Writing this in March 2022, Lord Hattersley's visit to Tallis in 2006 seems like a lifetime ago. These were the days of Blair’s New Labour, and whilst the initial euphoria and optimism of the 1997 election victory had been diluted, for me at least they seem like halcyon days compared to those who have held this office since 2010.
Roy Hattersley had not come to talk about the present though. He had come on a Teaching Challenge. Literally. Arriving with a film crew in tow he had come to take on the task of teaching my Year 12 History class. The class had been engaged with thinking hard on the theme of struggles for equality through the lens of the British women's suffrage movement and the American Civil Rights movement. My students had accepted the invitation to engage in his teaching pedagogy to think further. My role was to comment upon it live via a video link set up in the office adjacent to the teaching room.
I arrived at school early that day, a habit that has not changed. I prepared the classroom, facilitated the requirements of the camera crew, and reassured my students that it was nothing to worry about and that they should enjoy the occasion.
It is hard not to be overwhelmed when you are in the presence of a politician and a political leader for whom you have some admiration. But, then again, he was not in his comfort zone, I was. The classroom was my world. The House of Commons and Lords was his. I was the expert. Or so I thought. And then he started. Just wow. What a lesson!
You see the thing was Roy's life was intimately entwined with struggles for equality. His life’s work was defined by it. He was able to share the stories of gender and racial equality with consummate ease. Once more, he did this entirely through anecdotes and stories .... no work sheets or textbooks to be seen. In addition, such stories could be embellished with accounts of personal involvement and experience such as meeting Bayard Rustin with Robert Kennedy in 1964. I was not born till 1965! I had been reminded of the power of stories to engage and captivate young minds. Oh, my word what a lesson. And it was a privilege for me to watch and comment.
Finally, Lord Hattersley and I shared lunch with the students in Greenwich Park, an opportunity for some less formal conversation. Blair and Brown were the hot topics of the day. At the end my assessment of Roy's teaching, I asked him for a self-assessment and he offered that he was satisfactory and would avoid special measures. I suggested he was very modest.
Bless you Lord Roy Hattersley. You made our day and gave me a tale to tell.
-- Tony Hier