Popular Politics Project
Interview transcript: Vin & Pat McIntyre
Places of birth: Vin: Middlesbrough, Pat: Stockton
Interviewer: Pete Winstanley, transcriber: David Hiscocks
Date of interview: 4 July 2012
Location of interview recording: Durham County Archives
Picture – Pat McIntyre
Key words – Socialism, Independent Labour Party, Labour party, Tony Blair, CND, National Service, Durham, Stockton, Palestine, Education/ Teaching, Miners Strike, Labour Party internal politics, oratory, Chilean Solidarity campaign.
Notes on transcription
(?) – This indicates that the word proceeding is not said very clearly, or the spelling of the word is open to question. It may appear in conjunction with * and a guess at what the word may be.
*Incoherent* – This is only used when it is impossible to guess what may have been said.
Italics – Used to show where the speaker places special emphasis on a word.
Recording track 01
*Please note, at many points in this transcript, the various speakers interrupt each other, speak at the same time, and the conversation can become quite animated. This may mean that the transcript is, in some places, not a word-for-word copy of the recording*
Pete Winstanley (PW) – Right, so this is Pete Winstanley talking to Vin and Pat. Erm, can I ask you first a bit of your background information. Were you both born and brought up in Durham?
Vin McIntyre (VM) – No. We’re both from Teeside. Me from Middlesbrough, and Pat from Stockton.
PW – Right, what about your education, were you, do you go to university?
VM – We were both first generation grammar school, after the 1944 education act was passed. I think we went ’47?
PM – Yeah, ’47.
VM – And both schools we went to were Catholic grammar schools had previously been fee paying schools, but in the new regime, the new education act brought oiks like us into them!
VM – In 1947. And the priests that taught in the school I went to, I think coped with that rather better than the nuns, in the school that Pat went to.
PM – Yes.
VM – Who’d never quite got over it.
PM – The shock.
PW – Having oiks in the school. That’s interesting as I went to a Catholic convent from the age of five till eight, and a Catholic grammar school after that. And what about your early, your careers? What jobs have you done?
PM – You’ve had a career, I haven’t.
VM – What’s a career? A career’s only a series of jobs. I went and did my national service straight after school.
PW – In which, Navy, Army?
VM – Army. Spent a year in Egypt as part of that which was very entertaining.
PW – Was it?
VM – yes, it was a good experience. I worked with about 300 Egyptian tradesmen, craftsmen. Painters and carpenters, very expert polishers, in the depot workshops. Enjoyed that. Got out just before the Suez invasion, in the Summer of ’56, when I went to university. And my first political action was in fact marching down Oxford Road in Manchester against the Suez invasion.
PW – Great! What about you Pat?
PM – I was active from about the time I was thirteen. I kind of accidentally joined the Labour League of Youth, and err, at fourteen I was speaking on a public platform for George Chetwin (?) who was the, erm, the MP, but the election was coming up again.
VM – Which election would that be then?
PM – I’m just trying to think….
VM – 1951?
PM – I was fourteen –
VM – 1950.
PM – Fifty, yeah, something like that. In the Jubilee Hall, and, erm. I didn’t get a card until I was fifteen because you had to be fifteen to join, and I was active in that, and when I say active, we were used mostly for elections. But in the meantime, we had various lecturers came, from the national council of Labour colleges, to lecture on all sorts of things. So we were quite radical little band until, when was it, 1959, erm… I wasn’t involved in this because, by that time, we’d just got married in 1959, but what happened was, the Labour League was disbanded, because everybody was told they were Trotskyites, nobody knew what a Trotskyite was! *Laughs* But, erm, but the following year, they revived it, but they called it the Young Socialists. And so the Young Socialists went on from that year, 1960, to whatever. You know. Mainly what I was involved in from, erm, apart from that, was the youth parliament. I was think that was the first youth parliament in this country, and John Wrexham, who went on to be a professor emeritus, was a WA (?) tutor then. And he was the speaker, and we all had constituencies, and, err, one Summer there was a debate on what was topic at the time. So that was where people found their voices, as it were, learned how to speak, because you were up there and you were challenging people, and this kind of thing, you know. Which was very interesting, erm, actually, that was where you saw me first, wasn’t it?
VM – It was.
PM – I didn’t see him, but he saw me there. I’d been sixteen of seventeen, something like that. But anyway, that was what I was most involved in, but then, in 1956, before I met you, just before I met you, was it ’56? Yes. I was involved in the Ban the Bomb campaign, this was before CND, CND arrived in ’58. Which we all immediately joined, etc. So then it was all on the peace issue, because there was protesting in the atmosphere, all on the peace issue before we got onto anything else.
VM – That was the big issue, atmospheric testing.
PM – Yep, atmospheric testing was a big issue, yes.
PW – So what influenced you to become so interested in politics at such a young age?
PM – Well, I’m from a very political family. That’s the first thing, because my grandfather, you know, was on the march in 1903, this kind of stuff. Erm, and he helped to found the Gas Stovers Union in Stockton, it was, elsewhere, he was a potter, and that was the union they belonged to. And for his pains he was sacked. And so he had to go to get work in Scotland where he came from. But anyway, long story. Totally different story that. He was very political. My grandmother always said she was a Fenian, so I had all the Irish side, and the Republican side from there as well. Although my granddad was a Republican as well *laughs*. That’s the Scots-Irish thing, you know. That alone wouldn’t have propelled me into politics. What propelled me into politics was particularly, we had one paper a week, on a daily basis, and that was the Daily Herald. Which had a lot of politics in. The second one, was the Reynold’s (?) News which was produced by the Co Op, and my nana wouldn’t allow any other paper over the doorstep. The Reynold’s News was a Sunday paper, all sorts of very well known people wrote for the Reynold’s News. And what struck me, at age thirteen, after having lost my father in the war, he was in the British Expeditionary Force, 1940, what struck me, apart from anything else. When he was missing, the minute he was missing, my mother’s army allowance was cut from 28 shillings a week to 11 and sixpence a week. So she was forced out to work, like a number of other widows, she was forced out to work. It was a Cabinet decision. And she started work in ICI. And we were only little. But we were pushed into poverty, there’s no doubt about that, we were pushed into poverty. I mean, we were poor to start off with, but it was a lot worse. Anyway, women were only paid half of what men were paid. Despite the fact that my mam was a fitter’s mate, she got half of what a man would get doing the same job, so we were never well dressed.
