Sunday, 17 August 2014

Misogyny at the Morning Star?

Rory MacKinnon, a journalist at the Morning Star for the last three years has resigned from the paper. This comes after facing disciplinary action for pursuing the case of Caroline Leneghan. Readers and left-watchers may recall that Caroline went public with some very serious domestic violence allegations against her former partner, RMT assistant general secretary Steve Hedley. A full account of what has happened with Rory is available here and here. So what is going on? Why has the paper - one of the few to give domestic violence the seriousness it is due - attacked the messenger in an attempt to kill the message?

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.


Gary Elsby said...

"For trade unionists and socialists to act in such a way is unpardonable but sadly, not without precedent"

Forgive me for smiling Phil but I think you should explain your reasoning behind such a statement.
Secondly, I would offer my perpetual congratulations to MI5 for their sterling work and my condolences to them in losing their 'vetting operative' within the BBC.
I do hope they continue this now acknowledged service (circa 1933-2014+)and hope they continue to protect me accordingly.
Meanwhile, back to Trade Unionists beating their wives up, bombing Iraq, fiddling elections and killing 50 million innocent civilians (source-all media)and generally laying waste to the world..........

Trade Unionists AND socialists doing such things?

Jim Denham said...

Very good and fair post, comrade! (What on erth is that first BTL comment supposed to be about?)

I completely agree with your assessment of the Hedly/Leneghan business and the Morning Star's shameful role.

It would certainly be a tragedy and a disgrace if a reactionary, sexist thug like Hedley were to be elected to lead the RMT, Fortunately, that seems unlikely.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Hedley's actions seem reprehensible and that the Star/RMT/Communist Party of Britain aren't structurally misogynist (nor was/is the SWP). I don't agree that they alone are guilty of such things e.g. whitewashing their reputations, protecting their own: the government (at every level, political and bureaucratic), capitalists (in every manifestation) and Labour Party are too, and to a much greater and more harmful extent.

It's interesting that you say 'The paper generally refrains from commenting on controversial issues internal to labour movement organisations'. Whilst true, this isn't generally something the members want to here about - do Labour Party publications discuss factionalism or negative viewpoints? Do newspapers report on their proprietors or journalists unsavoury activities? No. But plenty on the 'centre left' such as yourself and 'radical left' (e.g. Laurie Penny and Owen Jones) absolutely fail to mention the sterling work the Morning Star and SWP, to give just two examples, do in reporting on the abuses of capitalism. Yet when there is infighting, scandal, a divergence from principle or some joke to be had at their dogmatic expense to be had, you jump all over it. It makes you seem disingenuous and politically motivated, no better than those you accuse of being so for covering it up.

Chris said...

Oh dear, you now have Jim Denham praising you!

The next step, support for 'civilsed', 'secular' and 'democratic' Israel in their ongoing battle against the 'reactionary' and 'barbaric' Palestinians?

Or a new call for the West to bomb its away to another solution?

After all they are fighting misogny on the world stage! So say the 'decents'. Though, obviously in Syria and Libya they had a momentary love affair with Islamists. But now they advocate the Assad method!

Phil said...

If the Morning Star prints something interesting and intellectually stimulating, I'd write about it as I do with occasional pieces from the mainstream press. I see little point in writing a piece saying 'job well done' when I don't do that for anything else.

As for the SWP, the question of "sterling work" is a debatable one. For every campaign championed and pushed, lies a campaign broken and wrecked. For every socialist "made", there's another put off left politics for life.

Lastly, where there is "infighting and scandal" I write about it to make sense of it and try and find a way forward beyond it. I do so because I'm an activist, not an armchair pontificator like the gentleman sat atop this thread of comments.

Gary Elsby said...

Here we go again-shooting the messenger!
Socialists beating their wives. Surely this is a typographical error and the left would never do such?
Only Tories do that!
As for the BBC (but your obsession with wrongdoers of the left) Brigadier Ronnnie Stonham has just died as is credited with vetting all BBC jobs for and on behalf of MI5.
Your angle appears to be concerned with The morning star and wife beating trade unionists?
I'm baffled that being a part of the left automatically directs wife beating to the dustbin and that a brain disturbance of the normal wife beating brain is replaced with (or should be) pure decency for the world to applaud.
The left is accused of killing and maiming its way around the world for the last 100 years and you have been a great advert for it Phil.
Whether you agree with any of it is irrelevant. The fact that all is true is very relevant.
It seems, if my eyes do not deceive me, that the left is at the top of the league tables for wife beating but don't worry, ISIS is on the front pages and pushing MI5 onto page 9 (find a blog running it).

