If you listen to some of the self-proclaimed pundits and experts in the “quality” papers and on the heavyweight political chat shows on a Sunday morning there is an underlying message that there is a British tradition, a way of doing things that is pragmatic and sensible. Socialism is the product of wild-eyed fanatics from abroad that has never taken root in the UK and never will thanks to our pluralistic democracy and capacity for compromise.
This point of view developed out of the Whig interpretation of history in which progressive ideas triumphed over the reactionaries trying to hold back the tide of history and steered the country clear of the revolutions that convulsed mainland Europe.
Throughout the last century this view of history was commonly taught in schools but came under challenge from Socialist historians like E.P. Thompson and Christopher Hill. They looked at the evidence for the development of radical ideas and organisation amongst ordinary people, people like us who are so often ignored in the history books. And many of those ideas not only began in this country, they have been passed down in families like mine. Socialism is my inheritance in a way I never fully understood until I wrote this poem in memory of my father earlier this year.
Life long socialist. Now retired, I have been an office junior, a bookseller, a docker and a teacher. I write a lot and read a lot more. Committed member of the Society of Authors, English PEN and the National Education Union. Uncommitted member of the Labour Party. Will they expel me before my direct debit expires?