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Hammer of the Left: Defeating Tony Benn, Eric Heffer and Militant in the Battle for the Labour Party

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In the late 1970s and early 1980s John Golding, known as the 'Hammer of the Left', was one of the most influential figures in the Labour Party. As MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme and a top trade union 'fixer', he led the moderates' fightback against Tony Benn, Militant and the hard left.In this posthumously published memoir, edited by Paul Farrelly MP, Golding details his ruth In the late 1970s and early 1980s John Golding, known as the 'Hammer of the Left', was one of the most influential figures in the Labour Party. As MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme and a top trade union 'fixer', he led the moderates' fightback against Tony Benn, Militant and the hard left.In this posthumously published memoir, edited by Paul Farrelly MP, Golding details his ruthless quest to remove Benn and Heffer from Labour's National Executive Committee. He reveals how he and his 'union mafia' made sure that Benn lost his Bristol seat - and with it his leadership ambitions - and describes the back-room fixing which dashed Roy Hattersley's hopes and delivered the leadership to Neil Kinnock.


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In the late 1970s and early 1980s John Golding, known as the 'Hammer of the Left', was one of the most influential figures in the Labour Party. As MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme and a top trade union 'fixer', he led the moderates' fightback against Tony Benn, Militant and the hard left.In this posthumously published memoir, edited by Paul Farrelly MP, Golding details his ruth In the late 1970s and early 1980s John Golding, known as the 'Hammer of the Left', was one of the most influential figures in the Labour Party. As MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme and a top trade union 'fixer', he led the moderates' fightback against Tony Benn, Militant and the hard left.In this posthumously published memoir, edited by Paul Farrelly MP, Golding details his ruthless quest to remove Benn and Heffer from Labour's National Executive Committee. He reveals how he and his 'union mafia' made sure that Benn lost his Bristol seat - and with it his leadership ambitions - and describes the back-room fixing which dashed Roy Hattersley's hopes and delivered the leadership to Neil Kinnock.

30 review for Hammer of the Left: Defeating Tony Benn, Eric Heffer and Militant in the Battle for the Labour Party

  1. 4 out of 5

    Richard Thomas

    Fascinating account of the fight against extremist infiltration of the Labour Party in the seventies and eighties. It's probably inevitable that history seems to be repeating itself just now. The epilogue describes this. Golding writes well about his involvement in the political change and doesn't spare the humbug and cynicism of the opposition - Tony Benn and Eric Heffer in particular. Of necessity the account brings in a great deal of detail on the minutiae of Labour's constitutional affairs, Fascinating account of the fight against extremist infiltration of the Labour Party in the seventies and eighties. It's probably inevitable that history seems to be repeating itself just now. The epilogue describes this. Golding writes well about his involvement in the political change and doesn't spare the humbug and cynicism of the opposition - Tony Benn and Eric Heffer in particular. Of necessity the account brings in a great deal of detail on the minutiae of Labour's constitutional affairs, the conferences and governing bodies. So unless you're a political junky, much of this can become tedious although essential to understanding how the political changes were made and the enormous effort put in to get the party back.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Malcolm Kennedy

    Worth reading the new version with postscript by John Golding's successor as Newcastle Under Lyme's MP. The parallels with today and the guide to action is clear.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kyus Agu-Lionel

    A fascinating book. It's made all the more poignant by the knowledge that after all the work he did to throw the hard left out of the Labour party and make it electable again, they snuck back in after Miliband's leadership election rule changes and we ended up with four years of chaos under Jeremy Corbyn. If you're a Labour Kremlinologist like me then there's lots to like here, as it covers in detail the internal politics of the party and the different executives, conferences and committees which A fascinating book. It's made all the more poignant by the knowledge that after all the work he did to throw the hard left out of the Labour party and make it electable again, they snuck back in after Miliband's leadership election rule changes and we ended up with four years of chaos under Jeremy Corbyn. If you're a Labour Kremlinologist like me then there's lots to like here, as it covers in detail the internal politics of the party and the different executives, conferences and committees which Golding worked through to consign Benn to irrelevance and expel Militant altogether. It does so in a gossipy, easy-to-read way that keeps it compelling. I was slightly surprised that he didn't go more over how the Liverpool branch of Militant was thrown out of the party, but perhaps he wasn't as involved in that and so it wasn't appropriate for this book. It's also very weird seeing MPs we would now consider as on the right of the party - Margaret Beckett for one - appear here in their earlier guise of far-left acolytes. All of the acronyms for different organisations and unions get very confusing, but there's a helpful glossary at the back for if (when!) you get confused as to who's who.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Pinko Palest

    I wonder: did John Golding employ a ghost-writer for this? I do not doubt his literary abilities, it is the stylistics that got me wondering, and quite a few parts of the book seem to be written in a very journalistic style. Almost tabloidese in fact. This is not a serious source, of course, and it is a self-serving exercise. The so-called 'moderates' will lap this up of course, although it also contains a very harsh lesson for them too: the fight-back of the Right within the Labour party in the I wonder: did John Golding employ a ghost-writer for this? I do not doubt his literary abilities, it is the stylistics that got me wondering, and quite a few parts of the book seem to be written in a very journalistic style. Almost tabloidese in fact. This is not a serious source, of course, and it is a self-serving exercise. The so-called 'moderates' will lap this up of course, although it also contains a very harsh lesson for them too: the fight-back of the Right within the Labour party in the 80s mainly took place through the unions. In other words, the Right within Labour cannot rely solely on the PLP, and has to carry at least some of the unions with it. Luckily, this does not seem like happening any time soon. It is great fun in places, of course, and has a few home truths for everybody, even for those on the Left (for example, the packs of costly leaflets still lying undistributed)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Carr

    While the level of detail can verge on the tedious, this is a good read for any looking to understand the state of the UK Labour Party in the 70s and 80s during which the hard-left seized sway before losing it (for a time). It's also a solid primer on how important organising is to politics. Quite a bit of humour - often black - in Golding's retelling as well. Would recommend to anyone interested in the 'backstory' to the current tension in the UK Labour Party, from a moderate perspective.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kirsten M

  7. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Thorbes

  8. 5 out of 5

    Helen Andrews

  9. 5 out of 5

    Hadleigh

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alex

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cory Hazlehurst

  12. 5 out of 5

    timothy m sharp

  13. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Garvey

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mike

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tom Blackburn

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jonathon Monger

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ruth Cushen

  18. 4 out of 5

    Alex White

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tom Willoughby

  20. 4 out of 5

    Samuel Fawcett

  21. 5 out of 5

    Miles Pardoe

  22. 5 out of 5

    Marc

  23. 5 out of 5

    CB

  24. 5 out of 5

    Andy

  25. 4 out of 5

    David Biddle

  26. 4 out of 5

    paul swift

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kieran Morris

  28. 4 out of 5

    Paul

  29. 4 out of 5

    Matt Pound

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jack L Youd

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