VM – She got mesothelioma.
PM – Yes, that’s where she got mesothelioma. Which she died of, of asbestos. She worked right next to the laggers who were using asbestos on a daily basis. No, what propelled me was, straight after the war, erm, I started reading about all these Nazis who had been taken over to America, given big jobs, had big houses, and then they came over to England, and I was reading all this and I thought, what the hell has my father died for? He’s died for nothing! For nothing! These people are still there, these people are, you know, they’re being rewarded for their murders and everything else that they done. That was what made me more political than anything else.
VM – And the housing conditions.
PM – Well…The whole thing to me seemed to be completely upside-down, I couldn’t understand it, I couldn’t get my head around it. I began to understand, but I couldn’t get my head around the idea that my dad had died so these people could have these sorts of jobs. It made me so angry! That was what propelled, and that I suppose, has been my main source of anger all the way through my life (*shouting*) that my dad died for nought (ends shouting). Because when you look round now you see the same people in the same sort of top jobs, and, and the same kind of people getting persecuted all over the world, and he died for nothing. Made me very anti-war.
VM – And they kept saying never again –
PM – Oh yes.
VM – And it happened again and again and again didn’t it! Not just after the bombs being tested, the atmosphere bombs, that made me anti-war. I’ve never wavered from that *laughs*.
PW – What about you Vin, was your family political?
VM – No, no. Erm, Conservative, if anything. My dad was a steelworker. Catholci, but I think he was, I think they thought the Labour Party was indirectly controlled by Joe Stalin.
PW – *laughs*
VM – It was, err, treated with great suspicion. You know, one step away from Communism. People like Bevin were dangerous people, you know.
PW – I think that attitude prevails doesn’t it? *Pause*. So what influenced you to become involved in politics then?
VM – Erm.
PW – Pat perhaps?
VM – Well….
PM – No it wasn’t me.
VM – one book in particular it was, that really influenced me was Ellen Wilkinson’s, ‘The town that was murdered’. Which was about Jarrow, the history of Jarrow. And, yes, when I met, as I say……I went on the anti Suez march, and the campaigns, but they didn’t last long because Suez didn’t last long. Well, a year. After that I met Pat. And the second ‘date’ we had, the second time I met her she said, would you like to come along to a Labour Party meeting. This was on a Saturday afternoon.
ALL – *Laughs*
VM – First time we went to the pictures, and the second time we went to a Labour party meeting! Or a CND meeting, or something like that. I’ve forgotten what it was.
PM – I think it was a meeting that I found out was going to get the push off the cabinet executive, the controlling executive committee of the parliament. That was what that was. The communist were trying to get rid of me, that’s what. And they got rid of me. They got me off. *Laughs* That was what your mother never understood. She always thought I was, you know, that I must be a communist, before sight. Never mind on sight, because she hated me before sight. And the truth about it was, I had more angst (?) from the communists than anyone on Teeside. So much so that when I got elected to that position, that they plotted and planned and got this one to vote, and that one to vote, to get me off! Now I’m not talking about their belief, because I think they were very narrow-minded, the ones on Teeside at any rate. Because there were a lot of, the belief in Marxism, or Marxist ideas. I mean, I’ve got a lot of belief of that. Apart from the atheism. But, but, erm… they couldn’t.
VM – They believed in the workers bomb!
PM – Oh yes.
VM – The west bomb was evil.
PM – But the worker’s bomb was fine.
VM – And the Czechoslovakia and Poland and so on.
PM – That was –
VM – Essential, protecting mother Russia.
PM – They had to have satellites. I remember having a big row with Cynthia Goldstein, and I said, so when are they going to get their freedom then? And she said to me, probably never. I thought how terrible that was. Absolutely terrible that was, they did that, that was around about 1954. You know. Before….
VM – And during the CND era.
PM – Oh yes. They were very active in the CND. As long as they could have a worker’s bomb, yeah. Yes.
PW – You must be quite please *word obscured by movement of recording device* that.
PM – It was very weird. People had. The thing about it was, there wasn’t a lot of real…understanding. With us as well, in the Labour Party, we began to get the understanding that we have of politics *incoherent, possibly says, when we joined*. But it all got refined didn’t it, later on. But that was a bit later on.
PW – So when did you join the ILP?
PM – 1966.
PW – Right.
PM – But there was a lot in between that, in between that came the anti-apartheid. Didn’t it.
VM – yes.
PM – I think we were an anti-apartheid group of two, at one time weren’t we! I remember on a horrible windy giving leaflets out outside of, what is it now, House of Fraser. Freezing cold it was. And we’d done this leaflet, I remember the headline was, blood on your hands. Which, you know, this was it.
PW – SO this was about 1960 was it?
PM – Yes, about 1960, ’61.
VM – It was when we were living in Middlesbrough so it must have been after ’62.
PM – Oh was it? It must be ;62 then. There was some upheaval anyway in South Africa. Some people had been killed, shot and god knows what. That was our response to it, we did that. And I think that was when we began to, erm, attract people, crowds of people into the ILP, because we didn’t have a proper branch until we started to get to know a few people, you know, because we’d just moved over there in early ’62 didn’t we. We still came back here all the time.
VM – We left the Labour Party –
PM – ’62.
PM – Just before we left Stockton.
PM – That was over the corruption in Stockton Labour Party where they fiddled Rodgers into the seat.
