Looking back with Starmer man Bob
12 March, 2020 — By John Gulliver
THE public glare turned last week for a few hours on Robert Latham, a barrister and a former Labour councillor, when it became known he had donated £100,000 to the campaign being run by Sir Keir Starmer for Labour’s leadership. As he sees it, Starmer can pull Labour back from the “brink” whatever and wherever the “brink” is – and therefore, presumably, worth supporting.
I have known Bob Latham since the late 1970s and he and I shared causes – particularly in our sympathy for the miners on strike in the historic dispute of 1984. This week, Bob took me back even slightly further in time when he reminded me that he used to go from pub to pub around 1980 selling a newspaper called Save the Camden Journal, produced by journalists on strike at the old Camden Journal before the dispute was settled opening the door to the emergence of today’s Camden New Journal. His favourite hostelry was the Mornington Arms where we would be joined by John Mills, then a local Labour councillor and today head of the TV shopping channel JML, and the actor Denholm Elliott, who sadly died too young.
Bob learned his trade as a young barrister in the chambers of the famous leftish QC John Platts Mills and some of the views of Platts Mills may have rubbed off on him. At one point he was libel lawyer on the Morning Star. A fine moment in his career took place around 1984 when he defended a fellow Labour councillor, Janet Pope, on a charge of obstructing the highway – she and several miners, who had come down from Yorkshire to raise funds for their dispute, were arrested by the police while collecting money in Kentish Town Road outside the library. While the miners were each fined £50, Bob had persuaded the magistrates to “bind over” Janet Pope without a fine. When the magistrate realised what he had done – fined the miners but, effectively, let off Janet Pope – he changed course and bound over the miners as well, cancelling their fines.
Bob supported many community causes in the 80s and both he and John Mills played a part in arranging for the council to take over a London Electricity building in Arlington Road and turn it into a community centre, run by another well-known activist, Charlie Rossi.