Which Side Are You On?

by Conrad Landin

The Daily Telegraph supporting Boris Johnson? Surely not! For many, Andrew Gilligan’s promotion to the paper came as a relief. No longer would his hysterical opinions be broadcast to the capital’s retreating commuters as a point of course.

But when self-proclaimed Labour supporters take to its pages to shaft their own party less than a month before a crucial election, we can no longer be passive.

Lynton Crosby, the hard-right Tory campaign director, emailed the Tory members this weekend.

In an attempt to string out the mayoral tax row, Crosby invokes a number of sources, including the Telegraph, Lib Dem Brian Paddick and The Times. No surprises there. But Crosby also lists apparently ‘Labour’ commentators. “This isn’t just my view,” he writes. “See what others, including Labour activists, are now saying about Ken Livingstone’s hypocrisy.”

The Labour members he lists are Atul Hatwal, Jonathan Roberts, and Dan Hodges (who is quoted supporting Andrew Gilligan, who, like Hodges and Boris Johnson, is paid by the Telegraph).

It is time to call this what it is: Labour members undermining the Labour campaign for the mayor of London by doing and saying things the Tories want them to do.

They are acting as agents of the Tories’ line and the Tories’ strategy by throwing hand-grenades around our own trenches, rather than targeting the opposition.

Describing these figures as Labour activists is a insult to the hard work of the thousands of volunteers who have brought bread and butter issues such as transport fares up the agenda. And I’ll sort out a VIP ticket to my ward’s next canvassing session for any proven sighting of Dan Hodges on the doorstep.

None of these people have shown any interest in Labour winning this election. When the polls have shown the election to be on a knife-edge, they stay eerily silent. And then we see them pile in behind a newly negative and unpleasant Tory campaign. Self-describing tribalists like Hodges know too that when you’re close to an election, you can only pick your side. They have picked theirs: that of the Tory mayor.

Whilst Labour and its members are piling everything into this campaign, some people prefer to indulge themselves and their egos.

We only have to read the introduction of Crosby’s email to see the Tories’ vulnerability in this election. He is worried that his main election argument has gone into a tailspin. “Today, the national media are focusing on what disclosure means for the future direction of British politics and others are saying that it is a sideshow – just politicians spatting,” he says, adding that “These claims may serve Ken Livingstone’s purpose…

He should be worried – his strategy has veered off into a different debate: whether total disclosure is healthy for British public life. He and Johnson have poisoned the well. Many commentators are urging for the debate to move on.

Even Tory ex-minister John Redwood now says the tax debate is “crowding out the more important matters of what Ken or Boris would do to the Council Tax, the policing, and the transport of London,” he argues.

Johnson’s campaign is trying to divert Londoners’ attention from understanding that they will be £1,000 or more better off with Labour’s Ken Livingstone, through the reduction of fares and other key pledges – or, put another way, they will be £1,000 or more worse off with Johnson and the Conservatives.

If we can get this message out, then Ken will win. In a cynical attempt to deceive the electorate, the Tories have made a song and dance distraction.

Crosby’s strategy can be taken down. Real Labour activists will be doing just this in the coming weeks. Those few Labour members who continue to snipe must accept that they are simply the Tories’ useful idiots.

This article first appeared at Next Generation Labour.

10 comments on “Which Side Are You On?

  1. frank on said:

    Which side are you on is a good way into this debate.

    There are only 2 potential winners of this contest. This is true for all, apart from liberal Guardian leader writers who like to pretend the world is other than it is.

    On one side you have a candidate who has pledged to cut fares, making London fare payers £1,000 better off, reintroduce EMA, set up public bodies to cut out the profits of private firms so as to cut energy bills and rents by hundreds of pounds each year, and to provide grants to the poorest families for childcare. He is also pledged to increase police numbers and change the balance of the police towards more accountable, community-based polcing and away from the trend towards Robocop policing.

    This is a radical policy of redistribution, including public money, but mainly private capital towards the public.

    The other candidate is the Tory mayor who panders to the big corporations and the rich, whose main campaign over the last 2 years has been a success – the abolition of the 50p tax rate for top earners- paid for by the ‘granny tax’; reduced pension benefits mainly for middle income earners.

    All the rest is a diversion from these central points. Precisely because, in a crisis, the Tory agenda is to talk about anything else except the real issues. Anyone in the Labour movement who falls in with this agenda is circulating ‘Zinoviev gold’.

  2. Karl Stewart on said:

    Spot on Frank (I don’t quite get the “zinoviev” reference but totally agree with the rest).

    The questions to ask ourselves and other Londoners are:

    1. Should fares by 7 per cent higher or 7 per cent lower?

    2. Should the £30 per week educational maintenance allowance be restored or not?

    3. Do we want regulation of private rents?

    4. Should private tenants have more rights and greater security?

    5. Does London need more jobs?

    6. Does London need more council houses?


  3. ex-Labour voter on said:

    Hodges did good work for the Hope Not Hate campaign in 2009 when he served as press officer during the Euro-Elections.

    However, he has done nothing good since. If Livingstone loses, then we can expect more questions about Ed Miliband’s leadership of the Labour Party. And Dan Hodges will be in the media saying what a pity that David Miliband is not the leader and what a pity Oona king wasn’t the mayoral candidate.
    That is why I hope Livingstone wins despite his many faults.

    If people don’t like Livingstone much, which is understandable, then they can always vote for him as a second preference.

  4. Here in New York we know only too well what arrogant right wing rule looks like. Ken Livingstone was a real alternative which is why the powers that be have used his character flaws to undermine him.

    He almost certainly can’t win this time but at least he’s making socialist arguments.

  5. Vanya on said:

    #2 I think it’s a reference to false anti-soviet scare stories used against the British labour and trade union movement in the 1920s.

  6. BombasticSpastic on said:

    “”Even Tory ex-minister John Redwood now says the tax debate is “crowding out the more important matters of what Ken or Boris would do to the Council Tax, the policing, and the transport of London,”…”

    Yes, but isn’t that a bit like a turkey, in early December, stating that the chestnut stuffing, cranberry sauce and sprouts debate is “crowding out more important Christmas matters such as the Nativity, carol singing and peace and goodwill to all men”?

    If only ANYONE but that arsewipe had made the observation.

  7. 6 – On the contrary, it is still very much all to play for in my opinion. A four point lead for Boris, even six, in a climate where the most widely-read newspaper in London, the Evening Standard, is almost comically biased towards him is actually not a spectacular accomplishment and demonstrates the potential appetite among Londoners for policies that put them first.