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Derek Hatton - 'a lot to be proud of'

Thirty years on from THAT Labour council, its colourful deputy leader talks to Larry Neild

Written by . Published on April 29th 2013.

Derek Hatton - 'a lot to be proud of'

THIRTY years ago this week, Liverpool became a virtual people’s republic with the election of a Labour council that was to go down in history. 

Just four months after those famous local polls of May 1983, Derek Hatton was chosen as deputy leader of Liverpool City Council. 

'We had some polling stations with a turn out of over 70pc. That was unheard of and today in some polling stations you are lucky to get 7pc'

A battle raged, fought out on the pages of the tabloids and the broadsheets, between Degsy’s so-called Militant army and Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government. 

The clarion call on the streets of Liverpool was to protect “jobs and services”, and a campaign began to build council houses, schools and community centres. 

Starved of cash from Whitehall, the council embarked on an adventure that led to Hatton and 46 other Labour councillors being banished from office, in 1987, for five years. 

A handful of Labour councillors – known, depending on which side of the fence you were on, as the Scabby Seven or the  Sensible Seven - kept their seats. 

With row upon row of empty Labour benches in Liverpoool,  the Liberals regained the control they had lost in 1983. Sir Trevor Jones became leader. The Lord Mayorality (the title had been changed to Chairman by the Labour group) was restored, with Lady Doreen Jones riding through the city in the traditional horse-drawn coach. 

In the fullness of time, new elections were held to replaced the sacked politicians and Labour regained control of the town hall. Things, though, would never be the same again. 

Neil KinnockNeil Kinnock has a goIn 1985, the Labour Party Leader Neil Kinnock made his famous-anti-Militant speech at the party’s Bournemouth conference in which he denounced the “grotesque” way (Liverpool) “a Labour council … a Labour council”, sent taxis scuttling around the city delivering redundancy notices to its own workers. The media had a field day. 

Although the Militants were later to admit the stunt was an own goal, the reality is the notices were accompanied with a second letter stating there would be NO job losses. The redundancy notices were red tape, issued so the council stayed within the law during its budget battle with the Government. But why let the facts get in the way of a good story? 

Among the banned councillors was the late John Hamilton, leader of the city. Opinion at the time suggested the gentlemanly Hamilton was side-stepped by Militant and the de-facto leader was Hatton. A few years ago, as Hamilton’s life was coming to an end, he sent for me as he lay on his deathbed. He wanted to bury a few ghosts about the Militant years. Hamilton said after the end of the Militant era in Liverpool he never exchanged a single word with Hatton. 

So three decades on what does businessman and after-dinner speaker Hatton, make of it all? 

Derek_Hatton %282%29


LN:  If you went back to 1983 would you do anything differently?

DH: It’s a different world, but given the nature of the way the world was then, the way politics was, the way Liverpool was, if it was May 5,1983, the day we took control, I’m not sure I’d do a  single thing different. 

If it was May 2013 I’m not sure I would do a single thing the same. 

Remember, in 1983 when we took over you are talking about the docks shutting, factories shutting, unemployment at an all-time high. You are talking about a Tory government coming in that was already smashing the miners, the steel industry and was smashing local government. So the world was different. 

Despite all of that, despite all of the politics, we were still able to do what we did – build 5,000 houses, create thousands of jobs, build schools and nurseries, etc etc. I think we have got a lot to be proud of. 

Derek_Hatton %283%29 

LN: History, well in my book, has been most unkind to that era in Liverpool. At the time the people of Liverpool were right behind what was happening. The turn-out in local elections was massive.  

DH: We never lost an election. When we got in in 1983, we were the only city in the country to win from the Liberals and the Tories. And two months later Thatcher won a General Election. There was a mood swing at the time to Tories but we (Liverpool) bucked the trend and went the other way. The reason why we did was the people of Liverpool saw this was worth going for, and they went on voting for us again and again.

