Guest blog: Marc Waddington reflects on the life of Labour veteran Jack Spriggs
Cllr Jack Spriggs 1934 - 2009
"We cannot be sure who will get the advantage if we accept this offer. But if you continue with the occupation we will win ... We have a golden opportunity to lead Merseyside in a fight against big business. Their whole aim is to make money at the expense of the working class ... Merseyside is waiting for a lead. We have got to have the responsibility to take it ..."
- The Battle At Fisher Bendix, Malcolm Marks.
Although Marks may have chronicled events at the Kirkby Fisher Bendix washing machine factory, scene of a famous nine-week sit-in in 1972, the words are actually those of Jack Spriggs, who died last week and was buried before hundreds of mourners on Friday.
"Lead Merseyside in a fight against big business ... their whole aim is to make money at the expense of the working class ..." Today, at a time when straight-talking has given way to implication and inference, it's refreshing to read the words of someone who really did tell it like it was.
The Fisher Bendix campaign, which Jack Spriggs, as union rep, implored his members to continue in the face of management threats, gave cause for former Labour prime minister Harold Wilson to say of him there was "no shrewder negotiator". And in the end, the shrewder negotiator won.
As former Lord Mayor of Liverpool Cllr Steve Rotheram said at the funeral, Jack had his own way, and more often than not, got his own way.
"Yes, he was stubborn, but he would debate an issue with us at length and put his argument forward and if you disagreed, he would simply wait until you came to your senses and saw that he was right and you were wrong."
hat said, Cllr Rotheram continued, he was by no means undemocratic. Representing his ward alongside Cllr Rotheram and Cllr Dave Hanratty, "the majority view always won."
"None of us ever broke this rule ... until last Friday," continued a clearly choked Cllr Rotheram. "Because Dave and I never gave Jack permission for him to leave us."
The church was standing-room-only, the pews on either side a sea of red and black: red for his dual passions of the Labour movement and Liverpool FC. The black explains itself.
But the occasion wasn't solemn. There were too many achievements to speak of, too many funny stories to tell, too many memories to be shared for the mood to be mournful. Although many shed tears, many laughed to hear tales of how he and his ward colleagues once hijacked a council gully-cleaner to finish a half-done job; how during his national service he was put on a train at Lime Street for Aldershot but went jumped off in order to go and watch the Liverpool game; above all, this was a celebration of the life of a man fiercely loyal to what he believed in - especially Anfield stadium.
And in the end, the loyal, shrewd negotiator had the last laugh. At last Wednesday's full council, a vote was to be taken on a motion declaring support for the MerseyTram project. Alas, the vote fell the same night as the Liverpool game, at which everyone expected Jack to be. He may have even encouraged people to think that, if he thought it might mean die-hard Reds fans on the Liberal Democrat benches would feel safe to plump for the match over the meeting.
But, against all expectations, in walked Jack, and the Labour motion was carried - by one vote.
Little wonder then that on Friday, Cllr Jack Spriggs' coffin was carried out to a standing ovation. A unanimous one.
Marc Waddington is the political reporter of the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo, click HERE to read his report from Cllr Spriggs' funeral.