Before we go there, a few words about the case itself. Unlike the notorious SWP rape accusations, Steve Hedley was reported to the police and his union. As this took place six months after the attack and despite ample evidence, they declined to prosecute the case because of the time elapsed. When it went before the RMT they determined he had no case to answer, under the rules of the union. None of this amounts to an exoneration. It wasn't a matter of the evidence being put to him and being found wanting and, as such, Caroline's allegations will continue to dog him. My opinion? The evidence, both material and pertaining to the incident point to only one conclusion. Sadly, it also needs stating again that women who have survived physical and/or sexual assaults incur significant personal costs in making an allegation formal. When Caroline went public the whispers ran up and down the grapevine about her mental health, rumours designed to traduce her character and render her complaint illegitimate. For trade unionists and socialists to act in such a way is unpardonable but sadly, not without precedent.
The Morning Star then. Why? I think there are a few things going on.
1. The paper generally refrains from commenting on controversial issues internal to labour movement organisations. This is not always the case. For example, during last year's row between Unite and the Labour leadership over the Falkirk debacle, the Morning Star was supportive of Len McCluskey's position. There's more to it than not washing the labour movement's linen in public. Putting trade unions under a supportive but critical microscope is bound to offend senior figures somewhere down the line who might be less than keen to renew bulk orders in future.
2. It's election season in the RMT. The union has to fill the void left by the sad, premature passing of Bob Crow. It so happens one of the candidates contesting the general secretary's position is Steve Hedley. Again, in deference to trade union diplomacy the Morning Star would unlikely publish anything that may swing the contest one way or the other. Not being a RMT watcher, I have no idea what Steve's chances are, whether it will be closely run or a repeat of the kinds of results his TUSC comrades get. Regardless, I doubt many members would welcome what might be seen as outside interference, as serious as the issue is. Especially as the RMT's enemies in the mainstream media could pick it up.
3. According to Rory's account, he was sent to a RMT's delegate conference to report on proceedings - with the union's blessing. I don't know if it is routine at RMT lay gatherings for journalists to ask questions in session, let alone bring up a controversial issue with internal ramifications; or whether the Morning Star expects that from its employees. Following what Rory says, I'm guessing the answer to both is no. For the RMT, it was interference in an issue the union leadership regard closed. For the paper it was a matter of professional judgement. Hence when the RMT complained management initiated disciplinary action. I take this to be the Morning Star's position, even if it makes them look weak on domestic violence and Stalinist on the dissemination of an inconvenient story.
Does this make the Morning Star structurally misogynistic? I don't think it does. It is an accident of their diplomatic approach to trade union controversies. This becomes a structural problem if management doesn't seize the moment and carries on as if nothing has happened. You don't need to be au fait with tea leaves to see a situation like this might arise again. Perhaps too it's time trade union leaders also thought about a more grown up relationship with the "daily paper of the left". It's a poor friendship when the sole reason you're interested in someone is because they will tell you what you want to hear.