Page 10, 20th August 1982

20th August 1982
Page 10
Page 10, 20th August 1982 — Would you welcome, please, the new freedom movement?

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Organisations: Labour Party, Boy Scout
Locations: Plymouth


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Would you welcome, please, the new freedom movement?

IS the difference between the Labour Party of today and that of yesteryear? i WHAT

The big difference, I have just realised, is religion.

Watching Sir Harold Wilson talk about politics in the current television series The Twentieth Century Remembered — BBC 1 each Wednesday night — has made me understand much more why I once loved the Labour Party, voted for it, and considered it unquestionably on the side of the angels.

The traditional Labour party was an outgrowth of the non-conformist church. Almost every leading Labour Party figure in the immediate post-war period had had a strong religious formation, as Harold Wilson reminds us.

He himself was much influenced by the non-conformist tradition — and by the ethics of the Boy Scout movement. "A Scout is a friend to all . . . no matter from what social class," taught Lord Baden-Powell. Harold soaked up this and the traditions of Wesley deeply — far more deeply than Marx and Harold Laski.

The traditions of non-conformism were: a strong social conscience about the poor and the underprivileged, an abhorrence of drink, a sense of circumspection about sex (Harold, as head boy at school, organised extra soccer sessions to take the chaps' minds off sex) and simple, hymn-singing piety.

As Harold reminds us, many people in the Labour Party of the 1940s and 1950s were in this tradition, or a similar religious one.

Stafford Cripps was extremely devout — an Anglican of the Evangelical tendency. (His great hero was Wilberforce, the antislavery champion). Tony Crosland came from stern Plymouth Brethren stock, and James Callaghan's family was firmly Baptist.

Clem Attlee was quietly religious. Nye Bevan, though latterly atheistic, was very much influenced by the Welsh chapel-going tradition.

Some of the oldsters left in the Labour Party still retain this religious aspect: it is best exemplified by the retiring speaker, George Thomas, a wonderful man of great piety in the non-conformist tradition.

And there is also, of course, the Catholic tradition in the Labour Party — exemplified by people like Bob Mellish and Eric Heffer.

Eric Heffer, indeed, claims that he got Michael Foot elected to the leadership of the Party by his own persistence in lighting candles to his favourite saint for that intention.

But Bob Mellish, like so many old Labour Party folk, has, of course, just quit the Party.

And the Labour Party today is devoid of that church-going tradition. Nowadays, on the contrary, it so often seems the party of the abortionists, the gay liberation movement, the permissives who want ever-easier divorce and everything that attacks the family the churches, discretion and decency.

The young Trotskyites who are making the running in the Labour Party today are contemptuous of the Wesleyan tradition. It is now called "patronising" and "repressive".

This little history lesson for me reminds me of a brilliant essay by Piers Paul Read in a recent book called Why I An Still a Catholic. In this essay, the novelist Read points out that so much of the good works and high intentions of the social reformers of this century derive from the fact that they have been living on the capital of Christianity.

When the abortion question comes up and the citizen in the womb is now the person most deprived of any rights, Read puts it, he understands what has happened.

The capital has run out.

Lost cause

WHICH BRINGS me to the matter of the Irish vote in Britain. I don't terribly mind if they take my vote away — after all British people cannot vote in the Republic of Ireland and it doesn't seem fair or logical that Irish citizens can vote in Britain.

Once the vote meant a great deal to me. Every time I cast my vote. I thought of the people who had paid such a high price for my franchise.

Nowadays, I am more and more coming to share the view of my (English) husband: don't vote — it only encourages politicians. He wouldn't touch a voting booth with a barge pole.

So I care less and less about all this. Let them disenfranchise me! I cannot, however, see which Formerly, the Irish in Britain voted the straight Labour ticket. But since about 1978, the tendency of the Irish vote has been to become more and more split. Since the Labour Party developed this anti-family image, Irish Catholics are less and less enthusiastic about voting Labour, and at least a third of them now vote Conservative.

The indications are that quite a sizeable section of the million Irish voters would be attracted, too, to the SDP — and anyway, the SDP are far too nice, not to say wet, to take such an illiberal step.

So which party would back the move? It would not, now, be in any party's interest to disenfranchise the Irish.

The question comes up every now an then particularly when the Provos make one of their visitations in waging their "war" against ordinary people in a pub, enjoying a bandstand music session, or just walking along the street — but it tails off because no one has the political will actually to implement I see the logic of removing the Irish vote, but it is far too much trouble, and there is far too much to be said for leaving well alone.

Get stuffed

FOR MY children, the greatest thrill you could give them is to take them to the hamburger joints McDonald's or Wimpy's.

They first became aware of the hamburger culture through television advertising. Television advertising works like a dream on child! en. It is sad tu see their innocence and gullability so ruthlessly exploited by TV advertising. They really do believe everything it says in the ads, and as a parent, one has to counteract this by teaching them scepticism and caution.

Having seen the McDonald adverts they begged to be taken. Going to a McDonald's restaurant is a fascinating experience: it is genuinely multi-racial — you see young people of absolutely every kind of background.

McDonald's is an extremely efficient organisation. In the American business tradition, the staff is courteous as well as efficient. And the hamburgers are very good.

However, the British-based Wimpy have been fighting back and my small sons have, after all, decided they like the Wimpy best.

The reason is, apparently, that McDonald's put gherkins into their hamburgers and plain old Wimpy's don't. It shows you that advertising is effective in attracting the customer, but in the end, the customer himself decides which product he likes.

Cash nightmare

I AM very glad to learn that inflation is now down to 8 per cent, even if it does mean that the British economy is wholly stagnant.

Inflation is all very well for bright young things who know how to manipulate money to their best advantage, but for folks on fixed incomes, or people like me, who live on their wits, it is a nightmare. quite see why it very nearly destroyed Germany.

1 play this tortuous game with myself sometimes of translating some of my financial transactions into old money. Did I ever think that I would see the day, I think, when I would be paying more than ten shillings for a loaf of bread (52 pence)? Or half a crown for a stamp? Or fifteen shillings (75 pence) for a little notebook?

It doesn't bother me that a small house in Kensington now costs £200,000 or a small motor car costs £7,000 — all these big things have always seemed to me pricey. (I never thought I would have enough money for a car and I never have had, so that's all right). It's the price of stnall things that makes me gasp. Eight shillings for a short bus ride. And yes, dear friends, four shillings or thereabouts for your daily newspaper. These are prices I will never, I think, adjust to ...

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