Curran ‘I wasn’t around’ claim challenged as Oil-gate refuses to die down

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  By G.A.Ponsonby
 
A claim by Scottish Labour MP Margaret Curran that she was not around in the days when Denis Healey was Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, has been challenged by a former Labour activist.
 
Alan Smart has revealed that Ms Curran, who is Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, was a high profile member of the student wing of the party at a time when Mr Healey admits Labour were actively misleading Scots over the true value of North Sea Oil.

  By G.A.Ponsonby
 
A claim by Scottish Labour MP Margaret Curran that she was not around in the days when Denis Healey was Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, has been challenged by a former Labour activist.
 
Alan Smart has revealed that Ms Curran, who is Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, was a high profile member of the student wing of the party at a time when Mr Healey admits Labour were actively misleading Scots over the true value of North Sea Oil.

The revelation follows an interview on Radio Scotland in which the senior Labour MP was asked to comment on an admission by Lord Healey that the party had deliberately downplayed the worth of Scottish oil in the 1970s in order to thwart support for the SNP.

Last week, Lord Healey who was Labour Chancellor from 1974 to 1979 admitted his party had downplayed the worth of oil in order to stem support for the SNP:

“I think we did underplay the value of the oil to the country because of the threat of nationalism but that was mainly down to Thatcher.”

Asked at the weekend to comment on the admission, Ms Curran, who represents one of Scotland’s poorest constituencies said:

“I don’t know anything about that, those times, I don’t know the basis on which Denis Healey said that, I don’t know the argument, I don’t know the papers around that.”

The Labour MP added: “I know I’m getting on a bit, but I wasn’t around in Denis Healey’s days.”

However, according to Alan Smart, the Labour MP was Secretary of Glasgow University Labour Club at the same time Mr Healey was Chancellor.

Writing in the online magazine, Bella Caledonia, Mr Smart described the University Labour Club as the biggest in the UK during the period in question and that not only was Ms Curran aware of the former Labour Chancellor, she was also openly calling for his resignation.

Challenging claims that she was not around, Mr Smart wrote:

“This would have been in 1978, two years after Healey had made global front page news and labour movement notoriety after he went to the IMF for a bail out in exchange for huge public spending cuts.

“Indeed not only did 20 year Margaret know who he was, but was sufficiently angry with him to be calling for his resignation.”

Mr Smart also claimed that Ms Curran would have had contact with many senior figures within the Labour party at the time and was on first name terms with many leading Scottish figures including former First Minister Donald Dewar and the late John Smith who was a key advisor to Denis Healey.

“At that time Glasgow University Labour Club, with over 300 individual members, was the largest in the UK by far.  It was ‘on the circuit’.  Everyone who was anyone spoke there – Tony Benn, Neil Kinnock, Michael Foot all regulars, as were all the leading lights in the Labour Party in Scotland.  And Margaret, as Labour Club Secretary was their first point of contact, the facilitator.” said Mr Smart.

In another surprise claim, the former Labour activist also accused current Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont of actively campaigning against Scottish Devolution in the 1970s.

Writing of Ms Lamont, Mr Smart said: “She was a leading light in the ‘Labour Vote No’ campaign.  You read that right: Johann Lamont, in 1979 actively campaigned against the ever so modest measure of devolution her own Labour Government offered the people of Scotland.”

The claims will prove uncomfortable for the Scottish Labour party with both Ms Curran and Ms Lamont playing key roles in Labour’s fight against Scottish independence.  It will also pile further pressure on Scottish Labour at a time when the party is already facing questions over the role of Scottish Labour MPs during the time Lord Healey admits the party were actively misleading Scots over North Sea Oil.

Mr Smart was also highly critical of BBC Scotland’s refusal to cover the Healey Oil admission in its news bulletins and suggested the background of News and Current affairs head John Boothman may be the reason.

He revealed that Mr Boothman was the Chairperson of Strathclyde University Labour Club in 1979, Chairperson Scottish Organisation of Labour Students in 1980 and Chairperson of the National (UK) Organisation of Labour Students 1981.

Mr Boothman is also the partner of former Labour MSP Susan Deacon.  He was once reprimanded, along with another BBC Scotland editor Tom Connor, for offering media training to Labour candidates.

Mr Smart listed his own credentials as: Glasgow University Labour Club member 1976-82; Chairperson Glasgow University Labour Club, 1980-81; Chairperson of Scottish Organisation of Labour Students, 1981-82 and President NUS Scotland 1984-86 where he was elected on a Student Labour ticket.

Speaking of Lord Healey’s admission, Mr Smart said: “Now I am long out the Labour Party, and have been lied to so often by Labour that I feel I am kind of immune to being shocked or outraged.  But this one is so close to the bone, so central to my first experiences of serious political campaigning that it has shocked even me.”