You can safely say that all my adult life I have been a supporter of the Labour Party. Although not always agreeing with every policy statement and sometimes standing back alarmed, I have always voted for and backed the socialists. The reasons are numerous but I think that if ever I needed my political convictions cementing in place it was during the dark Thatcher era when the Conservatives unleashed years of misery and torment against the working class of my country.
For many in Britain, under Thatcher, “we never had it so bad” (to deliberately misquote another Tory leader, Harold Macmillan). And when the rusty ‘iron lady’ finally limped away from Downing Street the hell continued under the sleaze-ridden government of John Major. Major, the Prime Minister who preached ‘family values’ from the despatch box while he and his cabinet were up to their neck in torrid affairs and scandal.
From a professional point of view there have been several black occasions when the Conservatives have tried (and failed, thank goodness) to meddle in broadcasting. Anthony Eden wanted a wholesale government take-over of the BBC during the doomed Suez crisis. Harold Macmillan never trusted anyone, yet alone the media. Edward Heath tried to woe broadcasters and failed. Margaret Thatcher had entire broadcast centres raided during the Zircon Affair (here). Revenge was sweet for her when she ensured Thames Television (a business ‘marriage’ of ABC and Rediffusion and the most respected ITV company) had its licence removed following the ‘Death on the Rock’ debacle. It was Thatcher who stupidly claimed we were operating ‘trendy left-wing’ newsrooms. Then John Major, happy when things went his way, then ready to ‘cut’ when they weren’t.
I have worked in several European countries and a few African nations both as a broadcaster and as a government or state broadcast adviser. Some of the nations I’ve worked in I witnessed first hand the gagging and strangulation of media professionals trying to go about their daily job. In some countries this is regarded as the “norm” in others it is something which is always there as a “warning” to either suppress the opposition or to expand the views of the party in power.
From a professional point of view I have always remained silent with regards to my political views. Despite protestations from both or opposing sides I have never, whilst under contract at least, discussed or revealed my political views.
When not on contract nothing gives me greater pleasure than to have the freedom to express and to sometimes take part in certain political debates of the affairs of Great Britain – usually and conveniently online. Despite comments to the contrary, I have very rarely cast an actual political opinion on the internal political affairs of another nation (unless of course its an international issue). But despite my efforts to maintain the impartiality I am so proud of there have been frequent occasions in more than one country where I’ve been branded an “interfering foreigner”.
My heroes from a political point of view are those great names from the past who in their own way helped to rebuild and forge a new future for Great Britain. These figures are those we in the party today should look to for guidance.
In my view Clement Attlee was by far Britain’s greatest 20th-century Prime Minister. From humble beginnings, through two world wars, as leader of the Labour Party and then as Prime Minister, this quiet and unassuming man was the driving force that helped to rebuild a shattered and bombed out Great Britain. Apart from the rebuilding plan itself, his Labour government gave us the one thing this nation needed more than anything — the welfare state. In his autobiography, written in 1960, Clement Attlee wrote: “We had not been afraid to be frank about our plans. There would be public ownership of fuel and power, transport, the Bank of England, civil aviation, and iron and steel. We proposed a housing programme dealt with in relation to good town planning. We promised to put the 1944 Education Act into practical operation. We said that wealth would no longer be the passport to the best health treatment. We promised that a Labour Government would extend social insurance over the widest field.”
Barbara Castle was Britain’s first female prime minister that never was. Vehemently left wing and as Prime Minister Harold Wilson said she was “the strongest man in the Cabinet”. She who took on the unions and never forgot her socialist background. Barbara Castle was the one who listened to the women and fought for and achieved equal pay. Tough and fearless right up to the very end, she was a force to be reckoned with.
Tony Benn is my greatest living hero. Intelligent, sharp and as far left as it goes. He spent decades in Parliament, 11 of those years in the Cabinet. A man of extreme intelligence, Tony Benn came from a privileged background but sent a clear message to his social class and those around him.
Naturally there are many left-wing movements across the world. There are many “Labour Parties” in all sorts of countries. In some nations the Labour movement is more active than others. In some regions only lip service is paid to the left wing and in others there are large degrees of wishful thinking and armchair socialism.
I first joined the Labour Party secretly as a young man. Throughout the dreadful Conservative years I witnessed our country disintegrate under the weight of rampant inflation, out of control unemployment and soaring interest rates. These were governments fueled by ego, greed and dangerous paranoia.
In the Labour Party we were unsuccessful on some counts and looking back I am sure that many of us will agree that mistakes were made which seriously prolonged the Thatcher hell. In May 1997 the gloom came to an end. The Conservative party then led by John Major had burned itself out to a cinder and it was time to rebuild a new and stronger socialist Britain.
I do not always agree with every single micro-statement that my fellow socialists proclaim. There are times when we don’t always get it right. There are also times when a brief spell in opposition will give us the chance to recharge the batteries ready for the next General Election.