Our political process is in a terrible state. Reasoned argument is losing out to emotional, often aggressive, behaviour. There are childish and petty displays by those in a position of power who cannot get their own way. Our Prime Minister has set this tone and, seemingly, made it acceptable. Parliament instructs him to send a letter requesting an extension to the Brexit process; the Courts stand ready to enforce it. A Conservative Prime Minister responds by sending the letter but refusing to sign it. A stroppy teenager could behave in this way, but hopefully would grow out of it.
Let me offer another political example of stroppy teenage-like behaviour, this time at a local level. Our North Norfolk Party is firmly in the hand of a small group who are Corbyn loyalists. Notoriously and incredibly, in March this year, they passed a resolution which stated: “This CLP applauds the efforts of the LP leadership under Jeremy Corbyn to weed out and deal with antisemitic behaviour appropriately”. The reaction from anyone I have told about this is to laugh. However, I do care and it prompted me to go along to meetings and to get stuck in again.
I have tried to rally mainstream Labour opinion locally by writing and circulating short papers: for example, I prepared evidence on this particular bit of local lunacy to the Equality and Human Rights Commission inquiry into antisemitism. The initial response of the North Norfolk party leadership was to try to supress my dissent by warning me that, if I continue to communicate in this way, I could fall foul of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This is, of course, nonsense. I therefore sent round a separate missive on these GDPR requirements. In return I received an email from one member of the Executive (who I will not embarrass by naming), copied to all the others, that said: I have absolutely no wish to receive any more of what I regard as spam mail from Sloman. What action is needed to stop this unfortunate from ignoring Labour Party rules?
Unfortunate is a bit unpleasant – I consider myself to have been very fortunate in life. Accordingly, I put in a complaint and was told that I would receive an apology from the person concerned. I can do no better than reproduce an extract:
Massive apologies for the unfortunate e-mail you were inadvertently copied into. It would never be my intention to cause such distress to a comrade in arms at this moment of great peril….. What I meant to say was ‘unfortunate matters’ i.e. this infernal unsolicited e-mail affair. I would never regard you as an unfortunate – how could I? And then I referred to you as ‘Sloman’! Again how could I? I can only assume that I was in a rush and had no idea that you’d object so to being referred to by your surname and that I would then become the target of your official complaint partly because of missing that all important pre-fix ‘Mr’. I can see how you might even interpret that as disrespectful but absolutely no disrespect was ever intended. How could I ever disrespect you? …
Sincerely yours – a Comrade in arms
When Neil Kinnock was fighting to save the Labour Party in the 1980s he referred to travelling long distances to meetings and then being on the receiving end of ‘carefully studied insolence’. I know exactly what he meant.
I continue to attend our local meetings and have noticed a softening of attitude. I was even asked to serve as auditor – a measure of desperation rather than a recognition of anything I could offer to the party. It is far too late to pretend that the cry for a kinder, gentler politics ever meant anything at all. It has been a rough period for mainstream Labour activists.
leftyoldman blogs will appear occasionally as the Brexit battle continues and the shape of post Brexit politics emerges. If you would like to receive email notification of future blogs, please press the ‘followleftyoldman’ button on the left hand side above. I continue to tweet at @eugrandparents.
 See an earlier blog ‘Strange goings-on in North Norfolk