Apologies in advance for the fact that you’re reading this. I’m not a writer, and this is my first blog post, so it’ll probably be directionless, incoherent, and generally a bit shit. But I’m feeling quite angry right now and banging out a stream of annoyingly brief messages on Twitter would only have succeeded in raising my blood pressure further, so I thought I’d try this instead in the hope that it might prove therapeutic.
Today’s decision by the Court of Appeal, and the subsequent reaction to it, has really brought into focus some things which have been building in my mind for a few months. For background, the Court has decided that 130,000 Labour members who joined after 12 January 2016 will not, after all, be allowed to vote in the forthcoming leadership election, overturning an earlier decision by the High Court (which in turn overturned the NEC’s decision to ban these members in the first place). The first appeal was brought by 5 Labour members who fell foul of the original decision by Labour’s NEC. One of these members is under 18 years old. The judge in question, Philip Sales actually worked for and was paid large annual 6 figures sums – amounting to at least £3.3m – by the Blair government from 1997. Which is interesting to say the least, but as I am no legal expert I won’t comment further on this as it would inevitably lead to questions of bias which I’m unqualified to answer. I will however, provide this link to prove that I’m not making things up.
The reaction to this decision by the ‘Labour Party’ has been to demand costs from the litigants. £6,000 each, I believe. As I said, one is under 18. And the reaction to this decision, from Tom Watson in particular, can only be described as wholly unattractive.
Let us remember, the Labour Party has made over £4m from charging £25 to ANYONE, for a vote in this election. Many of these people will include the disenfranchised members (including myself, in the interests of full disclosure). And now they’re going to potentially bankrupt a child.
This, by the way, is what the 130,000 saw when they signed up to become Labour members. This is the reason many feel they were lied to, mis-sold, and are being disenfranchised in a totally unethical way.
I find myself questioning some assumptions which I have long-held as a result of this. My own political opinions are fairly left-wing. I don’t like what rampant neo-liberalism has done to our society. I dislike the influence rich donors and corporations have over Labour party (and all major party) policy. I’m not a fan of our aggressive foreign policy, or of the demonization of immigrants, Muslims and other groups that has been going on for years. As such, I dislike the direction in which Labour have been going for most of my adult life, despite having voted for them, more recently only as the lesser of 2 evils, in every general election in which I’ve been eligible up to now.
Despite that, I have held the opinion that the majority of Labour MP’s are in politics for the right reasons. I can sympathise with people getting comfortable within a pretty static system and reacting to seeing that threatened, at least to a degree. I am willing to accept that some believe the best way to change things is without Jeremy Corbyn, though we clearly disagree on the scale of change required. I have refrained from taking the view that in fact the whole lot of them are selfish, venal bastards and that the democracy often talked of in this country is in fact a total sham when particular interests are threatened. Don’t be silly – that’s too far. Too tin foil hat. But the events building to and including today have left me struggling to maintain this opinion.
For months and months, Corbyn supporters and Momentum have been the victims of one of the worst media hatchet jobs I’ve ever seen. Trots, rabble, dogs. Entryists. Trotskyists. Arm bending going on. Seeking to destroy Labour. While I readily admit there has been some abuse aimed at members of the PLP, which should and has been roundly condemned, this is absolutely not indicative of the broader movement (if we count new Labour members, around 350,000 people) that has attempted to involve itself in our parliamentary democracy over the last year. No evidence has been provided that this is not the case, and my own empirical evidence having met many that have joined in the last year, as well as numerous members of Momentum would suggest that it most certainly is not.
(This interview with Blairite Peter Kilfoyle supports this view entirely, and is worth pointing out to people making such charges.)
What has disappointed me so much about this is, I think, the reaction to it or lack thereof from the 172 members of the PLP who support Owen Smith. They know that these accusations are, generally, bollocks. They must be able to see the anti-democratic nature of today’s decision. They must be able to see the damage this does to the image of a notionally socially democratic political party. And yet they say nothing. They close ranks. They continue, even today, to bleat about their own travails. Lillian Greenwood, for example, whose opinions I have been paying attention to after her speech to her CLP outlining the reasons for her opposition to Corbyn. These sounded reasonable and as a supporter of his, I found them concerning. Conscious of placing myself in an echo chamber, I started following her on Twitter. But even after today, and even after all the shit thrown at so many decent people over the last few months, she posts the following tweet:
“No not in your Tory Paid for Polls – but then You Tory Cunts Fucked jeremy over from the start didn’t you”
with the caption
‘Think there’s no abuse? Think again.’
No Lillian, I don’t think that. I’ve regularly been called worse on Twitter for supporting Corbyn. I don’t feel the need to retweet every such instance to prove how hard done by I am. It isn’t pleasant, it isn’t constructive and I would certainly condemn it coming from any side. But when people are slagged off publicly, daily, by 90% of the written and broadcast media in this country, how should people feel? It’s also not pleasant to be laughed at and called all sorts for doing something you genuinely believe will improve the lot of the majority in the country. The mood among Corbyn supporters has become significantly more entrenched, suspicious and adversarial in the last few months and it isn’t hard to see why. What is worse? A few individuals with no outlet losing their rag and swearing on Twitter, or those with significant power using the wide ranging platforms they enjoy to continually smear those without similar advantages? I think that’s a question worth thinking about.
I believe our society is extremely close to having a very serious problem on its hands. The right of the Labour Party is in the process of totally alienating the majority of its base. If the Corbyn experiment is killed, and in the manner in which those who would administer the blow are trying to do it, how are people going to feel seeing the only hope they’ve had for true representation snuffed out? Imagine if Owen Smith wins, is elected PM and does, as he has recently suggested at hustings, overturn the EU referendum decision? How well represented are the people that voted for that going to feel? Bearing in mind that these people are generally not Labour grass roots, you’ll have 2 very different groups sharing an absolute disgust and disillusionment with politics in this country.
Fortunately I don’t think that either of these outcomes is likely, but in that case, just what the hell do the right of the Labour Party think they’re going to achieve with the way they’re behaving? What is the end game other than wrecking their own party and keeping the Tories in power (the opposite of what they love to profess is the be all and end all – winning power for Labour). And why do those in the PLP who voted no confidence, but truly care about Labour, and respect democracy, not call this out? Answers on a postcard please, because the only conclusions that I can draw are not sympathetic to any of them. But then I don’t want to be accused of wearing a tin foil hat.
Well done if you made it this far 🙂