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Jack Jones: March 29, 1913-April 21, 2009

A Liverpool city councillor at just 23, he was wounded in the Spanish Civil War, yet still left time to become the most powerful man in the country

Published on April 27th 2009.

Jack Jones: March 29, 1913-April 21, 2009

AMONG the many warm tributes paid to Liverpool-born trade union leader Jack Jones, it was Tony Benn who made the lasting political point.

Benn pinned the blame for the current global recession on Thatcher economics – the untrammelled, de-regulated free market which Jack Jones had fought against all his life.

"The slump we face is a product of deregulation, a product of all the things that Mrs Thatcher believed in,” said Benn.

"We were told 'break the unions, keep out, leave everything to the markets' and now we are in the most serious crisis for 60 years. That also makes Jack's death a moment for reflection."

Jones would have taken no satisfaction from being proved right at the end of his 96 years of life. He wasn’t that kind of man. He would have been more concerned about the victims of the recession and what could be done to help them.

For, as North West TUC Regional Secretary Alan Manning testifies, the lasting memory of Jones will be of his human warmth and decency.

“Jack’s warm humanity shone through in every thought and deed. He was a true son of Liverpool and the North West.”

The son of a Liverpool docker, James Larkin Jones was brought up in the Garston slums where he witnessed now unimaginable poverty and neighbours dying from tubercolosis.

He lost his job as an engineering apprentice in the Wall Street crash, went on hunger marches, joined the Labour Party at 15, became Liverpool’s youngest city councillor at 23 and joined the International Brigade to fight Franco’s fascists in Spain, where he was seriously wounded in the shoulder and where he met and married Evelyn, another fighter, with whom he had two sons.

This was just the curtain raiser to Jack Jones, legendary trade union leader.

After championing Midlands car workers, he rose to become General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union. Jones was the architect, with Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson and veteran left-winger Michael Foot, of the controversial ‘social contract’ – another earlier attempt at regulating capitalism.

In 1977, as the Winter of Discontent loomed, Jones was voted ‘the most powerful man in Britain’. It didn’t last once Mrs Thatcher came to power and “beer and sandwiches” at Number 10 were relegated to the dustbin of history.

After his retirement, Jones refused to give up. This time his cause was justice and dignity for pensioners. Interestingly, here too, history has proved him right. He argued passionately, against the Blair government’s opposition, for the restoration of the link between pensions and average earnings.

The pensions and pay-offs given now to the failed financiers who have caused so much damage would have, justifiably, outraged him.

For, at heart, Jack Jones was a re-distributionist. He believed people who created wealth by hand or by brain, should get a fairer share of the available rewards.

He helped millions of union members get a fairer share. And he was a consistent force against the vagaries of the capitalist free market.

And about that, Jack was all right.

As recalled by Matt Finnegan

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

sinchyApril 22nd 2009.

Good riddance to this old fool. A time serving communist lackey who tried and failed (thanks to the blessed Margaret) to destroy Britain.This slimy old criminal will go down in history as presiding over a near communist revolution in blighted industries.The Germans, Japanese, and French facists won after all. Britain is still paying for Jones and his filthy red menace.

AnonymousApril 22nd 2009.

He seemed like a nice chap, but I suspect the country would be on its financial knees if he and his kind had been left in charge.

50 percent offApril 22nd 2009.

He'd have liked the budget today. Damn!

tocquevillerApril 22nd 2009.

Thatcher presided over the breakup of the railways and massive crashes. She enforced closure of hospitals leading to deaths of thousands of old people and children.Thatcher crippled singleparent families with poll taxes and means tested benefits.Thatcher robbed the treasure of British Industry to enrich her American backers and British capitialist jackals.Thatcher was responsible for massive nuclear power leaks when she closed the pits and condemned proud men to a life of flipping burgers for slave wages.When she dies the country should rejoice.

Lord StreetApril 22nd 2009.

Sinchy! Either you are being ironic (“the blessed Margaret – ho ho!) or you really have no grasp of reality.Do you not remember Michael Heseltine on television banging the table on television the night before the General Election and shouting “If Labour wins tomorrow, the City will close this country down!”Now that sounds to me like someone holding the country to ransom.

POLOApril 22nd 2009.

A really nice tibute to Jack, Matt.To anonymous, the country IS on it's financial knees right now!Even as a small child I can clearly remember his time as head of the T&G.My Dad was a docker when he was pushing for the jobs for life, being brought up in the Seventies was a really exciting time for me and awakened my political eyes.Jack Jones was the reason/person who opened my eyes.He will be greatly missed, however, his presence will be felt in workers hearts everywhere.Rest in Peace Jack and when you get to heaven I'm sure you will have the angels organised in no time.:)

robby D.April 22nd 2009.

Bet Maggie Thatcher was better in bed than smelly Jack Jones though.

sinchyApril 22nd 2009.

Margaret Thatcher saved Britain and won the war against Argentina.Singlehanded she broke the back of the red menace strangling British Industry.Margaret Thatcher will go down in history as the saviour of modern Britain. Gormless gordon brown will be vilified for his mishandling of a once vital and progressive economy.New Labours days are thankfully numbered and Conservatives will adopt their natural positions as rulers once more.

MalHApril 22nd 2009.

What a nice person you must be "sinchy" it must be a joy to be in your company and share your conversation - I can only hope that not everyone judges you and your work with the same, intemperate, ill-considered, lack of knowledge.Jack Jones may not have been to your political taste - as I doubt if you are to many others - but he certainly did not deserve to be commented on by your silly stream of borrowed cliches, ignorant invective, one-eyed, deluded political analysis, overly simple industrial observations, double standards and distasteful vitriol.You may astound me by saying different - but I doubt you ever met the man and doubt that you could, in modern sporting parlance, ever be fit to lace his boots.If this sad, ill-considered outburst is any indication of your wisdom I can tell you, that had you ever crossed swords with him, you would have been left feeling - at best - rather foolish. Jack doesn't need me, or anyone else, to defend him or his life - he would certainly have had the dignity to ignore your ill-mannered ignorance.I did have the priviledge of meeting him and anyone else who did - no matter their political or industrial leanings - would have been struck by his genuine beliefs, generosity of spirit, sharp mind and thoughtful and considerate expressions.Your ignorance is the clearest illustration of the need for people of Jack Jones' integrity.The world is a lesser place without him.For you "sinchy" I hope age grants you wisdom and the future bestows upon you some of its tolerance, a little of its generosity and, hopefully, a lot more of its knowledge.

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