On Thursday, Ken Livingstone made some remarks during a BBC radio London interview, which, unless you’ve been trekking in the Antarctic, you will have read or heard by now.
The perspectives on his comments are as many and varied as the people who hold them, from those who are deeply offended, to those who are adamant he said nothing wrong.
Many in the latter category, are honing in on the fact that some of what he said turned out to be factually correct. Others agree, but make the case that his impromptu – and some would argue uncalled for – history lesson was sparse on detail and lacking in context.
But whilst many hang their heads in despair as yet another bad news story for Labour dominates the headlines, there are those with an anti-Labour agenda who can barely conceal their glee. The fact that many in this camp are Labour MP’s will sadly come as no surprise.
The MPs who are queuing up to give their despairing assessment of Labour’s alleged antisemitism problem, are often the same MPs who have been gunning for Jeremy since he stood for leader. No wonder people don’t trust their proffessions of concern.
That’s not to say there are not genuine instances of anti-semism within the Labour Party, or that these should not be taken seriously. It should be taken VERY seriously, and in every case that’s been reported, the appropriate action has been taken. But that does not mean anti Corbyn MPs should be left unchallenged if suspected of exaggerating the scale of the problem in order to cost votes, which is the understandable suspicion of many Labour members, as well as two Jewish organistions ‘The Jewish Socialist Group‘ and Facebook group ‘Jews for Jeremy,’ which have both released statements on Labour’s alleged anti-semitism problem.
My own take on the Ken affair is quite simple. If anyone, particularly anyone Jewish, was offended by Ken’s comments, I take that seriously, and am glad Jeremy Corbyn acted swiftly to suspend Ken. That doesn’t mean I now view Ken as an anti-Semite. I don’t. But Labour must take any allegations of racism seriously. I trust that a resulting investigation will look into the matter more fairly and thoroughly than a corporate news media, more fond of anti-Labour headlines and sound bites, than hard facts.
But I don’t just want there to be an investigation into Ken Livingstone’s conduct. I also want the Labour Party to conduct an investigation into John Mann’s response to Ken’s comments.
Having watched the video footage several times now, I find myself getting angrier and angrier.
What did Mann think he was doing, acting as a lone vigilante in that way? And not only that, why did he choose to attack Ken in front of TV cameras that were so ‘conveniently’ there?
For the answer to those questions you need to watch the video very closely. There is a split second shot, on the stairs, when Mann looks into the camera lens. What I see in that brief but telling moment, is a man excited by the thought of his moment of fame. He believes he will go down in history as the man who stood up to ‘racist, nazi apologist’ Ken Livingstone. What he fails to see, is how this scene might look to a large percentage of the ordinary voting public, and more importantly, those too young to vote.
What they might see is a middle aged man chasing a much older man up some stairs, bellowing insults at the top of his voice, while the man he is shouting at tries to speak on the phone, at risk of losing his footing due to the distraction. If you, like me, have ever been the victim of aggressive bullying, this scene will have brought a familiar knot to your stomach. Sometimes, when things look and feel wrong, it’s because they are wrong.
Even if Mann was genuinely outraged by Ken’s remarks, he should have complained through the official channels, the way my fifteen year old daughter did when she was witness to racially motivated bullying of a Turkish friend at school. Her friend did not want to report it, but my daughter, so disgusted by it, took it upon herself to tell the Head teacher. What she didn’t do, was follow the bully all the way up the school corridor aggressively screaming ‘racist’ into her face. And believe me, it wasn’t because she wasn’t angry. She was furious. But despite this anger, she conducted herself with more decorum than a 53 year old Labour MP, who knew full well that the TV cameras were trained upon him.
Many of the MP’s who are clapping Mann on the back for his tirade, are sending the message to my daughter, and other young people, that it’s not only perfectly acceptable to shout abuse and harass anyone we profoundly disagree with, it’s actually commendable.
Is that really the message they want to send to young people? Isn’t it better to commend them for keeping control, despite angry feelings, which is not the same as condoning racism or any other form of poor behaviour.
At the end of the day, Mann’s behaviour was inexcusable even if he was genuinely outraged. Many believe, and I am inclined to think this way myself, that Mann was hamming it up for the cameras to inflict maximum damage on a Corbyn led Labour party. But in many ways, getting drawn into a discussion over how angry he really was, distracts from the ugly truth of the matter, which is that Mann’s aggressive behaviour toward Ken Livingstone was nothing short of bullying.
It was ugly, loud, intimidating and scary. If I had been in Ken’s shoes, I would have felt qenuinely anxious. There is no excuse for it. None whatsoever. And a ticking off from the Whip’s office is an inadequate response. I’m not alone in these feelings. Thousands of people have signed a petition calling on Mann to be disciplined for his conduct.
If Ken had been a woman – Naz Shah for instance – would Mann’s allies have been quite so vocal in their support of his loud, bellowing, bullying, aggression?
I doubt it somehow.
Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPad