Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Who is your Labour Leader

Last weekend at the Scottish Labour Students conference, a conference where I had the honour of becoming Vice Chair of this great organisation, we had a discussion over some fermented pear juice to discuss who was the greatest Labour leader.

Some believed it was Tony Blair, others Gordon Brown and at least one John Smith (I wonder who that was). What is clear is that you relate to the leader who helped you find your political legs.

Many SLS members joined the party under Tony Blair and to those members he is the man who defined their politics, some have joined in the last year and for them Gordon Brown has helped them find out who they are politically.

In my case I joined the party when Neil Kinnock was leader, at a time when the big fight was not against the tories but for the heart and soul of the party, but it was with the election of John Smith as leader that I can honestly say that I found my Labour Party feet.

His vision of a Britain with social justice at its core, a Britian where co-operation was at its heart and a Britain that would be at the heart of europe leading he fight for a better world.

Now even though lots of what John advocated Tony Blair delivered on and I rejoiced at every one there were times when even I could say that he had taken decisions that I did not agree with and even though John Smith was leader for only 2 years I can honestly say that I agreed with every decision he made.

His death was something that had a profound effect on me as just a few months before he left us I had the pleasure of spending a few hours in his company and realised that this was a guy who actually believed and wanted to achieve everything he was saying, a bit Like Gordon is now.

So the question is: Who do you think your Labour leader was?


  1. Attlee for me.

    Pragmatist on the right of the party, but managed to unite all actions behind him; left a more powerful democratic socialist legacy than any other has.

  2. Attlee was a brilliant leader, anyone who could keep Herbert Morrison and Ernest Bevin in the same cabinet for most of the lifetime of that government with Nye Bevan is my sort of leader.

    And a great choice.

  3. I'm limited in my choices since I was only 11 when we took power and that's really the first time I was aware of politics.

    While I appreciate the immensity of Blair's achievements there are certain aspects that put me off him. But Gordon Brown I really respect, he's a proper Labour politician. He's not slick or some well groomed "gentleman" like Cameron, he got to where he is today by a great deal of hard work and simply by the fact that he is very very good at what he does.

    If I was to choose from any leader it would be a harder choice. What you've said about John Smith makes me want to find out more about him, it's a great shame he never got to be prime Minister. And of course like Miller 2.0 said Attlee was a brilliant PM and an amazing politician. From reading "A Century of Labour" by Keith Laybourn it's pretty clear that Labour's bugbear has always been divisiveness within the Party. Attlee's ability to hold the party together was indeed an amazing achievement.

  4. Being only 21 years of age I have only really known one leader and that was Tony Blair. The main idealogical impact he impressed on me was our responsibilty not to do define our actions by restricting them to being left or right wing rather to do what we believe to be just.

    That is not to say that my politics are not left of centre but that if I felt a policy which was perceived as right wing was the correct thing to do then I would not let the fact that "I should be left wing" stop me for arguing the case for that policy.

    Remember being progressive means that we should not let the events of the past prevent us from moving forward in our aim of creating a society based on social justice and co operation.

    To pick up on a few points Nahutal made:

    Tony Blair's emphasis on spin was not to manys taste but my goodness it was effective and it allowed us to undertake 10 years of progressive Goverment and a historic third term.

    Also while it was neccessary to defeat the militans I would not call our broad alliance a bugbear. The fact that we are a broad church and include varying different opinions on how we achieve the same goal means that we have a vibrant and healthy movement which can only aid our development as a progressive party,

  5. Also while it was neccessary to defeat the militans I would not call our broad alliance a bugbear. The fact that we are a broad church and include varying different opinions on how we achieve the same goal means that we have a vibrant and healthy movement which can only aid our development as a progressive party,

    I didn't say the broad alliance was a bugbear, the problem is when that alliance became fractured and infighting threatened the cohesiveness of the party. Having a variety of opinions is healthy and does create a vibrant and healthy movement but when the holders of those opinions cannot tolerate each other it becomes a problem. It is the fact that we have overcome this problem that has allowed us to become so succesful.

    As for Tony Blair it's his religious stance more than spin that I dislike.

  6. For tony spin at times was his religion.

    Blair was a great prime minister and i believe that history will show that this is the case.

    As for Smith if you want to know more about him then check the wikipedia entry on him its a start and allows you a point of reference.

