Dawn Butler causes Militant controversy during tribute at Labour Party Conference – UK



Labour went back to the 80s as the party returned to Liverpool for its party conference.

The result was a fierce political row.

Jeremy Corbyn laid a wreath. No, nothing like that.

This time, unlike his 2014 wreath-laying at a cemetery in Tunisia, that wasn’t what caused the row.

In a solemn ceremony at Liverpool’s Anfield stadium, the Labour leader laid a wreath to victims of the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy.

Labour MP Dawn Butler with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in June
Labour MP Dawn Butler with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in June

It was Dawn Butler who caused the row, when she paid a glowing tribute to law-breaking by Liverpool’s Militant Tendency in 1984.

“Conference, we are in Liverpool where over 30 years ago the council stood up to Thatcher and said-better to break the law than break the poor,” she said in a speech at Labour’s women’s conference.

Back in the 80s, Liverpool City Council – with the flamboyant Derek Hatton of Militant as its figurehead – refused to set a legal rate in protest against Margaret Thatcher’s policy of rate-capping.

That led to Neil Kinnock’s famous 1985 Labour conference onslaught: “You end in the grotesque chaos of a Labour council – a Labour council – hiring taxis to scuttle round a city handing out-redundancy notices to its own workers”.

Labour's official slogan for the conference is 'Rebuilding Britain, for the many, not the few'
Labour’s official slogan for the conference is ‘Rebuilding Britain, for the many, not the few’

Ms Butler’s comments, loudly cheered by her audience, were immediately condemned by the Labour peer Baroness Thornton, who was awarded a peerage by Tony Blair, later served as a junior minister and is now an opposition front bencher in the Lords.

“Great to be at Women’s conference, but am surprised that @DawnButlerBrent has just praised a Liverpool Council in the past – that of Derek Hatton – who issued redundancy notices to their own public sector employees, and failed to protect services too!” she tweeted.

“And @DawnButlerBrent Derek Hatton’s Militant colleagues were misogynistic bullies. We should not be praising them at @UKLabour Women’s Conference.”

Predictably, the Tory chairman Brandon Lewis piled in: “This is the sorry state of Labour today: shadow cabinet members praising the hard-left militants of the 1980s.”

But to be fair, that would be wrong, since the Conservatives didn’t privatise the railways until the 1990s when John Major was prime minister. It seems the railways were a privatisation too far for Mrs Thatcher.

Mr Corbyn, in football as well as in politics, is a lifelong red, although for him it’s Labour and Arsenal rather than Liverpool.

As well as laying a wreath for the Hillsborough victims, he visited a food bank outside Anfield.

He said despite being a lifelong Arsenal fan, he couldn’t say no when Dan Carden, the MP for Liverpool Walton, invited him to see Liverpool play.

“Liverpool fans are united in their fight for social justice,” said Mr Corbyn. “I’ve long admired the incredible campaigning work done by the Hillsborough Justice Campaign.”

Dawn Butler clearly doesn’t shirk controversy. Remember how last month she attacked TV chef Jamie Oliver, tweeting: “Your jerk rice is not OK. This appropriation from Jamaica needs to stop.”

No doubt she also loves to be known as “Red Dawn”. That, of course, was the name of a famous film, made… in the 1980s, of course.



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