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October 29, 2003



There's a joke at the end of this post, but it eludes me. Mr. Kamm misspells "funny." Why? I'm American, so if I'm missing a play-on-words obvious to a Briton, please forgive the simple colonist.

Phil Rodgers

Mr Kamm is remarking on the fact that Mr Black is an Education spokesman, but has not been enslaved by conformity in his spelling of "humourous".


I thought that might be it. Thank you.

john b

In real life, Mr Galloway was expelled for
1) inciting Arabs to fight British troops
2) inciting British troops to defy orders
3) threatening to stand against Labour
4) backing an anti-war candidate in Preston

If Mr Galloway should've been sacked for any or all of offences 1-4 above, then his departure is reasonable. If 1-4 above aren't sacking offences, then departure is unreasonable.

Punishing people for particular offences they didn't do on the grounds that they're villains in general doesn't seem like a good way to run a society (the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad might disagree with me here.

Should anyone believe that 1-4 aren't sacking offences, but that Mr Galloway deserved to be sacked for supporting Stalinist tyranny, then they ought to be protesting against his sacking - while also campaigning for supporting totalitarianism to be made a sacking offence.

Phil Rodgers

The offences you list were held to be infractions of a Labour Party rule which prohibits "bringing the Labour Party into disrepute by behaviour that is prejudicial or grossly detrimental to the party".

Do you believe that supporting Stalinist tyranny is compatible with this rule?

john b

That would be a question for the Labour party, not me. I'm led to believe Mr Galloway isn't the only supporter of/apologist for Stalinist tyranny within Labour's ranks - although I may be being unfair.

Why didn't the panel judging him include his support for Stalinist tyranny in the list?

Howard Shaw

Hari said:
"He should have been expelled because he is a defender of Joseph Stalin (like his friend Saddam)"

Note use of the word "should". In other words, he wasn't expelled for that & that is the reason for the post's criticism of the Labour Party.

john b


Johann Hari's post on Harry Hatchet's blog was critical of the Labour party. Oliver's post here wasn't. I felt Oliver's post skated over some serious questions that should be asked about the Labour party (of which, unless I'm horribly wrong, Oliver is a supporter) - in that they've kicked the right person out for what Oliver holds to be entirely the wrong reasons.

This implies both that Labour's disciplinary procedures are flawed, and that the party doesn't view support for totalitarian dictatorship as a dismissable offence. Which, for anyone who still has faith in Labour, might be considered a topic more worthy of investigation than yet another round of minor-Lib-Dem-bashing...

Squander Two

Yeah, I think Oliver's got it badly wrong this time. Peter Black's an idiot to defend Galloway, but that desn't make him wrong to attack Labour on this issue. The Labour Party does indeed count plenty of Communists among its members, and doesn't chuck them out. And that's not why they've chucked Galloway out. Two of the charges relate to defying the Labour Party and two relate to defying the Labour Government. Hence, accusations of control freakery and of punishing dissent are entirely reasonable.

Besides, didn't Stalin chuck people out of his party? Weren't some of them Stalinists? Does that make it stupid to call Stalin a Stalinist?


To say that you miss the Soviet Union is not the same as defending Stalin. I don't deny that it's strange and counter-intuitive to defend a clapped out and discredited political system. But there is a world of difference between the USSR of Stalin and of Gorbachev - even to the extent of saying that they were different countries (pace Oliver). It is not clear from Mr. Galloway's interview which leader he sympathises with more.

I do know one famous defender of Stalin, and he's quite open about it - Arthur Scargill - who still attends annual meetings and soirees in honour of Uncle Joe.

We're on considerably safer ground to say that Galloway's sympathy with the Iraqi regime was a foul state of affairs. But, oh bugger, what should we make of the other friend's of despots in the Labour Party, there are plenty to choose from? Does anyone remember the John Simpson anecdote about Ceacescu having a fountain pen "from the British Labour Party 1983" tucked in his bedroom drawers?

Interesting piece in Private Eye about the Galloway proceedings, pointing out that the Labour NEC sent out letters detailing Galloway's expulsion so quickly that they must have been written and prepared before the final decision was taken - sounds pretty Stalinist to me.

And to reinforce a point already well-made, if the Labour party was to follow Oliver and Hari's example and excommunicate any commie sympathisers then the Labour Party would have a considerably reduced membership and quite a few less MPs.

Jackie D

"Interesting piece in Private Eye about the Galloway proceedings, pointing out that the Labour NEC sent out letters detailing Galloway's expulsion so quickly that they must have been written and prepared before the final decision was taken - sounds pretty Stalinist to me."

