I'm in danger of labouring the point here over Phil Woolas, so bear with me. And I'm not in the habit of fisking people so much as I used to in the Bad Old Days of the green website and the swear-laden outbursts. I thought I'd left all that behind me.
I read this post by Tom Harris and it made me angry. So angry and fed up with this kind of Labour attitude when it comes to Phil Woolas that I can't just walk away from the computer and leave it alone. I wish I could, but I can't. I'm sorry, but no. No! No, I can't just put up with this garbage.
Now, before you go off on one and start accusing me of condoning racism, don’t bother because I’m not. But I am supporting a colleague who has every right to pursue whatever legal course is open to him before having to face the final judgment of his party. Phil has been a loyal and hard-working Labour MP. Those of us who know him would never accuse him of being racist so the “defending racism” tag simply won’t wash.
It doesn't matter whether you don't think he's a racist because you know him personally. Those leaflets, which were produced on his watch and by his people, were racist. He is responsible for that racism in those leaflets. It is his fault. Whether or not you think he's a racist because you know him is irrelevant because he's done something racist. He's not only done it, he's not apologised for it, and he's not said there's anything wrong with it. There is something wrong with it. It was the wrong thing to do.
There are two further dimension to the Phil Woolas case which engender sympathy from colleagues: one is the delight of one Islamist website which, before the general election, gleefully predicted the demise of four “Zionist” Labour MPs, among them Phil, Andrew Dismore and Mike Gapes. There is a natural reaction against against such bile by any decent person.
I daresay a lot of people are delighted that Woolas has been booted out. Just because some of the people who are delighted are extremists doesn't mean that the rest of us who are delighted are wrong. Of course it's annoying that some people with unpleasant views are pleased that Woolas has gone. But I daresay some people with racist views were delighted that he got elected. I'm pretty sure some people with racist views were delighted he got elected - if they weren't, didn't they read those leaflets? They'd have loved them. Just because the decision has pleased Islamists does not mean it is the wrong decision.
Secondly, there is Labour’s bitter experience of being the victim of dirty tricks campaigns over the years, particularly in by-elections. That doesn’t justify our using dirty tricks in response (and for the record, I’m not aware that such dirty tricks were even used by the LibDem candidate in Oldham). And it certainly doesn’t excuse inciting racial hatred in Labour leaflets (if that is indeed what Phil did in Oldham). But for good or ill, there is a sense of frustration at being the permanent victim of such underhand tactics without being able to respond, and I’m not at all surprised that my colleagues have rallied round Phil.
As I said earlier, if Labour have felt at any time that they're the poor widdle victims, they could have complained, at any time, using the correct channels, just as happened in Oldham and Saddleworth. But they haven't. They didn't. Don't wait until you've been caught out before you start telling tales about someone else - do it at the time or shut up. Are Labour really the permanent victims? Or is dirty tricks campaigning something that should shame everyone involved with it?
Don’t mistake MPs’ loyalty to an embattled colleague as anything other than that – loyalty and solidarity. And yes, there’s also tribalism which should not, in my view, be the dirty word it seems to have become in recent years.
Phil’s political future has yet to be decided. All Labour MPs want is for that small, legal fact to be recognised.
No. His future has been decided. It was decided by him when he decided those leaflets were all right. (It should have been decided when he began his career of dog-whistle racism and toughening up on immigration, but apparently that's not frowned upon at all). It was decided by him when he decided on that strategy against his opponent. At that moment, he decided his future. He decided he wanted to campaign in a way that linked his opponent with extremists and made incorrect claims about where he lived. He decided all of this, freely and openly, and be broke the rules, and it's his fault.
Solidarity and loyalty are fine and noble things. Loyalty towards someone who has disgraced your movement and your party is something quite different. It taints you, and it makes you look bad. If Labour want to carry on clinging on to Woolas, that's fine. If they want a vote from me afterwards, they can go whistle for it.