VM – The MP had resigned, or the MP was going to resign. Had he died?
PM – I think he died, yes. There was a by election coming. And the Labour Party had imposed Bill Rodgers on the constituency, they didn’t impose him, they fiddled him.
VM – They fiddled him. They told everybody else, that if they nominated anyone else, that that person could not come in when they were being heard by the executive. And they’d done the same with that guy –
PM – Bruce Folley.
VM – Morris Folley was one of those. And he afterwards became a minister. He was one of the candidates, but they’d all been told.
VM – No, I’m talking about the bloke that they did the similar thing in Grimsby.
*Interlude of talking about names, most of which is incoherent*
VM – It was one of those eras when the Labour Party was fiddling things. Lots of corruption. Not financial corruption but political corruption. And the whole Young Socialist branch left the party in protest about that!
PW – So did you come back again to the Labour Party?
VM – Not….We joined the ILP in ’66. And at the time the ILP was outside the Labour Party. It had left in ’39. ’31. Over the cut in employment benefits. And many in the ILP at the time, you know, thought the Labour Party was worse than the Tory party. You know the way politics works. The nearer you are to a group, the more you dislike them.
PW/ VM – *Laughs*
VM – And there were still a lot of those kinds of people in the ILP. Erm, they were campaigning against the Labour Party for much of their political life. But there was a younger group he thought this was ridiculous. And, err, that the Labour Party was where we ought to be. And…
PM – It took a long time to get there. They all decided about19….
VM – Was it ’71?
PM – We joined the Labour Party before it changed in the ILP.
VM –So it was in….It was about 1972 that the ILP decided to rejoin the Labour Party. And the Labour Party actually welcomed us. So that’s when we rejoined. And by that time we’d moved to Durham.
PM – At that time we had three time. That was what took up the sixties and seventies really, didn’t it. We had these three kids.
VM – We moved to Durham in ’71.
PM – That’s right, yeah. And then we started on the Labour Party here! *Laughs*
PW – Did you ever think of standing for parliament yourself?
PM- Ah yes! I went, I went as a candidate, as a prospective, to erm. Sedgefield, Newcastle Central, Sunderland (is being prompted by VM here) and Durham. Jerry Steinberg (?) beat at the last ballot. Erm…. I was in the shortlist at Sunderland, and Bob, what was his name?
VM – Clay.
PM – Bob Clay campaigned against me. This was because we wouldn’t join in his little cabal trying to get, erm, Hillary Armstrong stopped as a candidate. So what he did, when I left to go an stand, he campaigned against me. He really did campaign didn’t he?
VM – Hmm.
PM – So what they got was Gordon Baiger (?) who was in with the Greek colonel, he didn’t care, so long as I was stopped.
PW – Just think, if you’d got in instead of Tony Blair in Sedgefield, we wouldn’t have Afghanistan and Iraq!
PM – The thing with that was that it was all a union do, what happened, they all went round. There was Tony Blair, Steven Byers, who else, people who became ministers and what-not.
VM – And you.
PM – And me. And I went around speaking to all the different branches, I got the most nominations.
VM – You got more nominations than any of them.
PM – Ten. I got ten nominations. Blair didn’t get any, until he went down to see mr Fixit, one of the fellows there, and got himself, well, he wasn’t even on the shortlist. In the Labour Party, there was a meeting to decide whether, the executive, to decide –
VM – Well, Blair wasn’t in it because he didn’t have any nominations.
PM – He didn’t have any.
VM – But then that has to go to ratification at the general committee.
PM – He got one by the back door. They didn’t hear anyone else.
VM – There was a motion to put Blair on the shortlist at the general committee meeting. But that motion only succeeded after the third vote, and the chairman who wanted him on, erm, declared the first two miscounts because he lost. And the third time they declared that he got on!
PM – This was the way they did it. Anyway as I say….Also it was Joe Mills, and, err, the union, they sent pople in to vote who’d never been into vote before, they all turned, and told them they had to vote for Blair. When the union told them to vote for Leslie –
VM – Hookfield (?). Really, as much as anything else, Blair’s selection was a move to stop Les Hookfield getting the seat.
PM – To stop her getting the seat.
PW – Why? What was the reason for that?
PM + VM – Because nobody liked her.
PM – I didn’t like her.
VM – Too left wing, and a rather nasty man I think.
PM – I don’t know. I thought he was a bit useless!
VM – He was called gizza (sic) Hookfield, because he was going round the country looking for a seat. And the regional Labour Party secretary got the unions to coalesce behind Blair in order to stop Hookfield.
PM – That was what it was. So yeah, he got in there. I wasn’t upset.
VM – Blair seemed a reasonable character at the time.
PM – He was in the CND and all that. And somebody sent to me, I thought you’d be heartbroken? And I said, well no. Because somebody on the Left got the seat. This was my thing. I was very friendly with him. I shared a platform with him against the Tories in Sedgefield. He’d got the nomination, and he asked me if I would and I said yes, I came and we were very friendly. But, as I say, we invited them over here, and, in those days, we were always inviting. This house was always full of people. Erm, and of course there were only the four of us. So we were talking politics. But what we realised, after he’d gone, we were talking about it, what we realised was that he didn’t understand political concepts, at all. She did. She was much cleverer than him. So much cleverer than him. She should have been the one that got the seat. You know, really. But apparently, you know, she didn’t and she went a different direction. But he really didn’t understand political concepts. I thought, this is weird this, you know. And then the next experience we had of him, I had of him anyway, was when Brian, it must have been 1981, when Brian….
VM – Gibson.
PM – Gibson.
VM – Just after he’d been elected. So it would have been the ’79 election.
PM – Was he elected in ’79? No he wasn’t elected until 1983, so it must have been ’83. Straight after he’d been elected it was. And, err, we were doing a day school on YTS, over in Trimdon.
PW – What was this.
PM – Youth training schemes.
