary Life I describe what was happening during that period. It looks like the bullying has taken hold again. Ultimately as McDonnell has pointed out this leads to no truck with dissent. That notion leads to the Gulag or Venezuela!
Here is one passage from the novel.
The business dragged on and Tom was aware that he had been warned about this by his brother. People started to drift away, some to go home, others to the bar. Stubbornly Tom stayed.
“ Next item on the agenda.” The chairman Dave Dowling stated. “ The nomination of two delegates to the Labour Party conference.”
“ I propose Dave Dowling and Mike Pearce,” a thin face woman said from the floor.
“ Thank you,” Dave Dowling said. “ I will have to step aside while a vote is taken if there are any other nominations. Well?”
He glowered round the room.
“ I nominate Tom Houseman,” a quiet voice spoke from the middle of the room.
Mr. Reynolds, thought Tom, looking round. Stan Reynolds sat with his wife Betty defiantly looking at the committee. He was dressed in a suit and tie, grey hair slicked back. His lined face showed his concern and determination. His wife was dressed in a cardigan and skirt. They must have been well passed retirement age. They had been coming to these meetings for a long time so Tom had gathered when he had talked to them after joining from the other constituency. They were the sort of old fashioned Labour people who believed in equality of opportunity, redistribution of wealth and society. For them the health service was the best thing that had ever been devised. Their children had gone, like Tom to grammar school and then into professions, one a teacher, the other doctor. They were proud of their children and grandchildren but they never lost sight of their roots and the need to give people a chance in life. They supported the monarchy and the countries institutions. As Tom’s mother would have described them, the salt of the earth. Ordinary people leading ordinary lives.
Dave Dowling scowled. “ Seconder?”
May Reynolds raised her hand. “ I second Tom Houseman. He will make a very good delegate to the Conference,”
“ Is that constitutional? You are his wife.” Dave Dowling grunted.
“ But we are individual members of the Party. Therefore we have the right to nominate and second who we like.”
“ Do you agree to this nomination, Tom?” Mike Pearce asked bluntly.
“ Yes,” Tom smiled sweetly. “ It looks like you will not get the shoe in you expected.”
“ Those nominated will have to leave the room,” Dave Dowling stated glowering at Tom. “ Brian will take the chair for the vote.”
All three trooped out. A waste of time, thought Tom looking round the room. There are only a couple of people like Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds left. All the rest are the supporters of Dave Dowling. Tom was proved right. Dave Dowling and Mike Pearce were easily elected.
After the vote Mr. Reynolds moved a point of order. “ Are we quorate? There don’t seem to be many people here.”
“ Of course we are quorate,” Dave Dowling now back in the chair snapped. “ I would not have taken a vote if we were not quorate.”
“ Another thing,” Stan persisted. “ Why was such an important item placed towards the end of the agenda? A lot of brothers and sisters left before we got to that business.”
“ They knew what was on the agenda so it is their fault they were not here for the vote.”
“ Who draws up the agenda?” Stan asked not giving up.
“ The committee, you ass hole!” Dave Dowling snapped.
“ There is no need to call me that. I was asking perfectly valid questions,” Stan stood his ground.
“ No it wasn’t a valid question. The committee draws up the agenda from all the business that needs to be discussed. That is the trouble with the party. We have to keep faith with members like you and your wife. You are from the past. You want to be civil with all sides. You believe in decency and equal opportunities. Redistribution of wealth but not getting rid of those who exploit the working class. Christ, you should not be in the party. We need to turn back to a Marxist agenda. Nationalise all the means of production, finance and business. The best thing you two could do is to leave the party to the likes of me and Mike.”
“ That is not right. My wife and I have been working for the party for years and years. We have supported it through the good times and the bad.”
“ Look old man. Go home and leave the proper politics to those who know what they are doing. You are not wanted. You are part of the problem.”
Tom could see they were almost in tears and reacted angrily. “ There is no need to insult these good people, Dave Dowling. You might think that your education and ideas are superior to theirs but they are only ideas. Leave them alone.”
Dave Dowling smiled cruelly. “ What do you know of working people, Tom Houseman? You are the product of an elitist system. You went to grammar school and then to university. You work in a university now. What do you know of struggle?”
“ Coming from you that is rich,” Tom laughed. “ My father is at least a working man. Yours was a school teacher just as you are a school teacher. My convictions come from a deep rooted source. I believe in equality of opportunity and redistribution of wealth. But there has to be the creation of wealth in the first place. People have to earn money before they can pay taxes.”
“ But as is shown in Russia, there can be wealth without exploitation.”
“ Rubbish! Which is the richest country on earth?” Tom asked. “ The United States.”
“ But they exploit the poor unlike in Russia.”
“ Rubbish again. In Russia they put people in Gulags who disagree with the government. In the United States you are free to criticise the government. You can vote out those in office.”
“ To help the working class we have to have a left wing agenda.”
“ To carry out your agenda you have to get elected.”
“ With a left wing agenda and ideas, there are more working class than the rest, so we will get elected. The trouble with this government is that it is not radical enough.”
“ Now you are either being silly or you have your head in the clouds. With a programme like Mike is always advocating there is not a cat in hells chance of this party getting elected. Hopefully the Tories have shot themselves in the foot by electing a woman as leader. If Jim Callaghan goes to the polls this autumn, we have a chance but not with a manifesto like you are going to advocate at the party conference. Now you leave these good people alone in future. They have a perfect right to be here and a perfect right to ask questions. If you are so unsure of your position that you have to insult life long Labour members, there is something wrong with your arguments. Come on Mr. And Mrs. Reynolds. I will give you a lift home.”
“ Don’t you dare call me a coward, Tom Houseman!” Mike exploded.
“ Mike grow up and start acting like an adult. You are going to put this party in a right mess if you are not careful.” Tom grinned. “ The next thing you will do is start to advocate locking up anybody who disagrees with you. All you have to do is look at dictatorships down the ages to se where hat leads. Even better, go and buy a copy of animal farm and read that if you can read and understand what it is saying. It will save you a great deal l of heart ache in the future.”
Tom ushered them out of the building and into his car.
“ Thank you for standing up for us,” Mr. Reynolds said as they arrived at his house. “ I don’t know what the Party is coming to when people treat other people like that.”
“ We have to make a stand against the bullies of the left,” Tom smiled in reassurance. “ lets make sure we are there next time.”
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