IT’S been a feverish week for the Hampstead Labour Party with the excitement of a new parliamentary candidate. If you want to revisit the last time members installed a new face, you could do a lot worse than looking up writer Julian Barnes’s account of Glenda Jackson’s first outing in 1992, when she defeated Oliver Letwin. You can find it in his book of essays, Letters From London. Some of the quotes he includes from the two leading candidates are fantastic.
Letwin on canvassing in Hampstead: “You can tell the Tories from the neatly clipped hedge, the little pots of geraniums, from the fact that the front porch is tidily swept.”
Letwin on Jackson: “If she was a little more cuddly she would convert more Tories.”
Jackson declining a mic at a hustings: “I’m not showing off but if I can’t be heard, who can?”
Jackson on her appearance: “It would be a great disappointment for people if they could no longer say I looked as if I was dressed by Oxfam.”
Really, Barnes’ piece is excellent – and there’s another quote in there from Glenda too, when she tells him: “What I grew up to regard as vices are now regarded as virtues. Greed is no longer greed, it is self-reliance”.
She was obviously rather tickled with that line about vices and virtues. At her own Labour selection meeting, she told members assembled in the Haverstock School hall: “The market forces so worshipped by the Conservatives have simply failed our country. The have tried to tell us that greed is some kind of doughty self-reliance. They have perversely tried to convince us that virtue is a vice and vice is a virtue.”
Eight years later, while speaking in Chicago in 2000, she said: “What Thatcher did was essentially to turn what I had always been taught were vices into virtues, so greed ceases to be greed.”
Then more than 20 years after using the vices and virtues line in her bid to get selected and then elected, came the big one this year: That speech condemning Thatcherism in the the wake of Margaret Thatcher’s death in April.
She told the Commons: “Everything I had been taught to regard as a vice – and I still regard them as vices – under Thatcherism was in fact a virtue.”