Like George Kerevan (Perspective, 15 February), I enjoyed the evening of TV programmes about former Labour prime minister Harold Wilson.
For much of Wilson’s leadership, I was a Labour activist and met him and heard him speak a number of times. Harold was never a charismatic figure or speaker, he was very interested in economics and statistics – what people today call a “policy wonk”.
However, listening to his speech at the 1975 Labour conference detailing his government’s achievements, I couldn’t help but be impressed. Ironically, last Thursday also saw the launch of a new economic policy by that other more recent policy wonk, current party leader Ed Miliband. This wasn’t, I am afraid, as impressive: a mansion tax on houses worth more than £2 million and using the money to reintroduce the 10p tax rate.
These are modest measures compared with what Wilson achieved in government and pathetic when compared to the record of the post-war Labour government in creating the welfare state amid the tough economic times of the 1940s.
I spent much of my political life in the Labour Party as an activist, a councillor and an MEP. I watched it consistently move away from those old Labour values of 1945 or even Wilson in the 1960s. When I was expelled by Labour in 1998 for opposing Tony Blair’s policies, I said: “I haven’t left the Labour Party, the Labour Party has left me.”