The Last Word: I will not be shamed out of Labour

First they tried to bore us out, then they tried to bully us out … now they try to shame us out. It will not work, writes Progress director Richard Angell

Labour’s new establishment is learning from and emulating the old establishment fast. The hard-left believes its own rhetoric about New Labour’s media manipulation and conference floor organising and uses it as an alibi for both like never before. It is all very Animal Farm – ‘four legs good, two legs bad’ and truly become ‘four legs good, two legs better’.

Watching the Momentum leadership explain away how they manipulated the good will of their delegates to keep a vote on Brexit off conference floor and save Corbyn’s blushes was a sight to behold. When Jon Lansman told me ‘Momentum is not a faction’ and that it has ‘no policy positions’, I could not help but laugh. Keep it credible, Jon. Momentum literally had an app telling people how to vote – and on Brexit, against their own interests.

I have written before about Michael Crick’s book on the Militant Tendency. How it reveals the three stages the 1980s hard-left used to take over local constituency Labour parties: make them boring, make them bullish and – when the moderates are out of the room – pass motion after motion ‘unaminously’ and by acclaim.

Since Jeremy Corbyn came to power this process has repeated itself, and in the most intense way. The older recruits – what I would call ‘returners from the 1980s’ – in the new membership are the ones who make Labour meetings unpleasant. They love procedure, minutes of the last meeting and making complaints – before, after and during the meeting, hoping to drive hardworking CLP officers from their post because they cannot take the grief.

In lots of places this has turned to all-out bullying. Either, a relentless attempt to induce fear when approaching your email inbox, dreading yet another near legalese letter with eight to 12 laborious points to refute. Or, a level of unpleasantness that has become the norm for people like Jess Philips.

Corbyn has offered courageous and inspiring words of solidarity for Diane Abbott regarding the awful abuse she receives. Every member would want to associate themselves with those words and stand with the shadow home secretary. But he casts the abusers as the other, those outside the room, outside the Corbynite tent, and for the most part outside Labour. It, rightly, received rapturous applause. But what about the abuse inside the tent? Philips and many more get abuse from party members – many of whom are his supporters. All it would take is one line from the leader and the Corbot trolls would clean up their act. Momentum could take a lead and set up a Twitter account ‘Corbyn Against Hate’ and tweet just one simple line at those who say they are on Corbyn’s wing but abuse Labour MPs: ‘Delete your tweet or delete your Twibbon: abuse against fellow Labour members is not tolerated, nor in our name.’ I have recommended this before – but for some reason it just does not happen.

The abuse at this year’s conference was not just coming from inside the tent, but inside the conference hall. A 17-year-old first time delegate and first time speaker had members approaching retirement age get to their feet to heckle and throw abuse. A number of delegates received calls or texts from the balcony informing them they were ‘being watched’. One delegate had their conference credentials pulled from around their neck because they refused to sit with their fellow CLP delegates, but their friends instead. I cannot think why.

These tactics will not work. Boredom will not pressure people out and neither will the bullying. Labour modernisers and moderates are made of stronger stuff.

But there is one more string to their bow that has been proving effective. Bringing shame and embarrassment onto Labour and being associated with it. The out and out antisemitism on conference floor was a disgrace. The fact Shami Chakrabarti was on the platform and it made no difference is more worrying. The fact the chair – CLP representative on the NEC, Claudia Webbe – turned a blind eye and refused to take Chakrabarti’s advice to not take one of the offending speakers, speaks volumes. The standing ovation by some to words of hate made me sick.

I came out of the conference hall to see a Jewish friend holding back their tears. It nearly broke me. But it won’t. If Luciana Berger, Louise Ellman and Ruth Smeeth are staying in Labour, I am damn sure I am staying too. I am not Jewish, but I want to have their back. Even better I want Labour at every level to turn its back on this kind of behaviour. The rule change that provoked this kind of hate speech is a good start. Maggie Cosin becoming chair of the National Constitutional Committee is another. Stay, comrades, and help make it happen.

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Richard Angell is director of Progress. He tweets at @RichardAngell

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Comments: 7...

  1. On September 29, 2017 at 5:15 pm Elizabeth McIntosh responded with... #

    It seems you seek martyrdom. It must be a big disappointment to you that no one wants you to leave – or for Ms Philips to do so, despite her constant quest to be seen as edgy and provocative.

    The evidence you give of unpleasantness is scant and seems more like energetic debate. I suppose that when you are used to handing it out and be lauded as a moderate for calling anyone who opposes you ‘hard left’ or extremist then it is difficult to take a bit of name calling back. you really need to thicken your skin and become a ‘hard moderate’.

    As for anti Semitism, again your evidence is thin. I do hope you are not calling any criticism of Israel a sign of anti-Semitism. That would be a terrible conflation. a bit like saying any criticism of President Trump is Anti American, or any criticism of our Queen anti British.

    Hope your fund raising for Progress is going moderately well.

