Mass Campaigning is Key

Issue section: 

Events in the East End of London and South Wales in the general election ('The Verdict on the Blair Project', May SR) remind us of a previous occasion when an official Labour candidate was defeated by a candidate to its left.

In 1974 the Labour Party deselected the long term member for Blyth, Eddie Milne, for blowing the whistle on the corrupt practices which led to the imprisonment of T Dan Smith of Newcastle, the GMWU official Andrew Cunningham and the architect John Poulson. Milne stood in the first election of 1974 and roundly defeated the Labour Party's shoo-in, Ivor Richard. In the second election of that year Milne was defeated by a villainous lawyer, John Ryman, later imprisoned for stealing money from old ladies.

Eddie Milne did not give up. He set about trying to build an independent labour organisation, winning a third of the council seats on the Blyth Valley district council. It was a promising start but the initiative came to a sticky end. The new party made no attempt to build beyond Blyth, becoming isolated as a consequence. But this also reflected a failure to break with the politics of Labourism. There was no vigorous mass campaigning. In fact there was no campaigning outside election periods. Its influence slipped in the early 1980s with the rise of Thatcherism. It then recognised its own isolation and reached out to a national organisation. To the utter chagrin of Eddie Milne himself, most of its members joined the pariah of the labour movement, the new SDP.

John Charlton