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Haringey’s 1980s “hard-Left junta”: a reply to Janet Daley and a personal Note.

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Media Treatment of 1980s Left.

There have been endless stories about Haringey’s Labour Party, Claire Kober’s resignation, and the  Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) housing project.

November: Evening Standard.

Momentum set to take control of Haringey council in ‘purge’ of Labour moderates

January,  as the Sun puts it,

RED MENACE  Sinister hard-left activists at Momentum are hijacking the Labour Party and forcing out moderates.

Labour moderates are convinced opposition to the plan to transform a sprawling Seventies estate in Haringey with 5,000 new homes is a front for something sinister

This has just hit the headlines,

Claire Kober accuses Labour members of sexism and bullying

Haringey Council’s leader, Claire Kober, has accused sections of the Labour Party of “sexism” and “bullying” amid her decision to quit her role.

Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show she said Labour Party members would shout at her and sing songs about stalking.

Following events closely (I grew up in the area and was even, by the oddity of fate, as a result of a mix up of the name ‘Alexandra’, invited to one of the Labour councillor selection meetings..), and knowing some of the so-called ‘Hard left’ (so called because the term is worthless to describe events, I can only recommend a few articles that counter the right-wing scare stories:

In Haringey the people have taken over, not the hard left 

In Haringey, the HDV was never just about social housing – it was going to swallow up council offices and park buildings. This was a scheme that in effect would have handed a borough on a plate to Big Finance, in the form of a giant developer. And now it has been beaten, by a band of retired vicars, chain-smoking obsessives and Fiesta drivers.

Forget the red-baiting – Haringey shows the power of local people coming together.

If voting against plans to hand over vast chunks of your community to predatory developers now bears the name “coup”, then we need more coups.

As Haringey Labour’s leader resigned this week amidst a long-running row about a proposed property development, she attacked critics for “undemocratic behaviour.” But it was Haringey Labour members who elected new candidates opposed to her plans. Momentum didn’t make the movement against the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV); local people did.

I shall leave the reply to Kober to those living in Haringey.

But this concerns my friends and touches on my own past.

The far Left’s hounding of a council leader brings home bad memories. Telegraph.  Janet Daley.

So here we are again. Followers of this column may recall the reverie into which I was plunged by Mr Corbyn’s succession to the Labour leadership. This was the same Jeremy Corbyn who, in an earlier incarnation, was the force behind this very council’s hard-Left junta, during an era in which my family fled our home and neighbourhood to seek refuge in another London borough which did not actively loathe half of its inhabitants.

Back then, when Corbyn was a Haringey councillor (as well as being, in his day job, a convener of a public sector union), he and his Trotskyist comrades had succeeded in pushing the moderate Labour group out of local control.

With their late-night votes and their indefatigable appetite for endless meetings, they had little difficulty seizing the levers of the Hornsey Labour party – of which my husband and I had once been members.

Now I knew some of the people who were part of this 1980s  “Junta”.

To illustrate this here is the story of one, greatly loved, comrade, who appeared far more in the press than the (at the time) relatively unknown Jeremy Corbyn.

Mandy Mudd “I am not intimidated, I will not shut up”

A Tribute by Glyn Rowlands 2011.

For a short period Haringey Labour Briefing was the dominant force Left in Haringey both inside and outside the Labour Party. In a movement in Haringey that contained many able comrades, Mandy was probably the key figure. She provided great tactical political skill, combined with immense powers of organisation. She gave a huge level of commitment to the struggles, and showed great personal courage in the face of a most vicious witch-hunt. Like all good leaders she could also inspire others to join the struggle and to follow the example of her commitment.

Rowlands continues,

Mandy helped set up the “Positive Images” campaign. This was after controversy was whipped up over the inclusion of a statement in the 1986 Haringey Labour Party manifesto, which committed Haringey Council to devote resources to “to promote Positive images of gay men and lesbians”. This was another example of how political action within the Labour Party was linked to campaigning and action outside the party. Demonstrations were organised in Haringey in support of the policy and against the homophobic campaign stoked up by local Tories and the press.

