openDemocracyUK

Can you get worse than Woolas?

Labour MPs should not defend a racist liar because he is a colleague.
Stuart Weir
12 November 2010

Let's hear it for Harriet Harman!  Her instant and unequivocal renunciation of Phil Woolas, ex-MP, spoke for the decent Labour Party, one that voters might indeed trust, which I would like to see established under Ed Miliband.  The protests from a gang of unreconstructed Labour MPs that she is somehow pandering to the tabloid press while Woolas deserves the party's backing is a sign that Labour has someway to go.

Labour's parliamentary party has always, in my political lifetime, included a gang of right-wing thugs who regard themselves as 'pragmatists'. they mean by this that they will pursue what they see as the party's interests and the protection of their own seats and influence, undeflected by principle. (Blair has kind words for them in his memoir.) Woolas is a bully and one such 'pragmatist'. It was not by coincidence that he was given the immigration portfolio while Labour was in power.

His sin was not that he lied about his Lib Dem rival. As Gore Vidal has observed, be prepared to lie if you go into politics.  What he did was far worse. He lied to foment and exploit racial tensions to discredit his opponent.  The judges who ruled against him clearly found that he was guilty of unacceptable conduct on the facts of the case.  To argue that Harman should have kept quiet while his appeal was underway is worese than equivocation. The appeal can only be on the legal technicalities of their decision, not on their findings.  And on that score no one who is half-way decent could stand aside.

Is it time to pay reparations?

The Black Lives Matter movement has renewed demands from activists in the US and around the world seeking compensation for the legacies of slavery and colonialism. But what would a reparative economic agenda practically entail and what models exist around the world?

Join us for this free live discussion at 5pm UK time (12pm EDT), Thursday 17 June.

Hear from:

  • Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor: Author of Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership
  • Esther Stanford-Xosei: Jurisconsult, Pan-Afrikan Reparations Coalition in Europe (PARCOE).
  • Ronnie Galvin: Managing Director for Community Investment, Greater Washington Community Foundation and Senior Fellow, The Democracy Collaborative.
  • Chair, Aaron White: North American economics editor, openDemocracy
Who is bankrolling Britain's democracy? Which groups shape the stories we see in the press; which voices are silenced, and why? Sign up here to find out.

Comments

We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData