National Union of School Students membership card for 1978


Not entirely sure how long the NUSS lasted for. Think I’m right in saying it was a Socialist Workers Party inspired organisation but I might be wrong. Amusing to see the reference to caning and school uniforms. It didn’t have a great deal of traction at my school. Interestingly, in 1985 there was a major school students walk out in Liverpool with a rally addressed by Terry Fields MP at the pier head.

 

Two rival youth organisations inside the Labour Party


IMG_6202In the early 80s, the Labour Party had two youth organisations that were at each other’s throats. The Labour Party Young Socialists (LPYS) was under the control of the Marxist group Militant and adopted a hard left programme of nationalisation and the overthrow of capitalism. Since the mid-70s, Militant had been in the LPYS driving seat and even had a representative on the Labour Party national executive.

The party bureaucracy didn’t enjoy this situation so they set up a separate student wing called the National Organisation of Labour Students (NOLS) – under the control of leadership friendly activists.

IMG_6401Militant responded with a spirited attempt to take over NOLS. Every NOLS conference became a battleground between Militant supporters and those aligned to Labour’s leadership. The pro-leadership group was initially called Clause 4 but then re-grouped into a faction called the Democratic Left.

NOLS remained under the control of Clause 4 while the LPYS continued with Militant. Eventually, Labour closed down the LPYS at the same time it carried out large scale expulsions of Militants from the party.

The disastrous lead up to the 1983 general election


In 1983, Thatcher called a general election. The Tories had been in power since 1979 and had gone through a very rocky first two years with economic collapse, riots and rumblings within the government against Maggie. But a couple of things played into her hands: the war in the Falklands and a dreadful Labour campaign in 83.

The Labour slogan was utterly uninspiring: Think Positive, Act Positive, Vote Positive. Worse than that, it was abundantly clear to anybody inside or outside the party that the leadership didn’t believe in its own election manifesto. A month before polling, ITV’s “TV Eye” programme took a look at Labour and it wasn’t pretty viewing. Michael Foot is interviewed and I leave you to judge what went wrong.

Croxteth Comprehensive – campaign to keep a school open in the 80s


Does anybody remember a campaign in 1982 to keep Croxteth Comprehensive open in Liverpool?  The closure of this school gave the impression – along with dozens of other policies – that the Tories in Westminster didn’t give a damn about inner city areas.

At this time, the Croxteth district of Liverpool had over 90% youth unemployment. I remember those official statistics of the time that showed how bleak things were – let alone the unofficial stats. The Crocky wasn’t just a school – it was a community facility, a beating heart in an area beaten up by recession.

Croxteth Comprehensive

My student union election poster from 1982 – Liverpool Guild of Undergraduates


Tony McMahonIn my first year at university, I ran for the welfare officer position in the student union at Liverpool Uni.

The Labour Club was heavily influenced by the Marxist policies of the Militant Tendency and so the programme I ran on included calls to nationalise the top 200 monopolies, a £90 minimum wage and a 35 hour week. I think the latter demand probably terrified some of the arts students!

Note the heavy fringe of the time. Think my hair would have been dyed jet black – think Phil Oakey of the Human League.

The poster was drawn with a felt-tip pen. Seems so weirdly amateur now but we had no digital magic back in those far off days.

 

When I ran as a Labour candidate for the student union in 1982


It was my first year at university and the Labour Club decided I should run for the post of Welfare Officer of the Guild of Undergraduates at the University of Liverpool. The Labour Club was then very much under the sway of Militant – a Marxist group within the Labour Party that has now evolved into the Socialist Party.

Consequently, I ran on such policies as the nationalisation of the top 200 monopolies, a £90 minimum wage (generous in those days!) and the introduction of a 35 hour week. I even joked at the time that a 35 hour week would lose the support of arts students who barely managed ten hours a week.

Think I got about 120 votes. Though I remember a Militant saying to me afterwards: “120 Marxists at the university!!” Think that was a case of revolutionary optimism.

Running for Labour in 1982
Running for Labour in 1982

Death at the Toxteth riots in 1981


This photo captures the dreadful moment when David Moore – a young disabled man who lived in Liverpool – was killed by a police van traveling at speed during the Toxteth riots. David had gone to see the commotion but was unable to run fast enough to avoid the fateful impact.

Kneeling over him is Pauline Dunlop – who went on to be a high profile Labour city councillor and support of Militant. The shock of what had happened is etched painfully into her face. Moore’s family pursued the police through the courts but with little success.