Paul Foot

Mirror, Mirror on the wall,
is Cecil the fairest of them all?

(June 1968)

From Socialist Worker, No. 84, July 1968, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

HAROLD WILSON, MAN OF THE YEAR! screamed the Daily Mirror January 1st 1967, and continued in the glittering prose of that paper’s style to sing the Prime Minister’s praises. And no wonder. For every policy which the Daily Mirror had advocated over the previous few years had been faithfully pursued by Wilson’s government.

It was the Mirror, way back in 1964, that warned against “too hasty” social reform in the light of the economic crisis. It was the Mirror, early in 1965, which urged the government to “ease up” on its plans to tax profits and capital gains. It was the Mirror, later in 1965, which urged support for the American action in Vietnam.

Not surprisingly, the Mirror again supported Labour in 1966. Soon afterwards it launched the most savage of all the press attacks against the striking seamen. And when the economic crisis broke in July 1966, the Mirror urged: “Nothing short of drastic cuts in public expenditure and a wage freeze for at least six months will put the economy right.” (July 15, 1966)

We got the cuts and the wage freeze.

But perhaps the Mirror’s biggest triumph was the decision in 1967 to apply for British entry into the Common Market, a policy which all the Mirror papers had been urging since 1960. When Wilson applied for Common Market entry, he had, according to the Mirror’s front page "carved a name for himself in British history.”

The Mirror’s enthusiasm for the Common Market was, of course, selfless and patriotic. It had nothing to do with the enormous profits which could accrue to the International Publishing Corporation – the Mirror’s owners – in a tariff-free Europe in which IPC would be the biggest publisher, the biggest printer, the biggest manufacturer and supplier of newsprint and typesetting machines, not to say wood pulp from its forests in Canada.

Throughout the talks on Europe, the Mirror continued to back Wilson and show him the way. On Rhodesia, on Vietnam, on disciplining rebel MPs, on cleaning-up demonstrators, even on South African arms, the Mirror and Wilson were of one mind.

Even in personalities, they agreed. The Mirror liked Brown for a long time, and then started chanting Brown Must Go. Brown went. For a long time, the Mirror yelled for the blood of Douglas Jay, who opposed Common Market entry. Jay went. Every little prejudice was instantly rewarded by dynamic action from No. 10 Downing Street.

Now King makes his final demand: that the faithful Wilson himself should go. Suddenly, the government needs not new policies but new leaders.

Why? Lost support for Labour means lost readers for Cecil King. He cannot attack the policies of the government because they are good for his profits. So he is forced to kick his faithful servant in the teeth and prepare his next Man of the Year, Roy Jenkins, for similar treatment.

Bottom and below

SOME PEOPLE thought that things couldn’t get worse electorally. Others that the social policies of the government had reached rock bottom.

Both suppositions have now been disproved, the first by the municipal election results, the second by the government’s White Paper on Rents, which threatens to remove control on all controlled properties which have adequate amenities.”

The “ new control ” of the 1965 Rent Act is not automatic. It works only if the tenant is prepared to face rent officers and Rent Assessment Committees, which are staffed with lawyers and accountants and by their very composition are sympathetic to the landlord.

The old control, enforced by the Glasgow Rent Strike of 1919, was automatic. It applied to the rented property without anyone approaching anyone, and it was therefore effective. The clamour of the Fair Rents Association – a sinister group of politically-motivated men which purports to consist entirely of poverty-stricken old ladies bullied and raped by West Indian tenants paying 2s. 6d. a week for fully-furnished luxury flats – have now forced the government to agree to take effective control off the houses where it still operates.

Even the Tories were frightened to do this when they studied the results of their 1957 decontrols. The measure, if enacted, will involve appalling rent increases for the people who can least afford to pay: mainly old tenants in old decaying areas.

All these people, however, should take comfort for the Minister of Housing is a hero of the Left, Anthony Greenwood, whose wife launches Polaris submarines as enthusiastically as he used to oppose their manufacture. Tony Greenwood’s a decent Christian fellow. It’s an honour to have your rent doubled by the decisions of a bloke like him.

Love thy enemy

THE NEW MOOD of unity which is sweeping the revolutionary Left has not, it seemed, penetrated New Park Publications of Clapham. who occupy the same offices as the publishers of the bi-weekly Newsletter. Recently to help me in a book I was writing I wanted to get hold of some excellent articles by Brian Pearce written in Labour Review some years ago, and published by New Park.

I rang New Park and asked if I could come down and look through some back numbers in their files. No, I could not, said a woman firmly. Could I buy some back numbers, then? She would see.

Then I had a letter from one Carol Curtis of New Park, which said curtly : “We regret we are unable to supply you with back numbers of Labour Review ...” No reasons were given, though I suspect from the lady’s tone that my connection with Socialist Worker and International Socialism was not wholly irrelevant.

“Enemies of Marxism” who want to obtain marxist literature should apply in future to the British Museum.


Take Shelter

YOUR ISSUE of February 1968 has been drawn to my attention and, in particular, a column by Paul Foot. Despite the passing of time and the self-destroying vindictiveness of his style of writing, I feel I must write and correct two facts in the paragraph about SHELTER.

Firstly, its chairman – whether its former chairman or the present one – has not got a 14-bedroomed house, or even a 4-bedroomd house. Secondly, there are no communion services in the office, compulsory or otherwise, daily or weekly, and the majority of the staff, including myself, are not Christians. Therefore his accusation that only people who will attend a communion service are employed is completely without foundation – certainly since I was appointed director over a year ago.

Paul Foot also describes us as “an establishment charity.” I would have thought he would find that rather difficult to justify as more than most charities, SHELTER has combined its rescue operation with fairly forceful pressure on society as a whole to bring to an end a problem that must be of some concern to your readers, even if it is not to Mr. Foot.


Des Wilson
Director, SHELTER
The Strand. W.C.2.

Paul Foot writes: Yes, sorry. My informant talked about “Shelter.” I now realise that she was talking about the Christian organisation of the same name.

Last updated on 22 October 2020