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Let’s talk about Wolverhampton. And Labour. - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
wemyss
wemyss
Let’s talk about Wolverhampton. And Labour.

After the current writing frenzy is over, I shall, I promise, respond to all the kind comments awaiting such response.

I am all too aware that to a few of my readers, Wolvo is, simply, where Fr Paddick is from, in the Village Tales novels; and, to far too many LJers in A Certain Fandom, merely where a member of A Popular Beat Combo, M’Lud is from.

But I wish to speak of the place and of its place in our national life, by way of proem to a larger point.

In doing so, I begin by quoting extensively from my own The Confidence of the House: May 1940, a work of history readily available through most good booksellers, ahem. On 8 May 1940, the Hon. Member for Wolverhampton was a Liberal, Mr Geoffrey Mander: one of the great men, and great House of Commons men, of the last century.

Mr Mander was no idle hon. Member. Mander Brothers were the leading manufacturer of ink, paint, varnish, and related chemicals in the Empire, certainly: but the Mander name stood for rather more than that. For two centuries, they had been custodians of that Midlands, Radical, Dissenting tradition of good works, probity, and commercial honour to which the Chamberlains had aspired. Mr Mander had in 1931 negotiated with Ernest Bevin, Major Attlee’s personal answer to a Brendan Bracken or a Horace Wilson, the first 40-hour week in Britain. Mr Mander, small, sandy, and fiercely bantam, an unappeasable foe, had patronised the arts and presented his family home, as black and white and uncompromising as its owner, to the National Trust in 1937. Mr Mander had been a magistrate in his twenties, the son of a mayor of Wolverhampton, the grandson, through his mother, of a member of the parliament of the Dominion of Canada, the scion of generations of Manders who had relieved the poor, protected the Nonconformists, and reformed the penal laws; he had long been the Liberal spokesman on foreign relations, adamant against appeasement, devoted to the destruction of the dictators, a standard bearer for collective security, for arms and the Covenant of the League of Nations. He was a Great War officer of the Royal Flying Corps, an Inner Temple barrister, the bitter foe of the Peace Pledge Union, and the past master of the forensically unanswerable question in the House. He had personally slanged and been slanged in the public press by Mussolini, who treated him as a feared and not-to-be-despised equal.

He was a Mander. His forebears had helped bring down the slave trade, had torn down the ‘Blood Money’ act, and had passed the Dissenters’ Chapels Act 1844. In his family’s home that gave the name to their baronetcy, The Mount, Tettenhall Wood, had Lloyd George announced that he was calling the General Election of 1918. More than that: he was Wolverhampton. In the last General Election, he was one of but three Liberal candidates who carried an urban constituency against both Labour and Conservative challenges. In 1918, after calling the Coupon Election at The Mount, Lloyd George had given his ‘homes fit for heroes’ address in Wolverhampton’s Grand Theatre. From the days when Wolverhampton was a wool staple town to the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution when it manufactured locks and keys, through to its eminence in iron, steel, coal, and inks and varnish and chemicals from Mander Brothers, and the installation of Britain’s first automated traffic signals in Princes Square, Wolverhampton had been the Manders, and the Manders, Wolverhampton. Wolverhampton was free-trading, free-thinking, largely Dissenting, serious, prosperous, and honourable, as were the Manders, looking down a trifle upon nearby Birmingham of the Chamberlains. Serious, witty, elegant, scrappy, cultivated, commercial, honest and honourable, the small, spare Mr Mander was one who, incarnating his constituency, was the manner of man Joe Chamberlain and even Lloyd George had, perhaps, aspired to be.

Seventy-five years on, Wolvo, like much of the Midlands and the North, is a shell of what it had been. I should now like to advert your attention to the work of a certain Labour MP of our own time, who is now toying with standing for Leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party, the historian Tristram Hunt. That work, Building Jerusalem: The Rise and Fall of the Victorian City, which is likewise available at most good booksellers’, is really quite good, and makes the same sort of points – perhaps a little uncomfortably now for an ambitious Labour MP known to have written it – about localism, the devolution of power to cities and regions, the shrinking of the State, the renewal of civic pride, the necessity of capital, the worth of the middle and capitalist classes, and the moral and political qualities and philosophies necessary to make … well, to have made, and now to remake after Labour destroyed them, Northern Powerhouses: in Brum and Wolvo, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, and Glesca.

These were the examples which London followed, and followed so well as to eclipse the rest of the nation in wealth and power more even than its natural advantages had previously allowed, racing ahead despite the drag-effect of stupid, Leftist policies whilst these other cities were dragged wholly down by them.

