This week evidence has emerged of a LibDem parliamentary candidate sexually assaulting a lap dancer. The indifference of the culprit, his party, and the political class at large to this behaviour epitomises the establishment’s toxic attitude towards women and sexual abuse, argues Jennifer Izaakson.
What I observed attending Lutfur Rahman’s kangeroo-court trial:
A court case against Lutfur Rahman, Britain’s first elected Muslim Mayor, concluded last week, with a verdict expected in early April. A defeat for Rahman would represent a huge blow against a genuine proponent of progressive change and a victory for the forces of reaction and anti-Muslim bigotry, argues Jennifer Izaakson. via Comment | The Last Stand: On the Lutfur Rahman Trial.
The letter by the 101 Imams and teachers to a local paper in Tower Hamlets that led to the ‘spiritual injury’ suffered by Muslims who were then spiritually catapulted into voting Lutfur Rahman (not that all did…) last May hasn’t actually been published much. There’s a reason why. The content of the letter is not religious, but about social justice, fighting discrimination and other utterly atrocious notions. The worst bit is the inter-faith harmony mention. Sent shivers down my spine.
Here it is. Be warned. You may feel compelled to say the Shahada afterwards.
BE UNITED AGAINST INJUSTICE – MAKE LUTFUR RAHMAN VICTORIOUS
Creating opportunities, making provisions and providing services to the citizens on behalf of Her Excellency the Queen. In this case everyone has a freedom of right to choose a candidate who is suitable and able to provide the services.
However we are observing that the media propagandas, narrow political interests etc. involving the Mayoral election of Tower Hamlets Council have created a kind of a negative impression which in turn have created confusions amongst the public, divided the community and put the community in question. We are further observing that today’s Tower Hamlets have made significant and enviable improvements in the areas of housing, education, community cohesion, inter-faith harmony, road safety and youth developments. In order to retain this success and make further progress it is essential that someone is elected as Mayor of the Tower Hamlets Borough on 22nd who is able to lead these improvements and who will not discriminate on the basis of language, colour and religious identities.
We observe that some people are targeting the languages, colours and religions and attempting to divide the community by ignoring the cohesion and harmony of the citizens. This is, in fact, hitting the national, cultural and religious ‘multi’ ideas of the country and spreading jealousy and hatred in the community. We consider these acts as abominable and at the same time condemnable.
With utmost concern we observe that by shunning the needs and opportunities of the Tower Hamlets Council and its citizens, Islamophobia, which is the result of the current political stance and which has derived from false imagination, has been made an agenda for voting and voters. The mosques and religious organisations have been targeted. It is being publicised that any relationship [involvement] with the religious scholars and clerics are condemnable and is an offence. Religious beliefs and religious practice are being criticised.
One of the local former councillors of the Labour Party has stated in the BBC’s Panorama programme that ‘Religions divide people’. Even in the same programme the honourable Imam of the Holy Kaba Sharif was presented in negative and defaming ways and thus all the religious people, particularly the Muslims, have been insulted and thrown in to a state of anxiety. We cannot support these ill attempts under any circumstances. We believe that it is not an offence to be a Muslim voter, an imam or Khatibf a mosque and have involvement with all these. Under no circumstances it is acceptable to give a voter less value or to criticise them on the basis of their identity.
As voters, like in any other elections we also have a right to vote in the forthcoming Tower Hamlets Mayoral Election and we should have the opportunity to cast our votes without fear. As a cognisant group of the community and responsible voters and for the sake of truth, justice, dignity and development we express our unlimited support for Mayor Lutfur Rahman and strongly call upon you, the residents of Tower Hamlets, to shun all the propagandas and slanders and unite against the falsehood and injustice.
Well, there you have it. If that’s not religious diatribe, what is. Reads like a page from the Hadith! It’s a wonder they could fit so many Allahu Akbars on the page.
