I’m somewhat surprised at the reported reaction of Labour MPs over the Woolas affair. Perhaps I’m just too liberal to understand the internal workings of the New Labour party as certainly the internal machinations of the Conservatives leave me equally baffled at times. This is a party where it’s considered quite reasonable for an MP to state publicly, on Twitter, “Any minister who puts civil liberties ahead of security should be in student politics, not government.”
Lets lock up the MPs. After all, they’re all clearly guilty of fiddling their expenses and electoral malpractice. They won’t be able to get up to that if they’re jailed, will they? Better lock up the doctors too, look at Shipman… I remain, as ever, amazed and slightly ashamed that the British public will happily elect these people to positions of power.
Yes, the Liberal Democrats have had problems too. Someone recently pointed me at an old election leaflet by Simon Hughes that was particularly problematic, but I don’t see people queueing up to say it was the right thing to do. However, I struggle to defend against the attacks that equate LibDem bar graphs to Woolas’ behaviour, or compromises over manifesto issues now we’re in a coalition. That’s simply because I can’t comprehend the kind of mental confusion that thinks that spreading known lies about your opponent and deliberately provoking racial issues is at all similar.
Back to the topic at hand. It just strikes me as odd that MPs aren’t seeking to distance themselves as much as possible from Woolas given he’s been found guilty and the sordid details of his campaign have been laid bare before the public eye. It was odd enough that the former Immigration Minister was given a shadow ministerial post by Ed Milliband while a court case was hanging over him. It was, of course, not just that he could be found guilty of lying about his opponents – innocent until proven guilty – but that he had run a campaign that was pretty obviously intended to aggravate racial tensions in the area and pander to the would-be BNP voter.
But it was possible that Woolas still had a power base within the party and perhaps knows where a few of the skeletons are buried. Now he’s no longer an MP, those seem moot points and I would, perhaps naively, have expected his support to evaporate.
It would be interesting to know which MPs backed Woolas and called on Harman to “consider her position”. Is this just BBC reporting the concerns of a few MPs badly or is the New Labour project still alive and well?
Are these MPs ones in constituencies that are predominantly white? Because if it gets out which MPs are condoning Woolas’s anti-ethnic minority behaviour and they’re in constituencies that have a significant minority population, it may well destroy any chances they have of re-election should the AV referendum pass. They will no longer be able to pander to just a third of the population to get elected, even if it alienates the other two thirds of the population completely.
The party already had, from a liberal perspective, the spectre of New Labour authoritarian control and a suspect record on equal rights, warmongering and locking up children behind them. In my own area of campaigning, they only introduced legislation such as the Gender Recognition Act because they were forced to by the European Court of Human Rights and it’s increasingly appearing as if the attempt to undo what little good that act did via the Equalities Act was an entirely deliberate course of action. I had hoped that the Labour party would distance themselves from some of those past acts, but it appears not to be.
Can we please have the old Labour party back? Perhaps I’m viewing the past through rose-tinted spectacles, but I preferred them to the current Labour party in parliament. It seems to me that it can only be good for politics and good for the country, whether they’re in opposition, coalition or power.