Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Justified and unjustified criticisms

As a proper leftie, what I secretly love more than anything else is sectarian arguments between people who are notionally on the same side. I am therefore enjoying the entertaining spat between Luke Akehurst and Kerron Cross following Kerron's attack on Kitty Ussher as a 'Tony Blair supporting, greasy poll climbing politician', which Luke says 'really says more about how sad he is than it does about Kitty'.

For what it's worth, I agree with Luke on the general principle that men chasing Parliamentary seats attacking women MPs is, at best, an odd attitude for a socialist, and the fact that Kerron chose to bring up All Women Shortlists as part of his criticism, for no good reason that I could see, reinforces this point. There are, after all, plenty of other New Labour MPs whose previous job experience involves working as a lobbyist and as a special adviser.

That said, apart from stupid articles in the Guardian (which many Labour MPs make a hobby of), including a amusing pair of articles, one just before the local elections about how no one in Burnley had stopped supporting Labour because of anything that Prescott, Hewitt or Clarke had done, and one a month later about how bad the new Tory/Lib Dem council which had taken over from Labour as a result of the elections was, the only experience I've had of Kitty Ussher as a politician and campaigner tends to reinforce Kerron's criticisms.

About three years ago, I went up to help for a couple of days in Burnley campaigning in a council by-election where Labour were trying to hold a ward against a strong challenge from the fascists. As part of her campaign to win the selection, Kitty Ussher was playing a major role in running this by-election campaign.

The strategy, if that's not too strong a word for it, was to try to appeal to voters who might be tempted to vote for the fascists. This is not of itself intrinsiscally a bad strategy, but the tactic chosen of replacing the Labour Rose with the Union Jack on the leaflets, and of all the photos only featuring white people (I don't know where this was intentional or not) was a total disaster. In the pub after one day's leafleting and canvassing, a man with a shaven head and tattoos had a go at me because he'd seen our leaflets and couldn't understand why we seemed to be pandering to racism rather than taking the fascists on for their racism (I told him I agreed and that if he wanted to change it he should join Labour and make these points - he took a membership form). This was not atypical - the racists were not impressed with our campaign when they had the option of proper fascists to vote for, and the anti-racist majority of people were quite rightly put off by our campaign.

Come the election itself, Labour finished third, with the Lib Dems (who had picked up the majority of the anti-fascist vote thanks to our campaign) beating the fascists by eleven votes.

I don't for a moment think that Kitty Ussher or anyone else was deliberately pandering to racism, and I understand the importance of trying out different tactics of campaigning to beat the fascists, but it is the only election campaign where I wish that I hadn't helped Labour, both because of the nature of the campaign and because doing so nearly helped let a fascist get elected. I'm therefore a bit surprised that it proved to be the springboard to her selection as MP, and while I'm sure that the lessons learned from that campaign have been learned to make future campaigns against the fascists more effective, I just think that in this particular case Kerron might have a point.


At 4:10 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting. You should link to the posts on Kerron and Luke's blogs so that readers can trackback.

At 11:23 am , Blogger donpaskini said...

Unfortunately, when I try to do links to other posts or sites at home, it comes up with an error message. Will add links during lunchbreak, and get someone knowledgable to sort out the error message when possible.


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