Lord Pearson resigns from Ukip leadership

The peer says he is “not much good” at party politics, as Nigel Farage refuses to rule out running a

Lord Pearson of Rannoch, who defected from the Conservatives in 2007, is to step down from leadership of the UK Independence Party after less than a year in the job.

In his resignation statement, Pearson said that he was "not much good" at party politics and that Ukip "deserved a better politician . . . to lead it".

Few would argue with that, after a generally poor election campaign. Pearson's credibility was damaged particularly badly in a disastrous interview with Jon Sopel, in which he appeared to be unfamiliar with his own manifesto:

 

 

 

The 68-year-old was elected to the position after the previous leader Nigel Farage stepped down to focus on contesting the Speaker John Bercow's Buckingham seat at the general election.

Farage, who suffered severe injuries in a plane crash on polling day, did not rule out throwing his hat back into the ring. Speaking on the Today programme, he said:

I'm not going to say I'm absolutely not going to do the job again, but I've got to decide in the wake of that accident whether I'm strong enough to take the job on.

The other problem is I'm still leading a group in the European Parliament in Brussels, can I do that and lead a party in the UK?

In an overlooked aspect to this story, Pearson has given some indication of what he will do next: he wants to spend more time with his dogs and family, and focus on his "wider interests". This rather random list of interests includes -- wait for it -- "the treatment of people with intellectual impairment, teacher training, the threat from Islamism and the relationship between good and evil".

Pearson's preoccupation with Islam has been well documented (click here for more details of his unpleasant rants on the subject). But intellectual impairment? Treatment?! I, for one, eagerly look forward to seeing how Pearson pursues these goals.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Owen Smith is naïve if he thinks misogynist abuse in Labour started with Jeremy Corbyn

“We didn’t have this sort of abuse before Jeremy Corbyn became the leader.”

Owen Smith, the MP challenging Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership contest, has told BBC News that the party’s nastier side is a result of its leader.

He said:

“I think Jeremy should take a little more responsibility for what’s going on in the Labour party. After all, we didn’t have this sort of abuse and intolerance, misogyny, antisemitism in the Labour party before Jeremy Corbyn became the leader.

“It’s now become something that is being talked about on television, on radio, and in newspapers. And Angela is right, it has been effectively licenced within the last nine months.

“We’re the Labour party. We’ve got to be about fairness, and tolerance, and equality. It’s in our DNA. So for us to be reduced to this infighting is awful. Now, I understand why people feel passionately about the future of our party – I feel passionately about that. I feel we’re in danger of splitting and being destroyed.

“But we can’t tolerate it. And it isn’t good enough for Jeremy simply to say he has threats too. Well, I’ve had death threats, I’ve had threats too, but I’m telling him, it’s got to be stamped out. We’ve got to have zero tolerance of this in the Labour party.”

While Smith’s conclusion is correct, his analysis is worryingly wrong.

Whether it is out of incompetence or an unwillingness to see the extent of the situation, Corbyn has done very little to stamp out abuse in his party, which has thus been allowed to escalate. It is fair enough of Smith to criticise him for his failure to stem the flow and punish the perpetrators.

It is also reasonable to condemn Corbyn's inability to stop allies like Chancellor John McDonnell and Unite leader Len McCluskey using violent language (“lynch mob”, “fucking useless”, etc) about their opponents, which feeds into the aggressive atmosphere. Though, as I’ve written before, Labour politicians on all sides have a duty to watch their words.

But it’s when we see how Smith came to the point of urging Corbyn to take more responsibility that we should worry. Smith confidently argues that there wasn’t “this sort of abuse and intolerance, misogyny, antisemitism” in the party before Corbyn was voted in. (I assume when he says “this sort”, he means online, death threats, letters, and abuse at protests. The sort that has been high-profile recently).

This is naïve. Anyone involved in Labour politics – or anything close to it – for longer than Corbyn’s leadership could tell Smith that misogyny and antisemitism have been around for a pretty long time. Perhaps because Smith isn’t the prime target, he hasn’t been paying close enough attention. Sexism wasn’t just invented nine months ago, and we shouldn’t let the belief set in that it did – then it simply becomes a useful tool for Corbyn’s detractors to bash him with, rather than a longstanding, structural problem to solve.

Smith's lament that “it’s now become something that is being talked about” is also jarring. Isnt it a good thing that such abuse is now being called out so publicly, and closely scrutinised by the media?

In my eyes, this is a bit like the argument that Corbyn has lost Labour’s heartlands. No, he hasn’t. They have been slowly slipping away for years – and we all noticed when Labour took a beating in the last general election (way before Corbyn had anything to do with the Labour leadership). As with the abuse, Corbyn hasn’t done much to address this, and his inaction has therefore exacerbated it. But if we tell ourselves that it started with him, then we’re grasping for a very, very simple solution (remove Corbyn = automatic win in the North, and immediate erasure of misogyny and antisemitism) to a problem we have catastrophically failed to analyse.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.