PW – YTS?
PM – Yes, youth training schemes. Anyway, we’d done the morning session, we’d gone into the bar to get a drink, and, err, suddenly, it was like one of these cowboy films when somebody opens the doors like that and comes in. It was a bit like that. And he stood in the door, kind of thing. And he had an attaché case. And he sort of half staggered over to us, and sat down very heavily, and went ahhh. And Brian said, Tony, what’s wrong? What’s the matter? And he went, ohh, you would not believe the morning I’ve had. So Brian said, what happened? All these people, he said. He said, they’re coming to me, I had a surgery and they’re coming to me, he says, and this one wanted that, and that one wanted this, and they asked me to do this, and Brian said, Tony, that’s the job.
ALL – *Laughs*
PM – So Tony was not getting any sympathy from Brian, walked off to see somebody else at the bar and tell his sad tale I suppose. But anyway, we said, we couldn’t get over this. I’ll tell you what, he’ll be getting the job as bag carrier for somebody so that somebody in a neighbouring constituency will be doing his job, you know. Little did I think that he’d be going for the top job. I didn’t think he would be at home at all. And then of course the very first thing he did when he got in. the very first thing he did was to cut the benefit to single parents. That was what he did. That was when we knew really. During the miners strike he was ok.
PM – He took cases against people getting their electricity cut off, that kind of thing.
PM – He was alright then.
VM – He did a useful job. Not outstanding, you know.
PW – Well the miners didn’t forgive him did they.
PM – Well, when he got into power –
PW – For not supporting them well enough during the strike. I seem to remember.
VM – No, I don’t think that’s true. No, I think he did as well as any MP, as well as most MPs during the strike, he came to an occasional meeting of the support group. Took up cases that were referred to him.
PM – He was ok. Maybe there were –
PW – But he didn’t come to the Miners Gala did he.
PM – No, that was when he was leader.
*Both VM and PM talk, recording is too jumbled to make sense of*
PM – He came across as somebody on the soft (sic) Left. That was what we thought he was.
VM – You’re talking about after ’97. We’re talking about the early ‘80s.
PM – Yes, we’re talking about the early ‘80s, yeah. So he was ok during the strike, but as I say, we got the shock of our lives when he got the top job, and of course Mandelson had been…. Oh, he’s a story! Another story altogether Mandleson! *Laughs*.
PW – So did you ever think of standing for election anywhere?
VM – No.
PW – Tell me about, sorry –
VM – You are very pleased now that you didn’t get –
PM – I’m pleased now, I’m pleased I didn’t. Apart from the fact, which would have been absolutely true, that I would have lost the will in the first week. The very first week. Because that was when he brought his think in for the allowance. I’d have always had to be explaining to the constituency why I was voting against it.
VM – And politics at that level, it’s a nasty. Personally very nasty business.
PM – I’m very pleased I didn’t now. At the time, err, at the time I felt that I had something that I could have offered, but, as I say, I’m glad I didn’t now. Because the other thing, was that I turned in another direction, and, err, I went to university. Because I hadn’t been to university when I was young, so I went when I was in my forties.
PW – And what did you do at university?
PM – Durham, here, I went to Durham. And yes, in the end I got a PhD.
PW – In what subject?
PM – Sociology. I did it on the miners strike.
PW – Ah right.
VM – You were doing that when you were going for the seats.
PM – Oh yes.
VM – But you wouldn’t have finished your PhD –
PM – That’s true! I was writing, I was actually writing it up in 1983, mo, 1984, when the strike broke out. As I say, when the strike broke out we all just downed tools, whatever we were doing, and started on the support group. Including, my supervisor, and including my later supervisor, Richard Brown. Richard was collecting money in the street and stuff. It was only after that *incoherent, a name of some sort* said to me, are you ever going to finish this thesis? Which was on, the politics and ideology of Labour in Durham, 1918 to 1939. I’d done all the work, gone around interviewing people and stuff, and I said, I’d like to write something on the miners strike before that. I wanted to write something. So he said, let’s change the title. So we changed the title. And then started going round again, interviewing loads of people. And, err, finally, finally delivered it to him. He typed it. Because I couldn’t type, couldn’t do anything much then. Useless. Literally, it got to the nineteenth draft, he said. This is it, I’m not doing any more! *Laughs* I really enjoyed doing it as well. That was the point. And, err, I would, I would never have even thought about doing anything like that without him encouraging me to go to university. I didn’t think I’d get accepted or anything. I had no A Levels. I’d got teacher’s certificate.
VM – You’d done teacher training hadn’t you.
PM – Yes. Teacher training for two years.
VM – PT. Two years teacher training.
PM – I’d never done –
PW – So did you actually teach?
PM – oh yes! Oh yes, yes. I’ve taught every age group from 2 ½ right through to undergraduates. Third year undergraduates.
PW – It’s just that earlier you said you didn’t have a career!
PM – No, I didn’t! Because what I call career, is when you have promotion and you go up and you become a deputy something, or something. I did nothing like that at all. I never earned much, I always paid the lowest rates because I was part-time. Always. Yeah.
VM – You weren’t always part-time? You weren’t part-time when you met me?
PM – Well yes, but I didn’t have many years before I met you. No. Besides, that’s another story, let’s not go into that one.
PW – So Vin, you taught as well then?
VM – My first job out of university was as a graduate trainee with Hoover. But that only lasted six months. In Manchester that was. Ended up in a big row. And, erm, came back to Stockton at that time. Christmas ’59. And in those days, they were desperate for teachers. No teacher training. And you could teach without teacher training you see. So, I went down to the education office and got myself a job.
PW – Oh right, just like that?
VM – Started the following week. Teacher in a school.
PW – So how long did you teach for?
VM – In the first job? I was six months, and then I got a job, strangely, in the school I’d taught at then. I taught for, until I came here. Eleven years, something like that. I was……I helped to found the careers system for teachers in schools. It was virtually non-existent before then. That national association for careers and guidance teachers. First vice president.
