Ironically the Labour Leadership candidate least likely to get my support is one who I have voted for on several occasions. Jeremy Corbyn was my MP in North Islington where we lived in the 1970s and 80s. Although many happy hours were spent there with my young family, it does not hold any positive memories as far as politics as concerned.
No one ever looked forward to going to a meeting of the North Islington Labour Party. There was a running fight between two hostile factions that frequently spilled over into aggression: on one occasion police were summoned to calm a situation that had arisen at the Annual General Meeting of the Women’s Section. The Labour Party always held power in Islington: selection as a Labour candidate meant election, whether as a Member of Parliament, a Greater London Councillor, or an Islington Councillor and there was lot at stake.
The 1970s North Islington factions represented the worst of both sides of the Labour Party at the time. The ‘old right’, to pick a convenient label, were organised round the sitting Member of Parliament Michael O’Halloran. He had been a poor choice in a 1969 by-election caused by the unexpected death of the previous member. I thought he was fundamentally a decent and well-intentioned man but hopelessly out of his depth. The ‘new left’ who opposed him, reflecting the circumstances of the time, was a wide coalition of traditional left-of-centre Labour Party members, Trotskyist entryists who sniffed an opportunity for a coup, and others of no great allegiance who had lost confidence and patience with O’Halloran. Eventually the new left won when O’Halloran and most of his supporters defected to the newly formed SDP in 1981.
Jeremy Corbyn, at the time a rather disorganised Councillor in the neighbouring Borough of Haringey, had for some time been anointed by the new left faction as O’Halloran’s successor. He was personable, if lacking in humour. I remember thinking, at the selection conference that, while he knew what he was against, he seemed devoid of any constructive ideas. Jeremy was a real product of 1980s Labour – let’s pray we never return to those days.je