Tensions at the Labour Conference
ANNUAL PARTY conferences are, fortunately very "British" affairs. The volubly-expressed ideological odds of five-to-one (in millions) against the Government's pay policy did not bring out riot-police at Blackpool this week.
Conferences, in other words, are not conventions; and though we can learn much from other countries, we may hope never to witness the near tragedy of Chicago, 1968, when Humphrey was nominated.
Older heads,however, can remember past Labour Conferences with moments even more poignant than bombs and barricades: Philip Snowden breaking down when told to quit, with a vicious whiff of verbal tear-gas from Ernest Bevin before the war; an ashen-faced Gaitskell, beaten on Clause Four, and vowing, in revenge, to "Fight, and fight again."
Opposing the party on that latter occasion was none other than Harold Wilson, on the grounds that while Governments and party executives must be realistic, the views of the conference are never to be brushed aside.
How well has this test survived the 1968 battle of trade union freedom versus the fight for full economic recovery? Well. for one thing, Mrs Castle did not say "Let's fight." She said "Let's talk and, with the Chancellor's backing, challenged Mr Cousins to produce a constructive alternative. Mr Wilson, the following g day linked the union dilemma directly with the economic problem. While "proud" that the party could afford such frank debate, he gave a positive ultimatum about "putting our own house in order."
At least, though, in 1968 two socialist factions have listened to each other with unusual attention. If this year's Labour Party Conference has demonstrated that opposing views are not invalid because they are incompatible much will have been achieved. Members of the electorate of all views cannot fail to be consoled by seeing rivalries dealt within an adult and "British" fashion.