In my concluding posts reviewing the excellent e-book by Paul Rhoades and Jake London – ‘From Aigburth to Belmarsh - The career of Elliot Morley MP’ as seen by two of his constituents’, we will take a closer look at Morley’s involvement with the New Labour project, touch a bit on his track record which the e-book honestly amplifies, and then finish with an appraisal and evaluation of what if any are the long term implications for both the local and national Labour Party.
My own involvement with Elliot Morley came about in the mid-1990s, by this time Morley had established himself as a popular constituency MP, and was in ascent on the Labour front bench and with the Parliamentary Labour Party, he was you could say scaling towards real power.
A very authentic and frank account is given in the e-book which described Morley’s career as one with a remarkable track record, and of course nothing should take that away from the man – only his own wrong doing would have seen to that.
Before the rise of Tony Blair in 1997, Elliot had been a member of the shadow cabinet, working hard in opposition and appearing often on the Labour front bench, as explained by the book. And it is at this point that I enter or rather come into contact with Morley, the strange thing about this is when I decided to reapply for membership of the Labour Party it was to the local branch which just happened to be in the village of Winterton, the very same village in which Morley had set up the home that became the focus of the incriminating impeachment that eventually led to his downfall and eventual imprisonment, or as I like to put it incarceration. The village of Winterton figures prominently in the story of Morley, and I will touch on that latter in more detail.
I had resolved to re-join the Labour Party having left it in disgust at the inaction and class betrayed miners’ strike at the hands of the leadership of the party under Neil Kinnock, a failed leader who following Labour's defeat in the 1992 election, resigned, and today as Baron Kinnock, he is regarded as one of Labour's elder statesmen, and I have to say what a joke, you can often see him on the telly at party conference during the leaders speech lapping-up the adulation and exaltation for amongst other things, he attacked Militant and the conduct of Liverpool City Council, which when all was said and done was nothing more than a wholesale, full-scale witch-hunt. However what did it for me, through the lack of support that Kinnock showed the miners, I felt gutted, heartbroken and disgusted and left the party, nothing short of an outrage considering he was an MP from a mining area, and who was bitterly critical of the tactics employed? In 1985 he made his criticisms public in a speech to Labour's conference:
“The strike wore on. The violence built up because the single tactic chosen was that of mass picketing, and so we saw policing on a scale and with a system that has never been seen in Britain before. The court actions came, and by the attitude to the court actions, the NUM leadership ensured that they would face crippling damages as a consequence. To the question: "How did this position arise?” the man from the lodge in my constituency said: "It arose because nobody really thought it out.”
Anyhow, John Smith had taken over the leadership of the party, and for some reason probably because I was board that I decided to re-engage with Labour, starting off in the Winterton branch and just before the death sadly and indeed unfortunately of John Smith, I then moved to the Crosby area of Scunthorpe. The death of Smith had projected Tony Blair by this time into the leadership of the Labour Party, with Gordon Brown a willing and allowing that is, and of course the rest as they say is history – don’t we just know it!”
It was whilst living in the Crosby area of the town that my involvement in local politics stepped-up a pace and indeed in a relatively short time I was campaigning against poverty in what was a very rundown disadvantage quartier of the town, must add nothing like where I now live in Canning Town, East London.
The e-book makes reference to what happened to the town under the Tories and Thatcher’s regime when it clearly articulated:
“Up here in Scunthorpe there were very few that felt that there was anything good about Thatcher and what she was doing to the town. This would be spelt out over the next 10 years which would see the steady decline of Scunthorpe, leaving it by the end of the 1980’s with the third highest drug related crime rate and the highest teenage pregnancy rate in the country.”
In 1994 an old school friend and I called a meeting in Crosby to address the issues and related issues of poverty; the up-shot of this meeting was the Crosby Community Association. Without going into to many details about this Community Association here, only to say that it started to make waves in the town and soon we had come into contact with Morley, in fact he was always willing to speak at our meetings and he opened our first offices in an old school that use to be sited on Doncaster Road, an occasion that I remember well because he was ribbing me about why it was a good idea to support the New Labour agenda as fostered by Tony Blair.
I think it must have been at this time that I came to the realisation that Morley was not only the MP for the town but in fact he was the big cheese, what I am saying his extrapolation and influence ran deep within the constituency party, and I will argue that he alone sold New Labour to party members in Scunthorpe. Twenty years prior the local Labour Party was heavily controlled by the left and what many call old Labour of which I was a part, but when I came back to Scunthorpe, I found that the left had disappeared as if into thin air. I soon found that I was a standard bearer for socialism within the local party; at times it seemed like a lonely voice trying to turn the tide that was coming in, there were others I know who didn’t like the changes that Blair was proposing, but they remained silent. One issue that comes to mind was that of Clause IV.
It historically refers to part of the 1918 text of the British Labour Party constitution which set out the aims and values of the party. Before its revision in 1995, its application was the subject of considerable dispute.
The original version of Clause IV, drafted by Sidney Webb in November 1917 and adopted by the party in 1918, read, in part 4:
To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.
This text is generally assumed to include nationalisation of the whole economy but close at hand reading of the text shows that there are many other possible interpretations and interpretations. Common ownership, though later given a technical meaning by the 1976 Industrial Common Ownership Act, could mean municipal ownership, worker cooperatives or consumer cooperatives.
By the time Tony Blair was mooting the idea of getting rid of Clause IV; Morley knew that I was an opponent of the whole New Labour project, at every given opportunity I would speak out against any new idea or the agenda being presented to the party by Blair and his cronies and associates of which I considered Elliot Morley now to be one.
Blair’s first party conference, and the news was full of a story that Glasgow Maryhill Constituency Labour Party were to move a motion from the floor that conference oppose the removal of Clause IV, hearing this news on the radio I decided along with two friends that we should travel to the conference in Blackpool and give Glasgow Maryhill support, which we did and the motion was passed, but Blair soon after said he would change that decision the next year and replace the old Clause with his own, which he did.
‘From Aigburth to Belmarsh - The career of Elliot Morley MP’ as seen by two of his constituents’