After the London mayoral election, Labour has a new campaign rule book

by Jonathan Roberts

In March I wrote an open letter to Ken Livingstone – where I promised to abstain from the mayoral election.  It is a promise I kept, but for the avoidance of doubt, I proudly voted Labour for the London Assembly.

Now, the 2012 election campaign has drawn to a close.  As a consequence of the hard work of countless Labour activists, we have seen hundreds of new Labour councillors elected as a sign that Labour is back, its reputation making good progress down the road of recovery.  From Plymouth to Birmingham, new Labour councils will help make a difference across the country.

It is a physical manifestation not just of the unpopularity of this Government, but also of Ed Miliband’s improving leadership – a vindication of the belief that Labour is most in touch with the needs of ordinary people in difficult times.

But there is a moral threat already placed upon this welcome return to Labour’s electoral competitiveness, because the London mayoral election has changed the game of political campaigning forever.

There was once an unwritten rule book, a code of conduct that governed Labour activity to ensure high standards of integrity and consistency were met.  Labour activists have always claimed a higher moral standard, and revelled in holding the supposed immorality of our opponents to account.  But we now have a hypocrisy problem.

It is truly dreadful that we have a Conservative prime minister willing to make discriminatory attacks on the basis of age.  But apparently it is righteous and just to support discriminatory “posh-boy” attacks on the basis of class.

It is disgraceful that Conservative policies attack the disabled. But apparently it is fair and appropriate for Labour to mock a Conservative MP because of his cerebral palsy.

Hypocrisy can be seen by all but those who choose to be blind.

Yet up until now, these were failings of a minority in the Labour Party.  The vast majority of us believed in fairness and opportunity for all. We still believed in that moral high ground, and regardless of the cut and thrust of electoral politics, there was a line that must never be crossed. Ever.

But we have a new rule book now – one willingly subscribed to, and indeed devised by Ken’s most evangelical supporters.

They have defended in their droves the now indisputable evidence of Ken Livingstone’s tax avoidance.  Its consequence is that Labour is now never allowed to criticise anyone for doing the same.

They have turned a blind eye to Ken Livingstone’s support of Yusuf al-Qaradawi – who believes suicide bombings are justified and that it is a man’s right to hit his wife.  Ken won’t share a platform with the disgusting BNP as a point of principle, but he will willingly share a platform with a man who believes in female genital mutilation and the execution of gay people.  By turning a blind-eye, it is decided that supporting such monsters is reasonable for senior Labour figures.

They have disregarded Ken’s promise to turn London into a beacon of Islam, and “spend the next four years making sure that every non-Muslim in London knows and understands its words and message”.

Islam is indeed a peaceful, loving religion to be respected, but such an endorsement leaves Christians, atheists, agnostics, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus AND Muslims questioning if Labour really does believe in a tolerant, multicultural and multi-faith society – or whether the campaign was simply playing one community off another for the sake of votes.  Sectarianism, it would appear, is now within the rules.

The campaign has quietly ignored Ken Livingstone’s work for Press TV, the propaganda arm of Iran’s brutal government – a government, I should add, that has helped supply the Taleban with weapons that have killed British soldiers.  Through this employment, Ken failed not just our soldiers, but those Iranian activists, trade unionists, men, women and children who long for a more moderate, tolerant and free society.  Through its silence, our party chose to condone Ken’s career on Iranian state television, betraying those that Press TV helps President Ahmadinejad suppress.

If it was the Conservatives, not Labour that had committed these crimes, then every Labour activist in the land would have sung ‘same old nasty Tories’ from the rooftops.  That is the greatest hypocrisy of all.

The new rule book says we can now do anything, say anything, claim anything we like no matter how indefensible.  There are no standards now. There is no line we will not cross.  No point at which we say ‘enough’.  And if in the future we are found guilty of any moral misdemeanour, all we now need do is say ‘yeah but the other guy’s worse’ and kid ourselves that the ends justify the means.

This is what I’ve woken up to, but perhaps the public have known it all along: therein lies the deserved contempt in which the political class is held.

Labour critics of Ken Livingstone have, time and again, been called traitors.  Oh physician, heal thyself.  Who is the more treacherous to our party, the man who fails to live up to our values and stands, campaigns and votes against us, or the man who stands up and says ‘this isn’t right’?

