Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Politics And The Co-op Brass Band

I went to the Royal Armouries in Leeds last night listen to Andy Burnham, one of the four candidates in the current Labour Party leadership campaign. Given that the contest now seems to be coming to life (American readers can think of it as a kind of Primary contest in order to pick the person who will lead Labour for the 2020 General Election), the venue for the meeting might have been rather suitable.

As I listened to him calling for a revival of the spirit of 1945 (and that great, reforming post-war Labour government) and setting out what the Labour Party should be campaigning for in the twenty-first century, I couldn't help thinking that the rather slick and media managed performance was very different to the last time I went to Leeds to listen to a Labour Party leader. That was back in 1966 - before Andy Burnham was born! - and the leader (and Prime Minister) in question was Harold Wilson. He was speaking at Leeds Town Hall and behind him were the uniformed ranks of the Co-operative Wholesale Society Brass Band. Before he came on stage they played a selection of Socialist anthems and then onto the stage strolled Harold, smoking his pipe and talking about his vision of the future. Last night there was no brass band, just a couple of Soap stars to introduce the main speaker. But Andy Burnham spoke about his vision for the future with almost Wilson-like conviction. If I get the opportunity I will go and listen to the other contenders - who knows, one of them might have brought along the Co-op Brass Band.

5 comments:

  1. I wonder if hearing Burnham speak will turn out to be as historic an occasion as hearing Harold? I find few (if any) political leadership hopefuls particularly inspiring - from any part of the spectrum. Are ANY politicians inspiring?! Speaking as one from the other side (so to speak), we need an effective opposition - and from what I've seen it ain't looking good - yet. It strikes me that Andy Burnham has hit upon the paradox of Labour: a revival of the great reforming government of 70 years ago (or even its spirit) won't drag the party into the 21st century. It's a different world now. I dislike and mistrust Blair, but he knows that. A brass band is always good though.

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    1. Who knows - although I suspect I won't look back on Tuesday night forty years down the line and remember the evening with such fondness as I did for the Wilson speech. But who am I fooling, I'm not going to be around in 40 years to remember anything!

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  2. Did you know Harold Wilson lived for years in HGS? Weirdly I think they sold one house and moved next door (I may have got that wrong). There's a blue plaque on one of them. Mary famously (locally famously) wrote her poetry in a tea shop that I walk past every day on my way to work. It's a greasy spoon now.

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    1. I met both Harold and Mary a few times when I worked for the Labour Party in the early 1970s and I was quite fond of both of them. I suspect Harold's reputation is overdue a revaluation and Mary was much maligned by that Private Eye depiction of her.

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    2. Locals who knew them seem to remember them fondly.

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