Hopefully not this…
The campaign against Jeremy Corbyn was in full swing long before a Labour MP shouted “Nazi apologist” in Ken Livingstone’s face on a day of apparently choreographed media attacks, aimed at distorting debate on Israel and undermining Corbyn. No sane person would believe that Corbyn harbours any antisemitic tendencies, so softer targets have been sought in order to defame the Labour leader by association.
One such target lives right here in Notting Hill. Councillor Beinazir Lasharie was
libelled labelled an antisemite by media outlets such as The Sun.
What has happened to Councillor Lasharie raises questions about Labour’s approach.
In October 2015 the councillor was suspended by Labour and instructed not to talk to the press after The Sun newspaper ran a story that Lasharie had posted a video on Facebook which claimed that ISIS was created by Israel. The story was taken up by the right wing blogger Paul Staines, who goes by the moniker Guido Fawkes.
It was true that she had re-posted the video, but she strongly denied any antisemitic overtones. She has pointed out that her motivation was to challenge people who were making ignorant and offensive statements. The right wing media ignored any nuances and pounced.
Lasharie, known to Urban Dandy since 2011, has a fine reputation locally for community and charitable work and, as a councillor, she is popular for always making herself available for her constituents.
The councillor was investigated and in January 2016, normal service had apparently resumed, with Lasharie being reinstated in the party. Here’s the emailed confirmation, leaked by a local councillor to Urban Dandy:
But then in March, Staines/Fawkes published a polemic about Councillor Lasharie’s reinstatement in the party, referring to her “extremist rants” and repeating the Sun’s original misleading cut and paste job. What was his motivation?
During the months between the original story and the rehashing, Jeremy Corbyn had weathered the early storms of his leadership and was showing himself to be adept at holding the Tories to account. Sadiq Khan was also odds-on to be the new mayor.
The councillor was under attack again, but without any new story to justify it. Surely Labour would rise above the distortion campaign…
Beinazir was called a ‘Corbynista’, a reductive media term only ever used pejoratively by the right wing, to try to belittle the Labour leader and distract attention from his world view to yet more identity politics. The real target was obvious, but Councillor Lasharie was in the firing line.
On the day of the March Guido Fawkes article, Lasharie received death threats and was subjected to abuse on Twitter, the nadir of which was an ex-East Enders actress trolling her, encouraging people to bully her.
Surely Labour would rise above this. There was no new story and no scandal to investigate.
But this has not happened and there is now confusion over whether Councillor Lasharie is back with her Labour colleagues. We contacted Kensington Labour’s Chief Whip Judith Blakeman, who would only confirm “Cllr Lasharie is a councillor for Notting Dale ward” and did not reply to a follow up question about Lasharie’s affiliation.
On the back of some hateful tabloid journalism, have Labour discarded an elected councillor? Will this be a precedent for all those who come under attack in this way? Or are we moving in to a media age in which only people with an absolute commitment to self-censorship on Israel are eligible for public office?
There is the human aspect of these stories that rarely receives any coverage. Even though Beinazir Lasharie has kept a dignified silence, save for a robust defence of herself that day in March (see the Twitter screen grabs) such a vitriolic distortion campaign would take its toll on anybody. Young, successful Muslim women in politics are easy targets for bigots.
There haven’t been any answers about Councillor Lasharie, but plenty of questions, about mandate, democracy, the internal processes of the Labour party and who exactly Labour are trying to pacify.
Tom Charles for Urban Dandy