PW – So what was it’s function?
VM – To get schools to appoint careers teachers. Which was virtually unknown before then. And I became a department of education tutor on residential courses and that kind of thing, where teachers came for service courses. Which I enjoyed, more than teaching history really. And that’s how I came to Durham.
PW – Right, I see.
VM – In ’71.
PW – Going back to the anti-apartheid movement, so it was the actual events in South Africa that spurred you to take action. And you later were involved with the Ruth Firs (?) Trust, can you tell us something about that? What was it?
VM – Well, it’s been going, really since we arrived in Durham, sixties. I think it was a response to Sharpnell (?). It was called the South African Studentship Fund, or something. And then it became the Ruth Firs, after she died. In her honour.
PW – Ruth Firs being the husband (sic) of Joe Slover (?). She was *assassinated* (I’m not sure whether this is the word he uses, the recording is quite hard to transcribe at this point). She came to Durham in ’71. And err, and then took leave of absence to go to Maputo, in ’79, 78. It was while she was there that she was assassinated. But she was in Durham most of those years. Most of the seventies.
PM – We actually met her before I went to university. Because Linda brought her here. Do you remember?
VM – Yeah.
PM – She was just a friend kind of thing, and she said, I’m bringing this friend. And that was how we met her. I was very impressed with her.
PW – And later it was the Durham-Palestine Solidarity –
VM – I’ve forgotten when I got roped in to the Ruth Firs trust as one of its trustees. I was its treasurer for a long time. Until, probably, about the nineties probably. For ten years. Hmm…. And that was all mixed up with the campaign within the university for disinvestment, sanctions and so on.
PM – Yes, I got roped into that at university.
VM – That was while you were doing your undergraduate.
PM – That’s right, it was an undergraduate thing. That’s right. Because we were the ones on our knees asking the university to disinvest. We set up a big meeting in the university, to be addressed by Ruth, and someone from Barclays Bank, and she was great. And in the end, all the colleges agreed that we should disinvest, and they said, the university authorities said they would disinvest if all the colleges agreed. And of course they didn’t disinvest, and all the colleges did agree. They reneged on it at the last minute. In fact, I don’t know if they ever did disinvest.
VM – Probably not.
PM – Probably not, it wouldn’t surprise me. But that was when –
VM – That’s what big organisations do, they play you along until they –
PM – They do, they fiddle about with us.
VM –And the protest fizzles out, or the personnel…. It’s easy with students, because the personnel is changing all the time. So it takes quite a lot of effort to keep a student campaign going with the constant change, students leave and new students come.
PW – So would you say –
VM – In addition to that there’s a very strong anti-apartheid group in the town in Durham, in the non-university community. They did quite a lot of good campaigning I think.
PM – Oh yes.
PW – So would you say you’re now involved in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and the Durham-Palestine Educational Trust, did that sort of grow out of the anti-apartheid movement?
VM – No, they were happening at the same time. They were similar, in that they were both very stark cases of injustice, in a clear and obvious cases of injustice internationally. As, you know, I guess our activity in the Chile campaign, things like that, were of a similar nature.
PW – When was that, when were you involved in that?
VM – That dates on there.
PM – Chile solidarity, we were involved, erm.
VM – When Allende was assassinated.
PM – 1973.
VM – Erm, and quite a few Chilean refugees came to Durham. And we’re still friendly with some of them.
PM – Oh we are, yes. I still write to erm, Lewis –
VM – And then in ’85 –
PM – ’86. I went to Chile.
VM – The Chile solidarity women’s delegation went to Chile, and Pat went. There were only six of you wasn’t there?
PM – Seven or eight I think there was.
VM – As representative of the Durham miners.
PM – Not just the Durham miners, the British miners. I was carrying a letter from Arthur Scargill, and one from the two Davies in Redhills. And I was, because of that, I was sent to Lotta (? Phonetic spelling*) which was the mining area, and shared a room when we were in Santiago, with a girl from Liverpool, and she, she’d gone for the dockers, to Valpairso. So we knew where we were going when we got there. It was a fantastic experience. Chile was. But as I say, when I got back, I understood more, how the Chileans who were here, I mean, what they must have gone through, you know.
VM – After you’d been gassed, people set on you.
PM – Oh yes! Tear gas, toxic gas, dogs set on us, and all sorts. Luckily, I was with, Ann Davies, who was Terry Davies MP, he wasn’t particularly Left wing or anything like that, but Ann Davies was tall and athletic. And she grabbed hold of me and went, as all this tear gas came over, grabbed hold of me and made me run faster than I remember running in my life. And then, one of the Chilean women came up to me and said, no, don’t run. Walk. She said. So I pulled myself together, started to walk. Ann was miles ahead of me by that time. And erm, the dogs went straight past us, they were going after the ones who were running. So, and they were firing rifles and guns and god knows what else. There were tanks all over the place.
VM – This was international womens day.
PM – It was international womens day, there were only women and children. Women and kids on the march, in the middle of Sandiago. Mind you, the women won the day, it was brilliant, absolutely brilliant. We were all, we all got this toxic gas on us, so you know, when it hits you, it’s a nerve gas, it hits you, you fall straight down. It’s not like tear gas. Although we took the onion, I think it was, to stop us getting, you know, the full blast of the tear gas. I don’t know what the onions were supposed to do, but anyway. When the toxic gas hit us, (makes sound effect of explosion). Right down on the thing. And I was literally in the gutter I was! Being very, very sick. And all of a sudden, this hand came down to me, on my shoulder, and I looked. And it was this most beautiful women. Absolutely beautiful. You’re coming with me. And I had no idea, so I let her lead me off, and she took me up to her apartment, which overlooked all of this. Because, there’s a park that runs right through the middle of Sandiago, and the river runs through it as well, you know. And we watched from there. And she turned out to be the widow of Victor….
