Saturday, 22 April 2017

Callaghan, the bent copper

Lord, how recent the 1979 election seems. I remember the Private Eye cover with Mr. Callaghan leaving church with his 2 granddaughters. 

One is saying:

I didn't know granddad believed in God.
And the other:
Once every 5 years he does.
In fact he was a Baptist lay preacher, a teetotaller who went to bed, if I remember rightly, at 9 o'clock.

The wind has swept him away as it will Theresa May and (rather sooner) Jeremy Corbyn.

Lay preacher or not, I didn't trust 
James Callaghan an inch even when I was seven. Marcia Falkender caught his public persona perfectly when she called him 'a bent copper'.

Still he turned out to be a better Prime Minister than expected, almost a conservative in some ways. I loathed him till he became Prime Minister. But the grace of office descended on him as it did not on Major or Brown.

Amazing to think of the talent he beat in the 1976 (all male, all white, only MPs voted) Labour leadership election: Jenkins, Shore, Healey, Benn, Foot. Compare Corbyn to them

He said that when making a decision he always asked himself what Harold would do and then did the opposite.

Perceptively, he said at the 1983 Party Conference, after meeting Tony Blair,
I don't know what that young man is but he isn't Labour.
If all Prime Ministers are bookies or vicars, Callaghan was certainly a bookie, though not so much so as his predecessor Harold Wilson. Callaghan's successor, Mrs. Thatcher, was very much a vicar, even though women were not allowed to be vicars until years afterwards.

Image may contain: one or more people


  1. To me Callaghan was a decent old buffer, perhaps even the last of the decent old buffers. Not a great leader, but better than most Labour leaders. I also liked Foot.
    Christopher N.

  2. The Communists Jones and Scanlon weren't able to save Callaghan.