Stephen Kelly on a famous World In Action programme about Militant in Liverpool and Derek Hatton

I went back onto World in Action and did a programme about Militant in Liverpool. The whole Militant Tendency story been bubbling for a year or so, and I had started doing some work on it for a locals programme. And at the same time, World in Action had also started sniffing around the story, so we decided to combine them. So I went on, and I worked with Steve Boulton, who later became editor of World in Action. And Steve and I worked on it. And it was really the story of Militant Tendency in Liverpool, and Derek Hatton. I was extremely interested in what has happened with Militant Tendency, and their tactics in Liverpool. And I did a lot of work on that, spoke to a lot of people, got one or two former members of Militant Tendency to start talking about the sort of tactics that Militant used on the Liverpool Council, much of which was outrageous, and later led to their expulsion from the Labour Party. I wasn’t altogether happy with the programme, because it focused very much on Derek Hatton. And whilst in a way there was no problem in focusing on Derek Hatton, I felt that it really missed the main story, which was the way Militant Tendency had seized control of Liverpool Council. And there wasn’t enough of that, there should have been more of that. Instead, it was all about, “Derek Hatton, isn’t he an appalling guy?” I mean, I curry no favour with Derek Hatton, but I just felt that the emphasis of the story was wrong. 

Hatton was livid with what we did. There was a very amusing incident in the programme. We did an interview with Derek Hatton, and we had been to talk to his ex-girlfriend, who was also in Militant. I think she was living in Aberdeen. So we’d done an interview with her about Derek, this former girlfriend, and she hadn’t told us anything really. Derek then says, “Stop the interview. I need to go out, I need to go and talk to people.” So Derek goes out and forgets to take his microphone off. So he walks into another room to see his mates, and he’s still got his microphone on. And it wasn’t until a couple of hours later, he goes into the side room and he says, “Fucking hell! They’ve been talking to her! Get on the phone and find out what the fuck she’s been telling them!” So he comes back, and we continue the interview. But she hadn’t actually said very much at all. And that was one of the problems of the programme, which was that we were never really able to put the piece of paper on the table and say, “There’s the evidence, Derek.” It will also supposition. And that’s why I think that programme failed. John Ware was the producer, and I had a bit of a run-in with him over the direction of the programme. And when we’d finished all the filming, we were packing all the gear up, and the sound man says, “He forgot to take his mic off, you know.” And we all went, “What?!” And we heard what he’d said to his cronies. There was nothing really further from that. So that went out. It caused a real stink. It was the front page of the Daily Mirror when the programme went out. Front page, massive story. All the newspapers led with it. It was a huge page one story. And as such, it put a lot of pressure on the Labour Party to sort out Derek Hatton, which it did.

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