VM – Hara.
PM – Victor Hara.
PW – Who was?
PM – The very, very famous Chilean folk singer, who’d been murdered in the football stadium. He was the one who was conducting the protests, when they’d arrested them all and put them into the football stadium. He was orchestrating protests, singing from the all prisoners in the bleachers. And they came and cut his hands off. And they killed him. She was searching for days for his body, because they were all piled up all over the place. She’s English. Joan Hara. English, and a dancer. A beautiful dancer. Ooof (sic), a lovely, lovely women. And I wasn’t the only one there. She brought several people up from the gutter who she could see, when the police and the army had gone past. But what struck me at the time was that, when, there was this little white van coming along. And we were told that the sewer water was picked up and sprayed on everybody. And this gas that they had that hit us. Was coming through the sewer water. And a women kept saying, British Ministry of Defence. British Ministry of Defence she was saying. Because we’d sold them the things.
VM – The water cart.
PM – It wasn’t just water though as I say. It was being used to pump this gas through as well. Horrible stuff. Yeah. After that, I was, both, very active in the –
VM – Went around speaking a lot for Chilean solidarity after that. Didn’t you, in various regions around the country.
PM – Yes, I did, that’s true.
PW – Pat was a great orator, a fantastic public speaker.
VM – And a good singer I seem to remember.
PW – Oh yes.
PM – Oh, I forgot….
VM – You’d learnt your oratory –
PM – I learnt how to speak with Mr Cocker.
VM – When you were early twenties wasn’t it?
PM – Oh, before that.
VM – Before that?
PM – Before that.
VM – When you joined the Labour League of Youth.
PM – That’s right. And the Daily Herald speaking contest. We came second actually. It was a national thing, you know, but we went to Mr Roman Cocker, who was a Methodist, and a preacher, but he was a marvellous teacher of speaker.
VM – And that was in Stockton YMCA.
PM – Yes, that’s right. Stockton Wells. And we went up there, and he taught us how to speak, and he said, there’s only one thing worse than putting your hand in your pocket. And that’s putting it in somebody else’s he said! And what he taught us what that speech had to be light. And there had to come that moment when you knew you had the audience because you could stop. And there wouldn’t be a sound for seconds. And then you could go on. You knew you’d got your audience then.
VM – You were a really excellent orator weren’t you?
PM – Well I can speak. I think it mine –
VM – The fact that when Tony Benn was conducting his, err, campaign for the leadership in ’81, or, you were his principal support speaker, in City Hall in Newcastle.
PM – I didn’t think I was principal. Michael Leacher was there.
VM – Well Michael Leacher was standing as deputy. Then for the leader, and you were the warm up act.
PM – Yes, it was interesting speaking to 2000 people, you know. Ooh, I like an audience. That is the one thing I can do, is get to an audience.
VM – We have that, your granddad had a picture of you. What was the demonstration –
PM – That, was the anti-Libyan bombing.
VM – We’ve got a picture of Pat standing on the horse in Durham.
PM – Not on the horse.
VM – Well, on the steps of the horse, giving it what-not.
PM – I look fierce! I look like I’m going to kill somebody. But what was funniest on that photograph is, the what they call it, David Rutherford. And he’s got his coat on, and he’s holding the banner, and he’s got his dark glasses on. And he look for all the world like some refugee from the Tun-Tun-Maput (Phonetic spelling) *Laughs*.Oh, it is funny.
VM – In fact, one of our first contacts with the CND, was when we lived in Stockton wasn’t it. It must have been 1960, or thereabouts, and there was a CND march from London, to wherever, Scotland.
PM – oh yeah, that’s right.
VM – And somebody was speaking from the market cross.
PM – Oh right! I remember that.
VM – And you said, I could do better than that. So I said, go on, get up. So you did! You got up on the banner cross steps in Stockton! And they were so delighted they said, can you come to Newcastle and speak for us there!
PM – Well, the thing was, they had a potential audience, it was a Sunday night, they had a potential audience, and they had a loudhailer, but they weren’t using it properly. And….it wasn’t a proper (sic). And these people were drifting away. And I thought, oh no! You need to listen to this.
PW – So you brought them all back.
VM – It was funny, yes. I wasn’t shy. Not in that situation anyway.
PW – So what do you think your most successful campaigns were?
VM – oh, they’ve been mostly failures. We haven’t got a fantastic number of success to our name!
PM – Poll tax.
VM – But it’s all in the struggle isn’t it.
PM – Part and parcel.
VM – All part of the struggle that has to carry on. Other people will carry on after us.
PM – Because capitalism always affects people eventually. Gathered together to do something about it (sic). You know, whilst it’s there, whatever they call is, rebels, insurgents, or whatever normal people are going to do about it. They’re always going to do that aren’t they.
VM – I suppose the poll tax campaign was quite successful.
PM – Yes it was.
VM – We produced a magazine called the Poll Tax News. Which sold very well actually throughout the country. And we went all round, we did dozens of meeting didn’t we. Against the poll tax. But then we shouldn’t kid ourselves. It was really the middle class voters in the Home Counties who defeated the poll tax in the end. That was, as with anti-apartheid. The campaign was very important, but in the end it was South African capital and firms that sunk apartheid. Because they couldn’t make profit under apartheid. They couldn’t do trade with the neighbouring states, they couldn’t do trade with other states. Partly because of the boycott. But the apartheid system didn’t allow them to act in the capitalist way. And that was really what ended apartheid. The protests around the world were important. As is the protests against what Israel is doing in Palestine now. Very important, the campaigning in the rest of the world.
PM – The little groups at grassroots raise it to a conscious level where people can see it, they’re reading about it. They’re getting a leaflet about it. Even if it doesn’t look as if it’s working.
(Section omitted as everyone talking at the same time and it is impossible to differentiate. Nothing useful or coherent is said)
VM – But people can put pressure on politicians. Anti-apartheid did.