Yes, I was disappointed too. I expected to be on a one-way plane to Mecca by the end of that supposedly election turning spiritual influence. The fact this letter, working largely as warning of islamophobia, was used as an islamophobic sledgehammer by not-actually-a-Judge Mawrey is such an incredible shame. I’ve said more religious exaltations from stubbing my toe.
How did Lutfur Rahman rig an election?
37,000 people voted for Lutfur Rahman in a record turnout. He has now been deposed – not by an election, not by arrest and not by a jury trial, but by four local politicians who took him to court. Sitting in judgment was one man only – not a qualified judge, only a barrister (assumed by the media and even myself, to be a Judge) – who has demonstrated previously a peculiar interest in Muslims and elections. This man found Lutfur Rahman guilty of multiple offences under the Representation of the People Act 1983. This article goes over what they were.
The two hundred page judgment available for all to read.
Pay special attention to the mention of apostasy. It is mentioned how apostasy, ‘is treated with great seriousness’. It continues, ‘it would be wrong, therefore, to treat Tower Hamlets’ Muslim by community by the standards of a secular and largely agnostic metropolitan elite.’ There we are. Law is, explicitly, to be applied differently to Muslims than as it applied to the ‘agnostic metropolitan elite’, whoever they are (is this the bankers in East London?)
The pieces of evidence presented here were limited. One was a letter supporting Lutfur Rahman written by imams, and another was a speech made by an imam at a wedding (where Lutfur’s recollection of the event conflicted with a recording of it.) Neither in themselves fulfilled the spirit of the ‘spiritual injury’ offence, which is for a religious figure to claim that it is sinful to vote for one candidate or another.
At no point has anything other than hearsay evidence been presented for this. In court one particular afternoon I watched as five Muslim witnesses were repeatedly asked, “did you say it was haram to not vote for brother Lutfur?”, as if these people were religious scholars in any position to do so. Within Islam there is a debate about whether to vote at all in elections, not about which candidate is the godly choice! To make such a claim, to decide god’s will and choose a specific man above another as more fated by god, I imagine, though I’m no sheik, would be sacrilegious.
The judge chose to interpret that the ‘real meaning’ of the imams’ letters was to threaten spiritual injury, despite denying elsewhere, when it came to Lutfur’s claims about racism, that coded messages usually existed in anything ‘but the minds’ of those making allegations. The charges are backed by some woeful mischaracterisations. One, that to pray for an outcome is the same as to claim that outcome is religiously significant. (A Christian might pray for a friend to recover from an illness – that does not mean he believes to support said recovery is a religious duty.) Two, that there is ‘no difference’ between 1880s Irish Catholics and 2010s British Muslims, and Tower Hamlets Muslims are dim enough to simply do as their imam tells them.
The most recent case law regarding ‘spiritual injury’ is from 19th century occupied Ireland. A law originally designed to uphold British colonial rule in Ireland by depicting the Catholic peasantry as ignorant cattle manipulated by their priests and incapable of thinking for themselves is now used to deny the right of Tower Hamlets residents to choose a representative who doesn’t come from one of the establishment parties.
Postal voting fraud (individual)
It is claimed that a few Tower Hamlets First candidates registered at false addresses. This was apparently to gain an extra vote for their own use. It seems unlikely that even candidates minded to commit fraud would go to such great lengths and expose themselves to criminal charges for the sake of about three votes in ninety thousand. The evidence for these claims was the testimony of Andrew Gilligan, a right-wing Telegraph journalist linked to cronyism claims that has hounded Lutfur for years. Gilligan simply stated that two Tower Hamlets councilors had two addresses.
To be clear: it was found that Rahman was guilty of this claim due to it simply being thought that Gilligan’s testimony was ‘credible’ (believable), without any proof. All that was believed is that two councilors had two addresses and then Gilligan’s assumption they therefore must’ve voted twice was agreed with.
Postal voting fraud (mass organisation)
The charge of mass organised postal vote fraud was perhaps the most serious of the claims against Lutfur and the media’s favourite charge. It was not upheld.
