“Never was so little achieved by so many in defence of so few” – the motto of the fabled “Feeble Fifty”. The fearless cadre of Labour MPs who back in the 80s were the last line of defence in the protection of Scotland from the excesses of the Thatcher Government.
In those dire times Labour dominated all Scottish political institutions and the “Feeble” took their name from their number at Westminster. As we examine the legacy of Margaret Thatcher let’s salute the bravery of the “heroes” on the other side of the Tory wars in Scotland. Ladies and Gentlemen – The Feeble Fifty.
No-one will forget the day the forces of Thatcherism came to Scotland. At first it was just a few skirmishes, testing the strength, eyeing up the defences. Then came the sustained attacks. The shipyards, the coal mines, the factories. Heavy industry was to be obliterated and no mercy was to be shown.
The Scottish people dazed and battered called as one; “send for the Fifty”. And Scottish Labour responded. They debated, they huffed and they puffed, and then they debated some more. As their large majorities were deployed, an expectant Scottish people held their breath secure in the knowledge that Labour always defends Scotland from the Tories.
But it was a slaughter! Ill-equipped and lacking in intelligence, the “Fifty” compliantly succumbed to the greater forces. They simply did not have the tools for the fight and it was over before it began.
When the “Feeble Fifty” were totally subjugated there was one more indignity to endure. Tory high command punished the Scottish people for their insubordination with the introduction of their new poll tax a year early. Scottish Labour, with their front line troops in tatters, bravely fought this tax by ensuring that it was efficiently administered. The defeat was total.
The parable of the Feeble Fifty is one that has to be clearly understood. Under this Tory Government Scotland is better defended. Lessons have been learned and there is better leadership. Scotland will never trust Labour to defend Scotland from the Tories again.
But let’s raise a glass to the memory, lest we forget. The Feeble Fifty. May we never see their likes again.