What Happens to Suspended Labour Politicians?

The title is from a blog post on ‘Urban Dandy London,’ (below). It is a case study on the effects of the current right-wing witch hunt on people’s lives. Eight months after Labour Cllr Beinazir Lasharie fell victim to a Guido Fawkes exposé, and was suspended, there is confusion as to whether her suspension has been lifted. A few months ago, on March 23, Guido Fawkes did a follow up post: Labour Reinstates Suspended Corbynista Who Said “Jews” Behind ISIS and 9/11. That day, the Jewish Chronicle picked up the story, and Lasharie received death threats and abuse on Twitter. Successful Muslim women in politics are easy targets, after all. What the JC article reveals is that it isn’t just the notorious and vicious bigot Paul Staines who is baying for blood; Labour party’s general secretary, Iain McNicol had to field enquiries from ‘prominent Jewish Labour supporter Andrew Gilbert’ and Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) chair Jeremy Newmark. McNicol reassured them that “any suspended Labour Councillor may not represent the Labour Party as a Labour Councillor.”

It’s unlikely that Beinazir Lasharie knows the reputation of some of her Labour persecutors, but several commentators beyond the mainstream media have sought to draw attention to the role played by Jeremy Newmark in the recent media frenzy around alleged antisemitism in the Labour Party, given his reputation as a liar; this is no casual slur: it was the opinion of Judge Snelson who stated in his Judgment in the Fraser v UCU employment tribunal, 2013:

We regret to say that we have rejected as untrue the evidence of Ms Ashworth and Mr Newmark concerning the incident at the 2008 Congress…. Evidence given to us about booing, jeering and harassing of Jewish speakers at Congress debates was also false, as truthful witnesses on the Claimant’s side accepted. One painfully ill-judged example of playing to the gallery was Mr Newmark’s preposterous claim, in answer to the suggestion in cross-examination that he had attempted to push his way into the 2008 meeting, that a ‘pushy Jew’ stereotype was being applied to him. The opinions of witnesses were not, of course, our concern and in most instances they were in any event unremarkable and certainly not unreasonable. One exception was a remark of Mr Newmark in the context of the academic boycott controversy in 2007 that the union was “no longer a fit arena for free speech”, a comment which we found not only extraordinarily arrogant but also disturbing.

Is it right or proper that the Labour Party is not only appearing to appease this discredited individual, but considering tasking the Zionist movement he chairs, JLM, with training Labour politicians?

Left to right, back row, Harrison Littler, Bevan Powell, Robert Atkinson, Andrew Lomas, Robert Thompson, Mohammed Bakhtiar. Middle row, Emma Dent Coad, Monica Press, Pat Mason, Beinazir Lasharie. Front row, Pat Healy, Judith Blakeman.
KENSINGTON LABOUR GROUP, 2014. Left to right, back row, Harrison Littler, Bevan Powell, Robert Atkinson, Andrew Lomas, Robert Thompson, Mohammed Bakhtiar. Middle row, Emma Dent Coad, Monica Press, Pat Mason, Beinazir Lasharie. Front row, Pat Healy, Judith Blakeman.

What Happens to Suspended Labour Politicians?

JUNE 8, 2016
URBAN DANDY LONDON

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.

Suspended

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.

Reinstated

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:

Untitled.jpg

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.

Labour Values

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.

Chief Whip email

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.

Trolls

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
@tomhcharles @urbandandyldn

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