After two years of attacks on Corbyn supporters, where are the apologies?

In the aftermath of this spectacular election result, some issues in the Labour Party need addressing, argues Seema Chandwani

June 11, 2017
12 min read

Vindicated is how I’m told I should feel, but I don’t. Vindication implies that I was proven right. I already knew I was right – others now telling me I am doesn’t change how I feel because I never needed affirmation. I, like thousands of others are secure enough to be comfortable with our own belief without approval from others, and that was tested time and time again over the past 24 months.

Twitter is now littered with people saying “I’m glad Jeremy proved me wrong”, like seeking to prove something to these people was his objective. Like they were silent observers who gave him a fair ride. Like he has achieved something by meeting their approval.

Words are important, and one word very few of them are using is ‘sorry’.

It has been two years of constant attacks and abuse, which caused distress, distraction and damage to our members and thus our party. As we celebrate, let us not forget but ensure we get full acknowledgement and the changes we demand to ensure the last two years never happen again.

Smears and lies

We saw MPs use their position of profile to obtain access to the media to attack ordinary members and call them names like ‘dogs, trots and rabble’ without any remorse. These are members who paid to be part of our party and cleared our debts. Some who found it hard to make ends meet but gave that £4 a month as they wanted and sometimes needed to feel they could be part of a movement that would help them become agents of their own struggle.

They were branded ‘cult members’, as ‘behaving like petulant children’ because they wanted to democratically choose an MP to be leader of a party proclaiming to be for the ordinary people and they dared to believe in a politician who was interested in listening to their hardship. Jeremy was admired not by people who were stupid or brainwashed but because he was rare and they believed in the alternative he offered.

They were told they were too lazy to campaign and put in the hard work, yet they came out in their thousands. In my Constituency Labour Party it was 2:1 new members who came out and our executive committee is now 50 per cent made up of new members. They work their arses off.

They were branded naïve, patronised and condescended because they refused to believe that the party were not going to win UKIP voters if we didn’t bash immigrants like Stephen Kinnock or accuse Muslims of not assimilating and push the UKIP-enlarging narrative of parallel lives.

They had to be taken to court because they joined a party that proclaimed to fight for their futures, and that court case was funded by their own subscription fees without any consultation with the membership on how our money would be used.

They were accused of throwing a brick through a window or spitting on college caretaker without any evidence and had to prove innocence after being called guilty by a right wing media presumably briefed by our party. Many of these accusations damaged the reputations, employment opportunities and lives of people who volunteered in our party and give so much. Yet not one apology has been provided. Yet not one person who spread such malicious lies has been reprimanded.

There have been members reported to their workplaces for expressing political views in support of Jeremy. There have been members with disabilities reported to the DWP for welfare fraud as they use social media to support our party. A threat to these people’s financial survival – threatened in the name of democratic socialism.

They were suspended for merely liking a tweet from the Green Party three years ago while MPs and others holding public office openly took to social media, print media, TV and radio to bring our party into disrepute with impunity. And continue to do so.

Even in the last days of the campaign candidates were undermining all the hard work of members by running to the media to attack Jeremy and one even wrote a letter doing so to voters – yet there are no consequences, as different rules apply if you’re disloyal to a twice elected leader from the left of the party. And calls for unity are used as tools to manipulate the course of justice to plant the idea we are the ones who are unreasonable, sectarian and not interested in our party’s future.

No rewriting history

Our amazing frontbench were regularly attacked, publicly and disgracefully. Jess Philips openly telling the first Black woman MP to ‘fuck off’ with pride, before she performed a coup on Dawn Butler, another Black woman, to obtain the position of chair of Women’s PLP. This under the guise of feminism! Yet we take the Black vote for granted in dozens of our constituencies including mine.

We saw 18 Jeremy-supporting members in Ealing crowdfunding to legally challenge our party for barring them from standing as candidates in local elections. We saw young members in Harrow needing to go to court over their expulsions. Yet we’re expected to believe these same people are going to pursue a manifesto on workers’ rights?

We saw Labour-run councils push policies of social cleansing, demolishing of council homes, closing of services and cut the pay of teaching assistants with pride.

On our own ship we had our own people play the role of Judas better than the original. With passive-aggressive attacks through social media guised as ‘expressions of concern’ or ‘advice’ they could easily have texted to Jeremy instead of writing about in the Guardian or on Twitter to 250,000+ people.

After leaving us when the going got tough, stepping on our heads and pushing us deeper under water, you really believe you have a right to be on this ship rebuilt and held together with our blood, sweat and tears?

Rather than show some self-awareness, they try and fool us by dumping the role of Judas and rewrite history by painting themselves as leaders of a people-led movement – it was the movement that gave us these gains by campaigning for the very MPs who have treated our members with contempt and with one asking for a fucking knighthood!

Without any shame, they’re now inviting MPs from the right to return to the front bench without asking anyone who fought this struggle daily if we’re OK with that. Who are they replacing exactly? Do you think we have your Judas genetics that we’re happy to dump the likes of Diane, John, Angela, Richard, Sarah, Cat, Rebecca, Kate, Barry, Emily et al who faced our struggle with us for who? For what position?

