The Labour Right Would Prefer a Johnson Government to a Corbyn One. It’s Time to Replace Them

JVL Introduction

Aaron Bastani expresses the anger felt by so many on the left, as those on the right of the Party, in cahoots with the mainstream media, step up their pressure on Jeremy Corbyn.

He wonders: “why did Labour Lords pay £18K for negative coverage in a paper so willing to perform the service for free?”

This article was originally published by Novara Media on Thu 18 Jul 2019. Read the original here.

The Labour Right Would Prefer a Johnson Government to a Corbyn One. It’s Time to Replace Them

This was the week when the British establishment, from right to centre, effectively conceded they would prefer a Boris Johnson premiership to a Jeremy Corbyn one. This includes the Labour establishment, of course, the highlight being an advert in the Guardian taken out by 64 Labour Lords criticising the party’s leadership. 

It must be a new low for the Guardian when, in a manner resembling that of the Evening Standard, its commercial arm is indistinguishable from its editorial line. Rather than irritation or anger, the advert left me with a sense of befuddlement: why did Labour Lords pay £18K for negative coverage in a paper so willing to perform the service for free? Unelected legislators paying for newspaper inches in a ‘progressive’ outlet to attack a socialist leader of the opposition – just when you thought you’d seen it all, something else comes along.

The political hue of the signatories was predictable. One was Margaret McDonagh, the party’s general secretary from 1998 to 2001. It was during her tenure that Labour accepted a donation of £100K from Richard Desmond, then proprietor of the Daily Express and Daily Star. Not long after that contribution, which was known of only by McDonagh and the person who banked the cheque, the former general secretary joined Desmond’s operation as general manager of Express newspapers. Such largesse by the media lothario – whose Daily Star would champion the English Defence League in 2011 – would be significantly outdone, however, when he later donated more than £1m to Ukip.

Another signatory was John Reid, home secretary during the New Labour years and arguably the most authoritarian figure to hold an office tailor-made for such a disposition. While the advert claims the Corbyn leadership has failed “to defend our party’s anti-racist values”, it was Reid who once announced he would target “foreigners [who] come to this country illegitimately and steal our benefits”. He also once boasted he was “throwing out more asylum seekers – failed asylum seekers – than ever before.” As ‘anti-racist’ rhetoric goes, it’s certainly original.

Indeed Reid’s ‘woke’ credentials go so far that he even once took a holiday with Radovan Karadzic – the man responsible for Europe’s most recent mass genocide at Srebrenica. Perhaps unsurprisingly for someone who wanted special prisons for refugees run by G4S, he proceeded to join the company after leaving government. Like McDonagh, Reid’s trajectory is that of the classic Blairite: unscrupulous bureaucrat to unsavoury lobbyist.

Then there is Baroness Morgan of Huyton – Sally Morgan to you and I. Morgan was once a trusted advisor to Tony Blair himself. So much so that – along with her then boss – she allegedly blocked the attorney-general from explaining to cabinet the small matter of the legality of the Iraq war. After leaving Downing Street in 2005, she became a non-executive director at Southern Cross Healthcare, leaving a year before the company went bust in 2012. She proceeded to become a senior non-executive director at Carillion, the outsourcing company, which also went into liquidation in early 2018 and is subject to an ongoing investigation by the Financial Reporting Council.

In short, many of the Lords associated with the Guardian advert represent the very worst elements of the Blair era. They are cronies who enabled a racist agenda on immigration; bag-carriers who misled a nation into an illegal war. Their reward is plum peerages with no scrutiny and plenty of perks.

Only days before the advert was published, five members of Labour’s national executive committee, including deputy leader Tom Watson, submitted a motion calling for rule changes to be enacted within the party. This included the demand that racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia are dealt with by “automatic exclusion” from Labour where there is “irrefutable evidence”. In an opportunistic ploy, typically bereft of considering actual implementation, it’s unclear what “irrefutable evidence” is on Planet Watson. Would Watson himself, for instance, have faced such a measure after running a racist campaign in the 2004 Hodge Hill by-election? After all, one of the leaflets in that very campaign claimed the Lib Dems “want to keep giving welfare benefits to failed asylum seekers. They voted for this in parliament on 1 March 2004. They want your money, and mine, to go to failed asylum seekers.”

What wasn’t mentioned in this campaign was that the policy in question was Labour’s plan to take asylum seekers’ children away from them and forcibly place them in care. For defending such a brutal, racist policy – and deploying the most audible of dog whistles while doing so – what does Mr Watson think should be his comeuppance?

