Friday, July 10, 2020
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Long Bailey and a snapshot of Labour bigotry

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THERE is still a month to go before the Labour leadership election takes place. While the Conservatives beat Labour on women leaders and Prime Ministers 2-0, Labour are leading on leadership elections since 2015 by 3-2. It is possible they will be opening up this lead in the next few years.

In addition to the hustings where the three (sorry, Emily) candidates debate in front of various audiences and sometimes TV cameras, there are also rallies featuring the candidates on their own. One of these, for Rebecca Long Bailey, took place in Liverpool’s Adelphi Hotel in the last week. It was quite revealing about the mentality of what could be a significant proportion of Labour Party members. Long Bailey’s team appear to have taken down the video of the rally from their site. Why is this? The following might explain.

Here is a verbatim transcript of what one party member, a man in his fifties, had to say to the Double-Barrelled One:

‘You said before that before we have democracy in the country we need democracy in the Labour party and democracy in the Labour party at the moment is non-existent and I’m thinking about the people who’ve been suspended who don’t know why they’ve been suspended [applause] and I’m thinking about the people who’ve been suspended unfairly like Jo Bird. Jo Bird is a fantastic councillor, she’s a Jewish councillor and she should actually be on the NEC. But because for certain people she’s the wrong type of Jew as are many of the people who’ve been suspended, she has been witch-hunted. Now you said before that we need to speak truth to power. We shouldn’t be here tonight. Jeremy Corbyn should be leader now and the people who’ve done the most [asked to get on and ask a question] the people who prevented Jeremy Corbyn from becoming leader most are people like Margaret Hodge, John Mann, Tom Watson, and they are all members of the Israeli lobby. Why on earth did you declare yourself to be a Zionist?’

I shall not repeat what Jo Bird said that led to an alternating sequence of suspensions and reinstatements, but they are of a nature that, were they adapted to another ethnic minority, could be regarded by the casual observer as racist.  The questioner also referred to the ‘Israeli lobby’, which is the latest phrase used as a form of cloaked anti-Semitism. Long Bailey had previously stated that ‘I suppose that makes me a Zionist because I agree with Israel’s right to exist and right to self-determine.’ The reference to ‘witch-hunt’ might be due to the existence of a hard-Left organisation called ‘Labour against the Witch-Hunt’ that takes up the cases of those members expelled over anti-Semitism. It is run by some of the expellees.

The implication from the questioner appeared to question Israel’s right to exist, so it might be reasonable for Long Bailey to rebuke the party member, especially for his comment about the ‘Israeli lobby’. Not a bit. Here’s her reply.

‘So on party democracy there is no one in the party that should be suspended and not know why they have been suspended from the party, I’m clear on that [applause] and on our processes we know that our processes weren’t fit for purpose and there are a number of reasons for that but one of the huge reasons is that we went from being a moderately sized party to a huge party and that was a brilliant thing to happen because we energised so many people and inspired so many people but then that meant that we didn’t have processes that were fit to deal with complaints quickly enough and it wasn’t just about anti-Semitism by the way this was all forms of complaint whether it was sexual harassment, misconduct, racism, Islamophobia they weren’t processed quickly enough to the extent that you were having cases that were going on for years and people were suspended and didn’t know what was gonna happen with their case for years and that’s not acceptable so that’s why I’ve said I want us to have an independent complaints process for everything, that’s legally overseen, that we can speed up very quickly, and where people do know why they’ve been suspended and the reasons that have been taken and they have the opportunity to put their own case forward if they’re not happy with the decision that’s been taken. On the question about Zionism, now I believe like many people within the party do and it was set out in our manifesto in the secure viable Israel against, alongside a viable Palestinian state and we’ve been a party that’s recognised a Palestinian state for some time now and I’m proud of that and the definition of a Zionist is someone who believes in the right of Jewish people to self-determine and the existence of that Israeli state.’

The hall at this point was so quiet it would have been possible to hear a pin drop. Long Bailey continued:

‘That doesn’t mean and I know many members were concerned about that, that doesn’t mean that as a party I don’t believe that we should stand up for the rights of Palestinians, I do.’

Here the audience burst into applause. Long Bailey then went into the shopping list of Palestinian grievances, which also received applause. She missed out certain truths, such as Gaza having a seven-mile border with Egypt and a population density lower than Hong Kong, Palestinian children receiving an anti-Semitic education of a kind a Nazi would recognise, and the constant attacks and terrorism Israel has had to endure from Palestinians for decades. Last week Islamic Jihad launched salvoes of rockets from Gaza. Not that Long Bailey either noticed or cared. For her passivity, she has been criticised in the Jewish press. She did not demonstrate leadership, more like followership.

However barely-cloaked anti-Semitism was not the only highlight of this rally. The pièce de résistance was the following diatribe from a middle-aged woman:

‘My question is those traitors, those traitors from the north-east, my descendants [sic] are turning in their ‘king graves because of, for that bungling Boris and I think he is a bungler actually, grey suits behind him using him like a puppet, my descendants are turning in their graves because of them traitors that voted for him. What is your strategy to get them traitors or do you ‘king want them back? Are you gonna to stick by your principles and forfeit power? ‘Cos I would sooner be the losing side of a decent party than on the winning side of who’s in at the minute.’ [applause]

It is clearly not that well-known amongst the membership, but Labour was set up to win elections rather than wallow in ideological purity. Labour’s problem is that they are not good at winning elections. 

Long Bailey continued to play the anodyne robot we’ve all come to know:

‘On the question about people who voted Tory in the last election, I think we do need, we need to do a bit of research on this and understand what happened because I know certainly in Salford there were people who had voted Labour all their lives who were telling me they’d never vote Tory they couldn’t bring themselves to do it, but they couldn’t vote Labour and they just didn’t go out to vote at all. And in the other communities there might be people in Salford who voted Tory previously voted Labour and we’ve got to understand why and what brought them to do that and my gut feeling is that they were angry over Brexit in many cases they wanted to send us a message.’

The truth is, the research has been done already. The main reasons not to vote Labour were Brexit, Corbyn, manifesto, and anti-Semitism. It is interesting that Long Bailey tried to suggest lifelong Labour voters merely abstained before admitting they had actually voted Conservative.

This probably explains why the video was officially pulled. Labour try to tell us that their bigots form a minority of the membership and that they are dealing with the bigotry. The evidence suggests otherwise.

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Paul T Horgan
Paul T Horgan works in the IT Sector. He lives in Berkshire.

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