What was your original political formation? What special influences were at work?

Iwas brought up in a liberal family, but when I went to Oxford in the year 1931 everybody was naturally obsessed with the whole economic crisis of the time and the student population was travelling fast leftwards. I didn’t travel so fast then, but immediately I left Oxford I went to work in Liverpool and it was my first intimate sight of industrial England. It was there that I joined the Labour Party. I joined the Left of the Party right from the beginning and I’ve stayed there ever since.

I fought the 1935 Election as a candidate in Monmouth, which was a hopeless seat, and I came up to London afterwards to try to become a journalist. I’d been working in a shipping firm in Liverpool, but when I came to London the dominant issue was the mass unemployment throughout the country. Very soon everything was swamped by the Spanish Civil War—I had an orthodox thirties in that sense.

What about intellectual influences on your political development?

Of all the socialist journalists that influenced me, I think that H. N. Brailsford had the most powerful effect. I think he was the best of all the socialist journalists writing at the time, and I still think he’s the best socialist journalist of the century. Property or Peace was the title of a book that he wrote in about 1935. I went and read most of the books that he’d written earlier, and when he’d been Editor of the New Leader, and I got to know him somewhat, and so he had a very considerable influence upon me. I read Hazlitt a great deal (inspired by my father) and though I don’t suppose Hazlitt could be described as a socialist, I think that his outlook on politics was the right one. He still has a considerable influence on what I believe. Later when I came to London I started reading Marx and the orthodox socialist classics—I read Karl Marx with Barbara Castle, and I hope we both derived benefit from it. I then went to work on Tribune when it was founded in 1937. William Mellor was the Editor, Brailsford, Bevan, and Cripps were the people who ran it, and I learned a considerable amount from their attitudes.