And what would Watson suggest for his various colleagues, both past and present? Take David Blunkett, who was home secretary from 2001 to 2004. He once claimed asylum seekers’ children were “swamping” British schools. And then there’s Jack Straw – should he have been automatically expelled for overseeing the introduction of discriminatory visa policies for Roma people of Slovakian and Czech heritage in 2001? Or perhaps he could offer input regarding Phil Woolas? Ahead of the 2010 general election, the former MP’s team spoke internally of needing to get “the white vote angry”. Such an impulse was the basis for a campaign so ridden with racially inflammatory lies that shortly after winning, two high court judges determined Woolas had acted unlawfully and called for a fresh election. His punishment in the intervening period? A promotion. Watson’s response, rather than to decry his colleague’s lack of a moral compass, was to declare that the judges’ decision was one “we will all regret” and that he had “lost sleep thinking about poor old Phil Woolas”.

Remarkably Woolas’s son, Josh Woolas, was one of the 200 “current and former Labour staff and supporters” who condemned Labour’s handling of last week’s Panorama documentary in a recent letter. Did he pen anything when his own father’s campaign explicitly aimed at getting the ‘white vote’ angry? I suspect you know the answer to that. Interestingly, he participated in his own smear campaign in 2016. Like father, like son.

But even more absurd than the Guardian advert and Watson’s motion is the fact we now know it was former general secretary Iain McNicol who made the former party staffers on Panorama sign their non-disclosure agreements. This means the ‘whistle-blowers’ appeared on the same programme, saying the same thing, as the man who had allegedly curtailed their ability to speak the truth. Of course John Ware, who produced the programme, didn’t deem that detail important enough to mention.

Confronted with an increasingly deranged Labour right and their allies in parts of the media, it’s important to grasp what all of this represents: a last ditch effort to stifle any chance of a Corbyn-led Labour government. This now has an added urgency given that a general election looks increasingly imminent. The default approach of the Labour leadership so far, not unwisely, has been to ride such provocations while getting on with the slow business of transforming the party. But the reality is without mandatory re-selection it’s difficult to see how the leadership can maintain a semblance of party cohesion, especially in government.

Every single Labour MP now needs to face a trigger ballot as soon as the opportunity arises. Why? Because there is absolutely no chance of a successful political programme aiming to deal with Britain’s biggest problems – from rising racism to falling wages – with many of these people as Labour MPs. The last ten days have proven that beyond all reasonable doubt.

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Comments (7)

  • Sheena says:

    Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters have been far too nice for far too long to these wicked disgustingly disloyal Tony B Liars rump still plotting and scheming to topple him. They have used very nasty horrible methods to attack us all, they don’t care that they are giving huge ammunition to the terrible tories who are actually supporting openly racist homophobic misogynistic leaders around the world. JVL PLEASE HELP US GET OUR SUPPORT AND VOICES HEARD NOW. They trying to isolate, smear and bully the Labour Party when we should be preparing for an election and a Labour Government to take office.

  • Sheena says:

    So glad that Jeremy at last sacked that awful peer who used the disgusting disgraceful horrendous and sick Hitler slur against A LEGENDARY ANTI RACIST PEACE CAMPAIGNER. There are no lengths they will not go to to remove our leader.

  • Mary Davies says:

    Agree totally – brilliant response.

  • Julian says:

    Aaron is right. The RW MPs have to be deselected asap. We can’t do anything about the peers, yet.

    I have to say, I cannot understand how anyone with even a smidgen of conscience or empathy can cause so much damage, while so many ordinary Britons have suffered so much under this cruel government. Surely that’s who should be relentlessly attacked by anyone who has our “Labour Values”.

  • Dr Brian Robinson says:

    I’d like to put in a provocative and I’m sure controversial word for the defence, not just for the sake of being provocative/controversial but to see if there’s any possible discussion with perhaps a way to heal the terrible wounds in the left, and then the fractures in the wider society.

    I’ve wanted a Labour government ever since the defeat of 2010, and I wanted it to be a Corbyn-led government, which is why I voted for him in 2015. But what I want to talk about now is encapsulated in the ancient Greek word, ‘kairos’, which by the way has much the same meaning as the Hebrew phrase, ‘she’at kosher’, the opportune moment, the critical time for an action of some kind, or for speaking about something.

    For ages we’ve desperately needed a Corbyn project and the leadership to put it across robustly. But from the moment Jeremy himself began to be attacked, I’ve been haunted by the Chris Mullin novel, ‘A Very British Coup’ with its presciently created Corbyn character, Harry Perkins, brought down by a coordinated reactionary force of elite establishment figures, several of the key players hidden from public view in what’s sometimes called ‘the deep state’.

    Look at the nature of the country in which we’re living: the rightwing press increasingly now echoed by broadcasters in their mucky so-called journalism, the deeply entrenched power of the City, the military, the arms sales, the murky governmental involvement with nasty, vicious regimes around the world, the growing links with politicians and business leaders in the USA, salivating over the Tory-savaged NHS and other public bodies, as we turn from the EU: I can’t avoid the thought, much as I’m totally against such violence, that nothing will shift this lot with power in the UK at this time short of a bloody revolution. (To be clear, I’m not calling for one and wouldn’t support it.)

