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.