Still proud to say I was in Senate House in March 1970

Contributed by: Pete Cresswell

After I was finally expelled I kept some of the documents from the hearing, mainly correspondence and some (unintentionally funny) witness statements.  Eventually I put them in a box of rubbish and thought no more about them.  When I was moving house, maybe 17 years ago, I came across them again and remember being struck by how old they seemed.  It was like coming across some ancient documents about someone else altogether, almost as if I’d never been there.  I put them away again and didn’t give them a thought until the last few months when talk of the 40th anniversary cropped up.   The truth is that whilst the occupation was an event that changed my life forever I didn’t dwell on it and after a few years people stopped talking about it; if they did it was only about the toy gun.   I didn’t give it much thought apart from when I had to refresh my CV.  ‘Expelled for political reasons’ was the description I chose to use and nobody ever questioned it.  Oh, apart from one organisation, the University of Liverpool.  I once applied to do a course of professional training at the university (I’m a social worker) and was rejected because I’d been expelled.  Years later I again wrote to them (heaven knows why)  to see if I could finish my degree on a part time basis.  The answer was again ‘certainly not’, in a letter that referred to my ‘past misdemeanours’!  This was 20 years after the event.

I’m glad I’ve now been reminded of the details of what happened during the occupation; this brilliant blog captures the mood precisely and has hauled back some things from the back of my memory, Phil Gusack’s silky ‘mass meeting time’ announcements for instance!  It was a happy time; I don’t regret a thing and I still believe in the thinking behind the fantastically reasonable five demands.  I wonder if any of the powers that be at the university can say the same?  Does anyone now seriously believe that the white supremacist Lord Salisbury was a suitable person to head a university for instance?  And who on the current senate would put their hands up to join Mr Chrimes in defending those investments in apartheid?  Remember ‘Chrimes Against Humanity’?  His name was almost too good to be true!

No, the truth is that we were right, they were wrong and I’m still proud to say that I was in the Senate House in March 1970.

One other thing that hasn’t yet surfaced in the blog.  When we appealed some of us were defended, pro bono, by Professor JAG Griffith, then Professor of Law at the LSE.  He gave endless hours of his time in trying to remedy what he saw as an injustice and slept overnight in a student flat  in Devonshire Road (Dave Steyn’s I think).  He must have had all sorts of grief from the academic establishment.  He is, I think, alive, though very old now, and I think we should recognise the role that this remarkable man played in the events.

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1 thought on “Still proud to say I was in Senate House in March 1970”

  1. A beautiful piece, Pete. The behaviour of the University years after is, perhaps, even more inexplicable, than its original actions.

    Doing the research for this blog has also convinced me that, nothwithstanding we were in a minority, it was a dignified and morally justified act. We were right, and they were short-sighted and incompetent in their handling of it.

    I’m about to add to the blog an interesting series of articles from the New Statesman that began with one by Professor Griffith.

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