Corruption is a tree, whose branches are
Of an immeasurable length they spread
Everywhere; and the dew that drops from thence
Hath infected some chairs and stools of authority.
Truth is Paul Rhoades and Jake London between the two of them have produced a very illuminating insight into life times, rise and fall of disgraced former Labour MP Elliot Morley, who represented in the House of Commons the steel town of Scunthorpe in North Lincolnshire for exactly twenty three unbroken years.
The Ex Labour environment minister was recently freed after serving quarter of a 16-month sentence for fiddling and falsifying £30,000 of expenses. Morley, who was the MP for Scunthorpe between 1987 and 2010 pleaded guilty in April this year to two offences under the Theft Act after making false claims for conditional conveyance of property and reimbursements of £30,428 relating to his home in Winterton, close to his constituency, between 2004 and 2007.
During the trial, the Crown Prosecution Service described Morley's actions as "blatantly dishonest" and a "wholesale abuse of the expenses system".
The e-book retraces Morley’s humble beginnings from his upbringing in what I think is a district (Aigburth), a neighbourhood a part of that great city of Liverpool, it notes that some great and not so great or rather should I say unsavoury characters have either come from or been associated with the city. If anything we should also remember the very important contribution that Liverpool has made to the Labour and Trade Union movement, the starting point would be the years between the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the end of the Victorian era. In 1901 Liverpool was the second city of England. The phenomenal nineteenth-century growth of the city was based primarily on trade. British industrialisation brought massive increases in the imports of cotton and other raw materials and the exports of manufactured goods, and Liverpool became the largest port serving the industrial north. In its rise it drew in many thousands of migrants from the rest of England, Ireland, Wales and elsewhere who formed a huge and varied labouring force. Liverpool became a great proletarian centre, therefore, and it was out of its working class bowels did the movement of working people evolve mainly in the form of the Liverpool Trades Council (It is claimed that Liverpool had the first Trades Council in Great Britain) and then ultimately and eventually the Labour Party. And in its wake came individuals of both character and reputation like Jack Jones who was converted to socialism through reading The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell, and before Jack Jones, the legendary, renowned James Larkin. James was born in Liverpool in 1876, the son of a fitter in a local engineering firm. He was taken on as an apprentice at the firm when he was just 11 years old.
"While the accursed wage system lasts, let us see to it that we shall get the highest wages we can force from the employers; let us see to it that we can compel them to recognise the best possible conditions; let us forget that we are sectionalised; let us forget our craft lines of demarcation; let us also forget the sex distinction in the workshop, and live according to the truest spirit within us." James Larkin
My own personal favourite and not really a son of Liverpool but nevertheless a great representative of working people would be Eric Heffer (12 January 1922 – 27 May 1991). He was Labour Member of Parliament for Liverpool Walton from 1964 until his death. His working-class background and consciousness fed into his left-wing politics, and I dare say that Morley, who sat on the Labour benches with him, may have treated him dismissively and cynically.
Well trying not to give too much of a history lesson or lecture here, the point being and as made in the e-book Morley would have been aware of Liverpool’s Labour traditions, but what I have found over the years and all too often particularly in the Labour Party, many speak left and act very differently when they have a sniff of power. I suggest that Morley was one such example, and there will be many more out there comrades, this is the great problem with those who support reformist politics, they end up joining and supporting a system they claim to challenge on the behalf of working people. I should also stress that Morley was not active in Liverpool politics but rather as already stated in the e-book he started his ascent to power through first the NUT in Hull and then hopping onto the city council.
Paul Rhoades and Jake London have done a really good job on Part 1 - The Early Years, and in my next posting we will look at Part 2 - The Parliament years and my own involvement with Morley and the fight for socialism within the Scunthorpe Labour Party.