Intimidation at polling stations
The claims of intimidation at polling stations was not upheld. It seems odd that with a secret ballot one would intimidate voters on their way in when that would likely produce the opposite effect. The judgment presents evidence of campaigners talking to voters in the Bengali language as evidence of misconduct. While there certainly were exuberant groups of both Labour and Tower Hamlets First supporters at polling stations, dozens of police statements (every polling station had its own PC) confirmed general good conduct with a few isolated complaints.
The judgment accuses Lutfur of directing funds at the Bangladeshi community to procure votes, and abusing process to do so. The main piece of evidence for this is the PricewaterhouseCoopers audit report, itself declared under highly political circumstances. The report, while finding apparent poor practice, finds no evidence of fraud or corruption. It finds no evidence of bias in grant distribution.
The inspectors appointed by central government have since found that of 327 organisations funded by council grants, there are only concerns with eighteen. This was simply about there being many in the West of the borough. The argument that funds were concentrated in the west of the borough makes more sense with the context that most voluntary organisations have their office addresses in that area – it does not mean they work there. There is also an argument that Lutfur and his councillors overrode officer/staff recommendations to allocate funds. They did – as is the right of elected officials versus unelected bureaucrats.
Eric Pickles might prefer a council of technocrats to instruct, but that isn’t actually how democracy is meant to work.
The court judgment simultaneously says that the Bengali local press were naturally supportive of Lutfur, and that he bribed them to be so. Both statements cannot surely hold. Ofcom did find against Bengali media organisations over partisan coverage. That is an example of bad editorial practice, but no more so than the often dishonestly partisan coverage produced by mainstream press organisations constantly, and their cosy relationships with Labour and Tory politicians.
The BBC Panorama on Lutfur released before the election is an example of gross media bias and yet, this was not of concern to the petitioners. The charge here was essentially ‘Lutfur hired an adviser to work with the Bengali press to promote his work as a politician.’ This is called public relations. Hardly illegal, and it would be interesting to see what a police prosecution made of these charges. All mainstream political parties employ public relations staff to advise them and help them win elections.
It is claimed by the judgment that Lutfur falsely smeared his Labour opponent John Biggs as a racist. This is again a collection of hearsay evidence backed by a few pieces of evidence – a press release accusing Biggs of a ‘questionable record’ on race, and another accusing him of being ‘racially insensitive.’ These releases relate to, respectively, a memo accusing him of racism in the middle of highly charged race rows in the 1990s, and his claim on the Sunday Politics show that the problem with Lutfur’s cabinet was that they were ‘all Bangladeshi.’ (Ironically, this was because Biggs had refused to permit his councillors to work with Lutfur in a unity cabinet.)
At no point did Lutfur’s election material accuse Biggs of racism, though there was a row in the Council where Cllr Alibor Choudhry made an inappropriate half-joke about Biggs being a fascist after one of Biggs’ councillors had allegedly called the Bengali community ‘curry people.’ This was however outside the election period, where the rules on false statements on personal character do not apply.
Racism does seem to be at the heart of the case. Religion, culture, language, accusations of racism, accusations of accusations of racism appear through out. In court, every Muslim witnesses I saw cross-examined was asked, “did you give curry out to voters?” which made something of a surreal spectacle.
One example of institutional racism on part of Labour under Biggs follows. In 1993 Masthouse Terrace, a new housing development, opened. The BNP claimed immigrants were getting priority; the basis of a vicious scare campaign. Biggs was there campaigning against the BNP so knows the situation and how it stoked tensions. Yet in 2013 his party put out a press release saying the Mayor was targeting ‘decent homes work’ (renovations, such as new kitchens and bathrooms etc) at his supporters (in three heavily Bangladeshi wards), while knowing full well that the decent homes work was to be rolled out over five years to regenerate all the borough’s council homes (Labour helped plan it.) It would be absurd to suggest that Labour could not have guessed exactly the rumors that would spread.
Predictably, the English Defence League (EDL) picked up and ran with these housing claims prior to their next rampage through Tower Hamlets.
