A short tribute to Mike Howard

JVL Introduction

We are pleased to publish Robin Jamieson’s tribute to his life-long friend Mike Howard, delivered  at Mike’s funeral a month ago in Hastings.

Many readers of our website will recognise and remember Mike as one of the Labour Activists for Justice (LA4J) who had been treated so abysmally by the Party to which he dedicated more than 45 years of his life.

He died a committed socialist and still angry with the Labour Party that had suspended him, a Jewish anti-racist, for antisemitism.

Robin Jamieson writes

In trying to come to terms with the death of Mike I am unable to separate what is personal from what is political. The connections between the two were at the core of his identity, of who Mike was,  and go too far back to fully comprehend.

Long before he was born two 14-year old girls, preparing to leave school, walked in off the street to the Royal London Hospital, found the Matron in her office and asked what they had to do if they decided to train as nurses. The Matron smiled politely and did her best to lower their expectations. Perhaps they could be nursing assistants. Nurses at that time were young ladies with correct elocution recruited from good families. Nursing was for Florence Nightingales, not working class girls, or the children of immigrants.

The two girls were Renee Weinstein and Doris Lerner, Mike’s mother and mine. That was in 1936, months before Mosely was stopped at Cable Street. They threw themselves into the fight against fascism and went on to become trade union activists,  and socialists. To anyone who knew them nurse training would perhaps have been a modest achievement but this was no longer relevant to their lives.

Years later Renee looked after me when Doris had a late shift on the busses and eventually after Mike was born I could babysit sometimes. I remember him as a noisy toddler who tried to talk whole sentences  before he knew the words, possibly because everybody talked at the same time.

Mike joined Hackney Young Socialists after I had left London when it was the most lively and interesting YS branch,  a place where Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott would have been regarded as right wingers. The Ys was critical to stopping Mosely, again, at Ridley Road – unlike the BBC fictional account, and it was quite usual to discuss whether the ruling class  would ever give up without a fight, would they use the monarchy to stage a military coup and how would we build support for socialism among “workers in uniform”, the army, police and security services . Hackney YS from the 1960s and 1970s still exists in exile and hopefully June Tatch can help Dee to gather and publish some personal recollections.

When Mike came to Newcastle and stayed on to work in Gateshead Libraries I was already there and not surprisingly we both supported Militant at its best. Again, when Militant fell apart as  its leadership lost its sense of direction we came to similar conclusions. The task ahead was to keep the ideas of socialism alive in the Labour Party and prepare for a change in the Party under pressure from below.

For those of us that have no belief in an afterlife Mike has obviously gone but still there is a feeling of him being near. There is a Mike-sized gap in my universe and probably for what remains of my life I will think I must tell Mike about that, or I wonder what Mike would say. I will miss his “chutzpa”, his brazen courage in support of human rights for refugees in the Channel, Palestinians in Israel, and Jewish Socialists in the Labour Party.


Comments (6)

  • Moreno says:

    sounds like a truly wonderful person has left us . RIP

  • Martyn Meacham says:

    I am totally disgusted Starmer and his racist,fascist, and apartheid supporting party.They have destroyed all the values that the labour party was built upon.

  • Dorothy says:

    Mike was active to the end and a valued member of Unite Community. His comrades in the Sussex Coast branch will miss him very much.

  • Graeme Atkinson says:

    Very moving, Robin.

  • John Coates says:

    A very fitting tribute for a good comrade.
    I wish we had more like him.

  • Jonathan Rosenhead says:

    What a lovely tribute. I met Mike at JVL meetings, and again as co-Labour Activists for Justice. I wish I had had more time to know him better.

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