Saturday, October 01, 2005

Walter Wolfgang's Week

AS all good bloggers know, undoubtably the lasting memory of the Labour Party Conference was the manhandling and removal of the 82 year old heckler Walter Wolfgang, a Jewish refugee from nazi Germany. Not only that , but anti-terrorism laws were then invoked by the police to deal with him.

It seemed to most people that this was an absurd over-reaction by the Labour Party and the Police and a slightly chilling reminder of the powers that they have. (As well as being a public relations disaster.) However some people have taken a different slant:

Oliver Kamm has pointed out that Mr Wolfgang isn't perhaps as saintly as some of the press makes out, and apparently belongs to such organisations as "Labour Action for Peace".

Meanwhile on Harry's Place, there's a post that begins:

I find Walter Wolfgang’s musings on the Iraq war, Kosovo, his allegiance to new millennium CND - the sick bastard child of a once noble peace movement – and membership of the Stop the War Coalition – now exposed as a front for Trotskyite supporters of fascistic child murderers in Iraq – all utterly abhorrent.

The post on Harry's Place has generated over 200 comments. I haven't read them all, but the one that sums up my views is from Stephen Marks:

Nor are Walter Wolfgang’s broader views, or the opinions of HP bloggers and commenters on those views, of any material relevance. The bouncers who threw him out, together with the young constituency chair who took his part, did not have the benefit of Oliver Kamm’s diligent research into Wolfgang’s political history. All they knew was that he had shouted ‘nonsense’ and ‘that’s a lie’ at Jack Straw - opinions which, whether right and wrong, are shared by millions of Labour supporters most of whom are neither Respect members, Turkish Stalinists or CND activists with a past record of co-operation with Communists during the Cold War.

The stewards had their instructions to eject anybody who interjected - and, it appears, to sit ‘with intent’ next to someone who muttered ‘hear hear’ during a rare speech which did express criticism of the war.

It should by now be well known that Labour conferences are almost entirely stage-managed, with constituency delegates often hand-picked by regional officers from moribund ‘rotten borough’ constituency parties and spoon-fed ready-written speeches. In many parts of the country - though not here in Oxford - the party is a moribund and hollowed-out shell.

It is this disease, of which the outrageous treatment of Walter Wolfgang is merely a symptom, which ought to be the subject of concern from a blog which claims to represent social democratic values.

Ironically one of Jack Straw’s grandparents was also a refugee from Nazi Germany - and was I believe a conscientious objector during WW2, unlike Wolfgang who volunteered for the British forces. Had he returned from the grave to heckle his grandson, he would no doubt have received the same treatment.

I do not have an immense amount of time for Jack Straw. But it seems he does mount the soapbox and hold a street meeting in his constituency at weekends. Unlike all too many of today’s politicians he could probably have dealt ably with a modest critical heckle.

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