The BBC's Labour prism?

Glasgow East, Tory cycling and Moses Obama on tour

The Nats are biting

The Scottish Government faced the British Government and won - when the SNP candidate, John Mason, emerged victorious in the Glasgow East by-election, early in the hours of Friday morning. But while nationalists got some hard-earned sleep, Not a Sheep complained bitterly that the BBC’s coverage of the by-election was seen “through a Labour prism”.

Seeing it through a Labour prism, On Liberty Now asked:

“Is it now time for Gordon Brown to call a general election, lose, have the Tories get tainted with the economic downturn and then David Milliband can walk into Downing Street in 2013?”

As dawn broke over Glasgow, Tartan Hero was off to the victory photo-call…

Serbs him right

The arrest of Bosnian Serb sociopath Radovan Karadzic, who had been posing as a cross between Rowan Williams and Gillian McKeith, has brought a sliver of light into our dark world.

Harry’s Place carried an interesting profile of the man, by former New York Times Balkans reporter, Daniel Simpson. He touched upon some of the circumstances that allowed the former Republika Srpska president to lie low for some 13 years:

“The weather-beaten folk he went to ground amongst had been reared on tales of centuries of relentless oppression. Even if they loathed the man they loved his cause: the avenging of bygone misfortunes, by wanton aggression if needs be.”

While Sarajevo celebrated, Euro-collaborative blog Kosmopolit wondered what the future held for Serbia. Setting out a ‘to do’ list for its pro-western government, the blog pointed to progress in the Stabilisation and Association Process, recognition of Kosovo, acquisition of status as a an EU candidate state - and the arrest of Karadzic’s charming former associate Ratko Mladic, as well as the ex-president of the breakaway Republic of Serbian Krajina, Goran Hadzic.

A blog entitled Finding Karadzic had been tracking news coverage of the hunt for Karadzic online the past four years, and reflected:

“The world is a better place today than it was yesterday. Those of us interested in international criminal justice sometimes grow weary at the unfairness and impunity that are often the end results of the worst misconduct in the world by some of the worst people in the world.”

The blog also helpfully provided a link to PSY Help Energy - Karadzic’s Uri Gelleresque cashcow of a site flogging daft notions to credulous Belgraders.

Fascinatingly, TechCrunchIT touched on the role that the web may have played in Karadzic’s capture, speculating that: “a technology trail was traced either through a cell phone or an IP address,” and wondered whether an online email account had given the big-haired bastard away.

What have we learned this Week?

Cycling is a hot-button issue. Ed Vaizey opined that cycling was a conservative mode of transport (“utter bollocks” according to liberal Wit and Wisdom) while some unhuggable hoodie nicked Dave Cameron’s cycle from outside Tesco.

Strolling through Westminster on Thursday morning, a straw-mopped cyclist flashed recklessly past me. The workmen digging up the road cheerfully cried “hello Boris!” – but the demon blond cyclist might just as easily have been newstatesman.com’s peddle-driven editor.

Across the Pond

Moses Obama took his mighty staff on a tour of the Holy Land before addressing a million backpack-wearing Germans, while back on the home front McCain was whinging about the media. Fred Stopsky advised him to can it and quit while he’s ahead.

Videos of the Week

To celebrate the absolute and final conclusion of the wearisome Thatcher state funeral debate (“only if she’s still alive!” “Only if it’s subject to compulsory competitive tendering!” “Only if I can wear my Red Wedge t-shirt!”) – here’s a round-up of the best pop videos which are lyrically disrespectful to Thatch.

Elvis Costello was keen to Tramp the Dirt Down, while the Beat similarly demanded that she Stand Down. Angelic Upstarts shouted for an answer, The Style Council shouted to the top, and said ”thank you Maggie Thatcher”, (but very sarcastically), while Tears for Fears damned that “politician granny with her high ideals” and the Specials got ”left on the shelf”.

Quote of the Week

“Was there Kool Aid in the water which created this monster? No there was a cultural meme, a blindfold if you will, which occluded not only his sight but that of the greater Butcher of Belgrade, Milosevic.”

Canadian Catholic blogger, Theology in the Vineyard.

Paul Evans is a freelance journalist, and formerly worked for an MP. He lives in London, but maintains his Somerset roots by drinking cider.
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Labour is a pioneer in fighting sexism. That doesn't mean there's no sexism in Labour

While we campaign against misogyny, we must not fall into the trap of thinking Labour is above it; doing so lets women members down and puts the party in danger of not taking them seriously when they report incidents. 

I’m in the Labour party to fight for equality. I cheered when Labour announced that one of its three Budget tests was ensuring the burden of cuts didn’t fall on women. I celebrated the party’s record of winning rights for women on International Women’s Day. And I marched with Labour women to end male violence against women and girls.

I’m proud of the work we’re doing for women across the country. But, as the Labour party fights for me to feel safer in society, I still feel unsafe in the Labour party.

These problems are not unique to the Labour party; misogyny is everywhere in politics. You just have to look on Twitter to see women MPs – and any woman who speaks out – receiving rape and death threats. Women at political events are subject to threatening behaviour and sexual harassment. Sexism and violence against women at its heart is about power and control. And, as we all know, nowhere is power more highly-prized and sought-after than in politics.

While we campaign against misogyny, we must not fall into the trap of thinking Labour is above it; doing so lets women members down and puts the party in danger of not taking them seriously when they report incidents. 

The House of Commons’ women and equalities committee recently stated that political parties should have robust procedures in place to prevent intimidation, bullying or sexual harassment. The committee looked at this thanks to the work of Gavin Shuker, who has helped in taking up this issue since we first started highlighting it. Labour should follow this advice, put its values into action and change its structures and culture if we are to make our party safe for women.

We need thorough and enforced codes of conduct: online, offline and at all levels of the party, from branches to the parliamentary Labour party. These should be made clear to everyone upon joining, include reminders at the start of meetings and be up in every campaign office in the country.

Too many members – particularly new and young members – say they don’t know how to report incidents or what will happen if they do. This information should be given to all members, made easily available on the website and circulated to all local parties.

Too many people – including MPs and local party leaders – still say they wouldn’t know what to do if a local member told them they had been sexually harassed. All staff members and people in positions of responsibility should be given training, so they can support members and feel comfortable responding to issues.

Having a third party organisation or individual to deal with complaints of this nature would be a huge help too. Their contact details should be easy to find on the website. This organisation should, crucially, be independent of influence from elsewhere in the party. This would allow them to perform their role without political pressures or bias. We need a system that gives members confidence that they will be treated fairly, not one where members are worried about reporting incidents because the man in question holds power, has certain political allies or is a friend or colleague of the person you are supposed to complain to.

Giving this third party the resources and access they need to identify issues within our party and recommend further changes to the NEC would help to begin a continuous process of improving both our structures and culture.

Labour should champion a more open culture, where people feel able to report incidents and don't have to worry about ruining their career or facing political repercussions if they do so. Problems should not be brushed under the carpet. It takes bravery to admit your faults. But, until these problems are faced head-on, they will not go away.

Being the party of equality does not mean Labour is immune to misogyny and sexual harassment, but it does mean it should lead the way on tackling it.

Now is the time for Labour to practice what it preaches and prove it is serious about women’s equality.

Bex Bailey was on Labour’s national executive committee from 2014 to 2016.