Jimmy Reid and the problem with Labour

It was quite a touching funeral service for Jimmy Reid yesterday. Although Billy Connelly went on far too long, many of the contributors showed the rounded agitator for the highly intelligent Renaissance Man he really was. Reid is not of my background and for most of my life I didn’t share his politics; but he was that man of the Left one could always respect. Dennis Skinner is another – but the difference with Reid was that he was far too bright to be blind to the social changes he encountered at the height of his fame.

Not many people remember this now, but Reid joined the SDP in the end. Suspicious of anti-democratic Union fatcats and a State-driven Leftism gone awry, he became in the end what he would’ve been with a fairer start in life: a seer. I’m sure there will be bevvying in Heaven tonight, but Jimmy Reid was an animal now almost extinct: a Socialist with a sense of social responsibility.

I’ve no idea which way he voted in later years, but I’m told he regarded New Labour with disdain. It would be entirely in keeping with the man – but more to the point, I think he saw the contemporary Labour Party for what it is: a middle-class madhouse that no longer cares about (or even knows) the labouring classes. This is the class that doesn’t on the whole do manual labour as it did in my youth, but rather labours under the weight of poverty, poor education and a pc obsession with little or no meaning for them; and labours under the illusion first, that booze and braindead telly represent a better life than their parents had – and second, that the State will always provide.

Jimmy Reid was proud of the class from which he came, but above all he believed in the mutual help that should be available in any civilised society – and equality before the law for everyone regardless of wealth, gender, religion or class. In his heyday, Reid’s type of Left was on the attack: this is what made his views – whether one’s own or not – honest, because there was a positive objective. Self-respect through employment in a hard-working, supportive community was that goal – and its enemy the mindless greed of Thatcherism.

What makes the Left dishonest today is that it is entirely in defence mode. It is the Establishment: and its ideas – all of them uncommercial and controlling, many of them based on hopelessly outdated science – require persistent lies and distortion in order to make them seem even vaguely like good governance. It’s aim, this correct Establishment, is power: political power, power over families, power over contrarian individualism, power to censor any opposing view, power at any price. From the Guardian to Marxism today, it represents an unBritish self-styled progressive elite Jimmy Reid thought risible. Lovers of liberty have lost a great and constant ally, but above all an honest man.