Thursday, 21 May 2009

A Better Shore

Although he is wrong about Clause Four (which did not mention public ownership, but was phrased in such a way as to please and appease those who already had it in mind), and although neither he nor I shares Shore's support for nuclear weapons, Neil Clark writes:

Today would have been the 85th birthday of one of my British political heroes: the late Labour MP Peter Shore.

I corresponded with Shore when I was working abroad, teaching Economics in the early-mid 1990s. He sent me copies of the debates on the Maastricht Treaty from Hansard and then, most kindly, a copy of his book Leading the Left. I was not a constituent of Shore's - yet still he replied to my requests - and could not have been more helpful.

I don’t agree with all the policy stances he took later on his life, but certainly agreed with his line on the EEC/EU and on economic policy- and in particular his views on the importance of public ownership. Shore always maintained that it was dishonest to talk about achieving greater equality without also extending public ownership. I used to be a member of the Labour Party, but left when Blair ditched Clause Four. For me, Clause Four is the very definition of socialism. Once Labour ditched it, it could no longer have any claims to be a socialist party.

Peter Shore could have become Labour leader had he not been such a man of principle. In 1980, he seemed a strong candidate to take over from Jim Callaghan, but his opposition to unilateral nuclear disarmament meant that many on the left preferred to support Michael Foot in the contest with Denis Healey. Had Foot not been persuaded to stand, Shore would very likely have won, but it was not to be.

Shore was simply too left-wing for the right-wing of the party (on the economy, nationalisation and the EEC/EU) and too right-wing (on issues such as defence, Northern Ireland) for the left. It's a great pity that Shore never became Labour leader as I'm sure he would have proved a formidable adversary for Margaret Thatcher. He was a great public speaker and a man of great personal charm.

Perhaps if he had become leader we would never have had to endure New Labour.

Peter Shore: an Old Labour great. May he rest in peace.

Shore's old agent, John Rowe, is on the London list of No2EU, which is still being ignored even despite the brief re-emergence of the oil refiney protests, whereas attention is being lavished on the BNP, and increasingly also on the policy-free amateurs of Jury Time or whatever gameshow name it is called.

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