Corbyn and his shadow Chancellor are stuck in the 60s and haven’t grown up

Attending a British University in the late 1960s, we, as new entrants, were courted assiduously by the various University clubs and societies. SocSoc (Socialist Society) was by far the largest on campus and had some good speakers. But they turned out to be rather boring and they couldn’t match the Fine Arts Society for the attractiveness of the membership. SocSoc never quite managed to con a subscription out of me but many of my friends were members and I did attend some of their meetings. It was the year of the student riots in Paris and Berlin and even in London but they were somewhat watered down by the time they reached the Midlands. Copies of the Red Book were carried by the more ardent members of SocSoc, but more as a badge, than out of any ideological convictions. But this was 1968 and the time of flowered shirts, bell bottom trousers, long hair, beads, conch shells and shaggy beards. A dirty hair band was also de rigeur.

John Lennon’s Revolution had just come out:

…. But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao
You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow ….

But The Little Red Book was already past its best-by date. Mao was losing his lustre by then. Waving it around was no longer recommended as a way to “pull the birds” and tended to be counter-productive. And, after all, “pulling the birds” had a very much higher priority than anything else. At my University the barricades – in solidarity with Paris – were erected by the faithful one morning, but they had all come down by the the time for morning coffee. (I may have been one of those from the Engineering Faculty involved in tearing down the barricades, but memory fails. Probably I just watched). I recall that SocSoc had a meeting that afternoon which I attended just to gloat. But the meeting resembled a wake and gloating was no fun.

Now almost 50 years later, memories of that time and faces are blurred, and I can’t remember many of the names and views of those I knew then. But it is the mood and the smells and the feelings that do remain fixed in memory. The distinctive, slightly unsavoury, flavour of the SocSoc of the 60s is what now comes to mind again, after seeing the rather childish antics of the Labour Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, in Parliament today. He quoted from The Little Red Book and chucked it at the Chancellor. He may have meant it as a brilliant, devastating riposte and a sure-fire way of deflating George Osborne, but it was reminiscent of a spoilt child and backfired very badly.

Reuters: Mao’s Little Red Book makes surprise appearance in UK parliament chamber

McDonnell came across as an immature teenager. Put this together with St. Jeremy Corbyns “peacenik” gyrations and it seems like the behaviour of the current labour party leadership is a throwback to the student protests of the 60s. McDonnell did not attend University (Brunel) till 1974, so he probably feels he missed out on the fun and games of the 60s, and is trying to make up for that. St Jeremy dropped out after just one year at North London Polytechnic and never completed his degree. But he is very much a child of the trade union movement of the 60s. He seems to have been parachuted into a number of union and party posts, but does not seem to have ever done any real, productive work.

 Corbyn …. spent two years doing Voluntary Service Overseas in Jamaica before becoming a full-time official for the National Union of Public Employees and Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, while briefly pursuing a degree in Trade Union Studies at North London Polytechnic, which he left after his first year without completing his undergraduate studies.

Corbyn later worked as an Official of the National Union of Tailors and Garment Workers, was appointed a member of a district health authority and in 1974 was elected to Haringey Council, representing Harringay Ward as Councillor until 1983. Corbyn worked on Tony Benn’s unsuccessful 1981 campaign to become Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and was elected Secretary of the Islington Borough Labour Group.

The entire Labour party leadership seems to be caught in a 1960s time warp and haven’t grown up.

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