Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Where's Denis?

Hat-tip to Kerron Cross for drawing this to my attention, but the BBC's Politics Show is currently holding an end-of-year poll to find out people's
Greatest Living Political Heroes. A fair enough idea, I thought, until I saw the so-called "Magnificent Seven" shortlist which comprises the following:

Tony Benn
Neil Kinnock
Alex Salmond
Clare Short
Norman Tebbit
Margaret Thatcher
Shirley Williams

Now there can be no disputing the heroic status of three of these names - Margaret Thatcher, Tony Benn and Shirley Williams - while Neil Kinnock might just scrape in for the "grotesque chaos" speech and for generally losing elections in a rather heroic way.

But Norman Tebbit? Alex Salmond? CLARE SHORT?!! Come on, you're having a laugh, surely?

The absense of my own greatest living political hero Denis Healey from this list is a startling omission on the part of the Beeb.

Denis is widely acknowledged to be the greatest Labour Prime Minister we never had and his recent interview with The Observer's Bill Keegan shows he has lost none of his sharpness.

If he had been on the list, I'm willing to bet he would have got many more votes than his old rival Tony Benn.

That is, after all, what happened in the Deputy Leadership Election in 1981, even though the union block vote nearly conspired to turn it into a Benn triumph.

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Anonymous said...

Ah yes Paul,

Major Dennis Healey, who in 1945 suggested that Labour would build "a land fit for heroes", and is probably still waiting to see it materialise. This utopian dream didn't seem to reach these extremities of North-East England where, in 1973, after almost 20 years of Labour domination of my local council (South Tyneside) my family was still living in terraced housing already condemned as slums, with outside toilets, no running hot water, an open "black range" fire to cook on, a 12 inch square stone sink to wash in, a zinc bath to bathe in, gas lamps to illuminate our cobblestoned streets, as women washed with a dolly tub, poss stick, and mangle! Yes, our fathers and grandfathers were the heroes who had returned from war, to suffer these indignities whilst our local Labour politicians kept us in dire properties.

Yes, it took until 1975 to clear away most of the housing alongside the banks of the River Tyne, and still swathes of land lie fallow there even now!

We, as the next generation have moved on, away from Mr. Healey's devalued pound, and learned to stand on our own feet to make a slightly better life for ourselves and our own children. Yet, my mind keeps going back to those dark streets, blacked out by the actions of Dennis Healey's comrades in the trade unions both before and after the fall of Callaghan's government, and can find little to thank him for (other than some very illuminating photography - he had something to redeem himself with!)

Curly (Beta Blogger is a pain!)

Curly's Corner Shop

Anonymous said...

Your memory is faulty (unless you are thinking of a particular NALGO manouveur) it was the CLP executives that almost won it for Benn; the MPs (particularly the tribuneites who abstained) who saved the party.

Gregg said...

I doubt Healey would be beating Benn, if only because fewer people remember him. In fact, I suspect he'd be splitting votes from Thatcher, giving Benn a win.

But he certainly deserves to be up there, for saving the British economy in the wake of the disastrous Heath government. He stayed to long as Chancellor, going far too far to try to keep inflation down, provoking an entirely uneccessary confrontation with the unions that led to Thatcher's victory in 1979 - but I think Callaghan was more to blame for that, for taking the unions for granted and not realising that things had moved on from the 1950s milieu of dominant union barons ensuring the compliance of the workers.

skipper said...

Agree on Healey wholeheartedly- and he never devalued the pound. That was Callaghan.

RedEye said...

Healey also fails to get my vote, given his opposition (as Shadow Foreign Secretary) to the Heath government's expulsion of KGB agents. The move was, as George Walden notes in his memoir 'Lucky George', long overdue when there so many agents that MI5 and the police were finding it extremely difficult to keep tabs on them, and (as Walden also notes) damaged the organisation's prestige at home.

Short might deserve to be on the list if she'd followed Cook's example and resigned straightaway, but she didn't. Those who voted for her might also consider her comment that Al Qaeda's aims are 'just' and that the Provisional IRA never targetted civilians (a particularly crass and insensitive comment for a Birmingham MP to make). Oh, and that's not to even mention 'golden elephants' (had any other government minister said that, they'd have been excoriated for colonial, even racist, arrogance).

I'd like to suggest Richard Sheperd's inclusion on the list, given his Euroscepticism and his longstanding interest in civil liberties and the rights of Parliament. Possibly also Michael Wills, for his campaign against the Common Agricultural Policy (and sympathy for the way in which his talents weren't made the most of by Blair, so bad at reshuffles, but instead shuffled from pillar to post until he resigned from the government, partly out of frustration, and partly to campaign against the CAP).