Flimsy loyalty

If you’ve not learned when to shut your mouth now, you never will – and you’ll continue to be a liability with your flimsy loyalty to any cause. After leaving us when the going got tough, stepping on our heads and pushing us deeper under water, you really believe you have a right to be on this ship rebuilt and held together with our blood, sweat and tears? More astonishingly, you actually have such a deep sense of misguided entitlement you have already unpacked your stuff in the first class suites and are trying to get your hands on the helm.

Incredulous!

We have MPs on the right stating they’re happy to return, as if they were aiding Jeremy to do a better job? As if they’re entitled? As if they would have the capability to produce such a manifesto? As if they weren’t part of the problem pre-Corbyn that saw us lose so many seats, sell ‘controls on immigration’ mugs, promise to be tougher than the Tories on welfare and create the work capability assessment that has bought misery to so many?

Do you think the public want us to return to this? Have you not learnt anything?

Why do we need these people? What delusions do they have about their own ability? Why should anyone trust these MPs who took positions previously only to use it as a weapon against Corbyn, resigning when they want to water down a policy that should benefit working class people? Even after the manifesto was launched they still had no understanding of what this meant to millions of people who are struggling in our communities.

Our current Shadow Cabinet have done amazingly well – they outperformed their predecessors and they gave us a manifesto we would never have had created by others. They were not seat-warmers waiting to be returned to sitting on the floor now the self-proclaimed, self-righteous would like to play again. They are intelligent, capable, talented assets to our party who have earned their right to retain and embed themselves in their roles.

Until this party addresses the the fact that our policies are not being put into practice by Labour local government and a national local government manifesto is now needed – nothing has changed.

Until there is an acknowledgement of how our members were treated and assurances that such attacks from MPs to our members will be acted upon with disciplinary action – nothing has really changed.

Apologise to the members

I’m surprised many of our new members continued to stay with us and even more surprised they showed such loyalty to our party that they, the ‘dogs, trots and rabble’, campaigned for to help the MPs who attacked them so badly. For all they went through, and to still have the humility and passion for our party, they deserve respect and protection. They deserve an apology.

Until people in our party who spent two years damaging our party by attacking our twice democratically elected leader and our members take responsibility and accept the role they played that led to us losing votes that could have been crucial – nothing has changed.

Until our current Shadow Cabinet are acknowledged with the respect and permanency they deserve and praised for their achievements, loyalty and resilience – nothing has changed.

Until the party see such behaviour from MPs, councillors, assembly members and mayors as something that requires managing and a robust disciplinary process – nothing has changed.

They chucked it all at us and we’re still standing. Our resilience built, our naivety quashed, our strength realised

None of us could behave like this in any work situation, to bring your organisation in disrepute in such a vile, aggressive and personal way and get away with it. This is not Stalinism, it is basic rules most of us live our professional lives by.

Mandelson has already penned his cat-stroking instructions to his personality cult in the Mail on Sunday and Chris Leslie has already shown he a food allergy to humble pie. Round 3 has only just begun.

We cannot offer unity without having our demands met or the last two years have been wasted and we will find ourselves soon returning back to a place of abuse.

There have been some good that has come from this. We saw what class and calibre looked like when we saw John Prescott in action. John regularly gave many of us a voice and protection when we needed it. He did so by not taking sides, but by being the voice of reason that echoed what many of us wanted.

We realised exactly how low, vile, nasty and dirty people in our party are prepared to go. They chucked it all at us and we’re still standing. Our resilience built, our naivety quashed, our strength realised and loyalty tested. We now need to be confident in our own power and never sell ourselves short.

We learnt the strength, loyalty and talent of people like Rebecca Long Bailey, Cat Smith, Barry Gardner, Diane Abbott, Kate Osamor, Graham Morris, Andrew Gywnne, Debbie Abrahams, Andy McDonald, Ian Lavery, Emily Thornberry, Sarah Champion, Richard Burgon, John McDonnell, Angela Rayner, who stepped up against all the pressure and did the job, but also did it way better than we have seen in a long time.

We owe so much to their ability and strength to resist the temptation to join the bullies in the school toilets.

We learned what strong and stable actually meant. There were many times Jeremy could have walked away but didn’t despite all they threw at him, despite the PLP meetings of group lynchings and constant cowardly bullying by a bunch of talentless morons (their word not mine), he got on with the job. Truly inspirational, and it was this that won the hearts of so many and why he has been rewarded by our loyalty from day one.

The ball is now in Jeremy’s court – he can decide to build and change our movement for the better by using the position we placed him in for real, long-lasting change. Or he can take us back without any change or lessons learned and leave us all vulnerable to living in hope that the spots have really changed on those leopards – always sleeping with one eye open and hoping the public believe these people are genuine, that they trust them enough to vote for us again.

If Jeremy does not take this opportunity to address some serious problems with our party they’ll still exist, and we’ll not get to the destination we have stayed on this bumpy ride to reach. That would be a travesty.

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