Here they are on camera: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfu–7bqXN0
Allegations of ‘treating’ were not upheld. I was wondering where my free tango can was (another repeated court accusation).
Further points on the judgment
– It sidelines neutral evidence and is based on accepting rumour, hearsay and the claims of those with vested interest as fact. – It betrays alarming levels of insensitivity
– Those in a borough with a history of racial tensions are accused of ‘seeing racism in everything.’ Is this a surprise when Labour and Tory councillors make claims that are then picked up by mainstream columnists who say that corruption is an inherent feature of being Bangladeshi, or that Lutfur is part of a ‘zealously religious, nasty, feudal’ culture that’s been ‘imported’, even though Lutfur Rahman grew up in UK and was called a ‘pretty secular guy’ by his rival John Biggs in court? Whilst it’s not racist to criticise Lutfur, most of the criticism of him is overlaid with racism.
– The Helal Abbas dossier (a 2009 document accusing Rahman of fixing democratic procedures) that accused Rahman of ‘Islamism’ (this is a man who has been photographed embracing scantily clad drag queens) is presented in the judgment. All claims in it are unsubstantiated.
– The judgment claims that Bengalis ‘aren’t a real minority’.
– The judgment ridicules demonstrations against the EDL.
– The judgment sets a precedent for criminal action against anyone who dares call out what they feel to be discrimination during an election.
– The judgment uses examples of sheer incompetence on part of Rahman’s team, for example the haphazard and last minute assembling of the Tower Hamlets First party, as evidence against him. Surely an operation that haphazard could not conduct ‘industrial scale fraud’ if it tried? The judgement is scathing when it can be, regardless of how contradictory that sets it up to also be.
Finally, the judgment admits that if suspect ballots were cast they probably numbered less than a hundred, and that the allegations of ballot fraud against Lutfur in 2010 that started this whole affair were disgraceful and he was right to appeal against them.
The new election is set for July 11th. The fight back against the #TowerHamletsCoup, however, starts now.
Please sign and share this petition and join us against real corruption: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/an-alternative-lutfur-rahman-election-petition-1?bucket
This is just a very quick write-up from court this morning:
Lutfur Rahman has been found guilty of corruption as he, in Judge Mawrey’s words, “used power to promote his community”, who are not (this relates to Muslims, not just Bengalis), a “real minority” in Tower Hamlets because they are so populous.
Judge says Rahman is guilty of bribery because he hired someone who is a TV reporter to be his advisor. At least it wasn’t the tango cans or lollipops.
Judge finds Lutfur was not a ‘credible witness’ (he didn’t believe him), but Tory councillor, Peter Golds, who is known to be a close friend of John Major, was a ‘credible witnesses’ (he did believe him).
Judge has found Lutfur guilty of ‘spiritual influence’ because the Chair of Tower Hamlets Mosque Committee supported Lutfur for Mayor.
An interesting point regarding case law – the last time ‘spiritual influence’ was used in court was in 19th century Ireland whilst not under home rule.
Judge says police at polling stations could be said to be like, “3 wise monkeys”, (hmm) and that Rahman’s campaigners were not credible in their statements (he didn’t believe them). Judge now employing sarcasm fast and thick. Said Rahman witnesses painted the campaigning as ‘jolly family outing’ (think he means their points about it as a, ‘jovial carnival atmosphere’, which is what I generally experienced when I headed down there once evening) and is now making jokes whilst the gallery laughs. Judge says there definitely ‘common law intimidation’ (not one example was given in court of this, bar multiple campaigners congregating together), but says this didn’t meet the level of proof needed – so that’s not guilty of intimidation.
Given Tower Hamlets First is not a party (does it simply count as a list, then?), it means all Tower Hamlets First Councilors are found to be ‘corrupt’. Via what cosmological force? Councilor Alibor Choudhury must leave office immediately. Is this the same for all the other Tower Hamlets First councilors, must they leave also? Situation not clear.
