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The Labour Party and its many media allies have spent much of the past week in a state of prune-faced hypocrisy, denouncing The Mail on Sunday for accurately reporting what Angela Rayner had in fact openly said to fellow MPs.
It is easy to understand why Ms Rayner, the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, might want to divert attention from her own behaviour. The party she helps to lead is constantly pulling long, disapproving faces about actions and words which used to be regarded as harmless but must now be pursued with fury and, if possible, prosecuted as thought crimes.
Hardly a week goes by without demands from the Left-wing establishment that somebody should be sacked or cancelled for such an offence.
The Labour Party and its many media allies have spent much of the past week in a state of prune-faced hypocrisy, denouncing The Mail on Sunday for accurately reporting what Angela Rayner had in fact openly said to fellow MPs
Of course some of the things which are exposed and attacked are truly wicked and need to be acted against. But not all of them are, as we see, and these purse-lipped moralists are themselves no better than they ought to be.
Labour greets such events like a Victorian maiden lady glimpsing an unclothed table leg, shrieking for her smelling salts, even though it must know that plenty of its own supporters, perhaps even some members of its upper echelons, are often guilty of saying such things. Indeed, modern Left-wing ‘alternative’ comedy (to which there is in fact very little alternative) is packed with such material.
As we know from Sir Keir Starmer’s contortions over his lockdown beer break in Durham, Labour does not think the rules in general apply to itself. After weeks of yelling about Partygate, Sir Keir crossly tries to pretend that there is no parallel between it and his own behaviour. As we know from the party’s reluctant and long-delayed admission that Ms Rayner was present at this event (how can they not have known?), Labour’s machine puts truth a poor second after its propaganda needs.
It was fascinating to see that what Ms Rayner no doubt regarded as amusing conversation was suddenly converted into evil and unforgivable ‘misogyny’ when it was accurately described by others and reported equally accurately in this newspaper.
Glen Owen, The Mail on Sunday’s Political Editor and author of the story at the centre of the row, puts it neatly in his account of these events today.
He says: ‘Ms Rayner was professing herself outraged by something she had laughed about before – and had herself helped to propagate.’
As we know from Sir Keir Starmer’s contortions over his lockdown beer break in Durham, Labour does not think the rules in general apply to itself
Any decent person will be shocked at the vicious and obscene tone of the Twitter abuse of Mr Owen which followed. The episode will, in the long run, turn out to be embarrassing for Ms Rayner and all those who joined the electronic lynch mob. Yet they have still to climb down properly, let alone express true regret for their behaviour.
Meanwhile, the basic point remains: The Mail on Sunday was attacked for reporting what Ms Rayner had said.
You might have thought that in the midst of the biggest foreign-policy crisis in Europe since 1945, with naked war raging in Ukraine, Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition might have had more important things to do than to make unjust attacks on this newspaper and Mr Owen.
But you would have been wrong. Since the Blair era began a quarter of a century ago, the Labour Party has been ever keener to destroy its critics through derision, spite and personal attack, while barely bothering to offer a serious political argument.
It has relied instead on crudity, abuse, evasion of true debate, and caricature. This is perhaps because it has a low opinion of its own policies and its own ability to deliver the expansive promises it never ceases to make, and never ceases to break.
It returned to power after a long and deserved exile 25 years ago claiming to be the scourge of sleaze, while rapidly turning out to be up to its chin in sleaze itself. No wonder it preferred smears to reasoned argument.
Its tone was set in a crude, childish and dishonest Election broadcast of April 21, 1997, in which speeded-up footage of a Tory conference was shown to mock Conservative leaders and supporters, and a caption told the blatant lie that a re-elected Tory government would abolish the state pension.
In any other walk of life but politics, this cruel falsehood, clearly intended to win votes by terrifying the old and lonely, would have led to censure and possibly actual prosecution. But it was forgotten in the Election victory it helped to bring about. Only later, when a Labour spin doctor remarked that the terrorist mass murders of 9/11 provided ‘a good day to bury bad news’ did the nation begin to grasp the deep cynicism of this once-idealistic movement.
The heirs of Keir Hardie and Clement Attlee, true apostles of compassion and serious reform, turned out to be less principled than a bunch of bookmakers.
This is the sorry background to events of last week. With local elections due on Thursday and with almost nothing to say about politics or the future of the nation, Keir Starmer’s strategists saw a chance to look good and to hamstring their media critics.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons on April 27
At one point even the Speaker of the Commons, the generally measured and thoughtful Sir Lindsay Hoyle, was caught up in the tsunami of hysteria. So were some Tories, in a party that has sometimes not tried very hard to distinguish itself from New Labour’s attitudes and methods.
Caroline Nokes, a Conservative MP who called for Glen Owen’s parliamentary pass to be revoked, may need to do some revoking of her own now it is clear she rushed to judgment long before she knew the facts.
This newspaper’s case was succinctly made by its Editor, David Dillon, when he wrote to Sir Lindsay declining an offered meeting, saying: ‘The Mail on Sunday deplores sexism and misogyny in all its forms. However, journalists must be free to report what they are told by MPs about conversations which take place in the House of Commons, however unpalatable some may find them.’
He said that press freedom was in danger ‘if journalists have to take instruction from officials of the House of Commons, however august they may be, on what they can report and not report’.
This is absolutely correct and rather alarming. A strong counter-attack by this newspaper and its sister the Daily Mail, plus the good sense of some others in the media and Parliament, successfully beat off the lynch mob which sought to punish us for telling the truth.
Not everybody attacked in this way has the resources or the fortitude to stand up to such assaults. Britain’s political and media classes, up to and including the Leader of the Opposition and the Speaker, are going to have to re-learn old rules such as the one that advises waiting for the facts before passing judgment, and that trial comes before verdict, and verdict before sentence.
If they do not, and if they continue to allow themselves to be stampeded by social media mobs, then freedom of speech, freedom of the press and democracy itself are in danger. It really is that serious.
Source: Daily Mail