Dead Men Left

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Bring on the show trials

AN 82-YEAR-OLD man who fled Nazi Germany was yesterday thrown out of the Labour Party conference for disagreeing with a speech by Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary...

Earlier, Walter Wolfgang was bundled out of the auditorium when he protested against Mr Straw comparing the political situation in Iraq to post-war Germany.

A second man who tried to defend the delegate's right to freedom of speech was dragged out of the hall by stewards.

The incident isn't surprising. New Labour was conceived on the ruins of inner-party democracy: what Kinnock started, with the witch-hunts and expulsions directed against the left, Blair has continued: the emasculation of annual conference and the NEC, the promotion of "unity" and "loyalty" as the supreme virtues, the concentration of power and resources around head office. That they're now roughing up pensioners in their own party conference is almost plus ca change.

They've applied the same techniques in power. From ASBOs and control orders, to the obsessional focus on presentation, a political leadership that since its birth has dedicated itself to uprooting opposition amongst its immediate circle would hardly act any other way when confronted by a whole country of potential malcontents.

The reaction at the BBC website is interesting. Overwhelming condemnation, obviously, but it was the use of the Terrorism Act to detain Walter Wolfgang that has rattled everyone: there may have been some expectation that it was intended for use against, well, terrorists, rather than 82-year old refugees. It's the little incidents like this that eat away at the grand schemes. Wolfgang's run rings round the supposedly professional New Labour media operation:

An 82-year-old activist thrown out of the Labour party conference for heckling Jack Straw has returned to the venue to a hero's welcome.
Walter Wolfgang, from London, was cheered as he held up his security pass - confiscated by stewards on Wednesday.

He said a "small mistake" had been rectified - unlike the "big mistake we made in invading Iraq".