The Judge praises petitioners in bringing this case forward, though they knew they’d be portrayed as racists and islamophobes. Says they’ve been ‘exemplary’.
Judge says the real victims of this are Bengalis who have been, “led into a sense of victimhood”. Judge says Lutfur has made a career of “silencing others by accusing people of islamohobia”. Judge has recommended Lutfur’s status as a solicitor be ‘reviewed’ and he’s been referred to an official legal body that can revoke the status.
Labour’s John Biggs has said he is now gearing up to run for Tower Hamlets Mayor. Interesting that’s been announced so soon – almost as if it were part of a plan…
This appears to be a message. If you organise outside mainstream political parties and challenge power even slightly (not implementing the bedroom tax and keeping EMA), the establishment will come for and they will, publicly, humiliate and ruin you. This won’t just extend to your political life, but you’re life chances outside, such as previous career etc. if it is within their reach. Lutfur Rahman is an example to others.
A reply to James McAsh by Jen Izaakson and Ross Speer
A truncated version of this article was originally posted at http://bright-green.org/scotland/the-labour-party-has-never-lived-up-to-its-socialist-dream/
The efforts of the Labour left over the past five years have been huge, but of little avail. The project of transforming Labour lies in tatters. Despite concerted pressure, the Miliband leadership has duly fallen in to line with the establishment consensus: austerity, privatisation and attacks on immigration. Assaults on its union links, compounded by a secular decline in membership and the crushing of Party democracy, has left Labour sustained only by myth, nostalgia, and an apparent lack of alternatives. The day has long passed when it could be considered a plausible strategy to try and claim the Labour Party for the left.
The reality is that the Labour Party has never been the party of the left that our contemporaries sometimes want to believe it to have been. From the Fabians, to Anthony Crosland and the Revisionists of the 1950s and 60s, to the Blairites of today, Labour has always struggled with its identity and purpose: A party of class or a party of nation? Repeatedly, the question has been resolved in favour of the latter. Each time the Labour Party fails to do what socialists suppose it should, and what, at least in the past, it claimed it would do, a left response emerges and seems to make some headway. Disillusionment with the Wilson governments was met with the rise of Benninism. Anger at Blairism has been partially dissipated by the ‘reclamation’ attempts of Jones, McCluskey et al. But with each iteration the challenge from the left becomes weaker, more muted, and less ambitious. Occasional signs of hope, even the odd victory, serve to continue the charade. The trend, however, is in the in the wrong direction. Dogmatic subservience to the Labour Party is dressed up as a clever tactical manoeuvre, yet it owes more to an inability to let go of the past than it does to calculated reason. Their electoral strategy is to obtain the votes of the extra-Labour Party left by moralising and browbeating. With judgement day looming this is the only approach open to them, given that they have no significant record of success to point to inside the Party. But preaching will not cut it this time. We have come to a point at which socialists must take a stand and say they’ve had enough: we will no longer be guilt-tripped into supporting a disgraceful right-wing party just because it entertains some increasingly tenuous links with the trade unions.
The phenomenon of ‘Labourism’ – that dogged obsession with the Labour Party that has beset generations of socialists – is not new. Ever since the ascendancy of the Fabians, the Labour Party has been dominated and led not by the working class, but by a timid reforming intelligentsia. From that point on the Labour left was, as Tom Nairn observed in 1964, “destined to become a left wing permanently, necessarily in rebellion against Fabian mediocrity—but unable to formulate and develop coherently this revolt, intellectually empty, paralysed inside the larger body of Labourism, a permanent minority opposition lacking the resources to assume hegemony of the movement in its turn.” From the outset the Labour left was subordinated to its authoritarian right, and its position has never much moved from there since. At momentary conjunctures it has broken through – 1945, 1960, 1983. Each glimpse proved fleeting.
