Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/745/15801
Challenging Jack Straw MP
In October, the Lancashire Telegraph serialised former Labour cabinet minister Jack Straw's memoirs.
Peter Harris, one of six Labour Party members expelled from Straw's Blackburn constituency party, wrote this letter to the Lancashire Telegraph, challenging his version of the expulsion and witch-hunt of socialists in Blackburn.
Jack Straw in his autobiography records his recollections of the events surrounding the expulsions of six Blackburn Labour Party members in 1984 for supporting the ideas of the then "Militant" newspaper.
I agree with former Labour councillor Don Rishton (Lancashire Telegraph, October 9) that the expulsions from the Labour Party were there to ensure primarily that Jack Straw would not be de-selected as Labour's candidate.
I also want to point out that at no stage did I ever threaten any person in the Labour Party and did not turn up in 'commando boots' threatening the Labour Party chairman.
Yes, I did ask Eric Smith for the names of the General Management Committee delegates as they had received two 100-page documents with unsubstantiated criticisms of ourselves and our activities. But Blackburn Labour Party would not circulate a word of our reply!
The occupations of the six expelled were a 'special needs' schoolteacher, a trade union lecturer who has since received an MBE, a probation officer, a lawyer, a junior manager and an unemployed youth. And if such threatening activities were being carried out, why was no police action taken?
Those expelled were very active Labour Party members. I was the delegate to the party annual conference.
Others included the Young Socialist secretary, the Women's Section secretary and the Anti-Racist chairperson.
These expulsions have to be seen in the wider political context of the time: the miners' strike, the battle by councils such as Liverpool to refuse to make cuts, and of crucial importance, the ideological argument going on in the Labour Party for its political direction.
Was it to become, as we and others on the left argued, a campaigning socialist party or a pale reflection of the liberals? We explained then that an attack on ourselves and our ideas was a pretext to attacks on the Left in general.
Unfortunately, those concerns have been borne out. The Labour Party now is another capitalist party incapable of defending and improving the living standards of ordinary working class people.
In The Socialist 5 December 2012: