Labour’s National Executive Committee torpedoed local party democracy to prevent local candidates from being chosen in the marginal seat of Kensington for the next general election. Here’s what we know about how they did it…
Former MP barred
October 17th: Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) excludes Labour’s only ever Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad from the candidate longlist. Read about it here.
The three-person NEC panel that excludes Dent Coad includes two influential figures committed to Sir Keir Starmer’s purge of socialists: LukeAkehurst, director of the lobbying organisation We Believe in Israel. And Shama Tatler, co-chair of Labour to Win, a right-wing campaigning group.
NEC & London Region usurp local officers
October 20th: Regional Director of Greater London Labour Party Pearleen Sangha dismisses two Kensington Selection Committee members for “openly supporting” a candidate. Sangha speculates about “a blatant attempt to undermine the process” – the two members reject the accusation.
A more right-wing member of the Committee remains in post, despite openly campaigning for candidate Joe Powell, even appearing in his campaign video. Complaints from party members to London Region about the double standard go unanswered.
Local candidate would have been shortlisted
October 27th: Councillor Kasim Ali wins every round in the South Branch vote, meaning he needs to be selected by just one of the remaining two branches to make the shortlist. Afsana Lachaux is also nominated.
Results from the South Branch vote are circulated to members in accordance with Labour’s democratic procedures. Sangha declares that this constitutes a “leak” and runs all subsequent meetings and votes herself, keeping the results secret.
In a statement, senior Kensington Labour officers say: “In all three Kensington branch selection meetings, Sangha overruled local elected role-holders and chaired the Zoom call herself…muting all attendees. She has been unprofessional, hostile, and insulting to local role holders, often making threats and rarely responding to messages”.
Intervention over Black History Month
October 31st: A Constituency Labour Party (CLP) ‘All Members’ meeting with a Black History Month theme is scheduled, but on the day of the meeting, London Region informs the CLP Secretary the meeting cannot take place during the selection process. The CLP Secretary asks if the meeting can go ahead if the discussion is limited to the Black history theme and presented by a local campaigner. London Region agrees but states that no candidates can attend.Continue reading →
In an unashamed assault on party democracy last month, Keir Starmer’s Labour targeted and excluded significant numbers of British Somalis from the shortlisting process for candidates hoping to become Kensington’s next member of parliament. Urban Dandy has been given details of how the party’s bureaucracy was mobilised to guarantee a result favourable to the party’s right wing.
The Kensington Constituency Labour Party (CLP) is made up of three branches: South, North East and North West. Labour members in each branch were to vote to narrow down their choice of candidates from a longlist to a shortlist of three, then to vote for one candidate to take on Conservative incumbent Felicity Buchan at the next general election. Former Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad had already been barred from standing by the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) in a factional right-wing intervention.
Next in the NEC’s sights was Councillor Kasim Ali, a prominent local politician and a British Somali with a history of community activism in North Kensington. From several Kensington Labour insiders we have heard that, with Dent Coad removed, the NEC hoped that one of their preferred candidates would secure the candidacy. But at the South Branch’s 27th October selection vote, Cllr Ali eased to a comfortable victory, winning every round.
With Cllr Ali needing a nomination from just one of the two North Kensington branches to secure a place on the shortlist, the NEC took over, overriding the CLP’s democratic procedures and fixing the result. Here’s how they did it…
North East Branch
The North East vote scheduled for 1st November was postponed on the pretext of the branch not having the correct Zoom license to accommodate the number of members wishing to attend. Local Labour sources told us that a new license was hastily purchased but Labour’s London Region Executive postponed the vote until 9th November, giving the NEC time to create the chaotic circumstances in which they could guarantee victory for one of their preferred candidates.
By the day of the North West selection on 3rd November, a familiar tactic from the Corbyn era had been put in play to prevent Cllr Ali from securing a nomination at his home branch vote. A vitriolic message about one of the candidates, Mete Coban, was sent to all CLP members from an email address named ‘Danger in Kensington.’ Access to the membership mailing list is strictly limited so the email is likely to have been circulated by somebody holding a senior position within Labour at local, regional or NEC level. Two local Labour sources told Urban Dandy that the NEC’s two preferred candidates had also been provided with the membership’s contact data “months before”.
The highly dubious message was unquestioningly amplified in a vicious attack piece on Kasim Ali in a local blog, while Jewish News blamed “a group of activists” in North Kensington. There was no evidence that the councillor or any of his associates had a connection to the message and no explanation was offered as to how they could have circulated it or what their motivation to sabotage the process might have been. Labour bureaucrats seized upon the story to torpedo the CLP’s democracy, taking control of the selection process and barring Cllr Ali from standing.
Senior Kensington Labour members issued a statement that included the line “there is evidence that the racist message was written by a local known not be (sic) a Labour Party member and was initially posted on a Kensington Community Facebook page.”
There will be more on what Cllr Ali describes as a “fake antisemitism” smear in a later article.
North West Branch
On the day of the ‘Danger in Kensington’ email, Labour members in the North West branch were set to vote on who to shortlist. However, a significant number were prevented from doing so. A Labour councillor told Urban Dandy that “14 to 16 members” were blocked. Another councillor informed us that the number was closer to 20. Both told us that all the excluded members had one thing in common, they were British Somali.
By this point, the selection meetings, held on Zoom, were being chaired by Labour’s London Region Director, Parleen Sangha. According to a local councillor, Sangha told some of the British Somali members “we can’t hear you” before removing them from the meeting and not readmitting them as they attempted to re-join the meeting for an hour and a half. Others simply saw the image below when they clicked on the meeting link.
We have been informed that an elected Labour councillor for Golborne ward (part of the North West branch and one of the most impoverished wards in Britain) received a text message from a London Region representative as voting commenced telling them ‘I don’t have the correct email for you’ as a justification for cancelling their access to the ballot. The councillor is also British Somali and was using the same email address used when registering as a party member and used to log in to all subsequent meetings and votes.