We had some polling stations with a turn out of over 70pc. That was unheard of and today in some polling stations you are lucky to get 7pc. 

LN: When people talk about a Militant council, only a handful of the councillors belonged to the Militant Tendency. 

There was a mood swing at the time
to Tories but we (Liverpool) bucked
the trend and went the other way

DH: It was a left wing Labour council. Yes there were members of Militant, there were members of various factions, but at the end of the day it was a Labour-controlled council. Every member had been a member of the Labour Party for years and years, worked their way through the wards and constituencies. None of them had been parachuted in from anywhere. 

We have got only things to be proud of. I say to people in responsible positions “tell me what we did wrong?” And very often they don’t know what to say. 

They may say, “well didn’t you bankrupt the city?” We absolutely didn’t bankrupt the city and nobody can tell me what we did wrong. It’s hard for anybody to come up with anything. 

LN: Maybe it’s not what you did wrong, it’s maybe what other big cities with similar problems did wrong. If the big cities had stuck together history may have been different. 

Derek_HattonDegsy does Come Dine With Me 

DH: The only reason the big cities didn’t stick together was the treachery of Neil Kinnock. Until the time of that famous speech in 1985, I used to go up and down the country and speak to thousands of people on rallies. Every Labour leader loved to be on the platform with us. 

Those leaders were speaking to thousands of their people. If they called their own meetings they could have held them in telephone boxes. Kinnock all of a sudden saw the power building up all around the country and people were saying “what is Kinnock doing?”. The moment he made that speech not a single Labour leader wanted to be on a platform with us. 

'Kinnock didn’t lose general elections
because of our policies, he lost them
on the basis of his policies'

LN:  Just a few weeks ago, there was a demo outside Liverpool Town Hall against the bedroom tax. There were about 200 people there. I saw Tony Mulhearn (one of the 47 and former President of Liverpool District Labour Council) and reminded him of the days in the 1980s when there were 50,000 people in front of the Town Hall. 

DH: That is the difference, the mood was right. In those days local authorities could become - and were - at the forefront of the fight against the Tory Government and against the cuts. They can’t be these days. 

If Mayor Joe Anderson said today he was going to do what they did in the 1980s, by tomorrow the civil servants would be running the city. People have a go at Joe, but I don’t blame him. His hands are tied. 

LN: Look around the country now with the welfare reforms and the bedroom tax and you imagine it's rife for public reaction. 

DH: I’m sure it is, but it won’t be done through local authorities because the council’s don’t have power any more. 

LN:  If Margaret Thatcher had not been the Prime Minister, would we have seen the very powerful  Derek Hatton. 

Liverpool, Hatton StyleLiverpool, Hatton Style

DH: If it hadn’t been Thatcher, it would have been somebody of her ilk would have emerged. I don’t necessarily think it was about Thatcher the person. That’s why when people asked me if I was glad she had died, I said it’s totally irrelevant to me. I don’t wish any human being to die, but I really, really wish she had never been born. What she personified was what gave the whole country so many problems, devastated so many communities, devastated so many human beings, what destroyed family life in so many ways.  

It happened to be her who developed Thatcherism, if it had been a fellow called Smith it could have been Smithism. 

LN: Places like Liverpool were hung out to dry and were rife for a reaction. Just as we had a very powerful Prime Minister we needed a very powerful political entity in Liverpool which we did get, in a sense.

'I say to people in responsible positions
“tell me what we did wrong?” And very
often they don’t know what to say' 

DH: We still had docks closing, factories closing and massive unemployment, and unless you had a Tory government coming in to give all the money just because they liked Liverpool, that was always going to happen. And I couldn’t see that happening whether Thatcher was there or not. People say did we have to go about it the way we did. It was the way we went about it we got £30m from the government in our first year of being in office and no other city in the country got that. 

LN: People say because of what happened in the 1980s the city suffered from that legacy for many years. What do you say to those people? 

