Guest post by Sackcloth and Ashes
The Independent columnist and ‘comedian’ Mark Steel is ‘fuming’ that his application to join the Labour party– and to vote in its leadership election– has been rejected because he ‘does not ‘support their values”. His own newspaper has decided to make an issue of this, although in the course of their coverage they somehow forget to mention that this ‘life-long Labour supporter’ (as he is currently described on their main webpage) was in fact a member of the Socialist Workers Party from the late 1970s to 2007.
Steel could do with a reminder of the rules of the party whose leadership election he’s seeking to participate in. Page 9 in particular is specific about describing who can and who cannot join Labour:
A member of the party who joins and/ or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the party, or supports any candidate who stands against an official Labour candidate, or publicly declares their intent to stand against a Labour candidate, shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a party member, subject to the provisions of Chapter 6.I.2 below of the disciplinary rules.
As an ex-swuppie, Steel belonged to a movement opposed to Labour, associated with a series of far-left parties (notably the Socialist Alliance, RESPECT, the Scottish Socialist Party and Tommy Sheridan’s ‘Solidarity’) which has fought elections against Labour. In the recent General Election, he declared his support for the Green MP Caroline Lucas’s successful bid to be re-elected as MP for Brighton Pavilion. This part of the regulations on exclusion/expulsion were clearly bent (and for cynical reasons) in Livingstone’s favour, yet for that they still stand in the party’s constitution. Steel should perhaps be asking himself why he didn’t bother to consult the rules of the party he was trying to join, rather than whining about being a Labour reject.
Furthermore, his association with the SWP calls into question his motives for trying to join a social democratic party. The SWP are notorious throughout the British left– and are reviled even by fellow far-leftists– for their readiness to infiltrate other political groups and social movements in an attempt to subvert them and take them over. The Labour party official who scrutinised Steel’s application therefore had good reasons for questioning his motives for seeking a vote in the party’s leadership contest. Above all, his departure from the SWP– at least according to our good friend Cardinal Newman– did not involve any political conversion on his part. Steel has not renounced the SWP’s extremist ideology, or its willingness to whore itself out to any regime or movement which opposes the West (no matter how bloodstained and barbaric it may be). He may have split with the swuppies, but he hasn’t made his break with their beliefs. If he has become a democratic socialist– as opposed to a totalitarian one– he has kept that conversion very quiet.
Labour’s problem now is that it has only belatedly become aware of the threat that previous party leaders from Attlee to Blair were conscious of– namely, that of entryism by far-left extremists. Corbyn’s current standing in the leadership election shows that entryism has become a massive problem for the party, but that doesn’t mean it should compound its problem by adding one more unrepentant Trot to the rolls.
Still, I should give The Independent’s resident ‘comedian’ some credit. Today he has actually managed to make me laugh.