    But I’m thinking back to 2015 and more recently to all those figures, call them Blairites if you must but I don’t think it helps, who said the things I don’t need to repeat here about why it was a mistake to elect Jeremy to the leadership.

    We tend to talk of backstabbers, traitors, (more politely maybe, simply of rightwingers), and worse epithets, but consider a different approach. I’m not referring now to the commentators and broadcasters and a host of civil institutions and pressure groups who would always be hostile to any Labour government (with the possible exception of one led by a Blairite figure). No, I’m talking about those Labour MPs and Labour voters and supporters who genuinely wanted, and wanted to campaign actively for, a Labour government.

    My case is that they knew, and some friendly journalists knew (and a couple of them work for the Guardian) that although something like a Corbyn project was long overdue, the time wasn’t kairos, not she’at kosher. The mountain of opposing forces was simply too high, despite the popularity of many of the goals in the 2017 manifesto.

    The threat of a Corbyn government was just too great, and the way things are with our mainstream media simply impossible. In particular, as we know, the threat of a Corbyn government to the UK’s relationship with Israel was manifest, involving a complete change regarding arms sales, discourse on the illegal settlements, and lots of other such matters.

    It was interesting that towards the end of that Panorama “documentary” hatchet job the other night, someone said that one of the ways Corbyn could start to “redeem” himself (I’m paraphrasing from memory) was for him to say that Israel had a right to exist. Leave aside the philosophical argument as to whether states have “a right” to exist in the way people have, what would it mean for Jeremy to accede to that urging? It would be tantamount to endorsing an apartheid system, the use of torture in army interrogation centres with medical involvement, a semi-starvation programme enforced with criminal brutality in Gaza, an unjust legal system for Palestinians and the rest of it.

    (I’m reminded of the suggestion made by Margaret Hodge in a Channel 4 News programme a year or two ago, when asked by Cathy Newman what Corbyn should do to make things better. One of the things top of her agenda for Jeremy was that he should go to visit Yad Vashem. Who was it who was supposed to be bringing Israel into the issue of anti-Jewish prejudice?!)

    Finally, Tom Watson. Yes, I know — his past words and behaviour would make Macchiavelli envious (might even shock him as he looked at the depths of the deviousness). But again look at it another way. For all Tom’s record of secret politicking manipulation, cloak-and-dagger, crafty skullduggery, he surely loves the Labour party, he’s Labour to his marrow. It’s certainly not the kind of redblooded socialist Labour party that Jeremy and most of the current membership want, it’s the kind of pragmatic party that is always aware that politics has to be the art of compromise, of balancing conflicting pressures in a free and complex society.

    I voted for him for the deputy position in 2015 because (wrongly) I thought he’d be a good foil for Corbyn, able to put across the project message to the PLP, a kind of bridge. Yes, I was wrong there. But I still can’t think of Watson as a traitor, still less (as I’ve seen around recently) a worm, a lowlife, a disgusting creature released by the turning of a rock.

    He may sometimes be clumsy and hamfisted, occasionally brutal, an old-style backroom bruiser in his element in what we used to call smokefilled rooms (probably with beer and sandwiches, though I imagine these days he’s not on the beer much). Oh, and that’s another thing: look at the personal discipline, all that weight loss!

    I would love to see a more equal society, one at peace with itself, industrious and rewarded fairly for that, a nuclear-weapons-free military, a country that will have renounced belligerency, culturally open, outward-looking, internationalist. Oh, and the real implementation of Robin Cook’s ethical foreign policy, not the watered-down “ethical dimension” version. And I’d love to have seen Corbyn introduce it. But I can’t help thinking that it will come about in an age when — kairos and she’at kosher again — there’ll be Corbyn Halls in every town and probably a statue to the great man, a man before his time, in Parliament Square (I’m not being sarcastic, it will happen).

  • John says:

    The answer to the unelected is obvious: Labour must adopt a manifestoi commitment to abolish the second chamber.
    It has existed for far too long and it is high time it was scrapped.
    Other countries have unicameral systems.
    The UK will function better with a similar system.
    It will also benefit financially from not having to pay for out-of-date fossils.

  • Stephen Williams says:

    It’s time to identify The Guardian as one of the enemies of both Labour and Palestine. Another Steve Bell cartoon has just been censored, apparently because Tom Watson was shown as a witchfinder general. The daily diet of anti-Corbyn editorials has become tiresome; we were even treated to yet another piece yesterday by Margaret Hodge. She has nothing new to say but we should be grateful that, this time, she left out the four-letter words.

Comments are now closed.