Posts Tagged ‘John Smith House’

Tom Watson says goodbye to Walworth Rd

20/10/2010, 08:43:50 AM

So “Walworth Road”, one of Labour’s triumvirate of famous headquarters, is to be converted into a hostel for London’s visiting back packers. The planning permission was approved last week. Where once journeying ideologues stomped their feet, hedonistic global consumers will now rest their heads.

Little do those weary wanderlusters know what history they will be inhaling as they bunk up for the night. Backpackers should take comfort that many political journeys have started and spectacularly ended in that great building.

Labour’s rose took root in Walworth Road. And the party’s long and jagged march with the command economy ended there on the day that new Labour took its first tentative steps towards Millbank glory.

Political movements and ideas reached their terminus in the tiny roof conversion that doubled as a boardroom. The Militant tendency was filleted in that building. The decision to close the New Socialist magazine was taken there – a brutal response to the editorial team defiantly calling for tactical voting shortly before the 1987 election. And the longest suicide note in history – our 1983 manifesto – was drafted there.

The Walworth Road I first entered in 1984 was very much like a hostel. You were met at the front door by two striking miners and their table full of Davey lamps and buckets of shrapnel. A huge imposing portrait of Clem stared beneficently down at you in the foyer, as you fumbled with the intercom to persuade Lesley, the grand dame of the reception and secret Conservative voter, to let you enter the main building. The famous, the powerful and the pompous could be left in that little room for an eternity if they crossed her. My God, I admired Lesley. (more…)

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