Monday, June 30, 2008

Terry Fields: An Appreciation

It's tragically ironic that Terry Fields' death from lung cancer at the age of 71 ( ) should happen at a time when the Labour Party that was happy to accept the New Labour project is facing annihilation at the next election, & the issue of MP's expenses is under the spotlight.
Terry stood as the Labour (&, yes, Militant) candidate for the old Liverpool Broadgreen constituency in the 1983 election. He campaigned as "a worker's MP on a worker's wage". Everyone else scoffed. Even those who supported his views felt such a pledge was unrealistic in the Westminster brothel. Yet stick to it he did, taking home the average wage of a skilled worker in the constituency, the rest being ploughed back into the labour movement.
As well as a principled Labour MP (how many of today's miserable crop of weeds in the PLP could hold a candle to his stance?) & active trade unionist in the FBU, Terry was passionate, warm & witty in his work. Unlike one or two others in the Militant at that time, Terry never took himself too seriously; I remember meeting him for the first time at Lime Street station as we headed to Brighton for the 1983 Labour Party conference. My initial apprehension & nervousness soon disappeared as we cracked open a few cans of lager, joked about certain figures in the Tendency & talked about football. But, then, that was Terry. No ego, no mind games, just plain-speaking, honesty, humour & an ability to enthuse everyone around him.
It was typical of the man that he felt he had to make a stand over the Poll Tax. Rather than pay the £373 ( a sum of money which Labour MPs were happy to spend on restaurant meals), he defied the courts & refused to pay a single penny. He was sentenced to 60 days imprisonment at Walton Jail in July 1991. He came out with his head held high. However, the experience of prison life had left its mark on him; some say he was never quite the same again.
Kicked out of the Labour Party by Kinnock & his acolytes on the NEC, Terry stood as an independent candidate in Broadgreen at the 92 election. It was always going to be an uphill battle & he lost out to a New Labour clone, Jane Kennedy, now a government minister. (Channel 4 made a broadly sympathetic documentary about the campaign.)
After a brief & unfulfilling stint at managing the Mayflower pub in Fazakerley Street in the city centre's commercial district, Terry disappeared from public view, spending his time at home in Bootle. I rarely saw him after that.
In tonight's Liverpool Echo Paddy Shennan relates an anecdote which captures Terry's wit & insight (
"Mr. Fields, not surprisingly, wasn't a fan of his former Labour leader, [ ], and back in The Casa in Hope Street in 2005, memorably told me: 'Neil Kinnock had been a young firebrand, with socialism spewing out of every orifice -- but he finished up with something else spewing out of every orifice.' "
Let it not be forgotten, however, that Terry is finally being given his due by the Echo when his life has ended. It's always the case; the media acted in much the same way after Eric Heffer's death in 1991. As for today's "tributes" from the likes of Peter Kilfoyle, Jane Kennedy, Frank Field, Louise Ellman, et al , they're beneath contempt.
Terry leaves a wife, Maureen, four children, ten grandchildren & a great-grandchild.
Terry Fields: Born: March 8th, 1937. Died: June 28th, 2008.
Thanks, comrade. They saw the crescent, he saw the whole of the moon.

1 comment:

Catherine Daly said...

What a great man Terry was - a real working class hero. And how pathetic he makes the current Liverpool Labour Party look. Their tributes are utter hypocrisy. I doubt if any of them will be remembered once they leave office - and that can't come soon enough. Terry was worth more than the lot of them put together