No results from the North East or North West selection votes were published, and Joe Powell will stand for Labour at the general election having easily defeated the other shortlisted candidates, Mete Coban and Apsana Lachaux on 9th November.
Labour councillors who spoke to Urban Dandy stopped just short of accusing Keir Starmer’s NEC and London Region of racism against British Somalis. They informed us that Labour members in the North East branch, mostly from ethnic minority communities, were also prevented from participating, while former party members with favourable views of Starmer were enabled by London Region to fast-track their re-joining on the day of the vote.
We asked London Region for clarity on why Cllr Ali’s bid for candidacy was undemocratically denied. They responded that they “had to” commence a “serious investigation” into antisemitism in Kensington CLP and that local members had been suspended “due to antisemitism”.
Their reply to Urban Dandy did not mention Kasim Ali or explain the prima facie racial profiling of British Somalis.
On 4th November Kasim Ali was interviewed by the NEC over the ‘Danger in Kensington’ email. They accepted that there was no connection between the councillor or his supporters and the message. However, his right to stand was not reinstated. It is not clear if this meeting was the “serious investigation” referred to by London Region.
A Labour source told Urban Dandy that they had searched the membership database and found that none had been suspended for suspected antisemitism.
Cllr Ali told us that he asked the Labour Party to investigate the circulation of the ‘Danger in Kensington’ email but, to date, the party has not done this.
We also understand that Cllr Ali was blocked from speaking at the CLP’s Black History Month event in October following a concern raised by a rival candidate that this would give Ali an unfair advantage in the constituency selection. London Region issued a ban on longlisted Kensington candidates attending the event. Cllr Ali complained to London Region about his exclusion but has not received a reply.
Under the leadership of Keir Starmer, Labour has purged its left-wing, often expelling or suspending members on spurious grounds, while many others who identify as left-wing have resigned their memberships in protest at Labour’s dramatic shift to the right.
When people rose up to protest racism in Summer 2020, Starmer dismissed the Black Lives Matter movement as “Black Lives Matter moment” while the party has at times positioned itself to theright of Suella Braverman on migration.
The signs are that Labour in government would be pro-war, unreservedly pro-NATO and cement the UK’s role as junior partner and enabler of the United States’ constant war-making. US foreign policy currently includes bombing Somalia, humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen and occupation of a significant proportion of Syria.
To fulfil this agenda, Starmer and his bureaucracy must minimise the number of potentially anti-war politicians in parliament. In Kensington, once the party members had indicated a preference for Kasim Ali, the NEC abandoned any pretence of a commitment to democracy.
It can be claimed that the removal of Cllr Ali and the disenfranchisement of British Somali members was about ensuring a preferred candidate would stand, rather than a case of racism. But would Labour have done this if Ali was not a Black, Muslim, African, working-class British Somali in North Kensington?
Would an antisemitic trope have been weaponised if the targeted candidate and party members came from a different demographic? And if so, would its use have passed without comment or investigation by the party and media?
Generating fear in our Jewish community and disenfranchising our British Somali community appear to be acceptable collateral damage to the fanatical clique that has control of Labour. Starmer’s party is liberal-fascist, uninterested in the cause of labour and intent on using power to advance the class interests of the British establishment and the economic elite.
Just over a decade ago, I was involved in producing an important political pamphlet you have never read. Its title was ‘Unknown Hell’ and it reported on a visit undertaken by several Labour politicians to Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.
The pamphlet’s title was suggested by Sir Gerald Kaufman, the legendary phrase coiner who dubbed Labour’s 1983 manifesto “the longest suicide note in history.” Along with Kaufman and me, the contributors to the pamphlet were the MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Michael Connarty, reflecting a Labour party that was still a broad church. Kaufman was to the right, Connarty to the left, and Corbyn firmly on the left.
Kaufman’s ‘Unknown Hell’ title captured the fact that, despite them being the world’s largest refugee population, most people in the west are ignorant of the displaced Palestinians’ suffering. Ethnically cleansed in the 1940s and trapped in camps around the region ever since, Palestinian refugees have been re-victimised in every host country. Their legal right to return home under UN Resolution 194 has been reaffirmed by virtually the whole world every year since 1949, but the fulfilment of this right has been blocked by the United States and Israel.
The Unknown Hell pamphlet was to be circulated among Labour members to raise awareness about the world’s longest-running refugee crisis, and hopefully influence party policy. But it was blocked by people (none were Palestinian) inside the Labour party who were convinced that the Palestinian cause was better served by policies focused on supporting the corrupted Palestinian Authority. This thinking was in line with US-Israeli diktats to ignore the main problems facing the Palestinians and focus myopically on bureaucracy. A comfortable position for the faction within Labour that thinks efficient obeyance of power will produce a better world. Coincidently, the smooth advancement of their careers is also better served by taking this stance.
The MPs’ reflections on the hideous conditions in the Beirut and Tripoli camps, and their analysis of meetings with all the key players in Lebanon, were silenced. The Labour hostiles were led by Simon Danczuk, who feigned interest in justice and human rights to pick up Muslim votes in Rochdale before consuming himself with fanatical factional hatred of Corbyn.
Ten years on and politicians and officials with this belligerent mentality have full control of Labour under Keir Starmer. Their creed is the goodness of the British state, giving them much in common with security state officials who appear to be influential in deciding who should stand for the party at general elections, candidates who will ensure that Palestinians’ (and Yemenis’, Ukrainians’…) misery is perpetuated by constant war. In this setup, there is no room for those who talk the language of diplomacy and peace.
A purge of grassroots Labour members is in full effect, but, like the suffering of the Palestinians in Lebanon, it is unknown to most people thanks to the media’s determined silence. An assault on the democracy of the party that is likely to form the next government is taking place in plain sight, but you’d never know it.
Those thrown out by Labour suffer their own personal hell, gaslit with infantile explanations after giving years to grassroots causes. Criticism of NATO is proscribed by party whips, further subduing what remains of socialist resistance to war in parliament. In these perverted circumstances, members are being expelled for possessing the qualities that most people find admirable: loyalty, steadfastness, and a willingness to support the most vulnerable.
