Vintage Red by John Kotz
On Wednesday I popped into a reception at Hackney Town Hall to mark the launch of the memoirs of John Kotz, which he has titled "Vintage Red".
John was Leader of Hackney Council in 1981-82, having served on it from the early '50s. He is from a Bevanite traditional left background. I'd probably agree with his municipal socialist approach to council matters but disagree with him on some other issues like his passionate support for CND. He and the generation of Hackney Council stalwarts that had come up through the 1940s Labour League of Youth were ousted from running the council in 1982, when the Hard Left purged many council leaderships, including Hackney's, and started a period of chaos. This is explained in a later chapter of the book. Slightly confusing, but for John to explain, is why he now supports the LRC when it is the successor to the mob who ousted him as Leader.
The book also covers, in fascinating detail, council and Labour Party life in Hackney over a 40 year period. We could learn a lot from some of the rigorous campaigning techniques John and Eddie Millen (still a tenant activist and member of the local ward party where I am a councillor) practiced in the 1960s - teams of 40 canvassers making 1500 contacts in a morning!
There can't be many council wards that have had two former members publish books about their local political activity. My ward Chatham is one of them, with John's book covering the period immediately after that covered by Bob Darke, whose "The Communist Technique in Britain" was an expose of the Communist Party's tactics in Hackney (he was one of their two councillors). If Charles Clarke ever writes his memoirs we will get a third book about Chatham Ward, as Charles was started on his elected career by being John and Eddie's co-councillor in Chatham Ward from 1978.
I won't write a fuller review as another former Hackney resident, ex-MEP David Hallam, has done so very eloquently: http://methodistpreacher.blogspot.com/2011/09/vintage-red-by-john-kotz-book-review.html
If you are interested in Hackney politics or in getting a flavour of Labour Party life in the East End in the post-War era, you will enjoy this short but very readable book. Buy it here: http://www.manifestopress.org.uk/