Skegness Is So Bracing.

Author:Baker, Bob
Position:English town where 1973 National Union of Students conference was held - Conference notes - Travel narrative

I liked some Welsh miners more than Jack Straw, former British Foreign Minister, later Home Minister. In 1973 he was already a smooth young politician and President of the large, Labour Party-dominated National Union of Students (NUS). The miners and Jack were at the annual NUS conference in Skegness. Part of my job at the U.S. Embassy London, was to report on the politics of young Britons, so I attended Labour, Liberal and Tory youth conferences.

As you drove into the seaside town of Skegness, a small billboard greeted you. It pictured a hearty old sailor in a yellow sou'wester and black hip boots dashing through a roaring gale. The town's tourism motto ran across the bottom of the sign, Skegness is So Bracing. The town was a telling contrast to the Persian-carpeted library where the Conservatives had held their youth conference in the Swindon estate of Britain's first Air Marshall.

Skegness was the cheap, chilly, gray, windy seaside resort of working class northern England. You had to walk out a half mile before the water got up to your knees when you were at the beach on this part of the North Sea rightly called, The Wash.

In the dim, dusty, half empty conference auditorium used by the NUS, several hundred mostly technical college and university student delegates were bunched into ideological crowds. They were plain Labourites, the vast majority, with a scattering of Trotskyists, (informally called Trots) Maoists, old-line Stalinists, etc.

NUS President Jack Straw ran the Conference Executive Committee firmly behind the scenes. It worked to crush opposition to mainstream Labour Party views or to thrash out compromise resolutions. The halls were full of conspiring or arguing students. At the same time student speeches went on and on and on in the main auditorium.

In high school, I was theoretically, a syndical anarchist, along the lines of George Orwell when he fought in the Spanish Civil War and then wrote, Homage To Catalonia. In Skegness, My heart was touched by the hopeless, idealistic, principled, tiny and vociferous "Trot" faction of students. They argued about every conference resolution. And never won an argument.

At that time in Ireland, Catholic and Protestant workers were shooting one another. They hated each other because of ancient political/ethnic/religious feuds. The Trots refused to recognize anything going on in Ireland except a workers' revolt against British imperialist, capitalist oppression. The Trots even got a...

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