Learning from our history … and Essex


Andrew Fisher, LRC Joint Secretary, reports from the eleventh annual Essex Labour History conference.

A Labour hall in Witham in Essex on a Saturday afternoon in October played host to an excellent discussion among Labour Party members. Organised by John Kotz, chair of Essex County Labour Party, and Stan Newens, chair of Labour Heritage (both LRC members), the meeting room was packed to its 80 capacity.

The fact that this is the eleventh such meeting is testament to the dedication and organisational skills of John, Stan and several other comrades. A cooked meal was served to delegates at lunchtime and a raffle raised £54.

As for the lectures, former MP and MEP Stan Newens spoke about the Levellers in Essex in the 17th century before Francis Beckett discussed the significance of the post-war Attlee government. Travelling from south London on an engineering works afflicted line, I only caught the tail end of the latter speech and discussion, which concluded with the observation that the 1945 moment was the confluence of a strong movement for change with a party willing to give that movement voice.

After lunch I spoke about the present economic crisis and its historical causes. I defined the break with the Attlee-established consensus in the late 1970s as the starting gun for the de-industrialisation, financialisation, privatisation and rising inequality that triggered the crisis in Britain (I will serialise the lecture on the web). The subject matter returned to Essex with a fascinating concluding talk on the origins of the labour movement in Southend by Basildon Labour leader Cllr Nigel Smith.

The rest of the UK could benefit not only from such a format for discussion, but also from the comradely atmosphere at the meeting.

For more information about Labour Heritage see http://www.labour-heritage.com

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