In its drive for reasonableness and respectability, the Labour Party sunk into parliamentary fetishism and could conceive of nothing beyond it. Anything that might rock the boat and upset its electoral prospects became a demon to be exorcised, and so the Labour Party set about attacking anyone and anything that had aims other than chasing that elusive parliamentary majority. It accepted the conventions of power, the ancient rituals of the mother of all democracies, and in doing so agreed to play ball by rules exclusively written by its class opponents. No matter that the politics of the left do not lend themselves easily to the individualism of the occasional secret ballot, but sooner to the democracy of the streets, the strike and the mass meeting. For the Labour Party, state power became its own reward. What you did with it once you had it was something available to the highest bidder.
The transformation of the Labour Party into the B-team of British capitalism, from popular movement to electoral machine, was slow but sure. In accepting the strictures laid out for it by Britain’s business class the Labour Party long ago nullified itself as any sort of threat to corporate interests, and in doing so abolished any possibility of being a vehicle for the left. Its vision of democracy became fundamentally colored by the image of people (‘voters’) loyally trooping out on Election Day, and being quiescent on every other. When they refused, the Labour Party knew which side it was on: And it was not theirs. All this was well understood by the New Left intellectual Ralph Miliband, whose diagnosis of the ‘sickness of Labourism’ led him to argue, in 1960, that “it is not inevitable that the Labour Party should continue towards the political graveyard. It is within its power to retrace its steps and dedicate itself anew to the socialist policies which are its only alternative.” Socialists might be solid believers in second chances, but even we cannot be so generous as to provide another fifty years of good graces.
What McAsh says he wants is a party of the labour movement. What McAsh has – and will only ever have in the Labour Party – is an instrument well-honed in its task of channeling any dynamism shown by this movement in to the stifling and dangerous conformism of the ballot box. The Labour Party has never lived up the dream, and consequently the term ‘reclamation’ is valuable only for its myth-making qualities, not its accuracy. We are relegated merely to trying to claim it. How many times must we fall before we face the fact that it is unreformable? Reliving past failures is not a demonstration of tactical nous. At some point something has to give, lest we spend the next fifty years caught in the trap that the Labour left has been complicit in creating.
When is enough enough? There is hardly, by the standards of socialists, a crime that the Labour Party has not committed and is not intent on committing again. What were once the red lines receded in to the distance some time ago. It no longer holds the allegiance of the British working class in any sense stronger than that of collective resignation. As long as the Labour Party exists, particularly so long as it has its champions ready to veil the harsh reality in left spin, then there is a major barrier to socialist advance in this country. It is no longer the path of least resistance, if it ever was. There is nothing noble about taking the more difficult route when an easier one is open. The Labour Party was promoted as a short-cut to socialism over the alternatives. One hundred and fifteen years after its foundation we continue to wait, and can only judge that it may have proved to have been very much the long way round.
When Labour chose to detach itself from its working class base it also detached itself from any sense of purpose. The Labour Party no longer enjoys deep links with the class that birthed it, and consequently it does not possess the structures that might once have offered the possibility of altering its course. The Labour Party we confront is constructed around an institutional hostility to the left. Nearly always the dominant narrative throughout its history, its worst excesses could, in the past, at least be restrained. The Party’s long civil war resulted in a decisive victory for the right. Perhaps nowhere is this triumph of nation over class presently clearer than in its visceral dismissals of the SNP. In a sorry advance on its spiteful antics in Tower Hamlets, the Labour Party has chosen to effectively dissolve itself north of the border. The refusal to commit to ‘lock David Cameron out of Downing Street’ is now culminating in the increasingly pathetic figure of Douglas Alexander, the Shadow Foreign Secretary and veteran parliamentarian who faces being unseated by 20-year old SNP upstart Mhairi Black. Ed Miliband would sooner unleash the Tories on the people of Scotland then he would cede to the demand of unilateral disarmament, thereby endangering the capacity of the British state to engage in mass murder.