There is no hierarchy of suffering that prevents the pain of these ousted Labour members from being discussed alongside the suffering of the 9.5 million Palestinian refugees or Britain’s many other victims. These are not discrete issues, and Keir Starmer’s purge of campaigners for peace and justice means that the UK cannot elect a progressive government at the next election. This has echoes in the refugee camps of Lebanon, and the unknown hell will continue thanks to the pro-war right’s grip on Labour.
Emma Dent Coad, the only Labour politician to win Kensington in its true blue history, spoke to Urban Dandy about the Labour party’s decision to bar her from standing at the next general election.
Architectural historian, author, activist, and local resident Emma Dent Coad was elected to Kensington and Chelsea council in 2006. She campaigned on the full range of issues impacting residents in the most inequitable local authority in Britain including housing rights, poverty, and air quality. Dent Coad’s background in housing made her an ideal choice to be Labour’s 2017 parliamentary candidate in a constituency home to oligarchs and royals yet has seen a dramatic life expectancy decline in the borough’s poorest wards once austerity economics was imposed in 2010.
The councillor’s 2014 report, updated after the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, The Most Unequal Borough in Britain, used incontestable data to lay bare the shocking inequity of the borough where at one end 51% of children live in poverty vs at the other only 6% suffer this indignity. Dent Coad’s 2022 book, One Kensington, cemented her reputation as an expert on the impact of neoliberal economics in the borough.
On Friday, June 11th the final seat in the 2017 general election was declared and Dent Coad was elected MP for Kensington: a first-time Labour gain. Winning by 20 votes, Dent Coad joined the activist Labour MPs’ Socialist Campaign Group in parliament. The role of socialists diminished under New Labour, but backbenchers like Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, and Diane Abbott kept community-based democratic, internationalist socialist politics alive in parliament. Labour’s left-right, democrat-technocrat schism had widened under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, yet New Labour was confident enough in its political project to co-exist with anti-war backbenchers and their frequent rebellions.
Three days after the Kensington constituency victory, the fire at Grenfell Tower brought the local issues that Emma Dent Coad had campaigned on to national prominence, crystalizing her parliamentary priority: justice for Grenfell.
Party leader Corbyn and other Campaign Group members were supportive of North Kensington; but Labour’s bureaucracy was dominated by factional enemies, intent on sabotaging the leadership, and as came to be revealed, actively worked to deny Labour an election victory. The harassment of Diane Abbott, the diversion of funds from left-wing candidates in marginal seats to right-wingers in safe seats and smear campaigns were among the methods deployed by this group, which included Iain McNicol, Labour’s then General Secretary. In 2017, Labour finished just 2227 votes short of being able to form a government.
Internal Labour documents leaked in 2020 showed senior party bureaucrats favouring cronyism over Corbynism. They preferred Tory rule with all the misery that brings to their own party’s kinder, more equitable, leadership. As the leaks became public (albeit not reported in the mainstream news) Dent Coad revealed her campaign had received little support from Labour HQ even when it became clear that an historic win in Kensington was on the cards.
Dent Coad explained: “When the atrocity of the Grenfell Tower fire ripped through my neighbourhood, I was finally sent help from McNicol’s office. However, it quickly became clear that this was not the help requested; I needed assistance with my casework team, who were struggling to help those impacted by the fire, but instead the general secretary sent someone to police me.Continue reading →
Norland Ward in Kensington & Chelsea is 0.2 miles from Grenfell Tower. In a rational political culture, local politicians seeking election in that ward on Thursday would express support for the victims of the Grenfell fire and solemnly vow to address the worsening economic and social inequality that characterises North Kensington. But in the Royal Borough, pushing policies of injustice and inequality can guarantee you a safe seat, as the Tory candidates make clear in their campaign literature.
We previously looked atKensington & Chelsea News, the local Conservative Party’s main election propaganda, which sets out their key policies: bin collections, borough-wide parking permits, clean air, low council tax, saving the local police station and money for parks. While some of these pledges are contradictory and some are probably fibs, they are accompanied by the biggest profanity of all; council leader Elizabeth Campbell claiming that “continued support and meaningful recovery for the communities most affected by the Grenfell tragedy will be at the heart of everything we do.”
North Ken Censored
The election propaganda for Norland Ward is more of the same, talking up the threat of a Labour-run council, promoting absurd policies, and ignoring residents in the north of the borough. Even though Norland’s boundary reaches into North Kensington, there is no mention of Grenfell or the poverty that plagues the area.
The Conservative candidates, Stuart Graham and David Lindsay, have ultra-safe seats and plenty of political space to express any conscience or vision they possess. They instead follow the council strategy of studiously ignoring North Kensington. They state they are “committed to standing up for the residents of Holland Park and Notting Hill,” omitting North Kensington completely.
The Norland campaign literature is aimed squarely at those who already live in comfort. In the irrational borough, this group is attended to slavishly: “We need a council that has a record of standing up for residents and delivering more while costing less.”Continue reading →
The latest propaganda from the Kensington and Chelsea Conservatives comes in the form of a glossy A3 publication with the tagline, Community News. The Spring 2022 edition of Kensington & Chelsea News has the look of a free local newspaper but is a campaigning leaflet for the Tories ahead of next month’s council election. Its mix of policy pledges and class-conscious signaling makes clear the council’s priorities five years on from the Grenfell Tower fire. We read and analysed it so you don’t have to.
‘K & C News’ bucks the trend in these dark times by starting with a feel-good story titled “Café Society is here to stay.” The article features reassurances that locals can still object to pavement licenses being granted if noise is an issue. Even more reassuringly, K & C News informs us that Café Society will operate “from Sloane Square to Westbourne Grove,” skidding to a halt just before it gets to North Kensington. This geographical description could be a mere rhetorical flourish to name two upscale streets popular with the rich Tory voter base. Or it could be more sinister; the first signal to K & C News’s readership that the north of the borough is of little concern to the council.