We have been told in recent days that a Ken defeat would be the voters’ fault.  It’s not.  It’s Ken’s.  We’ve also been told you have to ‘vote Ken otherwise we’ll get Boris and then millions of people will suffer’.

This emotional blackmail attempts to make us feel responsible for the vacuousness of the campaign and I’m having none of it.  Ken’s critics have not let London or Labour down, he has, and the support he received from his most trusted disciples has seen the cherished morality of the Labour movement compromised.  Swathes of our party have abandoned what they believe in, out of loyalty to a one-man-brand and tribal contempt for the other side.  And in doing so, they have allowed a Tory candidate a much easier route to power.  For shame.

Don’t get me wrong, loyalty is important in politics.  But it is time for us to decide what it is we are loyal to.  Indeed, it is time to decide whether we even have principles at all.  If we do, and I pray we do, then we must finally have the courage to live up to them, even if it means standing up to the unprincipled few, tearing up their new rule book and starting again.

Jonathan Roberts was Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Thirsk and Malton at the last election


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22 Responses to “After the London mayoral election, Labour has a new campaign rule book”

  1. swatantra says:

    I quite agree that you can’t go around knocking people because of the accident of their birth, and its unfair. As Sir Alec Douglas Hume once said: Yes I may be the 14th Earl of Hume but isn’t he the 14th Mr Wilson. Its what you do if you get responsibility that matters for example wasn’t it Lord Wilberforce that first intoduced Bills for the Aboilition of slavery? (Ok, we didn’t have any Labour MPs at that time but you get my drift). So this ‘posh boy’ nonsense allways leaves me feeling uncomfortable. You could say that Blair was a ‘posh boy, but is Govt tackled discrimination and racism head on so he gets a plus. Thatcher played to the peoples worst instincts so she gets a minus.
    But on your other point of not supporting Ken is wrong. If you were tolook at the policies and achievements of the 2 candidates logic would indicate you vote Ken.
    Boris is just hot air wild schemes and careerism. OK Ken was not the ideal candidate, but he was democratically chosen, so we should have supported him, even if he was getting a bit tethcy as the years rolled on.

  2. Anon E Mouse says:

    The slightly silly remarks about ageism re Dennis Skinner and so on let down an otherwise excellent piece and if the author can name a single benefits cut that Labour have said they will reverse I’ve yet to see it.

    Very good piece. It’s a shame that this isn’t compulsory reading for the Labour Party…

  3. As we await the results in London, it is only fair that we debate our candidate for mayor and our campaign.
    Rightly, these elections in England and Wales can be seen as a vindication of Ed Milibands leadership, and also point to the future, with Labour gaining seats and councils across the two nations, not just in our heartlands.
    I take your point about morality in campaigning, yet as someone who voted for Oona King, I have to say that the “anti-Ken” camp in London have done more harm than good during this campaign. I am not criticising anyone on the basis of likes and dislikes, more on actions. When senior members of the party, with much more experience than me, go on national TV, write letters to the Evening Standard, and pretty much campaign for our candidates defeat, there has to be something more going on.
    There is a feeling that some of Livingstones’ critics wish to use him as a stick to beat Ed M with…

  4. Julian says:

    “This is what I’ve woken up to, but perhaps the public have known it all along”

    Of course we’ve known it all along. There is nothing worse than one party assuming moral superiority over the others and most people aren’t fooled, just that party’s members. The worst offenders are the LibDems but Labour and the Tories aren’t far behind.

  5. Jane says:

    I am of mature years and witnessed massive swings between political parties at local elections. This means very little and is generally a kick for the whoever is in government – it will all be forgotten about when the general election takes place. Further, it would not have mattered one jot who was in government – cuts would have been made. All governments who have to make nasty decisions on the economy would be unpopular. This does not detract from the need to do so. A reminder to that the last government run up a huge strutural deficit – you know those as a result of political decision making and not global factors.

    I too loathe hypocrisy and we are not fooled by any politician. Going on about individual’s class is ghastly particularly when wealth is apparent in all political parties. Further, it denies aspiration. There is a great danger that the party is seen as representing those who rely on the State such as public sector workers and the unemployed.

