If you haven't caught the gist of the story you can do so here:
But this incredible inquiry into funds for the poor allegedly being mismanaged by Labour Councillors made me think how very far away from Labours original ideals the party has come in its 109 year history.
Some of you may recall the history of the proud London Labour Councillors of Poplar. This newly-elected, post world war 1 Labour Council built houses; expanded provision of libraries, parks, swimming pools and wash-houses; established a TB officer and dispensary; improved street lighting and cleansing; distributed free milk; and brought electricity to the area. The council instituted a minimum wage of £4 per week for its own employees, with equal pay for men and women.
And then in 1921 they were imprisoned for promoting public works to create employment and setting an illegal rate of 4/4d for the poor in Poplar against the wider rate of 6/10d in outer London.
Five women Councillors were sent to Holloway prison; 25 men to Brixton. The picture below shows Cllr Minnie Lansbury (daughter in law of George) on her way to be arrested
Prison conditions were appalling, but outraged protests soon yielded improvements. On 11 September, the Councillors were given permission to meet. They did so a total of 32 times in prison, with, from 27 September, the women Councillors brought from Holloway to Brixton to join the meetings. They discussed prison conditions, Borough business and winning their release. Demonstrations were held outside the two prisons on most evenings.
On 21 September, public pressure led the government to release Nellie Cressall, who was six months pregnant. Embattled Ministers conjured up the 'Official Solicitor' to order Nellie's release. This little-known functionary seems to appear only to get governments out of the tight spots they are forced into by working-class struggle. He was to appear again in 1972 to release the Pentonville Five, dockers imprisoned for opposing anti-union laws.
Eventually all were released again under some conveniently found ancient act of law and the Daily Herald described their homecoming:
'Joyful reunions inside their homes and joyful demonstrations without, the Councillors must have felt a sense of triumph that compensated for the bitterness of the past few weeks.
'In the crowd that followed the band round the streets faces were smiling as they seldom smile ordinarily in that poor borough.
'Men took off their caps and waved them in the air, women shouted and laughed, and the children made sympathetic noises. The whole babel was a spontaneous outburst of working-class sympathy with its self-sacrificing champions.'
Minnie Lansbury however did not celebrate for long, she died on 1st January 1922 of pneumonia as a direct result of her prison treatment
I wonder what the then good folk of Poplar would make now of the alleged missing £250,000 from the BNI fund? Money for the poor which dissapeared under the stewardship of Labour Councillors? Probably the same as the good folk of Waltham Forest do now according to their comments in the local newspaper.
Meanwhile word reaches me of more alleged wrongdoings at another London Council by a London Council Leader, this time in the early 1990's The information involved a Mrs S Porter. (and it's not Dame Shirley) and the unsolicited and anonymous 300 page bundle of papers which arrived on my doormat the other week kept me amused for hours. It has probably been circulated elsewhere, given the intent stated in the accompanying letter, and I hazard to guess may lead to further questions being asked in the future as to how London's Labour Party together with the NEC really does conduct it's "internal" business.
How I wish the ideals of those elected to office today lived up to those of our early predecessors.
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