Sunday, 1 May 2016

An open letter to progressives within the Labour Party (and everywhere)

There is absolutely no way any of us can argue with the fact that this week - a week which has included a long-overdue holding to account of the Thatcher-era establishment not just for the police negligence which led to the deaths of 96 innocent football supporters, but the subsequent disgraceful attempts (involving collusion between police, politicians and the Tory press) to demonise those supporters and blame them for the disaster; as well as several Tory blunders - nevertheless did not end well for us or our cause.

The breakneck pace of the 24-hour news cycle and social media resulted in an awful lot of progressives both inside and outside of the party (along with many others of different political stripes) giving in to the temptation to react before thinking.  Within the party we're seeing the fragile truce that was beginning to take shape start to unravel, and the political shift which has seen many successes - to the extent that many of the doubters were beginning to come around - is under fire again.  Worse than that, our true opposition has been able both to use their clout in commercial media to frame the whole discussion on their terms as well as bury quite a few embarrassing problems of their own.

For my money, the way this came about - as well as the resulting infighting - has all the hallmarks of a textbook Lynton Crosby "ratfucking" operation.  I can quite easily see the man setting his minions to work trawling the personal social media acounts of Labour MPs and members looking for anything that could be used to cause damage (as an aside, I think that the party *really* needs to get wise in terms of training our public figures in the importance of privacy settings when using social media, but that's for another time).  Lost amid all the subsequent chaos, there's a pertinent fact that has fallen through the cracks - namely that when Naz Shah unwisely shared that particular Facebook meme, she did so in 2014. Aside from the point that this was well before she even stood for election as an MP, most Facebook users will be well aware that going back two years into someone's posting log either requires an awfully long time scrolling down, or using the dropdown menus to select a specific year, month or other period - and this method still requires you to scroll through all the posts for that period.  Why is this important?  Because it means that someone, somewhere spent a considerable amount of time trawling through at least two years' worth of Shah's posts in order to find the one post that caused the damageIf someone was set to that task, the implication has to be that Labour MPs and public figures were subject to a significant muck-raking expedition over their social media accounts - and it wouldn't surprise me if those of the Muslim faith were probably targeted first (because one of the biggest strengths of Sadiq Khan's Mayoral campaign has been the way he's successfully reached out to the Jewish communities in London).

Experience leads me to believe that this operation is classic Crosby - getting Ken to blunder in with his clown shoes was probably the icing on the cake for him - and I can picture Crosby rubbing his hands with glee as our party turns on itself, dances to his tune, and plays right into those hands.

This needs to stop, and it needs to stop *right now*.

As a Labour Party member and lifelong supporter I want to say to all of us, from the MPs on down, resist the temptation to turn on one another - we need a sense of co-operation now more than ever, and even if you're not entirely convinced by the direction the party has taken, please give it a chance to work - because real people are suffering real hardship under Tory rule, and fighting amongst ourselves is a surefire way of helping them remain in power (and cause greater hardship) for longer.  The same goes for those of us who support the new direction - please, resist the urge to score points and try to find common ground with other members where you can - we need all the help we can get to succeed.

There's an all-out attempt across much of the press (including some organs which normally align in our general direction) to paint this as a "crisis".  We have to actively be seen to co-operate with one another to blunt this attack and nip it in the bud.

Negative language and use of labels are the cornerstones of press campaigns from the Right against us.  We have to steer talk away from labels and terms like "anti-semitism" because right now it's just a stick with which they can beat us - by forcing us to deny these things, we still get associated with them anyway.  It's scant consolation to know in our hearts that the accusations are ridiculous while they're flying around and doing us damage, but I feel in my heart that the best way to counter them is to be as positive as we can.  

And doing so is not hard.  In the '30s we stood tall and proud with London's Jewish community to turn back Oswald Mosley and his band of thugs when they threatened.  Today we stand with every human being in the world who believes in the sanctity of human rights and dignity.  We stand with each other against any force which would oppress, denigrate or otherwise harm another human being on the basis of ethnicity, faith, nationality, gender or any similar label used to divide us from one another.  We stand with those who are at risk of, or currently subject to, exploitation.  And we stand for the hope that one day every human being on this planet will have their chance to live life to it's fullest and without fear.

Call me naive if you will, but I can't shake the feeling that by standing our ground together and defining ourselves in our terms, we stand a better chance against the efforts being made by our opposition to define us in theirs.  Putting our own differences aside for now and standing proud against them as our predecessors once faced down the likes of Mosley can only strengthen our position.

Let's get this done and come out swinging.