From There… To Here

The social history of Wester Hailes

Party Politics

The party political conference season is well underway with an array of politicians taking turns over the weeks to promote their policy messages and to explain what makes them different from the party you heard from last week.  This year Brighton, Manchester, Birmingham and Perth are playing host to the different parties keen to catch the headlines as well as motivating the party faithfuls.

UK national newspapers vary in their level of overt political persuasion but the majority are to some degree partisan, shaping stories and news items to reflect well on the party they favour or to criticise the opposition.  The community newspaper sector has to be more careful in this regard, particularly if they are receiving public funding although most have historically sought to hold local political power to account and have not shied away from asking challenging questions.  The Sentinel sometimes faced criticism that it was acting under the influence of party political requirements rather than community interests when it was highlighting particular issues and leading campaigns.  However, many journalists would argue that such criticism is all too often a form of defence, spin by the council, politician, or department in question in an attempt to deflect interest away from awkward questions and potential embarrassment!

The Sentinel had a great record in obtaining interviews with national politicians from across the political spectrum.  At a time when politicians are becoming increasingly indistinguishable, we’ve chosen three interviews with politicians who could not be mistaken for each other!  The articles are in strict date order in case you are wondering if there is any bias in their listing priority!

Tony Banks spoke to the Sentinel when he was invited up to Edinburgh to speak at a conference on the future of the arts.  In the article, he talks in particular about his experiences on the Greater London Council and his involvement with its Arts Policy.  He felt that this was a vital component to express important social messages and to bring people together.  The interview was given in the light of central government’s move to abolish the Greater London Council.  He felt that whatever happened to the GLC, the arts movement would survive, saying “institutions can be dismantled, ideas can’t be destroyed.” You can read the interview here at Popular Arts Movement July 1984.

David Steel was interviewed during his years with a different coalition as the Liberal Party formed an alliance with the Social Democratic Party in an effort to reclaim political power.  He spoke about his connections with Wester Hailes when he rented a cottage in Baberton back in 1962.  He also talked about the merger discussions that were ongoing between his party and the Social Democrats.  And he discussed the importance of community politics, commenting on the success of the Wester Hailes Community Programme which was administering Manpower Services Commission funded jobs, saying “politics has got to start from the ground upwards, not from the top downwards.”  You can read his interview here at The Middle Way December 1984.

Norman Tebbit provided an article for the Sentinel talking about the importance of enterprise and small business initiative.  He had just been appointed Chairman of the Conservative Party and the article looks at his vision for the future development of Britain.  He is keen to promote recent Government policies that he feels will assist small businesses to flourish.  He includes positive comments on the Wester Hailes Community Enterprise.  Although he feels the new measures introduced will be of benefit to the economy he comments, “in the long term Government measures cannot act as a substitute for the flair, initiative and enterprise of individuals willing to take risks.”  You can read his article in full here at In My Own Right September 1985.