The next headline is also good news but comes as a bit of a shock: “South Kensington saved by local campaign.” In my ignorance, I hadn’t known that South Kensington, the richest area in the country, faced an existential threat. The detail is that London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, wanted there to be a big glass building there, but heroic local (Conservative) councillors thwarted his plan. South Kensington was rescued from the jaws of Khan back in November, but this newspaper is campaign propaganda to remind core Tory voters and donors that the council remains devoted to them. For those who follow the politics of RBKC, particularly its public relations approach to the five years since the Grenfell Tower fire, it is interesting to be able to read a document that sets out their true priorities, however dressed up in deceit they might be… Continue reading →
Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to use fear and suffering to achieve political ends marks him out as a very different calibre politician to those currently seeking to eliminate him and his principles from mainstream British life. While others use Jewish fears for political gain with zeal, Corbyn remains a true friend of Britain’s Jewish community.
In April this year, a leaked report from within the Labour party revealed that senior officials deliberately sabotaged the party’s 2017 general election campaign to prevent Jeremy Corbyn from becoming prime minister and implementing modest socialist reforms in the United Kingdom. That year, Labour won its biggest share of the popular vote since 1997 and were just 2,227 votes short of being able to form a government. The leak also revealed that the same saboteurs deliberately slowed down the party’s investigations of antisemitism complaints made against members to create the impression that Corbyn was indifferent to Jewish suffering. Their duplicity, ignored by the entire mainstream media as an inconvenient truth, directly contradicts years of condemnation of Corbyn for being a deplorable antisemite or, at best, a man tolerant of antisemitism.
The truth is that he is neither, unlike many of his critics in the media and Westminster.
There is “no reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour Party than any other political party” according to a 2016 report by the Home Affairs Select Committee.
Since 2017, according to official Labour party statistics released this year, a total of 2,178 Labour members had been accused of antisemitism. In a party membership of half a million people, this is 0.4 %. Almost all 0.4% were not genuine cases of antisemitism. A total of 56 Labour members had been expelled for alleged antisemitism at the time of the statistics being published, 0.01% of party members.
This 0.01% is what is known as Labour’s antisemitism crisis. As a “crisis,” it does not stand up to scrutiny, and that is why it receives neither any objective scrutiny nor even a factual mention, from mainstream politicians or journalists.
These statistics, elaborated elsewhere alongside much objective evidence, help demonstrate that the antisemitism accusation levelled at Corbyn is a hoax designed to stop Labour winning a general election with a socialist leader and stifle any possibility of the UK fully applying international law and taking steps to end the occupation of Palestine by Israel. See the work of Asa Winstanley, Jonathan Cook and Jewish Voice for Labour debunking the hoax.
A danger of the proliferation of the fake news “antisemitism crisis” is that many people in Britain, including in Muslim communities, see it as the ultimate expression of white privilege, Jewish fears being treated with far more seriousness at the highest, most respectable levels of UK society than incidents of racist and Islamophobic violence and hatred. The country has an openly racist, Islamophobic prime minister and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, who vow to “protect people against discriminatory treatment and hold organisations, such as businesses and government, to account for what they do,” investigated antisemitism with Labour’s ranks but refused to investigate rampant Islamophobia in the Conservative party.
Both the country’s major political parties favour Israel’s occupation of Palestine, with its subjugation and humiliation of Muslims and Christians and the longest-running refugee crisis (there are seven million Palestinian refugees) in the world.
It is unfortunate but predictable that such a situation taps into popular conspiracies about Jews controlling politics, the media and financial institutions.
The reality is that Britain’s Jewish population do not enjoy privileged treatment, they and their history are being used by right-wing politicians (including Keir Starmer) and the pro-Israel lobby (which is largely made up of anti-Arab Zionists, Christian fundamentalists and others who favour arms sales – death – to peace) to foment hatred against Jeremy Corbyn, the symbol of socialism in Britain today.
Britain’s Jewish people have been the target of an epic fear-mongering campaign by this Faustian coalition. Not content with Labour’s crushing 2019 election defeat, this juggernaut now seeks to eliminate socialism and socialists from mainstream political life in the UK.
With no hard evidence of a Labour antisemitism crisis, the electorate is left confused. A surveyrevealed that, on average, the public believed that third of Labour party members had been reported for antisemitism, a direct reflection of the rhetoric used by the nation’s media and political elites.
But as with all gaslighters, the accusation they are making is the very thing they are guilty of themselves: indifference to Jewish suffering and a willingness to use it for personal or ideological gain.
Although none of it is mainstream in terms of its reach, there are left-wing media outlets and journalists in the UK. We also have easy access to North American alternative media.
Left-wing Americans have fared better on the issue of Corbyn and antisemitism than their counterparts here. The most prolific and revered left-wing pundits in Britain, Novara Media and Owen Jones, have played along with the hoax, choosing to offer an intricate left-wing perspective, rather than simply debunking it. Their most recent coverage, of Corbyn’s suspension and whip-removal, is incoherent as they work overtime discussing internal Labour procedures to avoid pointing out the most pertinent fact: there never was a “crisis”.
Full-spectrum propaganda only works when the left participates. The logic is that if even Owen Jones, the mainstream’s designated voice of the left, isn’t denying it, it must be true.
In repeating and amplifying the lie, and ignoring the role of the Israel lobby, prominent left-wing journalists in the UK have boxed themselves into a corner. If the crisis was real, then surely the leader of the party has rightly faced disciplinary action. Had there been a real antisemitism crisis on Jeremy Corbyn’s watch, then any right-minded, peace-campaigning, anti-imperialist would want him out. The fact is, there was no crisis. So, the media’s left-wingers are playing both sides, calling for Corbyn’s return to the Labour benches but refusing to explain to their followers that it was all part of a political game. They have retained their status as representatives of the left on Sky and BBC News by abandoning their journalistic duty, to tell the truth at all costs.
Some quality journalists on the left have projected their own frustration onto Jeremy Corbyn for his perceived lack of fight against the fanatics who have attacked him using the antisemitism smear. Asa Winstanley, Max Blumenthal and Glenn Greenwald are among them. They argued that Corbyn should have pushed back, and when he failed to do this as strongly as they believed necessary, they lamented him for being weak.
