Strange bedfellows in Labour leadership bid

How odd to learn that Kate Hoey, who when it comes to the politics of her native Northern Ireland has been closer to the DUP than any other party, is backing  Labour left winger John McDonnell’s token leadership bid, along with fellow Labour awkward squad member Frank Field. In their opinions of Irish republicanism, they’re poles apart from John. Some years ago Frank and Kate joined together to attack the decision to give SF MPs offices and expenses at Westminster. In the same era, John,who’s been Sinn Fein’s greatest supporter in the Commons since Ken Livingstone quit Parliament  was saying this sort of thing.

In May 2003, he praised the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), saying, “It’s about time we started honouring those people involved in the armed struggle. It was the bombs and bullets and sacrifice made by the likes of Bobby Sands that brought Britain to the negotiating table. The peace we have now is due to the action of the IRA”

Fair enough for MPs representing English constituencies not to allow a colleague’s attitude to Irish republicanism to govern their overall approach. All the same, I didn’t think times had moved on as far as this.

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  • Mick Fealty

    Both her and Frank are running (intelligently) away from the legacy of the recent past, from which they both have been significant dissenters.

    In some respects that is a great deal more pertinent to the upcoming arguments in Britain than the integrity of our own profoundly unforgotten and unforgettable historic arguments…

    What strikes me though is the ‘radical party’s’ determination to lodge votes with a bunch of white men… most of whom (with the exception of J O’Donnell) will struggle to differentiate themselves from the recent past…

    Even David Lammy (taking his lead from the British electorate?) has put his nomination (if not his voice) behind Diane Abbott, who has the merit of being the only woman, and the only candidate who is not white (okay, she’s Oxbridge, but no one’s perfect)…

  • DC
  • Mick Fealty

    I make Lammy as the only one who has declared for her.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Always interesting to see how people from Ireland of both communities settle into mainstream English politics. That journalist guy (Cosgrove???) who was Thatchers fawning biographer, Michael O’Halloran the sdp guy in Islington, and a sheffield MP……Flannery??? not to mention kevin mcnamara….and our gerl Kate
    or that tory baroness from the barbican.
    I suppose rather like when we get abroad on holiday we leave the tribal politics behind.
    if they had never left here some might have been in H Block and others might have been a majorette in an Orange band.

  • Mick Fealty


    Sometimes it is best to speak to your own narrowness of view rather than legislate for what you perceive to be the limitations of others. Otherwise it can too easily mistaken for good old fashioned windbaggery.

    Some of Hoey’s first political acts were working with Michael Farrell on the Civil Rights movement when she was a student at Stranmillis College, which suggests she did not need to travel to become invested in her current politics, even if she may have to pursue it.

    ‘Perceptions’ can be wildly misleading…

  • Alan

    It’s the Labour party leadership, not the DUP party leadership that makes the difference.

    McDonnell’s is a candidacy in opposition to the core direction of the party, asking that other voices be listened to. It is not certain that he will receice sufficient nominations, and he has already stated that he will withdraw in favour of Abbot if it becomes clear that he can’t make the cut. It’s getting a bit late though.

  • sammymehaffey

    Not at Stranmillis, she was at Jordanstown college of Physical recreation and I never recall her being in any way involved with Michael Farrell.
    Was this not before your time Mick?

  • Frank Field published a letter explaining his reasons ( He wants to encourage an open debate and says he won’t actually vote for McDonnell. Fair enough, I suppose.

    Despite his views on the IRA, I hope he gets on the ballot paper. It would be a change from the New Labour candidates and would hopefully bring out the differences as people would feel pressure to shift to the left a bit.

  • Oh, come now, Mick!

    She’s her own nominee. That makes two.

    Lammy, though, is a major figure, at least in Tottenham and his self-esteem. Like the People’s Diana, he is upwardly mobile (removing himself to the posh end of the Borough).

    For added entertainment value, what about the runners-and-riders for the London Mayorality? Both Lammy and Abbott have been touted (nay, self-touted) as potentials. Have they both been top-trumped by Oona King? A first from York beats SOAS/Harvard and Newnham/Thames TV? Haverstock Comp sees off the two selective-schooled types?

    Ah, the jpys of personality cults in TIGMOO!

    [TIGMOO = for newbies, “this great movement of ours”. One of the late Alan Watkins’s greatest hits.]

  • Mick Fealty

    I stand corrected there Sammy. I thought she said Stran, but she definitely mentioned physical education, so I may have muddled the two somehow.

    As for her association with Farrell, that’s pretty much what she told me. I’ve no other means of verifying it, but I’m not sure why she would say something like that if it hadn’t been true.

    Back then the NILP backed civil rights. That it did not survive the trauma of the first few years of the troubles tells another story. But I know for a fact that some ex members ended up in DUP.

  • Brian Walker

    Thanks for that 1967. Kate’s reasons are probably similar, nothing to do with NI, more to support a backbench voice and ( I wildly guess) not supporting Diane Abbott as an alleged publicity seeker. I’m pretty sure Kate’s views on Mallusk etc haven’t changed since we had regular contact.

  • Greenflag

    Perhaps it’s not so odd after all i.e Kate Hoey backing McDonnell . Given David Milliband’s controversial comments on ‘terrorism’ here below she may just be between a rock and a hard place .

