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.


Pen said...

I knew Maureen McGoldrick very well. I was in the room when the "phone Call" was made. She was totally innocent. It was a witch hunt. She had gone further than necessary to promote harmony between cultures, and this was the result....

There are still pictures on the internet with us together on the day she was finally allowed back in her school.

The whole affair was awful and pretty near turned me off politics for life.
My daughter had to have special considerations in school when we moved away. She suffered a lot for this political point that seemingly had to be made. With children as the pawns.
We felt hounded out of our school and Sudbury.

Thank goodness we have not encountered anything remotely similar since.

John Poole said...

Fascinating Pen - must be the deputy head - 30 years in 2015 since Maureen was suspended and it will be interesting to see what is released in the governments confidential documentation when it is made publicly available in 2015 - John Poole

Pen said...

Indeed John. I remember your name. I have two tales of videos from that time, I do believe you feature on them.

It was a dreadful occurencr and it broke up our society. Many moved away, ourselves included.

The information will indeed be interesting. I was running a disco for the infants that fateful afternoon. I watched Maureen all but run from the premises. The last day of term. They thought they'd been canny and that we would be divided. Wrong, we all pulled together. And eventually we got her back.

Long time ago, but never forgotten.