ANYBODY remember that Labour Party conference in Brighton at the end of 2017? You know, the one where BBC reporter Laura Kuenssberg needed a bodyguard, so concerned was her employer for her safety after she had received online threats and abuse by Jeremy Corbyn supporters?
Those who think Labour has found its way back, as they would see it, to being the party that is the natural home for nice people – caring, sharing, gentle and civilised people who just want a better world for everyone – need look no further than the Left-wing former television reporter Paul Mason. His appearance on Politics Live yesterday tells us pretty much all we need to know about his flint-eyed, cold, smug, superior and sneering indifference to people who don’t line up with him as an `actual Marxist’.
There was never going to be much seeing eye to eye with the businesswoman Michelle Dewberry. But it was when she tried to speak about the bullying and unpleasantness of the Momentum Left-wingers in Hull, which she had experienced when standing in the 2017 General Election as an independent pro-Brexit candidate, that Mason showed the true colours of himself and his political ilk on the Left. Barely looking at her, there was not even minimal concern for any abuse she might have endured. Just gruffly dismissive words along the lines of `show me the evidence’ and `well, talk to the police’. He’s the sort of bloke you can imagine shoving her aside and saying `Not interested. Next.’ Dewberry responded that the police had indeed been involved and was Mason calling her a liar? Presenter Jo Coburn was relieved by the look of it to be able to cut to a segment with a punk duo who then availed viewers of their own political insights, but it was a few minutes later when we were back in the studio that we learned that things had become angry and heated off camera.
Dewberry jumped in live and announced – as regards the tone and divisiveness of the current situation – if only viewers could have seen what had just happened at the panel and what she’d had to put up with from Mason. Dewberry said Mason had been rude and bullying and asked him to say what he had said to her. He wasn’t going to do that now that the cameras were rolling. She may have asked him to apologise. He wasn’t going to do that either. Things started to heat up even more. Mason looked down, pointedly not denying that he had said things to Dewberry that he wouldn’t have wanted viewers to hear.
Nobody else on the panel came to his defence either. JoCo looked alarmed. Nicola Bartlett, a Daily Mirror journalist, looked embarrassed and miserable to be sitting next to an individual such as Mason. It may have been around the time that Lord Finkelstein was saying something about the need to engage in a civilised way with each other that the thuggish and by now fidgeting Mason could barely suppress his chilly smirk. For which someone, Dewberry herself I think, called him out. Dewberry’s a self-made success story from a working-class background and the fact that she is articulate and coherent only fuels the contempt of self-regarding radicals like Mason.
As if Labour hadn’t got enough on its plate at the moment as regards nastiness. As if Lord Falconer weren’t right now trying to get his head around tackling the existential threat that anti-Semitism is posing the party. It reminds us of that other near coming-to-blows moment on Politics Live on Friday, when writer Will Self loftily and omnisciently claimed that all racists and anti-Semites had voted Leave. Yes, we get it that that is not the same as saying everybody that voted Leave is a racist or anti-Semite (though Self has sniffed haughtily about something he referred to as `ethnic nationalism’), but there was intention to smear by association, as the writer knew very well. As with Dewberry though, Brexiteer MP Mark Francois was more than a match.
So here’s one for Will Self (whom one can only hope goes in for initiating no more pathetically childish, playground stare-downs) and the puffed up and belligerent Paul Mason. Not all people on the Left are unpleasant, intimidating, bullying, arrogant and posing as perpetually morally superior. But those that are and do are always on the Left. There’s a Venn diagram for that one too.