Yet these voices never identify exactly what he could have done. Corbyn probably predicted an unhinged response to any pushback that involved him pointing out that the idea of a “crisis” was absurd. The media would have ignored anything positive or conciliatory he said and pounced upon any hint of him not being adequately yielding. In this, he would have again stood alone against the entirety of the British establishment. More internal Labour divisions and more media focus on fiction instead of the urgent issues of the day were the inevitable result of an assertive push back.
‘So what?’ you might say, things surely couldn’t get much worse anyway, but there were two other factors. The first is 2017 when Labour almost won despite the smear campaign against the leadership. It wasn’t unreasonable to think that policy, over personality, could prove decisive in 2019. This turned out to be true, but it was the Tories, with a more coherent Brexit policy, who had the stronger hand.
The second, and I think most decisive, factor is Corbyn’s relationship with the Jewish people of Britain. Reviewing his career. Peace, justice, unity, and love are the qualities that transcend all politics for him. He is a player in the political game, but there are certain tactics he will not use, the ones that result in pain for others. Unlike those railing against him, Corbyn is sensitive to human frailties and fears. Judging that aggressive pushback would be used by some to further instil existential fear in Britain’s Jews and by others to foment hateful conspiracies, he chose to be guided by his own principles. He did not do or say anything that could have rebounded back on a minority population already being used in the most wretched way by those claiming to speak up for them.
The alternative option, preferred by some prominent left-wingers, was that Corbyn lay out all the facts of the smear campaign, call out the liars and be a warrior for absolute truth. This approach is one that ignores the realities of power in Britain. Exposing the truth has little positive impact unless it happens to match the establishment’s interests.
By choosing not to join in a sordid game, Jeremy Corbyn remains true to his values and his vision of an equitable society lives on. He has done nothing to frighten or endanger a single Jewish, or other minority, person in Britain. The same cannot be said of many other prominent political and media figures.
By Tom Charles @tomhcharles
Thanks to Jennifer Cavanagh for the invaluable suggestions & edits
With a civilian death toll that is likely to outdo even the Nazis’ air bombardment during world war two (70,000) we experience the full impact of the policies of the right. What of the parliamentary left? Labour wound up its foregone conclusion of a leadership contest a month ago. Sir Keir Starmer won, but who is he, politically? A smart move by the Labour electorate? Starmer steers as close to the middle of the road as possible. History will soon demand he chooses which side he’s on.
Starmer is seeking a clear break from Jeremy Corbyn while not entirely abandoning the popular policies of his predecessor. Even Corbyn’s staunchest supporters were worn down by four years of relentless, puerile attacks and the choice of Starmer was surely a relief, even for members who voted for the more leftist candidate, Rebecca Long-Bailey. Starmer is a politician whose style is approved of by the full spectrum of media commentators and the Labour backstabbers who loathed Corbyn.
The contrasting attitudes towards the two men reflects the narrow parameters of thought in British public life. Corbyn was deemed ‘unelectable’ by most Labour MPs and harassed with media absurdities (claims that he was a Czech spy, a fabricated antisemitism crisis etc) that compromised his public image. From the right-wing (inc. Murdoch) media, this was expected. For the centrist liberal media (there is no major left-wing media in the UK) Corbyn’s unforgivable crime was that he didn’t play their game and never would. He treated journalists with respect. But he treated everybody that way, no matter their status. Never distracted by sycophancy, Corbyn wanted to change society. Keir Starmer is more malleable.
The leadership election result also signalled the narrowing vision of western Europe’s largest political party, Labour. It is worth considering the figures that have elected the party’s leaders. In 2015, Corbyn won a stunning victory with 59.5% of the vote in a four-horse race that included ‘electable’ opponents Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham. In 2016 he was forced by the right of the parliamentary party to face Owen Smith in another contest, with Corbyn securing victory with 61.8%. That contest is noteworthy only in that Smith received 38.2% of votes; a miserable defeat, but 193,229 of the Labour electorate backed him and presumably form the basis of Starmer’s support.
The switch from leftist Corbyn to ‘centrist’ Starmer suggests that a lot of Corbyn supporters, socialists, voted for Sir Keir. Labour members have tacitly agreed to a centre-right consensus in British politics: nothing too radical, with the debate framed by a media which spans the centre-left to the far right. The boundaries of what is possible have been reined in.
It is worth taking a moment to consider what might happen if members of leftish political parties just voted for their own interests rather than playing political pundit. In the UK, as in the US, people now vote for the leader they think other people might vote for, rather than for policies. Presumably, the decisive thought here is that the masses have not yet reached the level of enlightenment required to grasp what is being offered to them by straight-talking politicians like Corbyn or Bernie Sanders (who surely would have walked it in November against an incumbent president who advises the population to inject bleach into their veins).
Keir Starmer is the man for this political moment on the left. But by considering just a few of his stances to date, we see trouble brewing for the new Labour leader. He will have to concentrate to maintain his balance.
“The leader of the organisation carries the can, stands up for what goes wrong and takes responsibility” said Starmer during a hustings. He was criticising Jeremy Corbyn’s regime for “turning on its staff” during the so-called antisemitism crisis. This is Sir Keir taking the middle ground, making what he judges to be a politically safe criticism of his predecessor – not of his policies, but of his leadership. The problem is that we now have all the evidence we need that the crisis in the party was a fabrication, one entangled in a marriage of convenience with the Blairites obsessed with overthrowing Corbyn.
A leaked report from within the party since Starmer’s victory reveals the depth of the internal campaign to sabotage Labour’s chances of gaining power under Corbyn. The document shows that senior officials including the then Secretary, Iain McNicol, diverted money to right-wing candidates in safe seats rather than to left-wing candidates in marginals in 2017. This probably extended to Kensington where Emma Dent Coad won a historic victory for Labour in June 2017. When the Grenfell Tower fire atrocity took place days later, McNicol refused to send the help the new MP had requested, presumably for ideological right-left reasons.
