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20 February 2019updated 09 Sep 2021 3:51pm

Tom Bower’s Diary: My Marxist past, abuse from Tariq Ali, a warning for Meghan and the demise of Today

Back when I was known as “Tommy the Red”, I could not have imagined I would ever write a book describing the leader of the Labour Party as communist. 

By Tom Bower

None of my many new Corbynista critics could imagine that I was once known as “Tommy the Red”, the Marxist involved in the student occupation of the London School of Economics 50 years ago – a headline story at the time. Back then, protesting about the Vietnam War, apartheid and the LSE’s link to white Southern Rhodesia, I also could not have imagined that I would ever write a book describing the leader of the Labour Party as communist. But Dangerous Hero: Corbyn’s Ruthless Plot for Power, which is published this week, is very much the product of those heady days of intense debate, in the LSE’s crowded Old Theatre, about the prospect of a Marxist revolution in Britain.

Led by American graduates from Berkeley, California, LSE’s Marxists believed that they were the vanguard of a worldwide revolution – students first and the workers would follow. Among those leading the British Trotskyists on the LSE’s stage was Tariq Ali. While researching Jeremy Corbyn’s life, I was reunited with Ali over an enjoyable lunch. We started with a toast that we were still alive. “I shared many platforms with Jeremy,” he recalled, “but I can’t remember what he said except that he was on the right side.”

Needless to say, Ali hated the book’s serialisation in the Mail on Sunday. “I didn’t think you’d sink so low,” he emailed, early on Sunday morning. “Tabloid journalism at its worst. Had I known you were such a scumbag these days I would never have met you. You must have lost all self-respect.”

Jeremy’s greasy pole

Not surprisingly, I feel the opposite. Thanks to the LSE, I became inherently curious, sceptical  and non-conformist, determined as a journalist to expose shady politicians, Cold War spies, Nazi war criminals and dishonest tycoons – all with ambitions to influence our lives. Without exception, they had lied about their activities and were unwilling to describe their past honestly. Corbyn is no different. Like all men grasping to stay on top of the greasy pole, my research shows that he has spread a smokescreen to conceal his past, which casts doubt on his character and indeed Britain’s fate if he becomes leader of a Marxist- Trotskyist government.

Markle my words

One legacy of writing 24 books is the lingering interest in a vast range of personalities. Prince Charles was my last target. Naturally he and Camilla hated my book but the critical exposé did trigger radical changes in his behaviour that have made him more acceptable to Britons. Unfortunately, he remains powerless to order Meghan Markle, his celebrity daughter-in-law, to follow his new determination to resist controversy. Her criticism of British academia as pale, male and stale treads into dangerous territory. Appointing professors on the basis of race and gender and not excellence will destroy British academia. If she doesn’t stop pontificating and protesting, I give the marriage three years. Inevitably, she’ll then go off to write her blockbuster book. Take care, Meghan. I’ll get mine out first!

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Shostakovich in Newham

I partly sympathise with Meghan Markle’s complaint, but in a different way. Unlike many, I enjoyed the film Green Book and was enraptured by the relationship between the white driver and his passenger, the black pianist. I went to a breakfast last week at City Hall to raise money for the London Music Fund, a wonderful charity that gives music lessons to London’s poor but talented children. The star was Tyrone, a 12-year-old boy from Newham who, thanks to the fund, is now a Grade-8 cellist. In front of an all-white audience, Tyrone described the benefit for him as a black boy of learning “white man’s” music. Eyes were moist by the time he finished.

Purnell’s moronic gibberish

Under the direction of James Purnell, who has never produced a radio programme, BBC Radio is undergoing a revolution that must thrill Purnell’s mentor, John Birt, the original assassin of the BBC’s risk-taking news and current affairs – my employer for 25 years. Among Purnell’s achievements is the demise of the Today programme, nowadays a dreary diet of victimhood and minor health ailments. Initially, the appointment by Tony Hall of a failed Labour politician to run BBC Radio appeared to be bizarre, but now it’s definitely suicidal.

Hall is a decent man who saved the BBC from the disastrous chairmanship of Chris Patten but his exit cannot be far off. Hopefully, Hall will take Purnell with him and BBC Radio’s management will be restored to programme-makers who champion outstanding series such as Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time and not BBC Sounds – the moronic gibberish contrived by Purnell. Not surprisingly, with these opinions I won’t be invited on to any major BBC programme to discuss Corbyn. Not even Radio Solent.

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My funny Valentines

Call me old-fashioned, but I can’t resist hosting a Valentine Day’s dinner. However, this year I was particularly nervous. Among the 14 guests were leading Brexiteers and equally passionate Remainers. During pre-dinner drinks under the large canvas hanging on our wall of Lenin addressing the revolutionaries in St Petersburg in 1917 (a gift from a KGB officer in Moscow in 1991), there was a slight frisson. But over dinner, Stanley Johnson, a Remainer, broke any tension. Seeing the Valentine’s heart-shaped biscuits on the table, he quipped “Brexit Ears” and everyone laughed. Differences were forgotten. If only Theresa May could pull off a similar joke to end the humiliating chaos that she has inflicted upon us. Perhaps next year I’ll invite Jeremy Corbyn. He might appreciate my painting of Lenin, although, uneducated as he is, he’d probably struggle to identify the historic location.

Tom Bower’s most recent book is “Dangerous Hero: Corbyn’s Ruthless Plot for Power”, published by William Collins

This article appears in the 20 Feb 2019 issue of the New Statesman, The last days of Islamic State