A piece of Old Labour has died

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Some are predictably suggesting that the income tax changes announced in today’s Budget represent the death of New Labour. I haven’t had time to think about the Darling details greatly, but in all the Budgetary excitement the news of Jack Jones’ passing away has not received so much attention as it might have done. This was a man whose life-long dedication to socialism began after he read The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, so I feel that at least a brief comment from Frank Owen’s Paintbrush is necessary.

We think the times we live in are tough but Jones’ life was testament to how much tougher things could be. He was born the year before the mass slaughter of the First World War began. He was brought up in the impoverished docks of Liverpool. He later took part in pitched street battles with Mosley’s fascists before volunteering to fight for the Spanish Republic. He was at the peak of his powers during times of heightened industrial militancy and when the government had to go to the IMF to keep the economy afloat.

Accepted that last point does not seem as distant as it once did, but generally life is a lot easier and the world is a lot safer for Britons today than it was for Jones’ generation. From his experiences we have much to learn. Such a commitment to the cause should be an inspiration to us all.

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6 Responses to “A piece of Old Labour has died”

  1. Alun Says:

    It was sad to hear of his death, but 96 is a pretty good age to go all told.

    How many veterans of the International Brigades are left now? Can’t be many.

  2. captainjako Says:

    Granted he did have a good innings, but I want all these fine socialists to live longer than the Queen Mum did to prove their ideological superiority.

    Maybe it’s the historian in me or an innate human aversion to thinking about mortality, but I get depressed when confronted with the fact that soon all WW1, IB, WW2 veterans will be gone.

    Am comforted by the fact that public interest in their experiences and turn-out at remembrance ceremonies and the like has actually increased in recent years.

  3. captainjako Says:

    Also: I know that I haven’t actually given any serious political analysis of Jones’ life (sorry, got lots on at the moment) but I think Iain Dale’s critical post is unfair and unkind.

    http://iaindale.blogspot.com/2009/04/other-side-of-jack-jones.html

    Yes, there was much to criticise about the trade unions in the 60s and 70s. Jones is not a figure that should be put beyond reproach. His death can indeed be used as an opportunity to re-examine that time period to see what lessons can be learned. However, trying to pin most of the blame for the country’s problems on one man is an unconvincing argument.

    It’s also nasty to make your summary of his life 100% negative through ignoring what I’m sure many people from whatever political standpoint would recognise as acts of bravery and decency: e.g his fighting against the fascists in Spain, his role in organising the unions during WW2, his later campaigning work on behalf of pensioners.

    Dale should remember that he’s supposed to be the ‘nice’ and ‘reasonable’ Tory blogger.

  4. Alun Says:

    “but I want all these fine socialists to live longer than the Queen Mum did to prove their ideological superiority”

    Hmm. Good point.

    “but I get depressed when confronted with the fact that soon all WW1, IB, WW2 veterans will be gone”

    Yeah, it is sad. Strange as well; it’s still hard to believe that there are no WW2 vets left in the Commons.

    IIRC the number of WW1 vets is down to something like seven or so now. Maybe less than that.

  5. Alun Says:

    “…but I think Iain Dale’s critical post is unfair and unkind…”

    It’s also flat-out wrong. If you’re going to launch a nasty attack on someone days after they died, you should at least have the grace to get your facts straight. Not only is blaming the Unions for everything that was wrong with the ’70’s tedious Tory propaganda, but he doesn’t even seem to realise what Jones’s role in the Movement was by that stage. Surely Dale should be *praising* him for keeping strike action below that of (say) the United States (seriously) during that period…

  6. captainjako Says:

    “IIRC the number of WW1 vets is down to something like seven or so now. Maybe less than that.”

    Yup. We have a WW1 memorial exhibition at the Imperial War Museum which claims 3 surviving British veterans, including of course Henry Allingham aka Britain’s oldest man.

    “Not only is blaming the Unions for everything that was wrong with the ’70’s tedious Tory propaganda, but he doesn’t even seem to realise what Jones’s role in the Movement was by that stage. Surely Dale should be *praising* him for keeping strike action below that of (say) the United States (seriously) during that period”

    Iain Dale = nasty and wrong!

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