Neither Benn nor Skinner: Prescott blames Polly Toynbee for Labour wilderness years

cover_Good_Working_Class_StockI missed a letter in the Guardian last week from the redoubtable John Prescott, setting the record straight on two important slights on the working class hero status of Comrade Skinner. Polly Toynbee, now regarded by some as a radical, had been horribly off-message in her reluctance to regret the ejection by Labour MPs of Dennis Skinner from its national executive:

Age bestows benevolence, but some with 1980s memories don’t forgive him, Tony Benn and others for rendering Labour unelectable in the “no enemies on the left” days, blocking attempts to stop Militant’s invasion. Roy Hattersley calls him “an entirely destructive force“. But others say a mellowed Skinner often helped Blair and Brown out of difficulties. That is ancient history. Now, for those without rancorous memories, the man is a totem remnant of imaginary days when politics were better, MPs more authentic.

What’s more she implied that neither Skinner nor Prescott had been to university. Not one to see one of the few remaining working class MPs in parliament dissed and unfairly blamed, Comrade Prescott leapt to Skinner’s (and his own) defence: Continue reading

Support UK Uncut and those arrested at Fortnum & Mason – “non-violent and sensible,” innocent and victimised

In a few short months, UK Uncut has reshaped public opinion on tax avoidance. Its peaceful actions, light-hearted and engaging people never previously involved in political activity, have left corporate Britain running scared, forced the Treasury to run training sessions in response and thrown the right-wing anti-tax Tax Payers Alliance onto the defensive. In a brilliant exploitation of the power of Twitter, they occupied not only Vodaphone‘s shops but their website too. Polly Toynbee, appearing herself at an action in Topshop, declared “these brilliant protests on tax-dodging can unite us all“. Continue reading

Where are the Social Democrats now?

Polly Toynbee reminded us yesterday of who were some of the social democrats in the great Labour break-away of the early 1980s: Andrew Lansley, for example, now a Tory dismantling the NHS, and opposed by his former colleague, Shirley Williams, now in the Lib Dems. Danny Finkelstein advised one Tory leader (William Hague) just as his colleague, Andrew Cooper, now advises David Cameron. Both Roger Liddle and Andrew Adonis advised Blair after a spell in the Lib Dems, though Adonis, after being a rather good Labour Transport Secretary, now backs Michael Gove on Academy schools. Continue reading

Whatever Happened To Radical British Journalism?

And so to another inconvenient truth that should trouble anyone interested in the clash of ideas, real passion in journalism, polemic and a radicalism worthy of its name. Iconic, radical journalism is on life support in Britain. To that can be added bold, risk taking, analytical journalism and the depth that should come with it. Just where are those writers who have a broader world view, and who want to change it? Continue reading