Since Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader, this site has charted the return of the bad old days to the Labour Party, with the rise of Momentum, entryism by the Socialist Party (AKA Militant), the SWP and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, the rise of anti-semitism and the ensuing bitter faction fights.
Now we can report that not only are the old problems and factions of the 1980s re-emerging, but so are some of the old faces.
Last week, the Gipsy Hill branch of Lambeth Labour Party elected “Red Ted” Knight as its chairman. Knight will be familiar to those who remember the excesses of the loony left in the Thatcher years. For those who don’t recall his exploits, he is a Trotskyist, expelled from Labour in the 1950s, who returned to the party in the 1970s, became a close ally of Ken Livingstone and then served a disastrous few years as the leader of the London Borough of Lambeth from 1978-1985.
Not only was Knight’s period in charge characterised by the pursuit of hard-left photo opportunities at taxpayers’ expense (including a junket to Sandinista Nicaragua), it was notable for the dire incompetence displayed on a number of fronts. Eventually, Lambeth unlawfully refused to set a budget in 1985, and the district auditor barred Knight and 30 other Labour councillors from public office for five years due to “wilful misconduct”. Predictably, the council squandered tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money on a futile political campaign in defence of the unlawful decision.
In illustrating the poison of the hard left inside Labour, the saga of Knight’s reign in Lambeth was second only to Militant’s catastrophic influence in Liverpool. The rise of Corbyn, a “personal friend” of Knight’s, is no doubt manna from heaven to him – he has become actively involved in Lambeth Momentum and his old ally John McDonnell recently appeared with him at an event commemorating his disastrous leadership.
So it’s notable that Knight has now regained elected office in the Labour Party, back on his old turf. Either those who voted him in don’t remember how badly things went last time, or they actively support how he behaved back then. I’m not sure which is more troubling.