FORMER LABOUR MP Tony Benn has appealed to people living in London’s Brent East constituency to organise public meetings to discuss “the really big issues of the day”, including the need for elections in Northern Ireland.
Brent East, which has the largest Irish community of any parliamentary constituency in Britain, will soon be facing a by-election following the death of Labour MP Paul Daisley. Benn, who wrote the foreword to the recently published Connolly Association pamphlet The Missing Piece in the Peace Process, sees this as an opportunity to transform the sterile and over-controlled nature of mainstream party politics.
The former MP has suggested that a series of public meeting involving the peace and trade union movements, anti-racist campaigners, students and environmentalists, and chaired by independent local figures, could breath life into the political process and help re-establish the link between local people and parliament.
MP under fire
NOT FOR the first time in his political career, Labour MP John McDonnell has fallen foul of Britain’s right-wing press, this time for having the temerity to suggest that it was appropriate to honour republicans who had sacrificed their lives in the struggle for Irish unity and that the IRA’s campaign had played a significant part in bringing the British government to the negotiating table.
Out of context extracts from McDonnell’s speech at a Bobby Sands memorial event in London, were published by the Sun newspaper and presented as further evidence of left-wing treachery to all things British.
The theme was gleefully picked up by the rest of the right-wing media and embattled Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble, who immediately called for McDonnell’s expulsion from the Labour Party.
Although the official Labour Party line was strongly critical of the MP and supporters of Britain’s illegal invasion of Iraq — McDonnell was an outspoken opponent of the war — openly voiced hopes that the MP would be suspended or expelled, talk of disciplinary action soon evaporated.
Many are convinced that the severity of the attack on the MP, a longstanding campaigner on Irish issues and the chair of the campaign group of MPs, is not unconnected to his anti-war stance.
McDonnell himself was taken by completely by surprise by its ferocity. “After all, I’ve been speaking at this annual event for more than a decade and have been making similar points even longer,” the MP insisted afterwards.
“The tragedy, at present, is that the peace process is being jeopardised by the government’s suspension of the political process — in the form of the Northern Ireland assembly elections.”
THE ORIGINAL manuscript of Robert Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist can now be accessed on the world-wide web as part of the TUC’s library’s online resources initiative.
Tressell’s influential classic of working class literature was recently voted in a BBC poll as one of the country’s 100 best best-loved books. Until recently, the 1,700 pages of original manuscript could only be accessed by travelling to London.
Readers around the world can now study the manuscript online and read the book as the author intended, both with and without the publishers’ amendments.
Photographs, documents and other ephemera from the Tressell family archive accompany archive accompany the online manuscript, which can be found at http://www.unionhistory.info/ragged/ragged.php
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