DH:  The expulsions happened and another Labour council took over and they were able to do what they did. Eventually because they didn’t have the policies that we had, the Liberals and Tories took over and they ran the city for years.  Remember Kinnock didn’t lose general elections because of our policies, he lost them on the basis of his policies. 

Genial John Hamilton And His Unruly CouncilGenial John Hamilton: Leader in name only

When Labour regained the city council in 1987 (after the expulsions)  they were told by national government what they could do. From then on in people were saying hang on, what are we getting here and eventually Labour lost control. That would never have happened if we had stayed in power. 

LN: Are you a member of the Labour Party? 

DH: You are the second person to ask me that this week. No I am not. I never rejoined. I have only ever voted Labour but at times I didn’t vote, particularly over Tony Blair and the Iraq War. 

LN: So there’s no coming back​? 

DH: Never say never, but at the moment the answer is correct.

If Milliband really wants  a Labour government
to take control he has got to stop listening
to what Daily Mail editorials are saying

LN: If you were giving advice to Joe Anderson or Ed Milliband what would you say​? 

DH: I don’t know how Joe Anderson would do anything differently than he does now. In the terms of what he is facing he’s probably doing a good job. 

Ed Milliband is a different ball game. If he really wanted to, he could behave very differently.  If he really wants  a Labour government to take control he has got to stop listening to what Daily Mail editorials are saying.  He’s got to say I’ve now got to do something about people losing jobs and suffering and losing everything because of this Tory government, and I’ve got to come up with an alternative. At this moment we are not seeing that. 

LN: At the moment there is no indication they (Labour) would repeal the bedroom tax. 

DH: There’s no indication they would repeal anything, so why would people vote for the same thing? They have to show they are different.

If there isn’t a Labour Party that is different to the Tories people will say why should we vote. 

An Everyday Demo In LiverpoolAn everyday demo in Liverpool would attract tens of thousands

LN: As you go around the country and meet people you are often portrayed as a political bogeyman. Do they see Derek Hatton in a different light? 

DH:  Of course they do. I can’t write what the editorials have been writing for 30 years. All I hope as time goes on, and particularly with the 30th anniversary people will start some of the truths behind those lies.

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17 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousApril 29th 2013.

Those with long memories will recall that it was quite correct that the redundancy notice gambit was just that. I could not believe Neil Kinnock and his speech. It was like he'd betrayed all of his socialist values and I had no respect for him after that. The Liverpool Echo, in the days when they printed something other than stories about scallies with knives, had a field day bashing Hatton. It was disgraceful. No we have impotent politics and a sort of murky grey area with no discernable colours. It's finished, this country, and Kinnock helped make that happen.

CarlApril 29th 2013.

Fascinating read

AnonymousApril 29th 2013.

And what has Degsy been up to of late? Why, he appears to have found some new pals in Downtown Liverpool in Business, the "sexy networking" club run by disgraced one-time leader-elect of Lancashire County Council, Frank McKenna, who in 2003 was charged with electoral fraud and perjury after a £3m police investigation. Despite this, DLiB remains Anderson's preferred vehicle for bringing business to the city, most prominently Peel Holding's Liverpool Waters which will rob the docks of its World Heritage Status. Shame on you Degsy for hanging out with these crooks and spivs!

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousApril 30th 2013.

Very worrying that a shady "networking club" like this seems to have so much political influence, given Degsy's association with it.

StephMay 2nd 2013.

Is that the shady networking club which anybody can go along to and is held in bars and restaurants?<br /><br />Sounds dodgy

Jake PepperApril 29th 2013.

What did Derek Hatton/Militant do for people? I'll tell you what! They built houses. My dad was severely disabled and had languished in an upstairs tenement flat for years because the previous administration failed to help him. He was completely housebound. I think he would have been dead within a couple of years. Within a year of Derek Hatton/Militant taking control he and my mum were given a bungalow with a garden. It transformed their lives and my Dad lived for another 20 odd years. I can only thank DH/Militant for what they did. Good on ya Derek!

