What difference do you think it will
1 make to the Edinburgh Labour group
your having become leader? If you were standing outside yourself, what significance would you attach to this rather sudden event?
One point I have been making all the 5 time recently is that decisions are
1 made by thirty-four individual
? people and that those people are still
there. Decisions in the Labour group are genuinely collective and. just as there were many occasions in the past when the leader did not get his
: way. I‘m sure that will be so in my ‘ case. Icertainlydon‘t see any basic ' change in the political direction of
the group as a whole. and I'm
I certainly not wanting to get involved
in any public debate about the
‘ reasons for the change ofleadership.
That‘s not particularly relevant. All I can do is talk about what I personally think are important
issues. The views I have were those I
had before the change of leadership and don‘t depend at all on that
1 change. they were about strategy
and about the position ofthe Labour group in the city. I think we have had over the last two years an excellent drive to establish the need for a high level ofpublie expenditure and council intervention in city life. I supported all that and will continue
to do so.
I think the next two years should be spent in consolidating this gain. in the sense of improving the quality of the service the city offers. Most people look for practical achievements and in this way we will
build on the events ofthe last two I years. In the longer term the priority
is to ensure that what people saw as a fluke in 1984 is transformed into a permanent change in the political
atmosphere of the city. a much more
radical and participative style of government in the city.
Obviously the group has a mind of its own, just as they chose to make a change and chose you as leader. But
A the majority did intend a basic change,
didn’t they, from a confrontational style to a steady growth style? The only occasion when there was a
major difference within the group
j about strategy was last year when it 2 was a question of do we go into a
! deliberate bankruptcy situation or
2 not. Then there was a division
between a majority of the group and a minority. and the then Leader was part of the minority. ()bviously as an individual I have a different style from the previous leader. that comes out in the individual nature of the
Author and journalist Bernard Crick in conversation with Mark Lazarowiez, Edinburgh District Council’s new Labour leader.
persons concerned. What a Labour council can do this year in terms of the political situation of the country as a whole is challenge government politically. But obviously we are not in a position where we can. at the end ofthe day. bring down the government. When a Government decides politically to take on a council. obviously it has greater powers. But what we want to do is to win the political battle. So it is not really a question ofthe confrontational versus any other style. I think it is more a question of what happens at the end ofthat confrontation.
Only tactical differences?
No. there are obviously some real differences there. The kind ofglib reply I was giving when people asked me where I stand in the local government scale. was that my politics were more of the Sheffield and the G.L.C. variety than the Lambeth and the Liverpool. Now I am not saying that the previous leadership was aligned with Liverpool and Lambeth; I‘m not wanting to put words into their mouths with which they wouldn‘t necessarily agree: but that contrast sums up my own political position.’ Which way do you think the Labour Party is going to develop, which way do you think it should? Is it more united
than it has ever been or are the old
splits still there? There’s a lot of
; sniping at Kinnock in the Left press.
f There are good signs and bad signs. The good signs are that people now
i recognise that eleCtions have to be won. that electoral power is not
everything but that it is a
E prerequisite of most things. That is a j lesson that many ofus had to be
reminded of. What worries me is that
there are tendencies to try and split
the party from both wings. It is clear , to me that thisisthe desire of
Militant Tendency and those around
; the harder end ofthe hard Left: but equally well there are elementsthat
are quite close to the circle around Neil Kinnock who would like to see a split that carried off not merely Militant but large sections ofthe hard Left. Politically I am opposed to the Militant 'I‘endency. a bankrupt
politics ofperpetual confrontation. I‘m happy to take them on both politically and organisationally. But it does seem to me that there is now a worrying tendency for people to line up in one or the other camp. indeed to force other people into that false position. The broad Left and the centre ofthe party. it is worrying. get pushed in these two directions. Electorally a straightforward. centrist Kinnock kind of position would. I suspect. be very popular. But you then have the problem of what kind of Labour Government you would get afterwards. There must be a radical base in the actual election programme.
I think he has performed a political miracle in winning back so much of the Labourvote and holding the party
together. But I agree that as yet he is far i
from clear what he would do in office. But let's get parochial again, let‘s turn to the ‘scene’. Remind us just what the real row was about last summer between the Labour group and the Edinburgh Festival Society?
The background was the policy that we put forward in the April elections. that we supported the Festival but on condition that it shed what we saw as its elitist aspects. ()ne of the ways of achieving that was to change the membership of the Festival Society. The point that we made all the time was that it wasn't a question of the Labour Party versus the Arts world. it was that the membership ofthe Festival Society was very much not the Arts world. not even the Arts establishment. but the Edinburgh social establishment
in all its glory. And we felt that for a body that was funded by public sources. the biggest being the District Council. that situation had
What happened last year was that some of the Festival Society. seeing that under the rotation of membership there would be a majority of Labour councillors. tried to change the rules to put councillors in a permanent minority. .\'ow we
i didn‘t want a majority of Labour
i ! l l i
councillors but we did want to ensure that in the long term the membership of the Festival Society should be drawn from a far wider section of the community. and indeed from the arts world as well. That was the basis of the row. We stuck to our position so at the end of the day a compromise was agreed which will operate. I think. quite successfully.
But wasn'tthere disquiet in the Labour group about the character of the Festival? I mean councillors are members of so many odd bodies with funny constitutions, some indeed over-representing Morningside and Balerno, Craigmillar and Sighthill not at all, thatyou don’t normally botherto change them unless some real point of policy and principle is involved.
Since the Festival receives 45 per cent ofits grant support from the Council. we felt it should take some account ofour overall cultural policy. Obviously if they didn‘t w ant to. they could go theirown way. However we didn’t threaten to withdraw the grant. or any blackmail like that. We wanted to come to an agreement. and I think we‘ve done that now.
What is Council ‘cultural policy‘?
In very simple terms it is to try and ensure that we have an activity ofthe arts that is not concentrated geographically. socially and chronologically round the Edinburgh Festival. It doesth
(our. on p.43.
— SPIRIT OF CHANGE
The new I ‘aderofthe Labour group.
New books reviewed GOOD FOR YOU
TONIC FOR THE LAZY
The List 30 May ; 1: Tune 39