Tuesday, 15 April 2008
Memories of the loony left in Brent
It is over two decades since the politics of Labour were dominated - at least in the public mind - by the antics of the so-called 'loony left' in London and some other cities. Yet behind the caricatures of extremism, there were some figures whose lives were irrevocably changed by the period. Some politicians - Ken Livingstone and Paul Boeteng among them - went on to have a second chance (and did rather better second time round). Other figures have faded from memory. One part of London that was perhaps most associated with the barminess of the period was the borough of Brent. And one case that attracted national attention was the story of the Sudbury Infants School head teacher Maureen McGoldrick in 1986, who was suspended by Brent Council for allegedly making a racist remark to one of their officials. Jim Moher was on the board of governors at the school at the time, and his feelings about how unfairly she was treated drove him into Labour politics where he became a moderating force in the local party, stood as a parliamentary candidate and became a leading Labour councillor. In a well-researched book that he has published himself, Stepping on White Corns, he uses the McGoldrick affair as the springboard for a fascinating account of the politics and personalities of Brent Labour politics at the time. Moher's book is strongly critical of the way in which highly politicised 'anti-racism' came to dominate education in the Brent of the eighties, in place of the basics that were more important to Black parents. This is not an easy read - and it would have benefited from a good sub-editor - but anyone with a fascination for Labour or education politics of the time will find it a rewarding and challenging account. The extent to which local politics has changed is shown by the presence of an introduction by the current Brent Labour group leader, Ann John. The book is available from the author at 51 Medway Gardens, Wembley, Middlesex HA0 2RJ price £11.50 including postage & packaging.