Monday 1 March 2021

Emilie Oldknow and the Rare Comeuppance

Every day brings joy for some, tragedy for others. It might confer a windfall, or saddle one with crippling debt. Falling into the last category is the Labour Party's former head of governance, Emilie Oldknow. She took the party to court to force the release of the five names it suspects leaked last year's report into the disciplinary process. The report which, incidentally, repeated verbatim hundreds of 2016-2017 WhatsApp messages between the then head of governance and her right wing cohorts at party HQ. And in a rare moment of justice being seen to be done, she failed. Or, to give what happened the precision of accuracy, her legal bid completely cratered. The presiding judge rejected Oldknow's argument, did not grant her plea to make Labour pay costs (she's now on the hook for an estimated £120,000), and to rub it all in refused leave to appeal the verdict.

Readers will recall the leaked report revealed what many suspected all along: that senior staff sat on antisemitism complaints, sabotaged Labour's election campaign, leaked material to the press, and happily assisted MPs actively undermining the leadership. These magi who fancied themselves sorcerers of the dark arts were stupid and arrogant enough to not only document their scabbing but back the entirety of their conversations up on Labour Party servers. Their own words damned them and should, to put matters politely, be sent packing from the labour movement. In light of the report, the fact Oldknow persists at the top of the Unison bureaucracy is nothing short of disgraceful.

There's no need to review their abysmal shenanigans again. What does deserve consideration is how the revelations have been handled. It was an early test for Keir Starmer, and one he effortlessly fluffed. Announcing an inquiry into the report's contents, he appeared more concerned with locating the source of the leak than punishing the wrong doing at the heart of the party apparat. Almost a year on we still await the Forde report, ostensibly because the Information Commissioner's Office is peering into the party's affairs. A long delay then, a coincidence. And also a pattern of behaviour. Recall last July when Dear Keir shelled out hundreds of thousands to former staff members suing the party for having the temerity of defending itself against the rubbish John Ware Panorama documentary on Labour antisemitism. A case, incidentally, the party stood a good chance of winning in light of the leaked report. Keir ponied up the reddies to make the headlines go away. But don't worry, at least some of them were disciplined for their attacks on the party. It was subsequently revealed our scabs received a light tap on their wrist and allowed to carry on their merry way, pockets and purses bulging with members' cash.

This is demonstrative, again, of the party's rotten culture. According to my little birds tweeting from their perch at Southside, the Keir/David Evans partnership are determined to modernise the party's operation. For them, scabby behaviour is less a matter of factionalism and more symptomatic of dysfunctional organisation. The management consultant nonsense is their way of overhauling everything and replacing broken processes and redundant roles with a fine thrumming campaigning machine focused on winning elections. This has meant (ludicrously) scrapping the community organising unit and clearing out perceived dead wood. These include a sliver of dabblers with infernal practices who've not only risked bringing the party into disrepute but might find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

The problem isn't just the modernisation drive is clunking and brutal and dumb. It is anti-democratic and authoritarian. "Professionalising" the operation means empowering the party's administrators at the expense of members' rights and decision-making powers. The haughty manner with which David Evans suspended 50 lay officers, only two of whom have been reinstated, is a naked imposition of the new regime, of treating volunteers as if they're employees expected to be on-brand and snap to attention. The three-part reasoning for this is the Fabianism at the root of "Starmerism", the self-evident clear out of annoying leftists, despite the costs, and following the road map to success according to one Tony Blair. Yet in the end this will give us a hollowed out party where bullying behaviour is the norm, and unaccountable apparatchiks are put in place to wreck the party should another left insurgency surge through the ranks. At least this is why the so-called hard men of the Labour right are riding the Starmerist bandwagon. The more things change the more they stay the same.

And this is way Keir's leadership has treated the scabs with kid gloves. They are his kind of people, the ones who were unlucky to get caught out but, when the chips are down, share identical political projects: keeping Labour a safe pair of political hands, a party that won't rock the boat for British capitalism if the B Team's services are called upon. Emilie Oldknow's case is rare because here's a creature of the Labour right fully caught out and now having to pay for her hubris. As for the rest? They have escaped sanction for now, and if Keir Starmer has his way they will escape sanction in the future.

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Jonathan said...

Fully deserved, a toxic Blairite, who got caught ..

Unknown said...

She should be thrown out the party, she's a disgrace. The sooner this report is out the better