Local comic (once a real newspaper) The Echo has given prominence to a letter written by Frank Field, MP, to authoress JK Rowling. In this he sings her praises for her attacks on Jeremy Corbyn. Field – who was often referred to in the House of Commons as” Flaky Frank” – appears to have forgotten that he was one of those who initially nominated Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership. Even more startling is his confusion at the huge increase In Labour Party membership. Like many, he seems afraid of the influx of new blood.
I am not surprised. In a former function as Labour party regional organiser, I oversaw the 1989 reselection contest in Birkenhead wherein, I have no doubt, he was beaten fairly and squarely by challenger Paul Davies. Unfortunately, Frank would not accept the result and was believed to be ready to trigger a by-election, standing as an independent. As the officiating party official, I was pressed to find a reason to overturn the result but I would not. The solution decided by the party in London was to await my going to parliament, and having my successor as regional organiser rerun the selection.
I do not know what was done to ensure Frank won this “rerun” but he did. Interestingly, there was a legal action as a sequel to this. It involved the then chair of Birkenhead CLP, a former supporter of Frank’s and a solicitor by profession. I gave her a sworn statement as the conduct of the selection, expressing the same view which I had put to Labour’s National Executive. One of Frank’s leading acolytes in Birkenhead had the temerity to ring me up and try to persuade me to withdraw my statement. Naturally, I would not.
Not only was I mindful of the truth of the matter, but I recalled how Frank had publicly urged voters not to vote for the Labour candidate in neighbouring Wallasey in 1987, Lol Duffy, but to support Tory incumbent at the time, Lynda Chalker. I was appalled by the party’s refusal to do anything about such disloyalty. Ironically, Labour Party members have always misunderstood Frank’s politics. When he was selected to replace his very reactionary predecessor, Edmund Dell, it was assumed that he was “on the left” in politics because of his job with the charity, the Child Poverty Action Group. How wrong they were to be shown to have been!
Too many in parliament believe that they have a God-given right, not only to be there, but to have a spell in government as part of the deal. Representing their constituents and their communities , too often takes a poor second place to satisfying their personal ambition, whether that be a desire for high office , or simply the satisfaction of an inflated ego. If a local Labour Party demands something more of its candidates in elections and beyond, is that so revolutionary?