There are two Derek Hattons. One is a man reviled by many on Merseyside and beyond as a militant socialist’ one of politics’ – and arguably Liverpool’s – great bogeymen.
A man who ‘played politics with people’s lives’ and arguably had a major role in almost bankrupting Liverpool City Council and making Labour unelectable in the city for almost two decades. And those hideous suits. Even if Hatton wasn’t a ‘spiv’, as some suggested, he certainly dressed like one.
But, like many bad guys in life, Hatton has undergone a reinvention in recent years. First he was a media personality, then a male model, then a company director. There was an inevitable detour into talk radio and a successful business flogging holiday homes in Cyprus.
He now pops up from time to time to wish death on Thatcher – and can often be seen on Twitter berating football fans and retweeting cycling facts.
Despite his role in bitter political battles that helped turn Merseyside into ‘Murkeyside’ in political column inches, Liverpool seems to have found some fondess for, or at least equanimity with, Degsy. It comes as some surprise than Hatton has not appeared on stage at Christmas in recent years, just to cement his position as a loveable pantomime villain.
Most recently Hatton has become a cycling evangelist who ‘takes 27 vitamins a day’ and ‘definitely believes in working hard and playing hard!!!’. The ‘Armani-suited Left-winger with the Beatles accent’ – as the Daily Mail describes him – will be cycling across Europe in aid of the Oliver King Foundation, a charity that buys defibrillators for schools and public buildings. So, good for him.
And yet, it’s difficult to get a handle on Hatton, even after years in the spotlight. He almost disavows his political past at times and the obvious question is whether he ever meant any of it; whether Militant was simply a handy vessel with which to build a platform and wield some power.
There’s still some fire in the belly, obviously. His public spat with Rod Liddle – a ‘fat, useless lump’ – on a celebrity Come Dine With Me shows that, but overall Hatton seems as kink-free as his Botoxed forehead.
There are many people on Merseyside who are still licking their wounds from the battles of the 80s. Teflon Degsy seems to have moved on, effortlessly, as if the wake of destruction Militant is responsible for never happened.
That he might finally get on his bike, as many have wished over the years, seems like another brush stroke on a 20-year effort to erase his peculiar past from history’s canvas.
Picture by Dave Evans