1969 – a year of great happenings

A lot of things happened in 1969:

The Beatles made their last live appearance — on a rooftop;

They also released their 11th studio album — Abbey Road;

Brian Jones quit the Rolling Stones and less than a month later was found dead in his swimming pool;

Michael Caine starred in the British film The Italian Job;

Rupert Murdoch bought The News of the World and later in the year relaunched The Sun as a tabloid;

Man landed on the Moon;

Charles was invested as Prince of Wales at Caernarfon (two Welsh Nationalists blew themselves up while planting a bomb in Abergele).

The Kray twins went down for life for murder;

Monty Python’s Flying Circus was launched;

My brother Nigel got married and borrowed 7s6d off me to pay for the licenceb

and

I was given the right to vote but couldn’t use it until the next year.

Not all of these meant a lot to me at the time – except for getting the right to vote. It meant I needed to complete my studies into which party was worthy of my vote.

The one thing that kept cropping up was the slogan:

“from each according to ability; for each according to need”

It is said to be a Communist philosophy and was generally attributed to Karl Marx in the late 19th century but was given, not necessarily in the same words but with the same principles, by others interested in the plight of the working people.

It can actually be traced back in varying forms and in various societies at least 2,000 years.

In fact in Acts 2: 44-45 and Acts 4: 32-35 it is clear that those who followed Jesus and studied his teachings sold all their property and possessions and gave it for the use of the group, doling out funds to feed and clothe followers as needed.

This certainly sounds like a socialist society — nowadays they’d be dismissed as a group of hippies or old crusties — but it was not the first.

It appears wherever there were people there were groups working together to help each other.

At the same time there were those who didn’t necessarily care about others but just wanted to use their work to benefit themselves.

The thing I had to decide was — which came first: the socialist chicken or the capitalist golden egg.

Call me an optimist but I felt sure that when the first of the homo sapiens abandoned the trees and grouped together they worked to help each other.

Hunters hunted; others collected berries and fruits; then there were those who planted the seeds and grew them on.

The earliest form of a co-operative society.

I couldn’t cram the whole of humankind into my periods of study set between work and home.

I did concentrate on conditions for workers in the 19th century and the early 20th century and realised that when they got together to form working men’s associations and unions they were harking back to the dawn of history.

That was when I clicked to the fact that the Tory Party were too keen to maintain the status quo and the Liberals didn’t really have any idea.

I had ruled out any form of Welsh nationalism long before because we are stronger as a whole.

I had already realised that the strength of the working people lay in unity and that it was the unions that made us strong.

I also came to my own understanding that there was only one party that embodied the principles I believed in.

Also Labour had been the governing party for the vast majority of my teens.

When my first chance came to vote for my chosen party in June 1970 I voted for the Labour Party candidate John Evans, hoping that finally the Conservative hold on the West Flintshire Parliamentary seat would be lost.

The seat had been held for many years by Sir Nigel Birch but he had stood down and the new candidate was Anthony Meyer.

Unfortunately my first real step into the world of politics was not a resounding success. The Tories won again with an increased majority.

Was I downhearted?

No.

Did I lose faith in Labour?

No.

Having come to Labour through socialism and a study of the history of the working people my belief has only been strengthened over the years by defeats as well as victories.

I did not join Labour because of family tradition (I never really knew my parents’ real political persuasion) but because of the principles I held dear.

Through the good times and the bad I have always believed in the rights of the working people and in the main (there have been blips) the party has followed that course.

Mind you my opinion of Tory MPs might not have been advanced by my one and only close contact with Nigel Birch.

It happened in late 1969 when many organisations held their annual dinner dances.

The local NFU had invited a Labour minister of state to be their guest of honour. Memory is hazy but I believe it was Fred Peart.

Brian Barratt, the editor, suggested that I should attend.

I actually hired a dinner suit for the occasion.

It was my first ever formal dinner dance and I was surrounded by all the other penguins in dinner jackets and dickie bows and their more brightly attired partners.

I was seated opposite Nigel Birch who did not appear to have a very high opinion of local reporters. Seated next to me was a white-haired gentleman who was the only guest NOT wearing a DJ.

He was dressed in a dark blue pinstripe suit, double-breasted, with a white shirt, displaying plain gold cuff-links, and a dark blue tie.

He actually made the other men present appear badly-dressed.

During the meal he was very affable and even asked if I would like to share a bottle of a good red wine with him.

Meanwhile Nigel Birch was getting gradually drunk directly opposite me.

By the time Mr Peart got up to speak the Tory MP had got into his stride and started barracking the speaker and banging his fist on the table.

Clearly nobody wanted to say anything to the local MP – except for my dinner companion who looked across the table and quietly said: “Nigel, do be quiet and try not to be such a boor.”

Nigel Birch immediately stopped and slumped into his seat like a naughty little boy who had been told off by nanny.

I was astonished that this quietly-spoken man could silence a Tory MP so easily.

He had introduced himself to me as Lloyd and at the time I remember commenting that my grandfather’s surname was Lloyd.

I later discovered he was Lloyd Tyrell-Kenyon, 5th Baron Kenyon, and a hereditary peer.

What I did recognise was that he was a gentleman of the old school. Whereas Birch was an indicator of what the Tories were to become.

Lord Kenyon’s gentlemanly behaviour was not enough to outweigh my already growing dislike of Tories like Birch.

I have stood by my socialist principles ever since.

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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