    Are you saying that Dennis Skinner can say what he want and because of his age noone can respond in kind? I have heard him being extremely rude to Ministers – indeed he has been very offensive. Why are you protecting him because he is old – it does not change his ignorant manner. Anyway, I think that MPs should have to retire like other public servants. There are too many old people in the House (Skinner, Winnock, Flynn Tapsell etc etc) and they are stopping other younger people from entering the profession. Judges have to retire – so should MPs.

    I could go on commenting on what you write – interesting that so many “disabled” people have stopped claiming the increased benefits and are now on job seekers allowance etc etc. I do agree with what you write about Ken Livingstone. This confirms what I wrote above about a tired old face whom we are bored with. Further, I can quite understand but loathe people using legal means to reduce their tax bill (Gordon Brown, David Miliband, Jeremy Paxman etc etc)but not someone who has spoken vehemently against this and then proceeds to do the same thing. It is treating the electorate with contempt.

    I also think that loyalty to a political party is becoming very rare. I myself have voted tactically on one occasion and, further, did not vote for the party at the last election. How could I vote for GB (rubbish leader surrounded by thugs) the man who ousted Tony Blair. Further, I am not enamoured by the leadership – too many faces that remind me of GB. Further, there really is not much between parties any more. The EU ensures that…..

  6. Rallan says:

    “Of course we’ve known it all along. There is nothing worse than one party assuming moral superiority over the others … The worst offenders are the LibDems but Labour and the Tories aren’t far behind.”

    No-one does unthinking, aggressive, hyper sensitive self-righteousness like the Labour party. In that measure the LibDems come a modest second and the Tories come a distant third. It’s the core reason why I cannot stomach (or trust) the Labour Party. The further left you go, the more hysterical the projected empathy-overload gets.

  7. Hi Jane, for avoidance of doubt I have said publicly a number of times that I can’t stand the way Dennis Skinner behaves in Parliament, nor can I stand the way he is given ‘protected status’ by Labour from any scrutiny of that behaviour. Hansard shows that he rarely contributes to debate with any substance, only with anti-Tory hatred. He thus is a hero for those who behave in the same way, of which there are far too many. Still, the PM should have used different language to communicate his point.

    There was, by the way, horrendous ageism that came from both Labour and the Tories during Menzies Campbell’s leadership of the Liberal Democrats.

  8. iain ker says:

    the cherished morality of the Labour movement compromised.

    *****************************************

    Ah yes that ‘cherished’ morality that brought us Gordon Brown’s thugocracy.

    How was all that, and what remains of it in the PLP, morality.

    And just *who* cherishes it.

  9. BenM says:

    @Rallan

    “No-one does unthinking, aggressive, hyper sensitive self-righteousness like the Labour party. In that measure the LibDems come a modest second and the Tories come a distant third. ”

    Guess it depends from which end of the spectrum you’re doing the observing. From my perspective no one does the kind of screechy, hyper sensitive, whining morality like the Tories.

  10. Rallan says:

    @BenM

    “Guess it depends from which end of the spectrum you’re doing the observing. From my perspective no one does the kind of screechy, hyper sensitive, whining morality like the Tories.”

    Point scoring aside, you’re right about perspective. Everyone has an editor inside their head. I honestly don’t recognise moralising in most of what Tories say, just common sense. But I do think there can be an assumption of idiocy whenever Tories speak about/to the left. Let’s be honest – in principle Tories think Labour are stupid, and Labour thinks Tories are cruel.

    I do have first hand experience of the unprovoked rude aggression that many Labour supporters have towards differing points of view. That’s something I can’t accept and have never seen on the Tory side.

    That said some of my oldest, closest friends are sadly deluded lefties (one of them is pretty hardcore). Despite that mental illness I’d trust them with my life and/or my wallet. But not my country and/or my computer.

  11. Anon E Mouse says:

    BenM

    With Harriet Harman as deputy leader of Labour you have no case – no one does screechy, hyper sensitive, whining morality like her.

    What is amazing is she blamed cuts to EMA (Labour will NEVER reintroduce that waste of money) for the London riots whilst people were burned out of their homes and then her own husband, the union dinosaur Jack Dromey got through her “all woman shortlist” to a safe Labour seat.