    From wiki

    ‘In August 2009, Miliband was a guest on BBC Radio 4’s Great Lives programme, choosing South African politician Joe Slovo. Miliband stated during the programme, in a response to a question about terrorism, that “yes there are circumstances in which it is justifiable and yes there are circumstances in which it is effective, but it is never effective on its own”. These comments attracted considerable opprobrium from senior political figures.

    A sagacious comment by Milliband and in particular his final qualifying clause -‘ ‘but it is never effective on it’s own ‘

    In NI speak that could translate easily as ‘ a ballot paper in one hand an an armalite in the other ‘

    As for taking power in Ireland by such a methodology ?

    SF have not taken power in Ireland (ROI) and have accepted power sharing in NI . Which also perhaps explains Kate Hoey’s choice for new leader .

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Indeed Lord Paul Bew was associated with Mr Farrell. Then he became advisor to Trimble, a big man in the Henry Jackson Society and was revolutionary all the way to the House of Lords.
    But did the NILP back Civil Rights? Or pay lip service to it?
    Bleakley, Simpson (who had Ardoyne in his constituency and voting for him). Was Boyd and napier involved?
    Devlin certainly ….but lets face it he was a semi detached member in the late 1960s and not exactly typical.
    Erskine Holmes did take part in a few marches.
    I guess you had to be there Mr Fealty.

  • The only surprise about Catharine Letitia’s long and winding political road is how she got away with it.

    She is the niece of the former BBC Overcoat-in-Waiting, John Cole (who was allegedly of the NILP tendency — where he finds solace these days, I know not).

    My original source recollected her running with the Trots in her Jordanstown days (that is confirmed in her Guardian sports-page profile of 30 April 2001). This involvement, or something similar, secured her a senior post in the NUS, at the time it was Jack Straw’s power base.

    According to another version, the NUS sent her on a jolly to India. She was seated next to Tariq Ali for the return trip. During the flight, Tariq converted her to the International Marxist Group. Anyway, by mid-1971, when she was looking to make a mark in London, she was running with the Trots. She was later heard finessing this by claiming she was merely in the Spartacus League (the here-today, gone-tomorrrow IMG youth wing).

    Anyone who had the slightest acquaintance with the IMG pretty soon ran up against smiling Gerry Lawless. For once Ms Hoey showed a bit of taste and bailed out … into the International Socialists, under the wing of Brian Trench (then on a similar glissade from IS to SWP to Socialist Party to DCU to ornamenting Quangos).

    Now comes a moment to ponder on: did she ditch the IS connection when she went into the Hackney Labour Party? Or was it merely entryism? She was subsequently loud with the Troops Out movement and then with the Campaign for Labour Representation in Northern Ireland. All that, and her well-touted footballing connections, gained her the safe-ish seat of Vauxhall. After her stint as Sports Minister, she declared on the Commons Register income from the Torygraph and £15,000 fox-blood money from the Countryside Alliance (the HQ of which is conveniently in her constituency).

  • Diane Abbot and David Lamey have two things in common: their colour and their complete irrelevance.

    I had great hopes of Lamey, but he failed to make the mark he appeared to promise. As for Abbot she is not bad if you like late night tv and the Abbot & Portillo double act.

  • DerTer

    I know I’m coming back a bit late, and this will therefore get very little attention; but it is important to set out the facts. I was never a member of the NILP, but its record on civil rights is well nigh unassailable. In the first place, Erskine Holmes didn’t just appear at a few marches; he was a member of the executive of NICRA. Secondly, the NILP’s MPs at Stormont maintained a steady critique throughout the 60s of electoral malpractice and of Northern Ireland’s other democratic deficiencies. The Party spelled out coherently, long before anyone else, the need for: the consent principle (as eventually enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement); an independent body to undertake the building and fair allocation of public housing; ‘one man, one vote’ in local government elections; independent drawing of constituency boundaries to eliminate gerrymandering; a proportional voting system; and employment equality legislation. Billy Boyd – much vilified for his ‘Sunday Swings’ stance – actually introduced a Racial Discrimination Bill in 1964 that Bill Craig, then Minister of Home Affairs, described as ‘an effort by the NILP to solicit the Roman Catholic vote’. A major achievement was the publication in 1966, together with NIC-ICTU, of the sadly forgotten ‘Joint Memorandum on Citizens Rights’ – described by Bob Purdie in his ‘Politics on the Streets’ as as comprehensive a statement of the eventual civil rights demands as could have been wished for. FJH – you said ‘you had to be there’; you obviously weren’t.

  • Thank you, DerTer @ 8:29 pm: I’m with you much of the way.

    Above all, I’ve never been wholly convinced by the usual explanations (usually appended to convenient denominational divisions and personalities) for the inability of NILP to make a break-through. And my history would go much further back than DerTer @ 8:29 pm. Was it an essential and congenital flaw? Or enemy action?

    “Irksome” Holmes (which is how he was named by the Dublin student lefties) made serious efforts to reach out. He had that psychological moment when it was possible, for the first time, for a NI PM to meet with his RoI counterpart.

    As I dimly recall, “Irksome” and a couple of TCD/UCD types (Bob Mitchell of Kinnegad deserves a nod) set up a cross-border meeting, in Dublin, in the spring of 1966. The aim was to establish an all-Ireland “IALSO”, the Irish Association of Labour Student Organisations. Apart from a boozy night in O’Neill’s in Suffolk Street, that was about it. Sad. But by then the NI comrades had other problems to address.

    One other memory of that: was the rather-disapproving, fresh-faced, dark-haired girl in the corner, who stayed very stumm, the later-more-famed Bernadette?