Theresa May could teach Jeremy Corbyn a thing or two about standing up against racism
It would be an understatement to say it has been an eventful year for the Prime Minister. From the barnstorming party conference speeches last autumn and double digit poll leads this spring to a crushing election that saw her lose her majority.
She’d have been forgiven for wanting to call it quits on the morning of 9th June. Maybe she did.
The tasks facing the PM have continued to pile up. On Monday, Conservative MP Anne Marie Morris was recorded using a deeply racist figure of speech.
But Theresa May was quick to act: within 3 hours of the news breaking, Morris had already been suspended from the Conservative Party and condemned by the Prime Minister.
The message from May is clear – racism of any kind will not be tolerated. While Morris did not mean to cause offence using the dated expression as a figure of speech, the simple fact remains that in the Conservative Party at least, you cannot go around repeating racist phrases from a bygone era. A three month suspension is appropriate for a first offence of this nature.
Despite being weakened by the election, May’s swift action on this latest row demonstrates not only a reassertion of her authority, but that the Conservative modernisation project is still alive and kicking.
The push to modernise the Party began with people like Francis Maude after 1997 and was first implemented when David Cameron became leader in 2005. I can personally attest to how far we have come in the past 25 years. Racism, xenophobia, and misogyny were endemic in the Parliamentary Party when I first became an MP in 1992. Coming from a cosmopolitan town like Brighton, I was shocked by it. But how things have changed! I was happy to be branded by the Mail on Sunday recently as a ?Metrosexual?. Whatever THAT is.
In her first year as Prime Minister, May stood up for LGBT rights, took a hard stance on racism and has spoken out about the need to tackle the "burning injustice" of racism and inequality in modern Britain.
The contrast with Jeremy Corbyn could not be more stark. While May has acted to snuff out any hint of racism within the Conservative Party, Corbyn presides over a Labour Party which is becoming increasingly racist and intolerant.
Things got so bad during the General Election, Simon Hart MP is today [12th July] initiating a debate in Parliament on thuggishness during the general election. He says ?During the recent election many of us witnessed numerous acts of vandalism, abuse, intimidation and general thuggish behaviour – especially online.? He is right.
The details of rows which have engulfed Labour since Corbyn became leader would be enough to fill a library.
In April of 2016, anti-Semitic Facebook posts by Naz Shah emerged from before her election as an MP. It took a further day before she was suspended from the Labour Party, and only then after Corbyn was challenged on the matter at Prime Minister?s Questions.
In perhaps the most infamous incident, Corbyn ally Ken Livingstone was publicly confronted by Labour MP John Mann after claiming that "Hitler was a Zionist". After making the initial comments while defending the suspended Naz Shah, Livingstone refused to retract them and, indeed, made them again on a number of occasions. Although he was suspended from Labour quickly (before being suspended for a further year in 2017), Corbyn recently refused to contest the decision to suspend rather than expel Livingstone.
In June 2016, Corbyn was speaking at an anti-Semitism event when fellow Labour MP Ruth Smeeth was the target of vile anti-Semitic abuse from a Momentum activist. Corbyn watched on impassively as Smeeth left the room in tears.
He said nothing, he did not intervene.
I doubt whether Corbyn himself is an anti-Semite despite having ?friends? in Hamas and Hezbollah. After all, in the past he also embraced the IRA. However, he is slow to condemn such views when they are expressed by members of his own party. For a long while, he refused point blank to even admit the problem of anti-Semitism, instead spewing out vague condemnations of "all forms of racism".
Political party leaders ought to lead by example. Acting quickly against racism sends a clear message that it is unacceptable. Turning a blind eye to it as Corbyn often does sends the signal that racism is ok if you can get away with it. This "see no evil, hear no evil" approach to anti-Semitism must end.
The irony is that it was the PM herself who branded the Conservatives as the "nasty party" in a conference speech in 2002. How things have changed since then.
Not only are Labour regularly embroiled in anti-Semitic rows, but there have also been numerous instances of their own supporters abusing moderate Labour MPs, the most recent victims being Luciana Berger (who also happens to be Jewish) and Yvette Cooper.
Corbyn’s Labour supporters are nasty.
Corbyn?s Labour are now the nastiest party.
As Theresa May regains her authority, Jeremy Corbyn could learn a thing or two from her about leadership. In 2015 he promised a "kinder, gentler politics". Now it is time for him to finally deliver on that promise.