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Meacher was scholarly, considerate and magnificently right on the big issues

MeacherMichael Meacher has died as he lived, seldom attracting any fuss or attention, and seldom burdening his friends and comrades. That makes me sad, as he was a man deserving of attention – and not just as he was dying.

He was marginalised for most of his political life, often by the same people that will today mourn him. And that disregard for, and dismissal, of his unerringly principled political stance was wrong – both in political and moral terms – because Michael Meacher was magnificently right on the key democratic, economic and environmental issues of the day.

He was often patronised by some Labour MPs, but his intellect, decency and courtesy meant he had few real enemies. Those who opposed or marginalized him were mostly wrong, often unpleasantly so.

His understanding of the key challenges facing our country was outlined in his latest book: the British State We Need. Its House of Commons launch went unheralded – attended by only two Labour MPs – Kelvin Hopkins and Andy Burnham, and a few of Michael’s real friends. Michael did not mind: instead he shared his knowledge and analyses generously, and focused his energies on supporting those both inside and outside the House of Commons willing to fight the good fight – for social justice, a sound economy and a sustainable and liveable environment. He not only maintained and regularly contributed to Left Futures but also sponsored and hosted progressive campaigns, most recently Economists Against Austerity.

I loved our discussions. Michael was a great intellectual – thoughtful, scholarly, well briefed and numerate. He was also considerate, enthusiastic and kind. A gentle man.

We first met more than thirty years ago – when he was a leading light in the ‘soft Left’ as it was then known, and in particular the Labour Coordinating Committee (LCC). Together with Stuart Weir and Frances Morrell, Michael had founded the LCC after the electoral debacle of 1979. I met and got to know Frances through the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy. Appalled by the results of the ‘79 election when only eleven women were elected as Labour MPs – just a few more than fifty years earlier when eight were elected in 1929 – we were both active in the Labour Women’s Action Committee (LWAC). Michael consistently supported our campaign for positive action to expand the number of women selected as candidates for parliamentary seats.

At the LCC Frances, Stuart and Michael were a formidable team producing thoughtful and sharp analyses and strategies for the Labour Party after the election of Margaret Thatcher. Together they provided a much-needed antidote to the deeply ingrained anti-intellectualism of the Labour Party. Frances took a fiercely independent stand when she backed the right-wing trade unionist Frank Chappell in his call for the general management committees of Constituency Labour Parties to be bypassed, and for the vote instead to be extended to individual members: the “one Member one Vote”, OMOV campaign.

Looking back, both Michael and I were on the wrong side of that argument. As the election of Jeremy Corbyn proved just before Michael died, Frances was right. Sadly, she too has not lived to see the full impact of what at the time was her very unfashionable stance on the Left.

Fortunately Michael lived to witness the election of Jeremy Corbyn, which pleased him enormously. But he was not uncritical of his friends in the Campaign group, as one of his last blogs testifies. He maintained his economic acuity, political integrity, and indeed his passion, until the end.

He leaves a big vacuum in British politics – a vacuum unlikely to be filled by many in his party who are less principled, informed, decent, loyal and courteous. Which is why his abrupt departure from political life causes me great sadness.

Ann Pettifor is Director of Policy Research in Macroeconomics and is a member of John McDonnell’s Economic Advisory Committee

This blog originally appeared at LabourList

15 Comments

  1. I have been greatly saddened by Michael’s untimely passing. Not only was he a great intellectual democratic socialist but also a fine writer and a very hard working M.P.- right to the end of his life. I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for his encouragement to me both in active politics and in my political writing. I am greatly honoured that he found time to write the Foreword for my forthcoming book about New Labour.
    Michael will be greatly missed throughout the Labour Party in Parliament, in his Oldham constituency and in the Party on the ground throughout the UK. He was a genuine believer in Labour Party democracy.

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      But hey; lets not talk about Mr Meacher, lets talk about you your boring book.

      1. David Ellis says:

        That is a ridiculous comment.

  2. jeffrey davies says:

    this man took his time to answer many who were being abused by this government helped many too but sadly we have lost a gentle giant of a man yes his place will be hars to fill by another rip m and m jeffery davies

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      Reading the article above it’s the usual bumf and typically, more about Anne Petoffor than about the late Micheal Meacher.

      It’s also worth remembering that he voted for the war against Iraq and was, certainly in my own view completely mistaken scientifically about climate change, (a topic on which I’ve argued the toss with him repeatedly,) I also didn’t really think that much of the ideas in his book, The State We Need.

