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50 Years Ago: Rebels Too Late

Few things have more searingly exposed the futility and absurdity of Labour's so-called left wing than their 'revolt' over the government's policies on prices and incomes and Vietnam.

In all the fuss over the revolt, it seemed to escape notice that, not for the first time, the rebels were rather late. The Prices and Incomes Bill was first introduced during the lifetime of the last government; the version which caused Frank Cousins to resign his Ministry is actually milder than the previous one.

On Vietnam, the Wilson government always made clear their support for American actions, including the bombing of the North.

In other words, the present government are simply carrying on the policies of the last. But in between there was the general election; that was the time for the rebels to make their disagreements known.

They might even have resigned from the Labour Party and fought on an independent platform. But they had probably all studied the fate of the Radical Alliance in Hull North. So what did they do? Well here are extracts from the election addresses of two of the Vietnam rebels:

Hugh Jenkins (Putney): ... we need a longer period of office, with a more secure majority, so that we can get on with the job.

Sydney Bidwell (Southall): If you . . . intend to vote Labour again . . . may 1 warmly thank you in advance and urge you, in the name of our just and common cause, to make absolutely sure you use your vote.

No word of dissension disturbed the orthodoxy of these addresses. Hugh Jenkins was hanging so firmly on to Wilson's coat tails that he embellished his address with a picture of the Leader, pipe and avuncular expression and all. There was plenty to protest about last March but the rebels held their tongues. And their seats.

(from News in Review, Socialist Standard, August 1966)