Sunday, April 01, 2012

When Labour sent George Galloway to talk some sense into Alistair Darling

Alistair Darling is a former chancellor of the exchequer and Labour's voice of moderation and wisdom. George Galloway is a tribune of the people and the only MP from a far-left grouping.

But, as I blogged back in September 2008, it wasn't always like that. My source was a Daily Record article by Galloway that has seems to have disappeared - though he still writes a column for the paper. Anyway, here is the story in Galloway's own words:
When I first met him 35 years ago Darling was pressing Trotskyite tracts on bewildered railwaymen at Waverley Station in Edinburgh. He was a supporter of the International Marxist Group, whose publication was entitled the Black Dwarf. 
Later, in preparation for his current role he became the treasurer of what was always termed the rebel Lothian Regional Council. Faced with swinging government spending cuts which would have decimated the council services or electorally ruinous increases in the rates, Alistair came up with a creative wheeze. 
The council, he said, should refuse to set a rate or even agree a budget at all, plunging the local authority into illegality and a vortex of creative accounting leading to bankruptcy. 
Surprisingly, this strategy had some celebrated friends. There was "Red Ted" Knight, the leader of Lambeth council, in London, and Red Ken Livingstone newly elected leader of Greater London Council. Red Ally and his friends around the Black Dwarf were for a time a colourful part of the Scottish left. 
The late Ron Brown, Red Ronnie as he was known, was Alistair's bosom buddy. He was thrown out of Parliament for placing a placard saying hands off Lothian Region on Mrs Thatcher's despatch box while she was addressing the House. And Darling loved it at the time. 
The former Scottish trade union leader Bill Speirs and I were dispatched by the Scottish Labour Party to try and talk Alistair Darling down from the ledge of this kamikaze strategy, pointing out that thousands of workers from home helps to headteachers would lose their jobs as a result and that the council leaders - including him - would be sequestrated, bankrupted and possibly incarcerated. How different things might have been. 
Anyway, I well remember Red Ally's denunciation of myself as a "reformist", then just about the unkindest cut I could have imagined.
And, no, this isn't an April Fools' story.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, so Red Ally grew and Gorgeous regressed into infantility.

I am always puzzled when people seem to criticise people for changing their opinions on the evidence of experience.

Paul McKeown