      But anyway I wrote this, (below,) which pretty much sums up my own views on the death this important and much missed political figure and my member of parliament.

      My old constituency MP Micheal Meacher died yesterday.

      Micheal Meacher was a man who despite his personal wealth remained apparently untainted by the corruption and graft that so often pollute modern British politics and was an untiring advocate of the rights and interests of his constituents and a man for whom I and most other people in Oldham felt nothing but pride, respect, and genuine affection.

      He was also someone who manged to engage with ordinary voters, (such as myself,) in a way that Left Futures and all these often pompous and tedious wind-bags, the likes Phil Burton-Cartledge or even Anne Pettifor completely fail to; both by direct personal contact, (I remember how frail he seemed when he was out canvassing one of our most socially, “challenging,” and deprived local areas a few years back,) and by a lively and interesting personal blog that ran for many years through which he persuaded me and many others as well that there might, (all evidence to contrary,) yet be some point in engaging in political discussion and debate.

      A hope that is now rapidly fading again along with the brief optimism of JC’s, (who was nominated by Meacher among others,) election by an overwhelming majority all his opposition.

      It actually broke my heart that at the last election, despite and notwithstanding all that I was in all conscience still unable to vote for him, (and by extension the rotten post Blair Labour party exemplified by Chucka Umuna, Rachele Reeves, Kendell and the all the other hard core right wing Tories that still command the committees, the agenda and Labour, (in most respects Tory,) policy .

      I’m sure there will be finer and far better written eulogies than this to a genuinely decent and admirable man and a genuine and committed socialist, but I wanted to say my piece here and now.

      This couldn’t have come a worse time either.

      It probably says much about the man as well, that although I’m not involved in local politics in any way or at any level, that nonetheless in the space of a hour I received 4 texts, (I don’t use Facebook or Twitter,) from 4 people that I know, (and that I know voted for JC,) expressing their sorrow and just letting me know that Mr Meacher had died.

  3. mickhall says:

    A good man and comrade, a life well spent.

  4. Neil Stretton says:

    A great man, a great Parliamentarian and one of the most progressive thinkers Democratic Socilaism has had in recent times. Never one to follow ‘the herd’, always independent and always totally honest. No wonder Jeremy C took a lead from him – especially on economic thinking. Ann sums him up so well.
    There remain only a couple of other people of equal standing to Michael in our movement, for intelligent analysis of what has gone wrong and prescriptions of what we need to do to put things right (Bryan Gould stands out for me); for goodness sake, don’t let us marginalise them, as so many in the Leadership did with Michael.

  5. Bazza says:

    Yes a very decent human being and I enjoyed his comments on here. To draw from Paulo Freire, he was certainly on the side of the oppressed until the very end. So sad but a life lived sticking to principles. What more can you ask for. I lived, I was here, I fought for a better World. RIP.

  6. David Pavett says:

    I was saddened to hear that Michael Meacher is no longer with us. He worked tirelessly to expose the way in interests of the very rich dominate political, economic and social life.

    We badly need people people on the left who will follow his example by tracking economic developments, thinking hard about the alternatives and making a massive effort to communicate all that with the rest of us.

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      Which is all well and good, but for it to matter Labour have not only to win the argument, they also have to win elections; and that not even someone as admirable and as well respected as Micheal Meacher could get me to vote Labour at last election, (and much as I’d have loved to have voted for him again,) probably says more about the current state of the UK politics and about the Labour party, (post Blair,) than all the dialectic, analysis and polemic in the world.

      1. David Pavett says:

        When Labour wins elections without winning the arguments it does so on Tory terms. Michael Meacher worked indefatigably to avoid that outcome. That is why those of us who want Labour to win elections by being both democratic and socialist mourn his passing.

  7. Robert says:

    Nice man who would take the time to discuss with you his and your views.

    Not to many like him around today, sadly now gone. RIP

  8. Peter Rowlands says:

    Sad to hear of his death. One of the most significant figures on the British left over a long period of time, from the Labour Coordinating Committee to his tireless work for Left Futures and other blogs and publications. His book ‘ The State We Need’ (2013) is in my view the most important statement about the policies the left needs to pursue published in recent years, despite its limited recognition. Can I urge those who have not read it to do so.

  9. Pat Sheehan says:

    Thankyou Michael Meacher MP, for all you did for us in recent years: for holding your ground: for your last valiant stand: for integrity: perhaps now, some guidance from the ‘other’ side?

  10. Mervyn Hyde says:

    To reiterate Pat Sheehan’s words, and hope that his spirit lives on within the ranks of the real Labour Party.

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