To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common own- ership of the means of production, distribu- tion and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service. Labour Party Constitution Clause IV (4).
Clause four, by heaven! I'd forgotten all about clause four, and after years of swan- ning about saying, 'Call my secretary,' I'd almost forgotten I was one of the workers by hand or by brain. But seeing it banged up in cold print like that, clause four's ring- ing cadences stir the very marrow in the bone. Ancient atavistic political instincts rose up in me, as they did when I was sweet and twenty; ancient universal grievances and envies. Youth against age, poor against rich, powerless against powerful, against haves. Common ownership, no less. Equi- table distribution thereof. Well, it's no go your Great Western Train plc and no go your gas portfolio when you've got clause four to reckon with, is it? I said, 'Er, it's a bit sort of brutally left-wing,' to my newly socialist husband. 'Full fruits of their indus- try, eh? Aren't you surprised it's actually written on the party card? Does Mr Blair know it's still there?' Clause four? I've been showing it about me Right and Left, and it mightily shocks the Right, especially here in North Hampshire, and even re-memoris- es the elderly Left. Years of trimming by our new class of political frontmen have made us forget, all of us political limbo- dancers, about the nakedness of conviction politics and what's underneath those suits and ties.
It was a long time in arriving, this redo- lent text. My husband looked up 'Labour Party' in the telephone book and rang every morning at about half-past nine, when the workers-by-brain might be expected to be manning the switchboard at party HQ. No VICKI WOODS
answer. Then he forgot for the rest of the day and rang every evening after five. No answer. One day he rang at half-past ten and got a human being upon whom he pressed his Mastercard number. The human being said, 'Would you be prepared to do some work for the party?' My hus- band said no, on the ground that leafletting and envelope-stuffing should only be undertaken by committed young bachelors who want to meet left-wing girls. Some weeks then passed, until the European election was almost upon us, before the human being sent him the text of clause four, and my postman was groaning from the weight of political leaflets from the yogic flyers. I said, 'Are you going to relent on the envelope-stuffing?' My husband said gloomily that he'd be better employed helping Mr Blair unpick clause four.
My daughter rang me from Bad- minton School to say that she was doing her summer exams 'under full GCSE `Please, Bob, don't be a hero.' rules, to get us used to them for next year', What are these rules, pray? 'No pencil cases allowed into the exam room. We have to take spare pens in a see-through plastic bag.' Why? 'Because of cheating. Soon you won't be able to take calculators into maths, because they're getting too sophisti- cated. And you can't take mobile phones.' My son is doing GCSE proper, and was picked out for a random search before his history exam at Westminster. `Me and a few others. They take about one in twenty for a full search.' A full search? A body- search? Rubber gloves? 'No, no. Just pock- ets.' Are they finding anything?' I asked, expecting a full battery of of Psion organis- ers and state-of-the-art micro-faxes. 'Erm, no. Well, only cigarettes and lighters.'
Ihadn't realised until I read the extracts from Richard Tomlinson's book about the Windsors that the royal family documen- tary made in 1969 had never been repeated in full after it was given two showings a week apart. I'm not surprised: it was strong stuff. I remember a fast-edited scene where a flunkey endlessly pushed open the door and announced 'The ambassador to the Netherlands, Your Majesty,' and 'The Prime Minister, Your Majesty,' as the Queen stood balanced on the balls of her little feet, waiting to greet, but I also remember the Queen entertaining a 'family breakfast' about these meetings and greet- ings. She was talking about the equerry who stood behind her at audiences, murmuring verbal notes, and indicating that said equerry was a bit of a card. She said, in her clipped voice, 'Then he said, "Well, the next one's a gorilla." [Royal family look up and smile.] So I thought, well, you know, what? [Royal family hold her gaze and smile.] And then the door opened, and in came . . . a gorilla. You know, small, and . . . [She pulled a gorilla face. But I don't think the word 'black' was spoken. Queen giggles.] I could hardly keep a straight face. [Royal family laugh immoderately, espe- cially Prince Philip.]' You couldn't do that now, of course. We can't bear the meaning in the language any more (`small', 'black), just as we can't bear the meaning in the language of renouncing the flesh and the Devil and all his works, or 'The people's flag is deepest red/ It shrouded oft our mar- tyred dead', or indeed, `To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry, and the most equitable distribution thereof.
Vicki Woods is the editor of Harpers & Queen.