The report also reveals the withholding of information from the leader’s office; officials boasting about not working professionally during the campaign; racism; sexism and more. Starmer and deputy leader Angela Rayner have ordered an investigation into the leaks, but the greatest scandal in the party’s history will need to be dealt with properly if the leadership is to retain credibility within the base – crucial if they are to keep the momentum of grassroots campaigning.
Some of the disgraced officials featured in the report had been tasked with investigating cases of alleged antisemitism. The report shows that these officials deliberately slowed down the process to create the impression that Corbyn was indifferent to Jewish suffering. It worked, and a lifelong anti-racism campaigner was politically assassinated as an anti-Semite.
At root, the concocted crisis was always about Palestine, which Corbyn would have recognised as a state on day one of a Labour government. British Jews were deliberately and cynically scare mongered for political purposes, surely one of the basest tactics employed in our political history.
Starmer cannot be entirely ignorant of the reality of the antisemitism debacle. He must know that the Home Affairs Select Committee found “no reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour Party than any other political party.” And that official Labour party statistics released in January showed that a total of 2,178 Labour members had been accused of antisemitism since 2017, just 0.4 % of the overall membership. Almost all the 0.4% were not genuine cases of antisemitism. A total 56 Labour members had been expelled for alleged antisemitism at the time of the statistics being published, 0.01% of party members. “A third of all cases in 2019 have the same single individual as the main complainant,” states the 2020 document.
Starmer knows that the ‘crisis’ had a major impact on Labour’s public image but he did not miss a beat in declaring his collusion with the illusion in his victory speech: “Antisemitism has been a stain on our party. On behalf of the Labour Party, I am sorry” and “I support Zionism without qualification.” A strategic move, or perhaps an indication of his willingness to ingratiate himself to power. He had previously made more neutral statements about Zionism, but in victory sought to establish his credentials, sending an apologetic letter to the Board of Deputies of British Jews, promising to “root out” Labour’s “antisemitism”.
Starmer is also declared supporter of Palestinian rights, opposes President Trump’s “Deal of the Century” and has appointed Lisa Nandy, a long-term supporter of the Palestinians, as shadow foreign secretary. For justice in the Middle East, Labour is required to back Palestine’s self-determination and the right of return of seven million Palestinian refugees. Both positions contradict Zionism’s basic premise, an exclusively Jewish state in historic Palestine. When Israel annexes more land, or bombs the Gaza Strip again, Starmer will have to back the oppressor or the oppressed. He will shamefully bow to the Israel lobby while innocents die, or he will take a brave stand for peace and justice. No middle way exists.
The new Labour leader opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003, but once an MP (he was first elected to the Commons in 2015) he voted against a parliamentary investigation into Tony Blair’s misleading MPs Iraq. While giving Blair a pass, Starmer has been determined to see a journalist who exposed the war crimes prosecuted. In 2010, as Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) he played a key role in the persecution of Julian Assange, editor of Wikileaks, who had just published evidence of a litany of western war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the Collateral Murder video.
As DPP, Keir Starmer fast-tracked the extradition of Assange to Sweden (from where he could be easily extradited to the US) for questioning over the most dubious allegations of rape. Starmer advised Swedish lawyers to reject Assange’s offer to be questioned in London, presumably understanding that the Swedes would have no option but to drop their investigation (the case had already been dropped then resuscitated by a right-wing magistrate). This set off a chain of events that have seen this one journalist harassed, imprisoned and effectively tortured and made ill by the British state on behalf of the Americans.
Emails from August 2012 show a sickening betrayal of Assange by the UK. Responding to a suggestion that Sweden might drop their phoney rape investigation, Keir Starmer’s office sent the following message to their Scandinavian counterparts: “Don’t you dare get cold feet!!!”.
Julian Assange remains in squalid solitary confinement at Belmarsh, the prison reserved for the UK’s most violent and dangerous criminals. Despite his sentence (for skipping bail) having expired months ago, he is forced to stay in this maximum-security prison and wait for a judge to decide on his extradition to the US on surreal charges under the Espionage Act. A dangerous precedent will be set if Assange is sent to the dangerous president, never to be seen again. Who will dare inform the world about war crimes then?
Assange, who has a chronic lung condition, could die in Belmarsh. Perhaps this is what the British state wants, to save them the embarrassment of extraditing him. Parliament is quiet on Assange, but as leader of the opposition, Starmer is obliged to call for his release.
With Wikileaks, the middle ground is untenable. Starmer either supports freedom of speech and the rule of law (a person cannot be extradited from the UK on political charges), or he does not.
With the government’s disastrous handling of the coronavirus, the Labour leader has aimed straight down the middle. He is withholding many obvious criticisms of the Johnson government, presumably until the lockdown phase is over and the public is more receptive to apportioning blame. In PMQs this week, the Labour leader challenged government claims of British “success” when the official figures, which are an underestimate, show 30,000 people have died. But by being eager to offer praise where he can, Starmer fell into the trap of repeatedly saying “hospital deaths are falling”. They aren’t falling, they rise every time somebody dies. It was a strange and possibly revealing use of language on his part.
The pandemic will end with a political divergence. A choice, austerity or socialism, will decide the future of the NHS. That Starmer abstained in 2015 on the Tories’ destructive Health and Social Care bill doesn’t auger well for us.
Jeremy Corbyn was unlucky in the sense that two national disasters – Grenfell and COVID – fell the wrong side of the 2017 and 2019 general elections. Starmer has some media support and a chaotic government that proudly declared a decline in shoplifting on a day that saw 813 people die in agony. He has Exercise Cygnus; Dominic Cummings; PPE; the list is long and growing. With these weapons at his disposal, there will be no need to abstain.
A radical change is needed – will Sir Keir seize the moment? To do so, he must break away from the deadening obsession with respectability and electability that gnaws away at the parliamentary Labour party. The middle way, centrism, is an abstraction. It has no meaning in the real world. Under a so-called centrist Labour government, the sale of parts of the NHS to the private sector was accelerated. Starmer cannot retain his pristine establishment image while delivering a revival of our health service.
