5 Trivial Labour Party Leader Controversies

For 100 years, the Labour Party has been among the top two political parties in the United Kingdom after growing since its formation in 1900. Since then, Labour has become the political affiliation of the working man including trade unionists with a dedication to economic redistribution, social justice, and nationalization of industry amongst other objectives.  

With its website boasting over half a million party members, Labour has one of the highest party membership figures of any European country. Despite such impressive figures, the party has been less successful in its lifetime than the Conservative Party, with its popularity often hindered by large-scale commercial controversies.  

Some of these scandals are not insignificant such as accusations of Labour anti-Semitism under Jeremy Corbyn, Gordon Brown’s Bigotgate, and Tony Blair’s Iraq lies exposed in the Chilcot Inquiry – all of which were significant in damaging and with legitimacy for causing distrust and derision. Yet these controversies and scandals show Beergate is not new, as these ‘matters of public interest’ used to smear the reputation of Labour Party leaders were totally ludicrous.  

Lavender List Of Loathing 

Harold Wilson was head of the Labour Party
(Photo courtesy of The Times)

Having written elsewhere in my belief that Harold Wilson is the greatest prime minister of all time, I feel impelled to argue against the reputation-damaging so-called ‘Lavender List’.  

For the uninitiated, Wilson’s ‘Lavender List’ was the title given to Harold’s 1976 resignation honors drawn up when leaving office in 1976, supposedly named after the paper the names were written on by Wilson’s secretary.  

Cabinet ally Roy Jenkins has commented on the long-lasting damage done by the honors, remarking in his biography of the Labour leader that his reputation was:

“disfigured by his, at best, eccentric resignation honours list, which gave peerages or knighthoods to some adventurous business gentlemen, several of whom were close neither to him nor to the Labour Party.”

Many saw the list as a product of Baroness Falkender, Marcia Williams – Wilson’s secretary, whose own son stated that the document was:

“probably the most famous, or infamous, political document of the 20th century and is a key bit of social history.” 

The list was admittedly not without problems, including Lord Kagan (who invented Wilson’s favorite raincoat: Gannex) who was later convicted of fraud whilst Sir Eric Miller committed suicide when under investigation for corruption. Elsewhere, the notorious James Goldsmith was given a knighthood whilst Mike Yarwood was given an OBE, having crafted a career out as a Wilson impersonator. 

It was not the first controversy Wilson had had involving the gifting of honours, which included, but were not limited to, gifting MBEs to The Beatles in 1965. Many saw the gifting of the award to a pop group as trivialising, with John Lennon returning his in 1969 for the role of the British in the Nigerian Civil War and Vietnam War.  

As for the criminals, there was no way that Wilson could have known or predicted the criminality of Kagan and Eric Miller, even if rumors of the latter were growing. How many times have crimes been cast on businessmen without truth? It just so happened that subsequent to the honours, some were held to greater scrutiny which exposed truths Wilson never could have known.  

As for the personal appointments, who could really say they would never give honours to their friends – it is surely part of being able to choose those appointed. That is not to mention it was nowhere near as sketchy or criminal as scandals involving payment for honours such as cash-for-honor scandals under David Lloyd George and Tony Blair.  

Then, I ask: do honours matter at all?  

The choices may have been anti-socialist but really it seemed like a vast uproar about nothing. 

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