PM – It’s also raising the consciousness. Raising the issue to a lvel where people begin to think, ooh, what’s happening there. I mean that time, you know, I’ve told you this a thousand times before. When we first came here, we were very involved in the anti-apartheid, there was a fruit shop on Silver Street that I used to go to, and I wanted various things. So I said, I want some oranges, and this girl picked up lovely oranges, but they were South African. And I said, no, no, no. I don’t want those. I said, where are those from? And she told me, Morocco or whatever. But she said, these are lovely. These are lovely, they’re sweet, they’re juicy. And I said, they’re from South Africa, and she said, what’s with that. So I explained the situation out, and she said, oh right. And she got me the Moroccan oranges. Well, the following week I went in and there was a queue. And *laughs* a woman was getting served, and she said, oh, those look nice. And this girl said, ah, but they’re from South Africa. And after that, that’s fantastic! I told you! That’s the only time I’d had a direct result that you could see! She’d really taken it in. *Laughs*
PW – Wonderful. I think that’s probably a good point to end, unless there’s more you’d like to say?
VM – I think, I think, err, the most energy we’ve expended anywhere, politically, was probably getting Durham City Labour party to be democratic and open. Because when we arrived, it was on the tail-end of the Coulson (?) scandal. And it was pretty much a closed party wasn’t it?
PM – Hmm.
VM – Tom *incoherent, possibly says Dryber?* had just produced his report for the Labour Party, on what had gone wrong.
PM – *Says a name which is is incoherent*
VM – Ian McKarder (?), sorry.
PM – Tom Dryber died years ago.
VM – On the Coulson thing inside the Labour Party. What had given rise to it, what had encouraged it, what had allowed it to happen. And politicians in Durham were, angry. That the Labour Party had commissioned such a report. And it was a totally undemocratic organisation. They had, there was a general committee that met once a year, and elected an executive, which met four times. The influence of ordinary members was nil. It was ridiculous! But we, we were very much into the ILP at the time. And the ILP, err…..wasn’t an overt idea. But there was a very strong idea that, err, the putsches (?) politics produced nil result. You know. You organised your little kabal to capture some post, or win some election. But what was the ebenfit of that? Because the other group would do the same next year. And what was gained? The only true advance was by changing people’s attitudes, changing people’s ideas. And to do that, you had to engage in debate. Well, debate was absent in the Durham Labour Party. Meetings were absent! There were local branch meetings monthly, but nothing else, so over, five or six years, we, and other people who then joined us in the ILP in Durham.
PM – And people who weren’t in the ILP.
VM – Yes. Other democratic people in the party saw what we were trying to do, and supported us. We got, eventually, we got monthly meetings. We got quarterly meetings, then bi-monthly meetings, then monthly meetings of the general committee. And we upped it’s membership, so that instead of branches sending one delegate for every thirteen members, eventually we got it one for every ten.
(Interview recording ends here at 59:42)
Recording track 02/3
*This recording seems to be continuing the previous recording, omission may only be a couple of seconds*
VM – Instrumental, helped to move Durham Labour Party, from where it wouldn’t have debated on anything, to a situation, over five or six years where it then welcomed debate. And where there were really good debates. People had to produce good reasons for why they wanted you to vote for this resolution. And, erm, we were quite proud of that, I think. The fact that we moved Durham Labour Party in that direction, and quite a few years. Durham sent resolutions that we proposed to the Labour Party conference that we proposed. And we went to Labour Party conference every year, didn’t we. Once you went as a delegate. But on the other times, we just went as visitors. For ten years we went every year. As part of an ILP activity, doing ILP meetings at the Labour Party conference, fringe meetings. But also out of interest. The last year we went, was the year Kinnock, was that right? Kinnock was elected. No, we went after the miner’s strike didn’t we? The last year, the last time we went, was the year that we went, and arrived in Blackpool and all these hundreds and hundreds of young men, mostly young men, in suits, with these phones. You’d call them bricks now, mobile phones of the day, clapped to their ears. And we thought we’d arrived in the wrong organisation.
PM – That was weird.
VM – That was the start of the avarasionist (?) take over of the Labour Party really. It was a foreign environment. And despite the fact that a lot of people didn’t like us in Durham Labour Party, erm, we managed to persuade Durham City Labour Party to take on the role of the principal support agent during the miner’s strike. So, the, the main support group of the Durham constituency was the Labour Party. We supplied, eight hundred parcels a week. We thought there was maybe forty or fifty miners living in Durham constituency, since all the mines had disappeared. But it turned out there was close to a thousand miners living in Durham City, working on the coast. Course, in the coastal pits. And because of the difficulty, they couldn’t travel to their pits to get relief during the strike, it was agreed by all the groups around the county meeting together, that support would be provided on the basis of where miners lived, rather than where they worked. That was different of course on the coast. But away from the coast, the groups were based on residential rather than, you know, pit loyalties. So when we discovered there were so many, we started supplying parcels by shopping with a couple of trolleys in the supermarket. And we ended up, err, every Monday morning discussing the price of imported corned beef with shippers! *Laughs* What’s the dollar rate this week!
PM – But there was also, at the same time, there was Durham families.
VM – There was another group, erm.
PM – Who weren’t in the Labour Party.
VM – Some of whom were very anti Labour Party, suspicious of the Labour Party. Quite rightly so in many cases. Who, you know, the Labour Party, the root were a problem for them. The Labour Party kind of ownership of the campaign was a problem for them. So they formed themselves into a group, the Durham Miners Family Aid. Which was a separate group. But we went and liased with them, and in the end, they handed all the money they had collected over –
PM – Barring two other places that they were supporting.
VM – To the Labour Party constituency. £120,000 over the year, one way or another.
