The UK Labour Party has taken the bold step of producing a report on what’s gone wrong within its ranks
“If youth has no respect for age
It puts all heaven in a rage.
If fashion dominates your fate
It predicts the ruin of the state
O Bachchoo though your words are wise
Sometimes you have to compromise!”
From Kabhi Kabhi Meyrey Ghar Mein Polees Aajaatha Hai; by Bachchoo
Comrades, the UK Labour Party has taken the bold step of producing a report on what’s gone wrong within its ranks. This “Forde Report” is 850 pages long -- only 83 pages shorter than the Penguin Classic edition of Joyce’s Ulysses -- so there’s a lot to remedy.
Not that Labour has always been a calm lagoon with no contrary currents and ideological waves.
Decades ago, members of the Communist Party and several Trotskyist groups infiltrated the Labour Party and attempted to push it leftwards, though they didn’t succeed in causing more than some turbulence.
The decisive change in Labour in recent decades was the rise to the leadership of Tony Blair, who declared that he would delete Clause 4 from the party’s constitution which specified that it was dedicated to the ownership of the means of production by the working class.
Tony Blair’s party would be, in keeping with the disposition of the late-twentieth-century population, a socialist-welfare democracy with no Leninist ambition to abolish capitalism.
The left of the party was, understandably, outraged but, as the three subsequent elections which put Mr Blair in No. 10 testified, not quite in touch with the electoral instincts and inclinations of the electorate. If you participate in elections, it is surely to win?
Mr Blair proceeded with several initiatives in governance, not all of which comrades (OK! Gentle readers) I agreed with. For instance, he kowtowed to the United States and pulled Britain into the Iraq war, getting rid of the cat and encouraging the Islamicist mice to emerge from their labyrinths.
Mr Blair was replaced by Gordon Brown, his chancellor of the exchequer, who then lost an election to a Tory-Lib Dem coalition. Labour cooled its heels in Opposition and then, in a surprising election, chose Jeremy Corbyn as its leader.
Jeremy was and is outspokenly left-wing. He has always been pro-Palestine and against Israeli government policies. The Forde report says very clearly that under his leadership a certain amount of blatant anti-Semitism prevailed in the party. At the time very many of those accused of anti-Semitism protested that they were anti-Israeli government policies, but not anti-Jewish per se. The readers of the 850 pages are left to judge.
Under Mr Corbyn the factional fights between the Left, who referred to anyone who disagreed with them as “Blairites”, became irreconcilably bitter. The Forde Report sets out the detail and progress of this factionalism and, without being partial to either wing of the party, comes to the unchallengeable conclusion that the leadership of the party failed to deal with these divisions and instead exacerbated them.
The report confirms my judgment at the time that Labour had moved on from being a coalition of views to being two parties in one. Mr Corbyn’s Labour suffered a massive defeat at the last election, handing over perhaps 80 seats which had always voted Labour to BoJo’s Tories. The satirical magazine Private Eye jokes that BoJo’s retirement honours list will ennoble this and that person for services to the media, professions, charities, etc, and will make Mr Corbyn a peer of the realm “for services to the Conservative Party”.
One of the chapters in the Forde report is devoted to racism in Labour. The most prominent Afro-British MP is Diane Abbot, a senior and long-standing member of Labour and of Parliament. She and other black MPs say they receive racial abuse from members of their own party. It’s true that Diane has been called “utterly disgusting” by members of the opposite faction of Labour, and she may have received specifically racial abuse -- of which I admit I have no evidence.
Disgust is, gentle reader, not specifically a racially pointed emotion or reaction. I find the present home secretary Priti Patel disgusting. Her opinions and actions weigh on my mind -- so much so that I’ve troubled myself to write a limerick to her:
Priti Patel the foul grand-stander/ Wants to send asylum seekers to Rwanda,/ Did her parents come over/ On a boat bound for Dover/ So, what about that goose and that gander?
Being Indian myself, can I be accused of racist abuse?
The racism that the Forde report points to is the lack of racial and gender diversity in the recruitment of officials. Instead, there is a prevalent cronyism in such recruitment which leads to a lack of racial justice. That should be a central concern. There are 40 serving MPs of ethnic origin in the Labour Party. The report doesn’t detail any abusive comments they have received or suffered, though it does say such comments have been aimed at members -- perhaps not specifically using their skin colour or racial origin as expletives, but more likely vileness originating from ideological dissension.
It is, as the report recognises, necessary to identify such abuse of minorities and eradicate it through severe disciplinary action.
No party, not in the civilised democratic world, with any pretensions to decency should harbour members who abuse or spread lies about and provocations to hate against members of racial or religious minorities. Yes, maniacs do abound, but they should not only be rooted out of democratic parties but be subject to legal punishment.