As the Labour Party’s undeclared civil war intensifies I am experiencing a growing feeling of groundhog day – or as the US baseball player Yogi Berra famously put it ‘it’s déjà vu all over again’. In the 1980s Denis Skinner, then an ultra-left MP, characterised those who held different views on the future of the Party as eating avocados in their North London gatherings. Until that time I had never enjoyed avocados but, prompted by his attack, I went out to buy some and they have been a favourite item in my salads ever since.
Wind forward to 2016 and the annual general meeting of ‘Labour First’. This is one of two organisations – the other being Progress – that I have joined to help resist the leftward lurch under Jeremy Corbyn. I was not present at the meeting but the main speaker was Michael Dugher MP who was recently sacked by Corbyn for disloyalty. He began by quoting a House of Lords speech by Lord Watts, the former MP for St. Helens:
“My advice to my own party leadership is that they should take less notice of the London-centric, hard-left political class who sit around in their £1 million mansions, eating their croissants at breakfast and seeking to lay the foundations for a socialist revolution”.
Michael Dugher continued as follows:
“So it’s great to be out of London. Here in the heart of the Midlands. A long way from Islngton…It’s good to see that Labour First is officially a ‘croissant free zone’. Unlike no doubt at today’s Fabians society conference in London today, there is not a croissant a brioche or a pain au chocolat in sight.”
Michael Dugher is MP for Barnsley East, a former mining area. He has an unchallengeable South Yorkshire background and doubtless did not eat croissants at secondary school; he may well have had a preference for meat pies. However there is a Costa Coffee in Queen Street, Barnsley, and he will find that some of his constituents enjoy the odd croissant there.
Now I’ve never met Michael Dugher but he gives every impression of being a capable and determined character. I appreciate that he was playing for laughs in opening his speech that way. However I would urge all involved to avoid ‘bash the Metropolis’. We need arguments of real substance if we are to fight back in the constituencies. I’m sure he has an important contribution to make. For my part, back to my breakfast croissant.