Frank Field’s 1980s Campaign against His Own Party in Wales

Yesterday Zelo Street put up a piece about the various right-wing Blairite politicos, who deliberately campaigned against Jeremy Corbyn and Labour, who have now been rewarded with nominations for peerages from BoJob. They were Gisela Stuart, Ian Austin, John Woodcock, and Frank Field. Field, according to the Street, resigned the Labour whip last year and stood as an Independent candidate in Birkenhead. He was obviously expecting to beat his former colleagues, but was given a rude awakening when it was shown to him and the metropolitan elites who backed him how little he was regarded there personally.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/07/arise-lord-and-lady-turncoat.html

But that wasn’t the only time he stuck the knife into the backs of people in his own party. Private Eye in its ‘HP Sauce’ column in its edition for Friday, 21st August 1998 describes how he actively campaigned against the Labour Party during the European elections in north Wales in 1984. The snippet reads

Frank Field’s apparent desire to speak the unspeakable on welfare reform is not the first time he has kicked against the pricks in his party.

Back in 1980 the Eye welcomed him into parliament (New Boys, 483) recalling his nickname of “Judas”. This was earned in Labour circles for his outspoken attacks on the Wilson government when he was director of the Child Poverty Action Group. This was nothing compared to the bizarre events associated with him during the Euro elections in north Wales in 1984, however.

Labour candidate Ian Campbell found himself discredited in a series of quarter-page advertisements in the local papers, which claimed that Frank Field MP urged Labour party supporters to support Tom Ellis, the candidate for the SDP/Liberal Alliance, who was then standing on a straightforward Liberal ticket.

Pleas from Campbell to Field to retract these reported views, and to canvas with him to disprove such presumably false claims, found no response. Neither did the demands of the Labour party’s general secretary for a retraction: he was forced in a conversation with Campbell to admit that Field was simply a “maverick” over whom the party had no control.

Labour lost the seat by a small margin and Field never denied the views attributed to him – views which, according to the rules, should have led to his expulsion from the party.

When a politician says they’re going to ‘speak the unspeakable’ on welfare reform, or ‘slay the sacred cows’, they always but always mean they’re going to cut it. And there’s absolutely nothing unspeakable about it. It’s been Thatcherite orthodoxy for forty years. Field was one of the Tories’ favourite Labour MPs because of his anti-welfare stance. the British religious Right ‘Cranmer’ blog praised him in a post nearly a decade ago, and said that if he crossed the floor to the Tories he’d be most welcome. He didn’t quite do that, but he certainly campaigned for them.

And his squalid attacks on his colleagues in north Wales shows he had all the qualities of a New Labour politico then: the willingness to brief against others in his party, the intriguing and desire to see a competing party win at the expense of his own.

And it also shows how the Labour Party was willing even then to tolerate and reward behaviour from the Right that it never did from the Left.

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