Two stories from Dale Street Blues caught my eye recently, the death of union legend Jack Jones at the grand old age of 96 and the resignation of Liverpool Labour’s ethics spokesperson Louise Baldock.
Jones was a giant of trade unionism and born in Liverpool long ago enough to be a walking talking record of most of the historic movement in the UK. Originally a docker, he rose through the ranks of the Transport and General Workers Union and became a spokesman for the TUC.
He fought in the Spanish Civil War – which is an experience so far from the vast majority of most people’s experience and imagination these days it almost sounds absurd.
He was principled and undoubtedly tough, giving both Labour and Conservative governments a hard time in the 70s. Agree with him or not, he represented an old-fashioned style of politics that doesn’t really exist any more.
It would be easy to draw parallels between the likes of Jones and Liverpool’s current politicians, seemingly locked in an endless bout of tit-for-tat power struggles and point-scoring, but I think that would miss the point.
I decry the behaviour of Liverpool’s politicians and wish they’d sort themselves out – the empire-building, personality cults and ego trips are all too obvious to everyone – but politics should always have an element of the knockabout and the passionate.
If every name called in the Jack Jones era of politics had resulted in a resignation, there wouldn’t be anyone left to run the tiniest and most obscure worker council, student body or pressure group, nevermind city, region or country.
So, while slagging off your opponents on a blog may not be the smartest move, I really can’t see the problem.
The slightest slip by a politician these days is grasped by media and opponents and used to bang them over the head and hound them out of office.
It makes for an unseemly spectacle. It’s childish and it puts people off politics when the opposition cries foul over trifling matters and, like the enduring popularity of John Prescott, a little colour can be a benefit, allowing people to connect with the real person behind the media-managed mask.
It’s a rather significant irony that the comments by Baldock apparently deemed offensive by Councillor Steve Radford (himself under investigation over some pointless complaint) related to Liberals and Lib Dems being ‘opportunistic bastards’.
Would it be absurd to suggest that making a formal complaint over some innocuous comments made on a personal blog nearly two years old could be deemed a little, er, opportunistic?