  7. A person's religion is his values. Your values determine your politics. Did you disagree with his politics?

  8. Their were some things that was done in the name of the party that i didnt agree with, targetting lone parents, people with disabilites and ID cards, but at the same time you accept some things if it means lower unemployment, more people at university and 10 years of economic growth.

  9. To create an equality between religious beliefs is overly simplistic even if for a lot of people its true. Firstly because people will behave in the way they choose to, they might cite religious belief but there are few people who truly follow religious dogma if it clashes directly with the culture they live in. Then there's also the fact that even if they hold a belief strongly they realise that in a modern secular society they csnnot enforce their beliefs on others.

    People can come to the same conclusion by different paths; so the fact that I disagree with Blair's religious beliefs (I also disagree on religion with Gordon Brown, Barack Obama, Gandhi etc etc...) does not mean I disagree with his politics.

    In fact it is more what Blair has said after leaving office that I dislike than anything he did in office. [I would like to point out that his conversion to Catholicism is not what I have a problem with.]

  10. That first sentence should read "To create an equality between religious beliefs and political beliefs".

  11. You make excellent points as ever.

    We are on the same wavelength to some extent. I am just curious as to why you cite religious reasons for disliking him when you agree that we can all come to the same conclusions through different paths.

    I would argue that Gordon Brown has a far more religious moral code than Tony Blair does.

    Also an equality in religious beliefs is not overly simplistic it is a neccessity.In the same way gender equality is a neccessity.

  12. Edit: I just read your edit.

    You can ignore my last sentence.

  13. After he left office he talked about, I don't know if he went through with it, creating an organisation to bring people of different faiths together. That's what I don't like, I believe in bringing people together but I think it should be bringing people together on the basis of our shared humanity not bringing them together on the basis of religion which is something that has helped drive them apart in the first place.

    Plus as an atheist I can't help get the impression that I'm being excluded from the "let's all get together and say how great religion is" party.

    As for brown I agree that his moral code is from a far more religious perspective but it just so happens that it's a positive religious code and so it leads to him being a very ethical person which is something I like.

  14. Religion is a fundamental part of humanity. In fact our desire to believe in something is the most basic of human instincts. Therefore Blair taking all these people together in order to foster better understanding and encourage religious harmony, in my view, can only be a positive move.

    To address your point of feeling left out. The dialougue Blair wants to create between faith in no way attempts to force any beliefs on anyone else.

  15. Lots of things are fundamental to humanity but that doesn't make them right.

    And the point is not that wants to create religious harmony it's the fact that he wants to create dialogue but only between certain groups. Why can't he build dialogue on the grounds of our common humanitarianism (That's what I meant when I said humanity previously) and a common regard for human rights. By trying to bring people together on faith alone he is excluding those who are not religious.

    I do not think he is trying to force beliefs on anyone it's the fact that he thinks that he's being inclusive but in fact he's excluding the non-religious.

  16. I have just re read the question by the way.

    I think we may have gone of on a tangent!

  17. Well to put us back on subject Labour's had some damn good leaders!!!

  18. Back on greatest leader then, I think it's only fair that Keir Hardie, even though never officially leader (cos they didn't hae them thne) but Chairman, should get a shout.

    Yes Attlee's up there with him, but Keir was the first proper socialist, and stood up for socialist ideals all the way through at a time when the new Labour party could easily have slipped back into a wishy liberalism. He created the precedent for minority struggle within the party that, whilst it make life uncomfortable, means that the Parliamentary Labour Party, ulitmately, argues its way forward rather than conforms its way backwards (there'd have been on tony Benn without Keir Hardie, for example).

    And perhaps most of all, the excellently beardie miner stood up for the emancipation of women as early as 1907, when all other forces within the party were against him.

    So, yup, Keir Hardie in at No 1.

  19. And perhaps most of all, the excellently beardie miner stood up for the emancipation of women as early as 1907, when all other forces within the party were against him.

    This sentence alone makes me like him.

    I recently read a very good Short History of the Labour Party but the more I hear about some of the leaders and members we've had through the years, like Keir hardie, Atlee and Smith, the more I have a need to find out more.

  20. Well this looks like its been a great topic so to keep it going along Im going to sit and do some entries over the next few weeks on each of the Leaders of the Party, be they actuall leaders or Chairs of the PLP in the first 20 yrs or so.

    The First post will provide the Names and Dates of all those involved.