    Tell me something though. With all the big important and necessary things the last Labour government did for the country why do you keep trying to tell us things (such as your comments here) that we know aren’t true?

    We know what is and isn’t true about Labour BenM.

    Why don’t you know that we know?

  12. BenM says:

    @Rallan

    Simple fact is most “trolls” on the internet hail from the rightwing.

    There is a reason for that.

  13. BenM says:

    @AnonEMouse

    Labour will re-introduce the EMA. It’ll be called something else and be delivered in a slightly different way.

  14. Rallan says:

    “Simple fact is most “trolls” on the internet hail from the rightwing … There is a reason for that. ”

    Yes. The reason is that most politics have shifted to the right across Europe, so left wing views online are attacked more that right wing views. That’s just reality. Your politics are discredited and out of fashion.

    Also, many left wingers choose to call any online view opposed to their own to be ‘trolling’. Most Lefties only like debate when it’s one sided with a stacked audience.

  15. BenM says:

    “The reason is that most politics have shifted to the right across Europe, so left wing views online are attacked more that right wing views…Your politics are discredited and out of fashion.”

    Interesting timing with the French presidential elections tomorrow likely to see a Socialist victory.

    Whatever bubble you’re in, you may as well stay there.

  16. swatantra says:

    We’ve got one more election to go. Yes its the French Presidential. The Forces of Radical Change ranged against the Forces of Reaction. The Mother of all Battles coming up. On that election will the future spin of Europe lie. And the future of Britain. If Hollande wins then Left Wing Politics and the Enlightenment will be back in fashion; if he loses, it’ll be back to the Dark Ages.

  17. Rallan says:

    Dont kid youself. What’s happening is not an endorsement of the left, it is a protest against prolonged austerity. This is make or break time for left-wingery.

    The consequences of a socialist victory in France and/or Greece will shape the political future of Europe.

    If there is a positive or neutral outcome in both countries then Europe will eventually go back to business as usual.

    But if there is a significant negative outcome then the left is going to be screwed for a generation.

    Interesting times.

  18. Rallan says:

    When I say outcome, I mean economic. My post was unclear. In particular, f the wheels come off the French economy under a new socialist government then it’ll be a hammer blow to socialism and social democracy in Europe.

    So it’ll take a year or more for the consequences to be seen.

  19. Mike Homfray says:

    But there are many of us who don’t think someone with your views should be in the Labour party, Jonathan. Given that you have said you are right of centre economically, why are you in a party of the centre-left?

    I certainly wouldn’t wish to vote for you as a Labour candidate, because your views are too right wing

  20. paul barker says:

    I am sorry but I find the idea of labour as the party of the moral high ground a bit sick.
    Labour as the party of 90 days detention without trial,
    labour as the party that gave the london police a “license to kill”,
    labour as the party of kidnap & torture –
    I can believe all those. And thats without mentioning Iraq or MPs jailed for fraud.

  21. Rallan says:

    Labour who encouraged postal vote fraud (when it help Labour)
    Labour who cynically encouraged mass unskilled immigration to replace the population to ensure a generation compliant Labour voters
    Labour whose corrupt speaker “Gorbals Mick” concealed establishment fraud and allowed a (fruitless) Police search without warrant of an opposing politician!
    Labour who sold honours for cash
    Labour who “Talked Right and Acted Left” (see TB book) to deceive the electorate
    Labour who allowed Gordon Brown to trash the economy without even being accountable to the PM
    Labour who put England last every time, and gouged her whenever possible
    Labour who bought their voters with impossible promises
    Labour who squandered the future of the next generation, and stole the retirement of the current generation

    And more. And more. And more. Labour politicians put their party & personal careers ahead of Britain (and especially England) at every opportunity.

    Where is your decency? Where is your sincerity? Where are your constructive, positive, practical ideas? Where is your acknowledgement of the obvious damage caused to the economy and society of this country during Labours’ government? What lessons have you learned? Where are the respectable, pragmatic Labour politicians, who have experienced normal life and can be said to represent normal people? Where is your moral authority? Are you the opposition party this country needs?

    Whew. Rant over. Was it too much? I can never tell… 🙂

  22. uglyfatbloke says:

    If you think Dennis Skinner is bad, check out Ian Davidson and Margaret Curran.

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