Like all of us, Keir Starmer is a contradictory person, but unlike most of us, he now holds immense power. In all the scenarios above, he faces a choice: justice or injustice; oppressed or oppressor; freedom of speech or tyranny; truth or illusion.
Soon, he must decide whether he stands for life or for death. If that seems shrill, look at the world around you and the impact of indifference.
A slogan for Keir Starmer’s new Labour? For the many, not the few For the many and the few? Not for the many, not for the few? For the few not the many? For some people, but who?
That’s that: a centre-left government led by Jeremy Corbyn to end austerity and change British society has not materialised. Across the country frenzied efforts were made to stop the Conservative victory, but there were few successes. The debate about why Labour lost so spectacularly is raging, but here in Kensington identifying the culprits is simple.
First a quick word on the mainstream media. Their assiduous, relentless smear campaign against Corbyn worked alongside Brexit to fatally undermine his chances. The media’s point of departure for the whole campaigning period was set entirely by the right wing; Corbyn’s moderate investment proposals were such a threat to the establishment that a he was faced with a wall of infantile bullying and anti-intellectual posturing which denied the public any serious discussion of Labour’s manifesto. Absurdities such as Corbyn being defamed as an antisemite in a conspiracy involving the whole of the media, all sides in parliament and so-called religious leaders, had a real impact on voters ill equipped to deconstruct the lie that was presented to them every day with such certainty.
The political establishment is breathing easier now thanks to the surreal sight of Conservative MPs in impoverished Northern, Midlands and Welsh constituencies making their victory speeches in the early hours of Friday morning. While they were doing that, Kensington was faced with the much more familiar sight of a Tory candidate winning in an area that is one of the richest, albeit most unequal, in the world.
The Labour incumbent, Emma Dent Coad, lost her seat in a whirl of Liberal Democrat lies and the collective amnesia and ignorance of the more well-to-do in the constituency.
In one of the most egregious campaign lies of 2019, a variety of tactical voting guides advised those wanting to block Boris Johnson and/or Remain in the European Union to vote Liberal Democrat in Kensington. This was despite the Lib Dems coming a distant third in Kensington in 2017 with 12 % of the vote.
Those urging tactical voters to opt for the Liberal candidate, former Tory minister Sam Gyimah, included getvoting.org, Remain United and the pathologically anti-Corbyn Guardian newspaper. Their voting advice was based on the lie that only Gyimah could defeat the Conservative candidate, Felicity Buchan.
On the doorsteps, Labour canvassers like me were faced with naïve voters who intended to vote for the Liberals purely based on this lie and their anti-democratic wish to overturn the 2016 Brexit vote. Floating voters who were told by honest Labour canvassers that only Emma Dent Coad could beat the Tories were eyed with suspicion, having already being canvassed by the Lib Dems.
Away from the tower blocks, in the richer houses of North Kensington, the simple Revoke-Remain message, the fact that Gyimah is a Tory at heart, ambivalence over the devastation of the Grenfell Tower fire and the disinformation campaign against Corbyn and Labour resulted in a split vote and a huge increase in the Liberal Democrat share.
Votes for the Liberals in Kensington almost doubled from 4,724 in 2017 to 9,312 in 2019. Labour lost by just 150 votes and the Liberal Democrats once again succeeded in propping up Tory austerity and denying North Kensington of an MP who has fought tirelessly for justice for Grenfell.
The Kensington campaign, which was kick-started by Sam Gyimah making the bizarre and entirely false claim that Dent Coad shared some responsibility with his Tories for the Grenfell fire, should raise questions about the sincerity of the Liberal Democrats as a party. Was Remain ever really their priority? Or is stopping even moderate socialism their true creed?
Kensington is a complex place. Class divisions here are so profound that even fanatical remainers will vote against their own interests rather than see somebody like Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister. They want one of their own.
In contrast, the run-down estates were dominated by Labour voters.
And what of Grenfell? This issue also fell into class patterns. On the doorstep, Liberals said it ‘could’ve happened anywhere’ and Conservatives described campaigns for justice as a ‘load of bollocks’.
They did not trust Corbyn to lead the country, yet were unable to articulate a specific objection to Labour’s manifesto.
In the frenzied last days of campaigning, with the polls showing Labour just ahead in Kensington, scores of volunteers converged on the area to try to push Emma over the line. Up and down tower blocks, undeterred by the rain, they were greeted by voter after voter who said that Labour was their choice.
These voters knew Emma would take their struggle for justice to the highest levels of power and they hoped Corbyn could revolutionise their lives by opening up education and housing and protecting the NHS. Some elderly Labour voters probably saw this as their last chance to secure a dignified end to their lives.
But their votes in Kensington were in vain, thanks to the mendacity of one party. The election frenzy over, North Kensington is once again unrepresented in parliament, just as it is disenfranchised in the local authority.
This time, in this constituency, it is clear who takes the blame: the illiberal and undemocratic liars of the Liberal Democrats.
(Warning: this article contains references to the Grenfell Tower fire and videos made in the aftermath of the fire)
“It is a fact that any rich man…has less to fear from Fascism than from…Democratic Socialism”
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn.
The UK will elect a new government this week; a chorus of 66 million voices joined in an electoral expression of hope, hate or fear the outcome of which will profoundly affect every single one of us. All constituencies have their dramas and idiosyncrasies but surely none matches Kensington as a symbol of the choice and future at stake.
December 12th 2019 will be a defining moment for Kensington, a constituency dramatically snatched by Labour for the first time in 2017 when Emma Dented the Unwritten Coad of Tory rule in the Royal Borough.
Emma Dent Coad
But Dent Coad’s sliver of a majority (20) did not lead to the transformation of North Kensington’s fortunes, its inequalities exposed just three days later by the Grenfell Tower fire. In 2018 the Conservatives cemented control over the borough, comfortably winning council elections and imposing the harshest of austerity measures, motivated by their radical Tory ideology. Youth services alone suffered a devastating £1.1 million cut.
