Diana is dead - the media need to get over her

Newsweek's latest cover featuring a resurrected Diana is grubby, undignified and demeaning attempt t

It's hard to know where to begin with Newsweek's spectacularly tasteless "Diana at 50" cover, which has the People's Princess artificially aged and somewhat messily photoshopped next to a picture of Kate Middleton. Is it genius? Is it satire? Is it just a right old horlicks?

"If she were here now," is the wistful coverline plugging a feature by Tina Brown. If she were now, what would she think? Presumably, she wouldn't be thinking: "What the fuck have they done, mucking around with an old picture of me like that?" because they wouldn't have to. If she were here now, I like to think Diana would be hiding away in a bunker somewhere from the cavalcade of manky old tat being written about "DIANA AT 50", thinking: "Oh please, make it stop, make it stop. Why can't they pick on someone else for once?"

Newsweek cover

Actually, that's not fair. My hope is that if Diana were still alive, she wouldn't be as hounded nowadays as she was when she was alive. Even for those of us who don't like royalty, privilege and all it stands for, I think there was something human and kindly about her, the way in which she decontaminated subjects like AIDS or used her enormous fame to bring public notice to issues such as landmines; there was something decent and dignified about the Pestered Princess. Something much more dignified and decent than the kind of people still feasting on her legacy all these years later.

Well, you be the judge. The article is here, and there's even a page on what Diana's Facebook would be like (friends with Jo Rowling and Rafa Nadal! Messages on her wall from Sarah Ferguson and Deepak Chopra!) if she hadn't been killed in 1997.

Oh, what would she have made of Twitter and Facebook? What would she have made of blogging, one wonders? Well, we shall never know. She's dead. Why speculate? She's dead. No amount of dancing on her grave will bring her back to life or let us know the things we never found out, those tiny corners of a very public life that somehow remained private. Now it's 50... next it will be 60... and so on, and so on, until the very last essence is wrung dry.

Just as with Vanity Fair's rather unpleasant 'Imagine if John Lennon were still alive' supposed tribute article of last year, this kind of thing is a bit grubby, a bit undignified, a bit demeaning for the author as much as for the poor victim. The photo appears to be of Kate Middleton at the wedding of Sam Waley-Cohen, with the Diana-alike crudely splodged next to her. Subtle, it ain't. But then I suppose that's the whole point: create a bit of a stir, get more attention for what you're doing. It's all part of the show.

Patrolling the murkier waters of the mainstream media
Photo: Getty
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No, the battle in Momentum isn't about young against old

Jon Lansman and his allies' narrative doesn't add up, argues Rida Vaquas.

If you examined the recent coverage around Momentum, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was headed towards an acrimonious split, judging by the vitriol, paranoia and lurid accusations that have appeared online in the last couple days. You’d also be forgiven for thinking that this divide was between a Trotskyist old guard who can’t countenance new ways of working, and hip youngsters who are filled with idealism and better at memes. You might then be incredibly bemused as to how the Trotskyists Momentum was keen to deny existed over the summer have suddenly come to the brink of launching a ‘takeover bid’.

However these accounts, whatever intentions or frustrations that they are driven by, largely misrepresent the dispute within Momentum and what transpired at the now infamous National Committee meeting last Saturday.

In the first instance, ‘young people’ are by no means universally on the side of e-democracy as embodied by the MxV online platform, nor did all young people at the National Committee vote for Jon Lansman’s proposal which would make this platform the essential method of deciding Momentum policy.

Being on National Committee as the representative from Red Labour, I spoke in favour of a conference with delegates from local groups, believing this is the best way to ensure local groups are at the forefront of what we do as an organisation.

I was nineteen years old then. Unfortunately speaking and voting in favour of a delegates based conference has morphed me into a Trotskyist sectarian from the 1970s, aging me by over thirty years.

Moreover I was by no means the only young person in favour of this, Josie Runswick (LGBT+ representative) and the Scottish delegates Martyn Cook and Lauren Gilmour are all under thirty and all voted for a delegates based national conference. I say this to highlight that the caricature of an intergenerational war between the old and the new is precisely that: a caricature bearing little relation to a much more nuanced reality.

Furthermore, I believe that many people who voted for a delegates-based conference would be rather astounded to find themselves described as Trotskyists. I do not deny that there are Trotskyists on National Committee, nor do I deny that Trotskyists supported a delegates-based conference – that is an open position of theirs. What I do object is a characterisation of the 32 delegates who voted for a delegates-based conference as Trotskyists, or at best, gullible fools who’ve been taken in.  Many regional delegates were mandated by the people to whom they are accountable to support a national conference based on this democratic model, following broad and free political discussion within their regions. As thrilling as it might be to fantasise about a sinister plot driven by the shadow emperors of the hard Left against all that it is sensible and moderate in Momentum, the truth is rather more mundane. Jon Lansman and his supporters failed to convince people in local groups of the merits of his e-democracy proposal, and as a result lost the vote.

I do not think that Momentum is doomed to fail on account of the particular details of our internal structures, providing that there is democracy, accountability and grassroots participation embedded into it. I do not think Momentum is doomed to fail the moment Jon Lansman, however much respect I have for him, loses a vote. I do not even think Momentum is doomed to fail if Trotskyists are involved, or even win sometimes, if they make their case openly and convince others of their ideas in the structures available.

The existential threat that Momentum faces is none of these things, it is the propagation of a toxic and polarised political culture based on cliques and personal loyalties as opposed to genuine political discussion on how we can transform labour movement and transform society. It is a political culture in which those opposed to you in the organisation are treated as alien invaders hell-bent on destroying it, even when we’ve worked together to build it up, and we worked together before the Corbyn moment even happened. It is a political culture where members drag others through the mud, using the rhetoric of the Right that’s been used to attack all of us, on social and national media and lend their tacit support to witch hunts that saw thousands of Labour members and supporters barred from voting in the summer. It is ultimately a political culture in which our trust in each other and capacity to work together on is irreparably eroded.

We have a tremendous task facing us: to fight for a socialist alternative in a global context where far right populism is rapidly accruing victories; to fight for the Labour Party to win governmental power; to fight for a world in which working class people have the power to collectively change their lives and change the societies we live in. In short: there is an urgent need to get our act together. This will not be accomplished by sniping about ‘saboteurs’ but by debating the kind of politics we want clearly and openly, and then coming together to campaign from a grassroots level upwards.

Rida Vaquas is Red Labour Representative on Momentum National Committee.