  2. On September 29, 2017 at 11:28 pm Mike Homfray responded with... #

    Your choice. But when you start to belueve your own delusions – you know these things didn’t happen as you say so why the lies? In the meantime I don’t support your brand of politics so I shall vote and campaign for what I believe.

  3. On September 30, 2017 at 8:08 am Leslie48 responded with... #

    Away from the Conference in the real world this was significantly ‘the take away’ we saw in the media. Of course we all hate the ‘hate Mail’ but its headlines which millions read or saw on TV, in Supermarkets , in Newsagents on Breakfast TV reviews simply said: The Labour Party is the Hate party’ or similar. When Labour was winning elections before under Wilson, Callaghan or Blair we never saw such negativity…indeed we were appealing to all groups, all classes, all sections. Yes we have seen saw negative headlines about our policies but this degree of internal hatred never.

    For many reasons this Corbynism still does not look like a party waiting for Government : its dogma, its sectarianism, its fractionalism , its uncompromising position, its love of ideology before pragmatism and its lack of a broader appeal. Its weak grasp of economics, anti-business feel , anti-growth, Brexit proneness puts it in a perilous position for the kinds of voters and sponsorship it needs.

  4. On September 30, 2017 at 9:46 am Verity responded with... #

    This contributor is clearly locked into a sense of victimisation.

    I do not challenge his perception of his experiences, even though he does mine. There are however many on the Left who could describe a past (with occasional present instances) of a raft of similarly equivalent issues and do hope he would also accept the validity of their perception in the same way. But the past denial of quite basic democratic entitlements are subsumed within a label of ideological distortions. If I opted to be a victim , I would cite instances at the current conference amongst fringe group meetings, but I take it as given that ‘centralists’ use their own devices (mostly more machiavellian subtle nowadays) to retain their diminishing control perceived to be under threat. Is his perception is the only one which is considered live and others are either making it up, or should be seen through Marxist distortions or are just vandals.

    Most of the single incident references made in the article (which I accept as bad behaviour are sometimes borne of years being on the receiving end of a different form of equivalence of withdrawal of rights) and are dwarfed by those that misnamed ‘moderates’ quite typical indulge in parliament aside from any behaviour towards Corbyn – who is also a person remember. Without naming the three MPs I have in mind although they they are quite typically amongst the most tearful about lesser incidents when they neglect rights of others. I would personally liken Jess Philips along with for example Owen Smith as ‘shouty and superficial’ rather than being parliamentary protected from criminally threatening behaviour – but these badly behaving people have been present in political behaviour well before the prominence of Corbyn. In the context of strikes and picketing, so very much more prevalent than in the current generally politer climate. I except the author’s perception of his experiences, after all I have also seen much with which to compare and therefore realise the possibility. I have grown to accept that politics can be a vicious pursuit of interests that sometimes impinge upon our very livelihoods and therefore stimulates very highly emotive responses. Even the most badly behaved may come to regret some of their actions. Surely self – indulgence based upon it is just one more poorly desirable assets in political discourse. I am glad the author is steeled to fight on, but he needs rise above the machiavellian devices if wants to communicate beyond those sharing his ideology.

    • On October 2, 2017 at 4:55 am NickT responded with... #

      If you want to know why Corbyn’s Labour will never gain power, just look at how its acolytes make excuses for abuse that repels decent people.

      Here’s a hint, Jeremy: if you don’t want to be thought an anti-Semite, stop associating with and coddling those who clearly are. You might also consider contemplating the reality of Venezuela, rather than fantasizing about its supposedly blessed condition. Until you learn to deal with the world as it is, and take responsibility for your actions and those of your comrades, you will never be capable of governing Britain.

  5. On October 2, 2017 at 10:38 am Andy responded with... #

    Although the Corbynites will destroy the party and will make it unelectable, as soon as his new friends see the idiot for exactly what he is and what his supporters stand for, let’s be absolutely clear that in party bullying isn’t something new and it was very much in place before Corbyn came along.

    I’ve seen new members heckled at conference through the crime of not knowing ‘procedure’ and while I am on that point I’ll remind you (again) of my first CLP meeting where I was told:

    “Sit at the back and you will pick it up as we go along”

    I’ll also remind you of complaints made about the CLP I had the misfortune of, were family members proposed, nominated and elected family members and vice versa and if they couldn’t do it a friend of the ‘closed shop’ would make sure it happened, that fell on deaf ears at both region and national level.

    That and the refusal of councillors to do their elected duties in wards were they don’t like some residents up to and including the preference of throwing away election flyers etc. instead of delivering them to wards that:

    “Are safe seats and not worth bothering with”.

    Protests about all that led to alienation, and a bullying out of the party but it didn’t matter then because of the progressive friends the bullies had.

  6. On October 2, 2017 at 1:08 pm Martyn Wood-Bevan responded with... #

    Please leave Labour and join the Neolib-Dems!

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