Appendix 12A : Letter from Graham Stringer to Tribune and MEN

14 Dec 1987 Letter from Graham Stringer to Tribune and Manchester Evening News (not printed in full in the MEN)

“In Manchester, although defeated in the Council Chamber on the ‘no rate’ position in 1985, and defeated on our overall policies of protecting jobs and services by the return of the Conservative government in June 1987, we managed to retreat in an orderly fashion. The bitter recrimination and violence that has marred some of the inner London Council Chambers since 1985, has been avoided in Manchester.

“One of the reasons we have been able to keep a Left administration together in Manchester is because we have given a real meaning to Labour Party democracy.

“In deciding how to deal with the next four years of Conservative government, the decisions were not taken by a small clique of Leaders or even by the Labour Group operating on its own. We had a full debate and discussion within the whole of the Labour movement in Manchester – Trade Unions, Branch Labour Parties, Constituency Labour Parties, as well as the City Labour Party, had the opportunity to participate in this debate.

“In July, after this full debate, the party in Manchester decided there was no alternative but to retreat, make cuts and protect those policies relating to equal opportunities or restructuring of the services which would have been immediately abandoned by an alternative right-wing administration. In making these cuts we were intent on preserving as much of the service at the point of delivery as possible and showing that there was a collective alternative to Thatcherism by ensuring the effective delivery of services to the community in a democratic way.

“During these discussions within the party, delegates supporting Militant who had put forward a catenation of clichés rather than argument had been fully and regularly defeated. This did not stop the slogans and platitudes. At the last meeting of the City Labour Party, Militant supporters came out with a new, and in the light of later events, threatening statement ‘youth in Manchester is angry’.

“On Friday 11th December 1987, I found out what this statement really meant when I attended a social organised by Old Moat Labour Party. Old Moat is a ward within Withington Constituency, the only gain made by the Labour Party in the North West at the last June election. Within minutes of arriving at this social I was subject to verbal and personalised abuse, which as the evening wore on, turned into straight forward physical intimidation. If it had not been for a number of Labour Party members present, I feel that I may well have been the victim of a violent assault. Leaving the club was a bit like a scene of leaving a saloon in a wild west movie. From comments made both to myself and to other Labour Councillors present at this meeting, this was not the spontaneous reaction by a group of drunken Militant supporters, but a centrally directed policy of Militant designed to intimidate those people on the Left who have regularly defeated them in debate. In evidence to support this, one full-time Militant supporter from Birmingham, who happened to be in Manchester at this social, when told by a Labour Councillor that this form of intimidatory behaviour was unacceptable, said flippantly ‘we would have to get used to it’. The events at this social follow the physical intimidation of women councillors before a Council meeting in October.

“The Labour Party in Manchester will not get used to tactics which are more appropriate to Beirut and Sicily [sic]. Those people who have introduced violence into Manchester Labour Party politics will have to be expelled from the Labour Party. This is not expelling them because of their views or their organisation but because the violence has no place within a democratic socialist party. At a time when right-wing Tory councillors in Manchester openly fraternise with known violent members of the National Front, we must make sure that our own house is in order. I have today written to the ward party of which these people were members and to the Constituency Labour Party asking that action be taken.”

Editor’s Comments

This text is taken straight from the document written by Kath. This Appendix relates to chapter 12.

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