Page 12, 17th March 2000

17th March 2000
Page 12
Page 12, 17th March 2000 — I MUST APOLOGISE to readers of the Charterhouse Chronicle if I

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I MUST APOLOGISE to readers of the Charterhouse Chronicle if I

dwell this week on a non-spiritual issue, though it contains a moral element. It will be very much in the minds of all those connected with politics for the next few months.

Seventy years ago I entered for a Fellowship at All Souls' College, Oxford. The crucial essay was "The Limits of Loyalty". I had never attempted that kind of essay-writing and whether or not for that reason I failed to win the Fellowship, later on I became a student (Fellow) of Christ Church which

`Ken Livingstone represents a protest against the spreading fear of the Blair dictatorship'

seemed to me more exalted, though most people would not think so. That subject. `"l'he Limits of Loyalty", has haunted me ever since and comes into my mind just now because a Labour MP, Ken Livingstone, has decided to run against the official Labour candidate. The question can never be finally settled how far and when political rebelliousness is justified.

I was recently called a "senior rebel" by a high person in my Party, but I think that he was "joshing". Along with three other Labour Cabinet ministers and a former Labour Chief Whip from the COMIIHMS, I voted recently against the three-line whip on Section 28, the homosexual issue. Apart from the merits of the case we had the additional excuse that it was wrong to impose a three-line whip on the kind of conscience topic which has always been left to a free vote in the past.

Fifty years ago I tried to resign when I was Minister for Germany because I preached immediate forgiveness for the Germans (which was far from Government policy at the time). But the Prime Minister knew how to deal with me. "My dear Frank," he wrote in his own hand, "I have received your note. I will look into it later if I have time. Yours ever, Clem." Twenty years later 1 did indeed resign from a Labour Cabinet but as I have been in the Lords longer than any other Labour member I should think that I have voted in the Labour Party division lobby more often than anybody else, though my friend David (Lord) Strabolgi might dispute my claim.

Sir Winston Churchill was a rebel against the Baldwin and Chamberlain governments for several years. It needed a world war to bring him back into office. Sir Stafford Cripps and Aneurin Bevan were sacked from the Labour Party in the Thirties but achieved high office later. But we are dealing with more acute matters today. I can think of no close parallel to the action being taken by Ken Livingstone. The nearest analogy I suppose would he the action we took in the Oxford Labour Party in 1938 of forcing our much-respected Labour candidate to withdraw and backing an independent candidate, AD Lindsay, Master of Balliol, in conjunction with the Liberals and dissident Conservatives against the official Conservative, Quintin Hogg. I do not regret that action now but I deeply regret, in retrospect, allowing myself to supplant Patrick Gordon Walker as the official Labour candidate later on.

Nevertheless, it may seem quite likely at the time of writing that Ken Livingstone will win. He is a man of undoubted charm. I only met him once and he said to me: "No one can dislike me." I am not sure how far that assessment is echoed in No 10 today. But my wife sat next to him at lunch and found him very appealing. He also represents a strong protest against the spreading fear of the Blair dictatorship. Old Labour people like myself fear that the Party we have given so many years to is losing its identity. It is also rumoured that many outside the Party will vote for "Red" Ken. I am told that a very high person, indeed, in the Conservative Party will cast a vote for him, and above all he is the champion of London which is not quite but almost the equivalent of being the champion of Wales or Scotland.

Whether he wins or loses, Labour leaders could not possibly allow him to escape with impunity. A precedent would he created which might well lead to the Party disintegrating in the future. It was inevitable that he should be expelled from the Party.

How members of the Party who support him publicly will be treated remains to be seen. In the war my wife was Labour candidate for a Birmingham constituency which broke what was called the party truce. They were suspended but rehabilitated soon after

wards.1 turn fur a moment to another aspect of loyalty, the loyalty expected of the leader of the party. The question of how far New labour is loyal to traditions of the Labour Party can only be indicated here. It will not be quickly disposed of. For the Nth time I shall express my happiness that we have a Prime Minister who goes to Mass on Sunday, if not at the moment a Roman Catholic. He has shown an ultimate loyalty to Peter Mandelson in bringing him back into the Cabinet after an earlier downfall. But an equally gifted Minister Harriet Harman was not treated generously. At this point I must reveal that she is the niece of my wife so it may be that I am exceeding the limits of loyalty in mentioning her case.

In 1938 we in the Oxford Labour Party broke ranks because the great issue of peace or war was involved. I find no excuse of that kind for a Labour member who fails to support Frank Dobson but 1 fear that there may be others — just as good Party members as myself — who will take a different view.

SHOULD ONE be flattered or frightened or both if you are told that following an interview a long article is going to appear about you in The Guardian? In these latter days newspapers are not unkind about elderly gentlemen, showing a mixture of respect for their achievements and compassion for their frailties. At the same time I have made no secret of my detestation of the way The Guardian has persecuted Jonathan Aitken. An extract from his memoirs has just appeared with a noble display of repentance and a memorable account of a religious vision.

In the event, I cannot fail to be flattered. The title given to the article, "Mercy Mission", is one that I don't quite deserve though I would like to. I am glad that the paper did not hesitate to refer to the occasion when I was called in the street a "f****** pervert" because of my support for Myra Hindley. But I must never fail to disclaim any moral courage required in my pursuit of unpopular causes.

No one married to Elizabeth would have shown his face at home if he had not proof of his convictions. I am referred to as the oldest sitting member of the House, but Hartley Shawcross, who does not attend now, is somewhat older. He once said of his late wife "without her I am nothing". The same here.

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