I Am The Chapman

So here's a confession. I spent the day after Election 1992 in a daze. an election my party had seemed likely to win was taken away from us at the last moment. History - and indeed Kinnock's record - shows us that our optimism was without foundation.

I sauntered into a club in Birkenhead (when I say club I don't mean it was playing the latest scousehouse or required paying 3 times the going rate for a bottle of Sol with lime) and there, propped against the bar was the sitting ('cos standing may have been a problem) member for Wirral South. He could have been a mirror of myself; we both looked miserable and we both wanted to get drunk.

He told me that he never wanted to be an MP for this long - he was a solicitor - (when he was elected in the tsunami of '79 he thought that this would be a one-term gig. Boundary changes gave him a built-in majority) - and he drank. He looked less happy than this Labour activist but he was willing to fund my next fix.

We do not know what he claimed from his tenure as MP but I remember his reaction to my accusation that he was the real mercenary for having 2 jobs (he had used the term against fighters for workers' rights in the town). He was appalled;he was a Solicitor, he earned a little from his firm but wasn't well paid, he spluttered. He may well have been right.

Porter was not a good MP. He wasn't seen in the less affluent areas of the consituency even though his law firm had an office bearing his name in New Ferry. He was seen as a drunked, philanderer and a person not deserving of the privilege of being a representative.

When the flags of '97 appeared on lawns and front yards of the Wirral when a by-election was called, it was a joyous time; politics was back on the menu and professional pub bores and apathetic moaners asked for directions to the polling station.

We bit our lips at the imposition of a candidate (the original candidate dropped out due to allegations of domestic violence by his previous partner) but we rallied behind someone who had just joined the fight.

Chapman has his friends; Frank Field is in a similar position. Good constituency MPs is the call as the public note their local work, which in many cases, is carried out by amateur councillors and volunteers (wait for the next expose against council expenses in papers not paying taxes).

Bob Piper has already covered this but I have to make clear here that one of the reasons I left the Labour Party was the increasing centralisation of candidate selection. The other main reason I could not bring myself to devote time to the drudgery of local activism was the fact that a small cadre could control matters and dithering, unthinking members were unwilling to oppose.

A couple of weeks ago - in a setting many miles from this place - I met an old adversary (a Militant Tendency bod) and I found we had so much in common these days, although I still remain convinced that the Mili were in need of eviction. We both felt disenfranchised. And there's the rub. Locals who would knock on doors during the Thatcher years are feeling hard done by; BNP racists are buzzing as they no longer need armour to shove their shit through working-class letterboxes.

Chapman has done the right thing. Will Labour do the right thing and allow local parties to select candidates?

A lot has been said about US style Primaries. I'd rather see the right to a recall.

In 1980 a man named Chapman took away my flawed genius. Nearly thirty years later, a man who was helping to give another flawed movement a chance, is helping to take us away.


Anonymous said...

fyi, this came yesterday from nick griffin's fan page on facebook:

Warning to members, officers and candidates!
From Nick Griffin
Yesterday at 13:16
Facebook will get tighter: Pass this on to all - and please don't associate on facebook people who post AH, 14 words, 1488, etc or you will be linked directly.

Please be advised that it is every member’s responsibility to ensure that they conduct themselves at all times in a manner that reflects credit on the Party. This is even more the case with Councillors, Officers and candidates. Particular care should be taken when making comments on chat forums and other sites such as Facebook. Do not make the mistake of thinking that comments posted on these sites are secret or hidden. Making inappropriate comments on these sites will be regarded as a very serious disciplinary offence. Please ensure that this message is passed quickly to all members in your area and that it is acted upon. We are entering a very critical time in our Party’s history and cannot afford careless and stupid talk that can undermine the hard work of our activists.

Eddy Butler National Organiser