It is a revealing commentary on the coverage the media give to minority political parties that the only national mention we have had so far this year has not been about our stance on some issue but on the occasion of the death of a former member who became a Labour MP and a junior Minister and who ended up in the House of Lords.
All the obituaries mentioned that Baroness Lestor of Eccles, who died at the end of March, and her father had been members of the Socialist Party of Great Britain. Her father was described as an actor, journalist and One Big Union organiser who came over from Canada to help “organise the SPGB”, of which he became a “leading member” but the Glasgow Herald’s (31 March) statement that he “became leader of the Socialist Party of Great Britain” was absurd. They did however have the grace to publish a correction.
The prize for bad journalism goes to Michael White, political editor of the Guardian, for writing (28 March) that Joan Lestor “had passed through a Trotskyite phase by 1955”, but MP Tam Dalyell came a close second with his statement that her father had been a member of the “Socialist Workers Party of Great Britain” (Independent, 30 March). The Times described us as a “far left doctrinaire movement” while the Daily Telegraph wrote about “extremist dogmatism”, but there was no mention of the fact that by leaving the Socialist Party to join the Labour Party in 1955 Lestor was changing her aim from socialism to the reform of capitalism. She found out the limitations of this first hand when she felt obliged to resign as junior Education minister in 1976 in protest at the cuts in nursery education spending imposed by the Wilson Labour government of the time in response to an economic crisis. She died a few days before the cuts in benefit for single mothers imposed by the present Labour government came into force and which was against everything she had fought for as a reformist.