Divide and rule is the other pillar of this Tory strategy in North Kensington. People reeling from undiagnosed and untreated disaster trauma brought on by the Grenfell Tower fire are now expected to compete against each other in gameshow style funding applications.
Amid these hostilities, some of us have turned on one another, multiplying and proliferating the distress within the community. Recovery is impossible with the current mix of bureaucratic control left in the wake of the Grenfell fallout alongside an NHS that is in crisis and on the verge of being surrendered to a fascistic corporate takeover.
The Tories, at a local and national level, have sought to distract and detract from the Grenfell fire. Motivated by a mix of guilt and shame at their culpability, they have pursued business-as-usual, relying on the population to settle their frustrations by turning their anger on those most vulnerable in our society. In North Kensington it is often females who take the brunt of people’s rage.
The one (political) beam of light has been Emma Dent Coad, local Councillor and Member of Parliament. For two and a half years, empowered by the North Kensington community, she tirelessly fought for justice for the victims of the Grenfell fire at the highest levels. From supporting traumatised individuals within the community to taking on the Conservatives in parliament, Dent Coad has represented North Kensington with extraordinary steadfastness and grace, carrying the determination and spirit that represents the very best of North Kensington.
We all remember the breath-taking unity that anchored and comforted our community in June 2017; Emma is the defender and custodian of our unity at the highest levels of power in this country. She will never betray the dead. It would be an act of collective self-harm to lose her.
The Tao of Corbyn
Emma Dent Coad is an ally of Jeremy Corbyn. The ongoing full spectrum hate campaign levelled at this man in the last few years – even as the shameful racist debacle of the Windrush scandal unfolded – is unprecedented. For media, from the Daily Mail to The Guardian, to round on one person with such constant vitriol while some of his own MPs jostled for prime position to undermine their own party, to the detriment of each and every service we in the UK hold dear.
But cowards flinch and traitors sneer, as they say, and Corbyn stands this week as the closest the UK has been to genuine transformation since Thatcher, and the closest to a positive transformation since Atlee. Surrounding the Labour leader is a team far superior to the management class promoted by Ed Miliband and New Labour. They have out manoeuvred all opponents on Brexit; something for which Corbyn has yet to be given credit.
Corbyn galvanises people to act on their nobler and best instincts. For decades he has met and impressed campaigners all over the country; calling the UK government to account on key issues and always on the right side of history – South Africa, the Chagos Islands, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and more. Many that Corbyn campaigned alongside are now the avant-garde in a Labour party that has come a long way towards shaking off the Blair era with its Thatcherism and war crimes. No mean feat.
Yet the full spectrum of the media still refuses to respect Jeremy Corbyn. By perversely portraying strengths as weaknesses, the media strives to sew enough doubt in people’s minds that rather than selecting a manifesto that demonstrably preserves and improves the lives of tens of millions they might choose a manifesto would devastate as many while enriching only the most elite.
Door knocking in Kensington, it is alarming how many voters have been affected by this propaganda; stating that they will vote Green or Liberal Democrat and unable to explain what they find objectionable about Labour’s platform. Some say they will vote Conservative “to get Brexit done” – what folly, or perhaps fascism. In Kensington, only Labour can keep the Tories out…
Do these voters see the pattern?
Corbyn is an anti-racist campaigner. They smear him and Labour as antisemites.
Corbyn campaigns for peace. They call him a threat to national security. Or a Czech spy. Or terrorist sympathiser. It doesn’t matter how ludicrous; they just keep attacking.
Corbyn is solution focused. They call him reckless. Ask yourselves who benefits when the British people fund military manoeuvres, prop up multi-nationals and bail out banks? Why are such expenses deemed reasonable yet to spend the same on our nurses, children or the elderly is labelled reckless? And who loses out when government supports education, the NHS, our very communities and daily lives?
Corbyn is however rarely attacked for being a socialist, a label which means little to most of the population. His political philosophy is not seriously analysed as that draws attention to it and highlights its undeniable benefits for the vast majority of the UK. Instead, they attack his admirable qualities – not one but two international awards for peace – in order to distort and suggest that a better world is not possible. They bombard the news consumer in an effort to protect the tiny minority interest of the wealthiest hoping voters dissociate, separating their politics from their daily lives.
Corbyn’s unbending resolve throughout this hateful and relentless propaganda underlines his leadership ability to focus calmly, with a measure, on improving people’s lives. This alone marks him out less a socialist and more a spiritualist or humanist and one able to navigate the most difficult of negotiations or dissent. This marks him out as one who embodies our North Kensington communal cry following the Grenfell horror: “Come Unity”. The Labour leader has brought this rallying cry and its qualities to the heart of British politics.
You do not need to be confused about the alternatives. Their record is clear from their non-response to the Grenfell Tower fire. The Lib Dem candidate in Kensington is a former Tory minister who should be persona no grata in North Kensington following libellous accusations against Dent Coad over Grenfell.
In a system in which the current leaders gain no benefit from community and caring, there is a tremendous fear – as demonstrated by the media throughout this campaign – of an alternative whereby community, the NHS and our most vital services come before their own narrow personal wealth. This is why they seek to destroy Corbyn, because by extension, his vision is the most unacceptable policy to them.
It is impossible to fulfil your potential without the security of a home, functioning health service and education. Limiting these very services creates a void filled by irrational hatreds and demagogues. A decade of Conservative and Lib Dem austerity in Kensington has opened up a vast chasm of inequality. They want you to blame each other. Don’t. Vote to put all of this to right. Vote for you, your future, your health, your children.
Vote for Emma Dent Coad in Kensington, get Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street, and protect our future.
Vote for Emma Dent Coad and vote for justice for Grenfell,
Vote for anyone else and we all lose.
By Tom Charles & Jennifer Cavanagh
For all those who travelled to support us on 14th June 2017; for those who have travelled to Kensington to campaign during this election; it’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re at. The true spirit of the Grove…