IT IS tempting to think of mainstream British politics as being like a see-saw, implying a balance of views on either side. This would also demonstrate that the further away from the centre, the greater force that can be exerted. The problem is that this analogy implies that the beam that sits astride the pivot is even on both sides. It is clearly not.
The left side of the beam in this model is provably longer. It is possible to sit further to the left in mainstream politics than the right without falling off the end. There are historic reasons for this but they all seem to boil down to the fact that while the death camps of Belsen, Buchenwald, Dachau and the rest were all liberated by Western forces, the gulags never were. The Stalin era in Russian history has never had the same detail of scrutiny as Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. Had there been, the entirety of the Soviet Politburo would have been obliged to answer at an international tribunal for their crimes against humanity. The posture of Western diplomatic and military policy for the 40 years between the fall of Hitler and the rise of Gorbachev was based on the fact that the people running the USSR were, by any reasonable standard, the godfathers in a massive criminal enterprise based on murder and torture. While some might interpret my analysis as a call to extend the right side of the beam into a region of darker opinions to provide balance, it is in fact an argument to chop off the left to achieve the same outcome.
Which all brings me to Lloyd Russell-Moyle, the MP for Brighton Kemptown since 2017. Russell-Moyle is an unashamed Corbynist, but his too-recent arrival in the Commons might have been the reason why he was not selected to serve as a shadow minister under St Jeremy. This changed in January when Corbyn found he no longer had a Shadow Minister for East Asia, Pacific, Americas and the Overseas Territories after Helen Goodman lost her Bishop Auckland seat to the Conservatives. Russell-Moyle’s despatch box privileges were not rescinded by the Right Honourable Sir Keir Starmer KCB QC, who moved him to be Shadow Minister for Natural Environment and Air Quality. It has since emerged that Russell-Moyle has a very specific view about what the natural environment should be in his constituency. He is on record as stating that it is ‘not Tory-free enough for my liking. We’ve still got a few more to rout [sic] out but because of your [Labour activists’] fantastic door-knocking, we know where they live‘. He explained his reasoning for apparently regarding door-to-door political canvassing as an exercise in compiling deportation lists saying, ‘I do not think it is an exaggeration when we say the Conservatives have conspired to murder and let die British citizens. That is what they have done and that is what they will continue to do.’
There have been calls for Sir Keir to sack this immature 33-year-old. But this will not happen to the man who called for a Kristallnacht of Conservative voters, of whom 16,972 threatened souls still live in his constituency. For one thing, we are absolutely certain that Labour rules forbidding bringing the party into disrepute are subject to quite loose and inconsistent interpretation. Had Russell-Moyle been talking about his Muslim constituents, he would have been instantaneously ejected from the party. If the targets of his ire were Jewish, he would merely have been suspended until the headlines subsided and then quietly readmitted, as happened to Naz Shah. But since the people whom he wishes to root out, and whose names, addresses and voting intentions stored on a Labour Party list are Conservative voters, Russell-Moyle is welcomed with open arms by a party that, despite changes of leadership, is still dominated by the Corbyn-supporting Momentum and the Unite trades union.
Russell-Moyle is not the first person in his position of being found to have said something disgraceful before he was elevated to shadow a minister. But there seems to be a trend in the Labour leadership, where utterances as a backbencher or activist are forgotten and it is only those made during incumbency that are considered. Diane Abbott was no stranger to controversy, but this did not stop her becoming Shadow Minister for Public Health under Ed Miliband after being ignored on the back benches for 23 years by Neil Kinnock, John Smith, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown for some reason or other. Her most unpalatable comment was when she tweeted ‘White people love playing “divide & rule” We should not play their game #tacticasoldascolonialism’ as part of an online spat. After giving her a dressing-down over the telephone in the middle of a TV interview, it took Miliband a further 18 months to sack her as part of a limited reshuffle. This might have been because of the talent shortage he faced when considering a replacement or that he would look weak if he bowed to media pressure. It is interesting, however, to compare Miliband’s delay, or dithering if you prefer, with his response to Emily Thornberry’s tweet poking fun at the English flag on the day of the 2014 Rochester by-election. Thornberry was gone before the day was out.
What does seem to happen in Labour is that putative members of the opposition team are absolved of past rhetorical sins as they are accepted into the shadow ministry, as if they have assembled on the riverbank in robes and are lowered into cleansing waters by Sir Keir, rising out of them as born-again socialists. They may sin again and be absolved, but the degree or frequency of sin may eventually take its toll. This is, however, an improvement on the cesspit that Corbyn used for inductions into his fetid cabal.
Russell-Moyle has been immersed at the hands of Sir Keir and has emerged fresh and clean into the political world. It remains to be seen how quickly he will dirty himself up again and whether he would still be forgiven.