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From The Socialist newspaper, 26 June 2013

Jack Straw forced to retract lies about Militant

In the 1980s, Jack Straw, MP for Blackburn, played a prominent part in witch-hunting socialists and purging radical policies from the Labour Party.
Together with Neil Kinnock and later Tony Blair, they swung the party to the right and turned it into an out-and-out pro-capitalist party.
Straw was the driving force behind expulsions in Blackburn, based on a whole bundle of false allegations and trumped-up charges.
Now Straw has been forced to admit publicly that some of those allegations were totally untrue. Peter Harris, one of those expelled in Blackburn, exposes some of the dirty tricks.

Peter Harris

In his book Last Man Standing, Jack Straw, Labour MP and home secretary in Blair's government, claims to have a "very retentive memory" and that every effort has been made to ensure the factual accuracy of the book.

But in a recent statement to the Lancashire Telegraph, he is forced to acknowledge a number of falsehoods written in the book.

We believe that 30 years ago, six members of Blackburn Labour Party were expelled in a political witch-hunt for supporting the ideas of the Marxist newspaper, Militant (forerunner to the Socialist), not for any alleged infringements against the constitution, but because of our socialist ideas and growing support in Blackburn.

Three key figures were involved in those expulsions. Michael Gregory, author of a report used as a basis to expel the six; Eric Smith, Blackburn Labour Party chairman and local MP Jack Straw.

Conscious lies?

Straw claims in his book that Michael Gregory approached him in 1982 and stated that he had concerns that Militant was "siphoning off money intended for good causes such as the miners." Now that Straw has admitted that this ludicrous and vile allegation was untrue, the question arises, were Michael Gregory or Jack Straw consciously telling lies?

Why also did Jack Straw allege in his book that Tony Mulhearn, a leading Liverpool councillor and Militant supporter, "stood on top of a phone box ranting into a bull-horn" at a protest at one of our disciplinary hearings, when Tony Mulhearn was not even in Blackburn on that day?

In 1983 Straw claimed that he had gone to great efforts to corroborate Gregory's report. Without ever speaking to any of the six to be expelled, Straw stated that he believed the content of Gregory's reports to be true - we believe this prejudiced the outcome of our disciplinary hearings.

Straw's history

This didn't come as a surprise! In November 1981 Straw called for a tough line on left groups in general and Militant in particular.

And in June 1982 Straw warned that local Militant supporters in Blackburn would have to choose between the Labour Party and Militant.

Not one penny of money was ever "diverted" or "siphoned off" by us to the Militant. Every donation was clearly recorded and every person donating money knew exactly where that money was going.

In the two years that I was Blackburn Labour Party youth officer only one donation by the Young Socialists of a few pounds was made to the Militant.

It was recorded in the minutes and was approved by both local and regional Labour Party officers to be totally a legitimate and constitutional donation.

Straw's book refers to an incident where I was threatened with an axe by Eric Smith. I went to Smith's house to give him a copy of our reply to Gregory's allegations.

Gregory's report had already been circulated by the Labour Party officers to every management committee member prior to our disciplinary hearings and I wanted Eric Smith to take and circulate our response.

He refused to take the report and it was then that I asked for the management committee delegates' addresses so that we could circulate our reply at our own cost.

Smith told me that he would not give me those names. It was then that he called to his son to bring an axe and threatened that he would attack me with it if I did not leave. At no time did I use threatening language or behaviour, as Straw alleges.

Growing support

It is very difficult not to conclude that the Blackburn Labour Party officers and Jack Straw in particular wanted to get rid of the Labour Party members who supported the ideas of Militant, who, in Straw's own words "were growing stronger by the month".

Militant supporters had already represented the party at the last two annual conferences and held key political officer positions.

I believe that the move to the right by the Labour Party nationally, their involvement, including that of Jack Straw personally, in such atrocities as the invasion of Iraq and Hillsborough cover-up, and the way that Militant supporters and other left-wing activists have been expelled or marginalised, has had disastrous repercussions for the organised and unorganised labour movement.

I believe that the Labour Party now is unable to lead the fight to defend the working class, the unemployed, young and old, and protect key public services in such areas as education and the NHS, pension rights, housing and welfare benefits.

I am forced to conclude therefore that an alternative party needs to be created. This workers' party has to be built on the basis of the socialist ideas the old Labour Party had enshrined in its constitution before the campaign for its removal by the likes Tony Blair and Jack Straw.

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In The Socialist 26 June 2013:


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