He was Old Labour, the real thing, pre-Blair: suspicious of business and its interests, a supporter of working people, passionate about justice, anti-war, pro-equality. He put up plaques to suffragettes and supported marriage equality. He gave up a peerage to stay in the Commons, then left public office when he thought he could do better by direct organization.
The quote of his that’s kicking around Twitter today is his Five Questions:
If one meets a powerful person—Rupert Murdoch, perhaps, or Joe Stalin or Hitler—one can ask five questions:
Anyone who cannot answer the last of those questions does not live in a democratic system.
- What power do you have?
- Where did you get it?
- In whose interests do you exercise it?
- To whom are you accountable?
- And how can we get rid of you?
I know that the art of purity test design is to make one that is both noble to the listener and passable by the speaker, but this is a good one. We should ask it more often, in his memory, as a reminder to ourselves, and as a goad to the powers that be.
Rest in peace. And thank you.