BY JAMIE FOSTER
Anyone joining Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party may be excused for being a little confused about the rules that may lead to them being asked to leave a job or the party itself.
Recent events do nothing to clarify the position. Lord Mendelsohn, for example, has just been asked to leave his front bench position as a result of having attended the President’s Club dinner which has caused such a furore in the press. The dinner was a posh charity fund raising event attended by business leaders and representatives from charities. It was a men only event in which a Financial Times sting revealed that women working there were allegedly groped and harassed by some men in attendance. It was a grubby affair that led to the closure of the President’s Club, which had been responsible for raising millions of pounds for children’s charities over the years.
Lord Mendelsohn, previously a Labour spokesman in the House of Lords for business and international trade, attended in his role as president of a charity. He says he did not witness any of the alleged wrongdoings and there is no suggestion that he groped or harassed anyone himself. He was asked to step down because he had attended the gathering. This would seem to set a very high bar for personal behaviour in which a person can be sacked for the actions of others he was unaware of at a gathering he had no reason to suspect would lead to such actions. Clearly the sort of sexism that took place at the President’s Club is beyond the pale in the modern Labour Party. You might be forgiven for thinking that, however other events cast doubt on the consistency of this principle.
Last November Clive Lewis, the prominent Labour MP, was accused of groping a woman at the Labour Party conference. He apologised for shouting “Get on your knees bitch” to an actress at the conference. Did this lead to anyone being sacked? No. Mr Lewis was not sacked and no one was asked to step down for having attended the Labour Party conference. It is hard to see how his actions can be construed as any less sexist or appalling than the actions of unnamed men at the President’s Club. Nonetheless it would appear that what Mr Lewis does at a Labour event with a can of Red Stripe in his hand is somehow to be viewed differently to what happens at champagne galas at the Dorchester.
Maybe the problem isn’t sexism at all. John McDonnell’s well known jibe “Lynch the bitch”, aimed at the Conservative Minister Esther McVey, didn’t lead to him being asked to step down, or anyone in attendance at the gathering he said it at being sacked. This is despite the sexist violence behind the sentiment. It would appear to anyone trying to make sense of Labour’s stance on sexism that a violent sexist comment aimed at a Tory woman is acceptable in a way that a sexist comment aimed at the hostess of a charity gala isn’t.
Last year it emerged that a Labour activist, Bex Bailey, alleged that she had been raped by a senior member of the party. She claims that a senior party official warned her against reporting the rape as it may damage her. An internal investigation has so far led to no one being sacked from the party. Following Bex Bailey’s allegations, further allegations of rape and sexual assault emerged and Jeremy Corbyn was asked to set up an independent organisation to allow victims to be supported when making allegations about sexual assaults within the party. So far nothing has happened in regard to setting up such an organisation.
Meanwhile, Labour’s Antisemitism problem is well known and out of control.
For any new joiner of the Labour Party a pattern would seem to emerge. Violent sexist remarks are fine as long as they are directed at high profile Tory women. Allegations of groping and sexist language at conference are also fine. Even rape is unlikely to lead to censure if it takes place within the party itself. What is entirely unacceptable, however, is to attend posh parties with rich people where bad behaviour takes place. That will lead to dismissal. It would appear that sexism and mistreatment of women isn’t the issue that the Labour Party takes most exception to, whereas poshness still is. Anyone joining the Labour Party would be well served to make that distinction.