"Stalinist"? Really? Interesting.

I would call it being prepared, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that there were letters drafted for each possible outcome before the final decision was reached. In fact, I'd be more surprised to learn that there weren't.

Oliver Kamm

John b is, on his own admission, horribly wrong. I stand on the moderate Left and admire Tony Blair, but I have never described myself on this blog as a supporter of any political party. As well as imagining something that isn't there, John has overlooked something that is: the implicit criticism of Labour in my rhetorical question, "What took a democratic party so long to expel a man who declares himself to be a supporter of murderous tyranny?" All the grounds cited by Labour for Galloway's expulsion are right, there merely happens to be a still more fundamental objection to Galloway's membership of a democratic party, and that is that he is a declared supporter of tyranny. While Peter Black is indeed a minor Lib Dem and clearly not a very bright one, he is no less deserving a target for remarks such as those I have quoted.

john b

Apologies, Oliver... I jumped to unjustified conclusions based on the Blair-admiration, moderate leftism, and anti-Lib-Dem-ery. I'll try and avoid making similar mistakes in future.

Squander Two

Hmm. Oliver, you have described yourself as a supporter of the Labour Party before.

http://oliverkamm.blogspot.com/2003_07_13_oliverkamm_archive.html :

"To describe Labour's 1983 general election manifesto, on which I canvassed for the party, as disgraceful ..."

This, admittedly, doesn't state that you're a current supporter of the party, but, since the subject of the post is how bloody awful Foot was, and since you have posted on quite a few occasions about your belief that Labour is far better under Blair than it was under Foot, it's not exactly ridiculous to infer that you support them now. I think it's unfair of you to class this as "imagining something that isn't there". You canvassed for them under the man you think was one of their worst leaders ever; now they have a leader you think is one of their best ever. That you don't now support them is hardly obvious.

John's right. You have repeatedly posted on your blog about your support for most of New Labour's policies and principles, and, when you criticise Labour, it's usually Old Labour. Frankly, if you genuinely didn't suspect that your posts might imply to people that you support New Labour, then you were being naive. And, if you didn't want anyone to get the impression that you support New Labour, perhaps you should have mentioned it.

Oliver Kamm

Squander Two - This is what I wrote in my post entitled 'The Liberal Democrats: A Balanced Assessment', on 9 September:

"I allowed my membership of the Labour Party to lapse in the late 1980s when I was living in the Lambeth borough of South London, home of a famously incompetent and doctrinaire Labour local administration: I had grown weary of always being shouted down at Labour Party meetings. Though I welcomed Labour's return to sanity in the 1990s and have recently strongly supported the Government's position on Iraq ('foreign policy with an ethical dimension', as someone once said), I have never felt minded or sufficiently engaged to rejoin the Labour Party. I thus position myself merely as 'liberal Left'."

I don't find it in the least offensive to be called a New Labour supporter, but it's not strictly true - any more than my support for the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland makes me an Ulster Unionist, or my sympathetic remarks about Michael Portillo (whose political ideas since 1997 I find thoughtful) make me a covert Tory moderniser. (I've also referred to my service to the former Independent MP Martin Bell, who is by definition not a supporter of any political party.) I try to say things as I see them rather than declare a party affiliation (I have none). Your claim that I "have repeatedly posted on [my] blog about [my] support for most of New Labour's policies and principles" is not something I'm aware of having said; in fact I'm highly critical of some important aspects of New Labour (e.g. the fascination with ephemeral popular culture while dismissing the value of mediaeval history - a philistinism that is entirely inconsistent with the promotion of educational excellence - and the abandonment of a tight control on public spending). I voted Labour at the last election and will do so again at the next, but the only electoral course I recall having advocated on this blog is tactical voting to defeat the Liberal Democrats (and in the US support for President Bush).

Squander Two

In my opinion, voting Labour constitutes supporting them, and I'm sure the candidates who receive your votes would agree. But my point wasn't really that you support Labour. Let me put it this way. I am, broadly speaking, right-wing, but I have never yet supported the Tories, whom I generally can't stand. In Britain, most people assume that "right-wing" and "Tory" are synonyms. Therefore, whenever I tell people that I'm right-wing, I usually also tell them that I'm not a Tory, just to keep things clear. And I know from experience that it's one of those things that has to be repeated often for people to get the message. If I didn't keep telling them otherwise, I know that people would assume I was a Tory. It may be unfair or ill-informed of them to make that association, but it's not unexpected, and it's easily avoided. (The many American left-wingers who have ceased to support the Democrats are in a similar position.)

Anyway, I'm off to a particularly fine restaurant. Bye for now.

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