Corpie MackApril 30th 2013.

"Although the Militants were later to admit the stunt was an own goal, the reality is the notices were accompanied with a second letter stating there would be NO job losses. The redundancy notices were red tape, issued so the council stayed within the law during its budget battle with the Government. But why let the facts get in the way of a good story?"

I had no second letter, nor did any of my colleagues at the time.

AnonymousApril 30th 2013.

Very good interview. If only politicians these days were as exciting

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousMay 1st 2013.

Very bad interview, Larry just lets him put his side of the story with no challenge or incicive questioning.

AnonymousMay 1st 2013.

least he can spell

AnonymousMay 1st 2013.

hatton is an idiot who put the city back 30 years. Companies would not dream of opening here for fear of industrial unrest. The last time I saw him on TV he was running a golf course in Portugal. hypocticticsl ass

1 Response: Reply To This...
scouse690May 6th 2013.

I totally agree. We ended up as a bankrupt City, where industry and commerce would NOT touch us with a bargepole!! Hatton caused that!! Not Maggie! And Kinnock saw through Hatton's &#34;bluster&#34; and, Thank Goodness....expelled him! DON'T FORGET, Hatton was ONLY DEPUTY Leader, but he has left a scar on this City, because of his &#34;self promotion&#34;. He didn't care about this City or it's people...he only cared about promoting himself!! And to see him on TV a few weeks ago, after Maggie's death...talking crap!! But,to the outside UK/world, they think that we LOYAL SCOUSERS think the same as this maniac!! DO WE HELL!!

Mickeydrippin'May 2nd 2013.

The person who I felt a little sorry for at the time was John Hamilton. He was the Leader of The Council but due to his apparent shyness, elected to stay out of the public eye leaving Derek Hatton to be the mouthpiece. Although, as Degsy took all the media flak and, in Tory eyes, was Public Enemy no. 1, perhaps by staying in the background, John Hamilton was very shrewd.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Corpie MackMay 4th 2013.

He was circumvented. Hamilton was a widely-respected honest-to-goodness Labour man. He was made Council Leader but Hatton pulled all the strings using Hamilton as a front. It was said at the time that his telephone calls were monitored.

AnonymousMay 4th 2013.

No need to bring religion into the discussion

Rogeredwards795@Btinternet.ComMay 8th 2013.

An excellent perspective. For year's if there has been any difference between labour and tory it is practically impossible to discern. "New" labour should be calling itself old tory (thatcherites).

Obviously New Labour will not reverse any of the legislation that this government forces through. They will use the same crappy arguments to "save" money and raise taxes. Naturally, public services will also suffer.

This will be done with the excuse of paying off the debt this country has. Er, I don't think so! This country has a debt of £1.3 TRILLION. This debt has NOT been created by the people of this country.

The government (and the media) are making out that it is the cost of the NHS, the scrounger's, the pensioner's, the disabled, the unemployed. We also don't make any objection against cut's to the police and fire and rescue services.

None of these r soles talk about the cost of aiding and abetting the financial sector, nor the cost of military interventions in the middle-east and north africa.

So, yes, we have NEW LABOUR who have continued to alienate the core of the old labour movement to the extent that they no longer vote at election time. So the tories get in.

On top of which we have the TUC members believing they are the new middle class - because they get a few pence over the minimum wage!!

This country need's to get out of any "special" relationship with the USA. This country need's to get out of all military intervention's in the middle-east and north africa These move's alone would release the resources to provide and look after the needs and even the aspirations of the population.

The industrial base needs to be built up and public utilities nationalised.


It's my rant - and I can dream can't I?

AnonymousMay 8th 2013.

2/10 for that. A good start, undermined by use of apostrophes for any words ending in "s" I blame the teacher's. Sic

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