Can Labour deliver on more than just class?
In the UK, whenever we talk about equality the conversation tends to focus upon class. There is still a huge class divide in the UK – and it’s worsening. Yet, there is still more to equality. While Corbyn has pushed Labour in the right direction in terms of tackling economic inequality, he’s often left people with heads scratching about whether he understands inequality beyond class.
Angela Rayner getting it wrong on why white working class boys are struggling in education
This would be an area that one would hope the Shadow Education Secretary might know about, but apparently not. Rayner can’t blame a headline when the text is there in The Spectator interview about why she thinks white working class boys are struggling academically.
“I think it’s because as we’ve tried to deal with some of the issues around race and women’s agendas, around tackling some of the discrimination that’s there, it has actually had a negative impact on the food chain [for] white working boys.”
Let’s be clear – addressing sexism, misogyny, racism and xenophobia never, ever harm white people in any way. The idea that attacking racial and gender inequality harms privileged people is an excuse privileged groups often use to hold back progress. What would have been far better was for Rayner to have shown that she truly understands the issue and would fight for every community, not blame those at risk of racism and sexism. She could have solely focused upon classism and how that holds back all working class people, or she could have pointed out how it is in fact toxic masculinity that stops young white boys from aspiring academically in favour of learning a trade. She took a line though that would pander to the far right.
Using right wing rhetoric
Labour and more specifically, Momentum, have fixated on trying to utilise right wing language for their own aims. It would be a noble sentiment if the strategy wasn’t embedded with patrioitism and nationalism. Beating the Tories and Leave is all well and good, but when you’ve got to use UKIP and hard-Leave language to do so then are you really advocating for true change? Drop any sense of nationalist language. It just panders to the xenophobes. UKIP votes aren’t worth chasing and the sooner Labour realises that, the better.
It was patronising for Corbyn to claim “Only Labour can be trusted to unlock the talent of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people”. This is a repeated problem within Labour. Language does matter and when they fumble over proving they’re committed to equality, it raises serious questions about whether they truly understand the issues of racism and queerphobia in society.
Implying being queer is a choice.
The worst element of this story was that it was at an LGBT History Month event. Those events don’t spring out of nowhere. This speech would have been checked and still nobody on Corbyn’s team thought it might land them in trouble. A slip of the tongue or poor wording in one instance is understandable, but when blunders keep coming it grows tiresome and fosters distrust. Corbyn has been a strong advocate of queer rights and he’s pushing for trans progress which should be welcomed. The concern isn’t that he’s queerphobic at all, but whether Labour as a party understands what queer people face and need from their Government.
Floating the idea of a same-sex marriage referendum in Northern Ireland.
Allocishet people really just don’t get it. It can be traumatic to have your rights up for debate. It puts a huge spotlight on marginalised communities and with no guarantee at all of a progressive victory. This is a horrible idea. Either support equal marriage or don’t, but stop toying with the queer community.
Corbyn and Trump
Corbyn has been strong against Trump, and far more resolute in his disgust than Theresa May has been. However, when Trump first won, within hours Corbyn said it was a victory for those against the establishment. This was an absolute falsehood. Rich Americans overwhelmingly supported Trump and there were serious questions already back then over Russia and the role of the FBI. Corbyn’s instincts to use the victory of a misogynist (among other things) to claim there was a move against the establishment was false. But what kind of Labour victory do they want? A populist one? A representative one? A win with former UKIP voters fleeing to Labour or a win without the far right support where marginalised people can come together?
He is an issue, no matter how much Labour try to distance themselves from him – and he is an issue for that very reason. Livingstone isn’t now his own story. Any association at all with Labour raises scrutiny about where Labour stand on anti-Semitism. Labour should have just kicked him out, shown they were resolute and killed the story. Instead, it has dragged on and on due to renewing his suspension. When his time is up again, then it’ll be another news cycle about Livingstone. Labour have held two inquiries now into anti-Semitism in the party but this hasn’t yielded substantial change, and repeated inquiries just mean the Jewish community has a bigger spotlight on them so that they are exposed to hate. Labour should have shown conviction, political loyalties aside. As long as there are questions about Labour and anti-Semitism, people are going to feel at risk of being unsafe in the community. Corbyn himself has done nothing wrong, but he’s also not shown strong leadership to firmly show that hatred of any kind within the party will not be tolerated. If the Labour purge taught us anything (even if it was working against Corbyn) it’s that Labour can remove party membership with surprising ease.
Labour are the best of the three main parties on equality. That is clear. Corbyn by far and away understands the class system better than most of his peers. Class alone though isn’t the only systematic force at play in the UK, and while Labour are still strong on matters of equality (and certainly compared to their competition) they need to push to do better.
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