PM – We had a clothing facility as well. And shoes and boots, new ones, or rejects from –
VM – There was probably a dozen people active on a daily basis during that campaign. Maybe another fifty or sixty who supported quite a lot, collecting or distributing parcels, or whatever. But that was a year out of our lives in a way.
PM – Oh yeah.
VM – But we made friends then that have been friends ever since, good friends. Great friends. People you could rely on.
PM – I always remember John Taylor saying that. Friends for life now he said. He was a lad who was picketing one of the quarry places wasn’t he? And, err, a scab lorry drove deliberately at him. He was in a coma for weeks and weeks. And he had brain damage.
VM – It was a massive operation. Before long we were into buying massive amounts of baby food, food for celeriac patients, and we opened a clothing store. A welfare rights office. It was a mammoth undertaking.
Pm – It was a massive undertaking. Afterwards, there was about twelve people. Johnny Dent.
VM – Johnny Dent at Redhills. We bludgeoned the miners union into giving us a big room there for our packing operations.
PM –We’ll have this one. It stuck of onions for years afterwards! *Laughs*
VM – And every fortnight, when the pantechnic (phonetic spelling) was fantastic. With potatoes. We started off buying sacks of potatoes and dividing them up into seven pound plastic bags, carrier bags. And we thought,, this is ridiculous. A huge labour effort, so eventually we bought little sacks of potatoes. Twenty-eight pounds, and gave each family one every fortnight. But when the pantechnic arrived with these thousand sacks of potatoes, lorry and its trailer, at Redhills to unload them. They stacked them outside for us to carry them in, it was like wartime sandbags. It was like a bunker! Somebody should have taken a photo of that. That was, err, a very, a lot of the miners said it was the best and the worst year of their lives. Not the miners, the people in the support groups.
PM – I wouldn’t have thought the miners…..We learnt a lot didn’t we?
VM – Well, we had, you had to have a social every week to raise money, you know. So Pat had to write a song every week.
PM – I didn’t write the music every week.
VM – Had to have new material all the time!
ALL – *Laughs*
PM – No it wasn’t exactly, but it was getting on that way. I hadn’t time to think about the music at all, basically I write lyrics. And I write, I don’t call it verse or poetry, but it scans and it rhymes, and that’s it. But it was, it was good, good fun. Those were the fun bits.
VM – There’s Mary with her books.
*It is possible the recording is edited at this point as there is a little jump when listening*
PW – So you’re still as active as ever?
VM – We rejoined the Labour party last year. Erm, voted for Ed Milliband. We’re still unsure whether that was the right thing to do. And we haven’t got active again in the Labour Party since we rejoined. But we’re maybe planning to go to our first meeting tomorrow night?
PM – Well, maybe.
VM – Maybe. Apart from that, you’ve got your blong.
PM – Which I haven’t done for six weeks.
PW – Tell me about your blog.
VM – Under the name, Granny Grumble.
PM – I have a rant every now and again.
PW – A political rant.
PM – I get called the ranter.
VM – We’re both in the Palestine solidarity campaign. Quite a lot of that. In the educational trust, which is, err, not quite a full-time job for me, but approaching it. You know. At certain times in the year, like now, it is fairly full-time.
PM – With all these organisations, like CND, we send money, when they want it for things. Campaign against the arms trade, all sorts of stuff like that. We’ve been forever in war on want haven’t we. Ever since you were a teacher. War on want, that’s right.
VM – I think we’ve joined the Labour Representation committee.
PW – The what?
PM – Oh, the Labour Representation committee.
VM – The Labour Representation committee is a new, left wing organisation, in its very formative stages. Erm, specifically, to change the Labour Party, although it’s open to people who are not members of the Labour Party as well. Erm, it’s a group of socialists I guess. That’s what you’d call them. But they’re all over the place at the moment. There’s no kind of real direction. But the Labour Party, the name reflects the origin of the Labour Party, err, before it was called the Labour Party in 1900. It was called the Labour Representation committee. Out of which the Labour Party came. So they’re trying to, I would like, my interest in joining it, is if it begins to campaign for Labour Party democracy again, because democracy has completely disappeared from the Labour, through Kinnock first, and then Blair. All ordinary member influence was removed, completely. At one time, an ordinary member could go to his local Labour Party branch, put forward a proposal, and if the branch agreed, it could go to the constituency, and if the constituency agreed, they could put it forward at the annual conference.
PM – Or the national executive.
VM – As a motion on the conference paper.
PM – Or if it was an ordinary one during the year, it was the national executive.
VM – Any influence of ordinary members on policy making has been completely removed, gone. Party conferences are now just a stage managed, I don’t know how to describe it. Jamboree. It’s not a political conference. Now, if the Labour Representation Committee, is going to work to restore some kind of democracy, and meaning. Why would anybody join the Labour Party now?
PM – To become an MP or a candidate.
VM – To become an MP or a candidate I guess. But in terms of politics it’s dead. Whether its able to be restored, revived. I don’t know.
Pm – Well, I don’t know either.
VM – It’s worth a go, it’s worth some effort!
PM – You know, it’s very difficult to persuade anybody else whose lapsed or left.
VM – I vacillate between thinking we’ve got to revive this Labour Party. It never was a socialist party.
PM – No, no. It was a broad show.
VM – At best it was a social democratic party with some good ideas. Ok, I’d settle for that again!
PM – Just for that you would.
VM – But there’s always been, that’s been because they’d been sufficient socialists in it.
PM – Yes, you can’t have a socialist party either without socialists.
VM – Erm, so sometimes I live in hope that that can be revived. Other times *voice goes quieter* as soon as the Labour Party can be killed off, the better! Because that will create the political space where a real socialist party could be created and get some purchase.
PM – Or a real social democratic party for that matter!
VM – *Laughing, voice back to normal* Or a real social democratic party! Yes. So I vacillate between those two points of view *laughs*.
PW – Ok, well thank you very much, Pat and Vin.
(Interview recording ends here at 15:47)