Wolvo, Leeds, Bradford, Hull, Doncaster, Manchester, Liverpool, and Glasgow are prime samples of the sort of places where we as One Nation, on a cross-party basis, must repair the wanton destruction of decades, and which we must together restore to their former glory. Britain is not Britain as she might be and once was if Halifax and Hartlepool, Derby and Sheffield, are not what they were, or so long as Wolverhampton is not what she was in the days of Mr Mander (afterward Sir Geoffrey Mander): the Wolverhampton I described above.

To do this wants the Labour Members and councillors I mention below, and such Tories as Eric Pickles and William Hague and Michael Gove and David Mundell.

The Labour Party as the party of the Milibands and Harriet Harperson, rent-a-demo and Islington-and-Notting-Hill-champagne Socialists, Len McCluskey and Russell Brand, Gordon Brown and Ed Balls and Andy Burnham gazing plangently through his mascara, is dead as mutton, and a good thing, too. The party of envy, metropolitan faddishness, Rochdale, and Cool Britannia deserves to die out. And it is doing just that. In much of the North and the Midlands, the current opposition to the Conservative Party is, judging by the second-place finishes in the General Election and the seats won on councils, bloody Ukip. I need hardly labour the point as regards Scotland.

Labour as the party of the working man and woman, even in an economy far different to that which birthed it, in which the worker was down t’ pit hacking away at coalface, must however not die – although it must not become further, or remain so far as it is, the wholly-owned subsidiary of the troughing, rent-seeking, antidemocratic public employees’ unions.

The question is how; and in part, therefore, the question is who.

Labour want new management and new philosophers: to seek whom it must bury the dead past and cast off the TUC and other union shackles.

If Labour is to have a future, it must look back to its better past: that of Bevin, not Bevan; of Major Attlee and of Geoffrey Le Mesurier Mander. I should think it wants a temporary leader who can preside over and guide, soothe and inspire, its period of necessary introspection and re-invention; and when that is accomplished, it wants a new, fighting leader of common sense and the heart and head for the task.

If I were a purely partisan Tory, I should advise Labour to continue its descent into irrelevance and stupidity. But I love my country far more than I love my party, and my country wants a Loyal Opposition to hold the government of the day to account, whoever has a majority in one or another parliament.

And therefore, much as it should be a problem to Tory dominance, I say this. I hope Labour take the time to get it right. I hope that whilst they do so, they have the great wisdom to put in, as caretaker, a great and decent man and a great House of Commons man: the Rt Hon. Frank Field, Member for Birkenhead. And I hope that when they are sorted, they choose as Leader to fight the next election either these men, or Members of like calibre: Simon Danczuk MP (Rochdale) or Dan Jarvis MBE, late Major, the Parachute Regt, MP for Barnsley Central.

The country requires this.

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Comments
froganon From: froganon Date: May 20th, 2015 02:02 am (UTC) (Link)

I regret the loss of your man but I have thought of you as housemate and I have eaten milibacon over toasted buttered english muffins for breakfast several morning this past week.

Your command of English history puts many Americans to shame I believe. Our schools in the United States do not do an adequate job of teaching history [or foreign languages in my opinion]. Consequently, I've learned much history from you and from my dad [now deceased] and from my housemate.

I find your statement "...I love my country far more than I love my party..." much to be admired and the history in this post one that I had never heard of.

Thanks for this. I appreciate you!

muuranker From: muuranker Date: May 20th, 2015 07:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
I wish that most supporters of every party in power in a democracy thought as you do about the second-runner(s). Perhaps it's not as high as the secret ballot or universal suffrage, but simply permitting oppositions to exist isn't enough.

I do wonder about one party being 'for' or 'of' a certain 'kind' of person, defined by their relationship to capital, or anything else. Maybe we are in transition to parties which are centred around, and explicit about their ideology. But perhaps that is wishful thinking.
pathology_doc From: pathology_doc Date: May 21st, 2015 07:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
The Labour Party as the party of the Milibands and Harriet Harperson, rent-a-demo and Islington-and-Notting-Hill-champagne Socialists, Len McCluskey and Russell Brand, Gordon Brown and Ed Balls and Andy Burnham gazing plangently through his mascara, is dead as mutton, and a good thing, too. The party of envy, metropolitan faddishness, Rochdale, and Cool Britannia deserves to die out... Labour as the party of the working man and woman, even in an economy far different to that which birthed it, in which the worker was down t’ pit hacking away at coalface, must however not die – although it must not become further, or remain so far as it is, the wholly-owned subsidiary of the troughing, rent-seeking, antidemocratic public employees’ unions.

This, a thousand times this, and a thousand times again... and likewise (with names and places changed as appropriate) for its Australian counterpart with the curiously divergent spelling. An old Labor (sic) stalwart had attributed to him a saying that a party which once comprised the cream of the working class had become the scum of the middle class. I believe that the former lies well above the latter in the various strata of politics.
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