Democracy In Action
Heckling used to be an essential part of political meetings and the democratic process. Not under New Labour, though as an 82-year-old party member learned, to his dismay, when he tried to sound a note of dissent at the 2005 party conference.
Jack Straw was on the platform, spouting the usual tripe about democracy about Iraq, when Mr. Walter Wolfgang had the timerity to say 'nonsense' in the audience. He was immediately set upon by one of the storm-trooper volunteer stewards and dragged from the conference hall by the scruff of his neck as the TV cameras looked on.
Mr. Steve Forrest, another conference delegate, objected to the heavy-handed treatment and suffered the same fate. He had previously said, "Hear, hear!" in response to an earlier speaker's call for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq. Marked down as a trouble-maker, he had been surrounded by storm troopers, whose job was to try to intimidate him into silence.
When Mr. Wolfgang tried to re-enter the conference hall later in the day, he found that his conference pass had been cancelled and the police detained him under Section 44 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, laughing at the thought of Mr. Wolfgang being a terrorist as they did so, until a labour party stooge arrived to confiscate his pass.
A refugee from one breed of Socialism
His parents sent Mr. Wolfgang to England from Nazi Germany in 1937, when he was 14, as part of a general exodus of Jews. They joined him two years later. He joined the labour party in 1948 and became a vice-president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. His view on his treatment at the 2005 party conference was, "The Labour Party has been taken over by a clique of political adventurers who are now on their way out.. They have lost the confidence of the people.
"This would never have happened ten years ago. This would never have happened under Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan. At least they were confident of their own position. But Tony Blair cannot face any criticism about this illegal war."
The control-freak response
The Labour party's reaction to the highly public and severely embarrassing incident was to trot out party chairman Ian McCartney to lie about it. He claimed that Mr. Wolfgang had tried to disrupt the session repeatedly. Video coverage of the conference hall exposed the lie and McCartney was forced to deliver a grovelling apology for his attempted character assassination several hours later.
Other delegates have noticed that the storm troopers are there not just to leap on dissenters in the conference hall. While most of them watch the audience from its fringes, the rest mingle with the delegates and act as cheerleaders, applauding wildly in response to cues delivered over their headsets.
Another day, another apology
Mr. Wolfgang was allowed back into the conference for the final day as New Labour's favourite son. Party stooges were lined up to greet him and the real people in the conference hall applauded while keeping a nervous eye on the bouncers. Tony Blair was obliged to offer his own grovelling apology for the previous day's display of control freakery; but not a personal apology to Mr. Wolfgang, of course. This disaster of a conference eventually closed on a subdued note.
It began with Gordon Brown delivering his "I'm the prime minister now in all but name" speech, which was followed a day later by Tony Blair calling for change in every department but the Labour Party leadership, and leaving no one in any doubt that he had no intention of budging from 10 Downing Street for several years.
Now, conspiracy theorists are claiming that the whole mess involving Mr. Wolfgang and the thugs was dreamed up by the Labour party's spin doctors as a diversion from the irreconcilable Blair-Brown situation and the many conference defeats suffered by the government at the hands of trade unions. And given the general diabolicality of Labour party spin doctors, few would dismiss the theory out of hand.
On that last day of the conference . . .
Mr. Wolfgang was told that he is entitled to his point of view something he already knew without being told it by some patronizing New Labour git. And there was no sign of New Labour's thugs being prosecuted for assault and no sign of the police officers, who arrested Mr. Wolfgang under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, being disciplined for making a false arrest and retrained in what constitutes terrorism.
The police 'service', apparently, continues to act as new labour's private bodyguard and to hell with everyone else.
"This is supposed to be a democratic socialist party but it is more like a national socialist party."
Councillor Thomas Davidson, Labour, Hornsey & Wood Green.