Derek Hatton used to be famous. In the mid-1980s he was the chief figure in Liverpool’s Labour council, embattled against the Tories. Formally deputy leader of the council, he was able to be the main public figure because he was promoted by the Militant group (forerunner of the Socialist Party), which then had decisive influence in the Liverpool labour movement.
His record was shameful. After a series of show mobilisations, the Liverpool council dialled down their campaign. At a crucial point in the miners’ strike, the council left the miners in the lurch. Hatton did a deal with the Tories to postpone its financial crisis to the next year. Shamelessly, Hatton recounted later how a Tory MP had told him exactly what the game was. “We had to tell Patrick [Jenkin, the Tory government minister] to give you the money. At this stage we want Scargill [the miners’ union leader]. He’s our priority. But we’ll come for you later”. And the Tories did.
After the miners were defeated in early 1985, Liverpool retreated. Notoriously it issued redundancy notices to all its workers, as a supposed “tactical manoeuvre”. It borrowed money from Swiss banks at high interest rates and yet made cuts. Hatton, once so influential, was disqualified as a councillor and discredited politically. He and other Militant councillors were expelled from the Labour Party, and scarcely tried to oppose the expulsion except through the courts.
Hatton had always presented himself as a wide boy, a chancer, with more of posturing and machine politics about him than socialist reasoning. Militant, having allowed Hatton to disgrace them, now saw him move away. He became a media figure, a radio talk-show host. In 2008 he told the Daily Telegraph (3 October): “I’m now involved in property in Cyprus... It’s hard to put an exact figure on my annual income because it goes up and down. It’s certainly in the comfortable six figure bracket though...
“My days in politics were a very long time ago and I lost interest in it after I was expelled from the city council... I moved on”.
Now aged 71, he has been readmitted to the Labour Party and then quickly suspended when someone found a loose-mouthed antisemitic tweet by him from 2012. Whether Labour members should be suspended for casual social media effusions is one question. Whether Hatton’s readmission would bring any benefit to the Labour Party is no question at all: it wouldn’t.