Phil said...

Well done for writing the most incoherent and illogical comment on this site this year.

Gary Elsby said...

All is based on fact.
You wrote: 'For trade unionists and socialists to behave....'

How have you come to such a conclusion?
Is it not you who publicly chastised me for a little disturbance in Iraq (killing thousands)?
The Labour party did that Phil, not me and by the way, you sign up to it.....I don't.

I'm baffled of that statement whether I am incoherent or not.
Why on earth do you see socialism or the left as being not one and the same as violence, domestic or not?
You do not have that right.
You do have the right to a personal view of which appears to fall on deaf ears.

Phil said...

It's just that your comment made no sense, Gary. Like the one above.

Also, if anyone's interested, you were in the Labour party at the time of the Iraq War. I was not. Not that that matters - it's the attitude to the war that counts. And there you were banging the drum as Tony Blair's biggest cheerleader. You may forget Gary, but the internet does not.

Gary Elsby said...

..and just to show you how easy is was in Iraq last time.....

Labour says what about ISIS and the Caliphate of Abu Kir-Al Baghdadi(our prisoner MSc PHd)?
It is saying what of Syria (our friend Bashir)?

I was wrong Phil?
What was wrong was dismantling the Iraqi army and therefore dispossessing senior ranks a say in their own Country.
We dutifully acknowledge George for such a decision.

You're a democrat Phil in a democratic political party (cough) so you should accept the democratic vote for invasion by a majority who now play to the crowd (who vote them back in again).
Clever when you think about it.
Dishonest and cowardly but clever all the same.
Feel free to fall for it and knock doors on their behalf.
Free schools (a topic for cowards) my arse.

Jim Denham said...

Just for the record: I'd like 'Chris' (comment #4 above) to quote where I have *ever* "support[ed] ... 'civilsed', 'secular' and 'democratic' Israel in their ongoing battle against the 'reactionary' and 'barbaric' Palestinians?"

Just one example, please?

Otherwise 'Chris' should withdraw his slander and apologise. But I suppose that would be too much to hope for, eh?

Phil said...

Deary me, Gary. Keep snorting the laughing gas as you wibble about MI5/freemasonry/Common Purpose. It keeps you happy and harmless.

Gary Elsby said...

The MI5 story is widely reported by all mainstream media and has done so for about 5 years.
Persecute me if it makes sense to you at will.
Freemasonry is a difficult one but certainly kept out car plants from being established along the M6 corridor between Birmingham and Liverpool.
'Common Purpose'(a personal invite for training), oh, that's easy.
Half the Labour cabinet in Stoke has undertaken this 'invite' along with local journalists and editors along with BBC staff and city officers.
Aim? a common purpose.
Weapon? the BNP/proscribing political membership to individuals.
Outcome? Closures.
The biggest single economy in Europe will be Great Britain by 2030, doubling our debt in the process and Labour shuts Norton community centre to help matters.

Governance commission.
Transition board.
Boundary Commission.

That's how it is done.
Keep knocking doors Phil and bang the Labour drum loud.
Ever heard of 'Brighter Futures' Phil?
The 'charity' operating for all the goodness of mankind?

Chris said...

Jim Denham is an immoral man who inhabits a world of moral certainty.

Denham is also one of those Zionists (and he is a Zionist) who exhibits his support in not so much subtle ways but convoluted ones.

It is by the bias of his words, what he leaves out and leaves in and what he proposes that you can draw conclusions. You can't ever find direct quotes because that is not how apologists tend to operate, apologists tend to dress up their apology.

Even his so called solution to the Palestinian problem serves the interests of Israel and conveniently ignores the actual historical development or the reality of the situation.

No, he is a steadfast supporter of the state of Israel.

Doug said...

The Morning Star will never do anything to upset TU bureacrats. Without their bulk orders they're fucked. In any case, it's a boring rag, as befitting soggy reformist Stalinists.

Jim Denham said...

Chris said of me (when asked to produce a quote to prove I support the attack on Gaza):

"It is by the bias of his words, what he leaves out and leaves in and what he proposes that you can draw conclusions. You can't ever find direct quotes because that is not how apologists tend to operate, apologists tend to dress up their apology."

Well, I suppose much the same can be said of anti-Semites on the so-called "left" of Brit politics, eh?