Friday 23 April 2010

A Far Left Election Teaser

A lot of followers of far-left politics can tell you that Militant had three MPs. But how many can name the International Socialists’ (forerunners of the SWP) only MP?

I’ll give a couple of clues. He was only an MP with the International Socialists for a few days in 1966 before being expelled by the group. And he is accredited with championing a bill concerning the riding of motorcycles that caused great controversy.


Phil said...

I haven't a bloody clue.

Comrades should refrain from using Wikipedia or the internets for arriving at an answer.

Simon said...

I have heard of this but I can't be sure who it was without google/wiki.

Although the name Newman or something like that spring sto mind.

Imposs1904 said...

Sid Bidwell?

(Comment moderation means that 15 people have already left the same answer.)

luna17 said...

Stan Newens?

(Bit embarrassing not knowing this, as I recently wrote a lengthy article about the International Socialists in the 1960s).

Proper Tidy said...

Syd Bidwell. Bit freaky really, had never heard of the man until a couple of days back, when I stumbled across a reference to him on the Militant wiki entry.

Do I get a prize?

Proper Tidy said...

Only just noticed the previous comment re: wikipedia. Oops. Still, in my defence I didn't look at it with the intention of cheating. Although I did have to go back to it as I'd forgotten the name. I'm disqualified aren't I?

Ken said...

Sid Bidwell.

Geoff Collier said...

Sid Bidwell. Member for Southall

Brother S said...

So Proper Tidy left the first correct answer. Unfortunately, Darren misspelt Syd, as did Ken and Geoff. I'll leave it to Phil as blogmaster to decide if PT is disqualified and forfeits the fantastic prize.

I was hoping somebody might fill us in about his expulsion from IS but it was a long time ago. I was still in short trousers.

Simon said...

"Stan Newens"

That's the fella I was thinking of.

Anonymous said...

There is also a claim in Michael Crick's 'March of Militant' (mid 80s) that a Labour MP, I think in the 60s, joined Militant although also died shortly after. I don't recall if it named him.

The book was written at at time of a lot of 'red scare' rubbish against Militant, but seemed to be pretty good from what I recall (and also revealed Crick had been in the LPYS).

I have also wondered whether the 1945 parliament saw the last CPGB members. Also as a red scare, the Daily Express et al would write often about 'crypto-communist' MPs but I wouldn't be surprised if one or two may actually have been such e.g. the late Ernie Roberts, MP for Hackney North, who was a member of lots of groups like the North Korean Friendship Association that certainly indicated he was of that persuasion; although whether he had a CP card or not may have been immaterial.

And there's nowt wrong with such double membership but I also hope I get to see the list of all the Labour MPs who joined the Tories at Oxbridge and were sent, remaining as covert Tory members, as 'sleepers' into the Labour Party.

Imposs1904 said...

Brother S,

I'm challenging your ruling. He referred to himself as 'Sid' when he was a member of the IS. See here.

Maybe it was his cadre name? ;-)

Btw, I remember reading a few years back that a couple of other IS'ers were PPCs for Labour in the sixties. John Palmer was one but I can't remember the other bloke. Both stood in seats where Labour had no choice of winning.

PS _Probably mentioned in the comments box before but those who like their trot trivia should also check out this old post from my blog, 'Are You Smarter Than a Fourth Internationalist?'

Brother S said...


I can't dispute the evidence before me and nor should I want to!
You are the clear winner (and apologies to Ken and Geoff). However, the CC of a AVPS have decided that in the circumstances we are holding back the prize and paying it out in a rollover next time.

Incidentally, very interesting article on trade union education. And love the Mastermind clip.

Phil is keeping very quite on this. I think he is a bit embarrassed that I have revealed a gap in his knowledge with him being an expert in British Trotskyism! Lol.

Geoff Collier said...

I think Bidwell's expulsion due to his position on immigration. More details were probably in an issue of Revolutionary History, but I'm currently separated from my copy. Is it online yet?

Unknown said...

Actually there were TWO MPs in the IS tradition. Sid Bidwell (who had been in the wartime RCP earlier) was one. Stan Newens who was a prominent member of Socialist Review (the IS forerunner group) was the other. Other IS members who stood as Labour candidates in the 1964/66 elections were Michael Downing (Woking) and Constance Lever (Epsom). I fought the 1964 election for Labour (Croydon North West) but was refused endorsement by the NEC for the 1966 election (because among other things I had accused Labour ministers of being apologists for US war crimes in Vietnam). The NW Croydon party refused to accept this ruling and was temporarily closed and a candidate was imposed. The NEC witch hunt was led by Ray Gunter, a former trade union leader and Labour minister who eventually left Labour and went to run a security firm in South Africa.

John Palmer

Brother S said...


Yes, John McIlroy wrote something about him in RH but I can't find anything in the online archives.

John, thanks a lot for your input.
And apologies to Simon and Luna 17 re Stan Newens. Ironically, Ray Gunter was seen in some circles as a militant. I remember some kid at school singing some ditty he had obviously got from his parents about 'hanging Ray Gunter'!

Phil said...

Brother S, only in the fantasy world of bourgeois academia could I be considered an expert on British Trotskyism. In reality I'm but an amateur.

Brother S said...

Stan Newens it seems worked as a miner in the Stoke area in the 50s.

ModernityBlog said...

I forget but didn't Bidwell go on about quotas for immigrants? Or some other racist nonsense?

Funny, how some SWPer/ISer go off the rails? Bidwell, Hitchens (Daily Mail), Gary Bushell, etc

Resolute Reader said...

Interesting, a few years back there was an article in the ISJ by Stan Newens, on his memories of 1956.

It was followed by a brief response in the following issue by a former pupil of Stan's who later joined the IS.

Both articles are fascinating for the detail of that period, particularly the impact on the CP of the Soviet invasion of Hungary - a time when being a Trotskyist meant you really had to stand out from the crowd.

Anonymous said...

Comment by Prianikoff

Just to play a trump card, the question asked about "MP's", but didn't specify in which country.

So I'd put forward Anil Moonesinghe (15 February 1927 – 8 December 2002) the Sri Lankan Trotskyist who became a Member of Parliament, a Cabinet Minister, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament in Sri Lanka. He was a former member of the RCP in Britain associated with Tony Cliff's group.
(Although when he was elected he was in the LSSP)

See his bio here:-

Anonymous said...

I'm assuming that the Constance Lever, who stood in Epsom (referred to by John Palmer above)is the ex-wife of Sean Matgamna.