The stock response of an impotent Labour left – when they have anything to say about this at all – is incredulous admonishment that ordinary people would have the cheek to vote for a party other than Labour as and when it becomes available for them to do so. If their complaint that the SNP is also not a socialist party is surely true then it merely serves as a damning indictment of the present state of the Labour Party, that they can be outflanked on the gaping chasm to their left with such breezy effortlessness. Moderate spending increases are hardly the stuff of a socialist wishlist, but the Labour Party has become so immersed in its warped right-wing caricature of reality that even this is barely thinkable from within its ranks. The Labour left has not even managed, McAsh’s claim that “baby-steps” have been made notwithstanding, to propel rail nationalisation – a solidly popular policy by any account – on to the agenda. What we both want is a socialist party. The Labour left cannot even deliver a social democratic one. When Rachel Reeves is not in full flow, it is almost possible to believe that the Miliband Labour Party has reached the giddy heights of social liberalism. This in spite of apparently favourable conditions for the left, a position of strength, both in terms of raw votes and of Labour’s financial dependence, as well as the election of the trade union backed candidate to the leadership.
If it has not worked now, then when? The game is surely up when McCluskey’s Unite gifts another £1 million to Labour, despite getting little for their trouble. Labour has hardly budged an inch from austerity-lite in the year since McCluskey demanded they do not turn up in May offering “a pale shade of austerity.” The Labour left put up a good rhetorical struggle – one cannot fail, for example, to enjoy Jones’ incisive stream of Guardian columns – but when push came to shove they blinked first, just as they always have. Miliband knows he can ignore or denounce the unions as the mood takes him, and can deride the working class of Britain as he chooses without consequence. As soon as election season rolls round he can be fully confident that the left will fall in to line and return to compliancy. The Labour leadership can get away with this as long as working people have nowhere else to turn; a situation that is quickly changing, but one that some on the Labour left seem to wish would remain the case.
The Labour Party can no longer be saved from itself. It is high time we allowed the ageing beast die the death it so sorely desires. The Labour left say that the Party is the only place for them because it is the party of the working class. But had it not been for their reliable adherence it is unlikely that the Labour Party would so far have been able to maintain its image as a worker’s party. They built their own prison and incarcerated themselves within it.
It is a pitiful spectacle to watch engaged socialists of a new generation slip in to old routines. This generation has not even the excuse of witnessing first-hand the Labour Party at its best. It has only ever known Blairism, the reheated Thatcherite politics under which it came of age and from which it now suffers in the form of no jobs, no homes and no prospects. One cannot fault their determination, nor the heady optimism that they will be the ones to shift the monolith. We can, however, take issue with the arrogant belief that after a century of trying it will be these Young Turks that finally break ground. As one attentive Manchester University student is quoted as saying in the 1960s, “a lot of us voted and worked for the Labour Party in 1964 and 1966, in the thought it would be something of a radical party. In fact it hasn’t been. It’s lost any pretensions to radicalism.” We can only wonder if our present interlocutor will be saying something similar soon enough. Naturally, we hope to speed the realisation.
It is easy enough, at election time, to tell the principled socialist, for they still exist inside the Labour Party in droves, from the slavish loyalist. The former will be hoping and wishing for Labour to look left to form a coalition after May 7th, however difficult Miliband has now made that task. The latter will spend the next few weeks degenerating in to a series of shrill attacks on the Greens and the nationalist parties, the organisations that have caused them considerable embarrassment by having risen so rapidly from obscurity to put forward the type of program that the Labour left has been unable to present since 1983. The Greens and their allies in Plaid Cymru and the SNP, whatever reservations one might justifiably maintain about these parties, are proof enough that it is now considerably easier to construct a left-wing project from outside the Labour Party than it is within it. The slavish loyalists may now be lost to us, and will likely choose, whatever the weather, to keep themselves locked in the prison alongside the Blairites. With those that have not let their socialist principles become overridden by appeals to ‘tactics’, we hope that after this election they will plot their exit from the sinking ship and join us in constructing a coalition of the radical left from the remnants of three decades of defeats.
*Jennifer Izaakson is a member of the Green Party and an SNP/Plaid Cymru supporter. Ross Speer is not.