Meanwhile the painstaking work through caucuses and political action, led to the left having a majority in the borough’s Labour Party. Mandy was Chair of Tottenham Labour Party between 1986 and 1988. Democracy reached a high point with Labour Councillors being held to account. In some meetings constituency delegates had equal votes with councillors in taking key decisions. Some Labour Councillors were de-selected before the 1986 Council Elections after abandoning the fight against rate capping.

When Bernie Grant stepped down as Leader of Haringey Council, following his selection as the Labour Candidate in Tottenham; Steve King and Martha Osamor took over as Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council, and for a short while the left was in the ascendancy. But the Labour right wing within the Haringey Labour Group, soon organised to replace them. This they achieved in 1987, and immediately the new leader began making significant cuts from the autumn of 1987 onwards. In response, Mandy and Mike Marqusee initiated through Haringey Labour Briefing, an attempt to build mass resistance to the cuts by setting up “Haringey Fights Back”. Public meetings and mass lobbies were organised, whilst inside the Labour Party attempts to get councillors to oppose the cuts continued.

There were some memorable occasions in this tenacious attempt to stop the decimation of local services being implemented under the then leadership of Toby now Lord Harris. No one who was there will forget the all night Council meeting, when a committed group of left labour councillors, supported by a mass lobby and Briefing led meetings through the night, refused to vote through cuts. This was despite coming under immense pressure and the threat of personal surcharge from the acting Borough Solicitor. This was a credit to the political and organisational skills of Mandy and others in Haringey Labour Briefing.

The hate campaign began,

 

It was at this point that the attempt to smear and discredit Mandy began in the national media. She was turned into a national hate figure, with the clear intention of undermining her leadership of the campaign against the cuts. The attack was vicious and very personal. She found herself on the front page of the Sun and door stepped, having to climb over a garden wall and out through a neighbour’s door in order to be able to get off to work.

Various attempts were made to get her employer to take action against her. One example of this was an article in the Daily Mail on 11th February 1988, in which Richard Littlejohn wrote: Appointing Mandy Mudd as a school governor is as appropriate as putting Kurt Waldheim in charge of a holiday camp. Do you want her ruining your daughter’s education? I don’t.”

Mandy herself commented about the attempt to discredit her: “The Labour party and the Sun are not attacking me because I am weak and vulnerable, but because I am strong and effective, not because I am different…but because I am part of a movement…our combined strength threatens those who hold power in society and so they move against us”

It had its effect,

Mandy played a heavy price for her courageous leadership throughout this period. The Labour Party witchhunt and public demonisation, put Mandy under immense pressure. It was a deliberate and highly politicised attempt to derail a political movement by attacking and trying to discredit one of its leaders. What was most disgusting was that those involved were not satisfied with removing her as a political threat, they also sought to destroy her career and hence her life. It remains our belief that certain people in the Labour Party deliberately leaked stories to the press to discredit Mandy.

For the rest of her life Mandy had to contend with the impact of this on her career as a school teacher. It is a real indication of her abilities as a teacher and as a manager, that the witchhunters were not able to prevent her becoming a successful secondary school headteacher.

In one way the late 1980s seems a very different era. But in their essence the struggles of the 80s remain the same today. To finish are two quotes from Mandy’s speeches from the 1980s, referring to the struggle of women and her own stand against the witchhunt. They provide just as valuable a rallying call now as they did then.

“Women are in struggle in a multitude of ways every hour, every day – whether giving leadership or support to political and industrial movements, as in south Africa or [the] Women Against Pit Closures [campaign], or as activists in trades unions or the Labour party – we are in struggle to take control over own lives ….it’s women who are being hit hardest by the cuts – it’s their services, playgroups, daycentres that are being closed. It’s their community groups who are looking for funding, and it’s them who are losing their jobs in their thousands and suffering from severely worsened working conditions. But it’s also women who are leading the fight back.”

“I haven’t come here today to tell you how terrible things are for me. I am not smashed, intimidated or discredited – in fact I feel stronger and even more determined to fight. I have come to urge people to stand and fight with me, not just for me, but for all socialists who are being witch-hunted…I am not intimidated, I will not shut up and I will continue to fight for socialist policies…[to]…achieve equality and dignity for all people in this country and internationally.”

We shall remember you Mandy and the other comrades who fought for Democratic socialism in Haringey!

Back the fight against HDV!

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Written by Andrew Coates

February 4, 2018 at 1:30 pm