Did Dennis Skinner lived on a worker’s wage? The only MPs I know who did precisely that were campaigning Militant-supporting MPs Terry Fields, Pat Wall (tragically both deceased) and Dave Nellist, all expelled under the Kinnock regime. Dave is the current national chairman of TUSC. Even if Kinnock had not expelled them it is unimaginable to think they would have remained MPs under the Blair/Mandelson cabal. How the Beast survived could be the subject of another discussion!
At the 1980 Labour Party conference Terry made this priceless statement: “We need coordinated action by the whole of our class to get the Tories out, and the democracy that is being pumped out in the capitalist press is their democracy, not ours. We will found a new democracy when we have created a socialist state in this country. … To the weak-hearted, the traitors and cowards I say: Get out of our movement. There is no place for you. Cross the House of Commons.” That call is attracting growing support among the new generation of Labour activists.
NATURE OF THE BEAST. Liverpool Philharmonic.
This bioopic on Dennis Skinner, directed by Liverpool’s Dan Draper, portrays the whole individual. In addition to his celebrated political abrasiveness when bating the Tories and their institutions, his love of nature, singing (he’s a natural for a good karaoke), and his love of walking in the great parks is brought to life.
The film is at its most riveting when it portrays his unequivocal rejection of Toryism, capitalist hypocrisy and inequality and his identification with workers in struggle. Declaring in the Commons that he would be on miners’ picket lines and donating his wages to the struggle, standing firm with the dockers imprisoned in Pentonville for defying Heath’s industrial relations act, implacably opposing the expulsion of Liverpool’s socialist councillors, and giving unequivocal support to the Clay Cross councillors when they defied Edwards Heath’s Housing Finance Act.
Dennis used the Parliamentary platform to inform millions of the crimes of capitalism and the virtues of socialism. In one revealing clip he explains that he never went on an all-party ‘fact finding’ foreign junket saying that the prospect of mixing socially with Tories and Liberals appalled him.
This portrayed a man who never lost touch with his class. A miner who took the values of class solidarity into the ‘Palace of Varieties.’ The film was mostly shot in 2014 before Jeremy Corbyn assumed his current authority, so the absence of any reference to him gave the film an added strength as, unlike many right wing converts to Corbynism, he maintained his radical stance when it was ‘unpopular’.
When the 600,000 Labour Party members are empowered to select a candidate of their choice they could do worse than selecting a candidate who embraces the values Dennis Skinner has defended for decades.
10 October 2017
Some Labour supporters have charged advocates of democratisation of the Labour Party, including mandatory reselection, as being ‘obsessed’ with holding MPs to account. We socialists argue that it’s not an ‘obsession’ but is a fundamental prerequisite of building a Party capable of securing the election of and sustaining a Corbyn-led Labour government.
The fundamental contradictions facing the Labour Party are:
- It is led by Jeremy Corbyn with the support of the overwhelming majority of the 600,000 members who has made a break with the policies of austerity advocated by the Blairites.
- The Party machine and the Parliamentary Labour Party is still controlled by a right wing which colonised the Party, particularly during the Blair and Mandelson years, who adhered to free market capitalism, the maintenance of austerity and shackling the trade unions.
It would be an error to imagine that, because of JC’s popularity, they have changed their outlook.
The present rules and constitution make it very difficult for the mass party membership to exercise control and accountability over their elected representatives.
The solution is for the party rule book to return the power to the membership by democratising its structures.
To bring this about rules changes should include:
- A procedure of mandatory reselection of elected representatives before each election to allow the members to judge the performance of MPs and Councillors and to decide whether to readopt or select an alternative.
- The formulation of policy to be determined by the Party membership via the vehicle of a City or District Labour representing all Labour movement organisations which would be binding on elected councillors and MPs. As it was under the rule book of 1985 which was ripped up by the Neil Kinnock-led administration. A key clause was: The DLP will ‘…..formulate an electoral programme and to compile a panel of candidates.’ This rule involved all sections of the Labour Movement in the decision-making process, a concept now alien to the right wing who are determined to hang on to control from the top.
These proposals will open the discussion on how to forge a Labour Party capable of not only securing the election of a Corbyn-led government but to sustain it in the face of a ferocious campaign of opposition from the capitalists and their media.
Look behind you Jeremy