In Assistant General Secretary Steve Hedley, the RMT union have found a worthy successor to Bob Crow
With the entire country focus transfixed on Europe and David Cameron’s spectacularly poor negotiating skills, there has not been much emphasis on the Evil Tories in the media of late. Some nervous Tories, coming out of hiding for the first time since the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, may have even considered themselves safe.
They were wrong. Steve Hedley of the RMT union is actively gunning for them using the most violent rhetoric imaginable, as he demonstrated in an interview on LBC today.
RMT leader Steve Hedley has claimed the Tory government are “murdering” people, then called for them to be “taken out and shot” in an extraordinary LBC interview.
[..] “I think all the Tories are an absolute disgrace, they should be taken out and shot to be quite frank with you,” said Hedley, Assistant General Secretary of the RMT union.
“Oh Steve!” responded [presenter] Shelagh. “I’m not going to let you say that, so don’t repeat it…if your job is to represent your workers, and I was one of your workers, I would want you to represent me without resorting to things like that.”
Hedley then claimed that the government was “killing three disabled people a week by their cuts.”
Everything changes, and everything stays the same. The Labour Party have a new leader, and Jeremy Corbyn’s admittedly haphazard opposition has thus far been mostly principled and courteous. Politically, Corbyn may be quite far from David Cameron (though not as far as he would be from a real conservative), but in his speeches he is more likely to forget that the Tories exist than indulge in an angry tirade against them. But same cannot be said for the people under him in the Labour Party and in the wider left-wing movement.
As we have repeatedly seen, many of these people are ready and willing to engage in the most overheated, provocative rhetoric against their political opponents on the right, continually implying that those who disagree with them are not just intellectually wrong but morally evil. And it is no longer just grassroots activists at fault – MPs and union leaders are increasingly getting involved too.
Whenever I write about the latest high-profile instance of left-wing anti-Tory bigotry and intolerance, I usually receive a number of comments chiding me for taking the intemperate war memorial-defacing actions of a few angry lunatics and claiming that they represent the Left as a whole.
That’s not what I am trying to do, though the way that some on the Left are so quick to take such criticisms personally suggests that in some cases, I may be striking a little too close to home. After all, since nobody suggested that all left-wingers are angry, screaming, spitting hate mobs, the fact that the likes of Owen Jones take the time to pen articles refuting this non-accusation can be taken as a sign that the criticism is hitting uncomfortably close to home, and that there may be a deep-seated, half-subconscious approval for these distasteful acts of protest.
But the purpose is not to hold up instances where left-wing activists go too far just to act outraged. It is to point out (rather wearily at this point) that there is a poison within the Left which encourages adherents to believe themselves to be the sole possessors of compassion and virtue in a world where anybody different is immediately labelled “Tory Scum”. And until this poison can be sucked out of the Labour Party – or an adequate antidote found – the Left will continue losing elections by spending more time shouting angrily at the country for our supposed moral shortcomings than they spend presenting an attractive, cohesive alternate vision for government.
Steve Hedley is not your average left-wing grassroots activist, sharing Corbyn memes on Twitter and raging against the Tories on Facebook. He is the assistant General Secretary of the RMT, one of the most powerful (and high profile) trade unions in the country. He is the voice of organised Labour, which in turn increasingly claims to be the voice of the Labour Party. And when he angrily parrots the same drivel about the Evil Tories wanting to kill disabled people as the most zealous online activist, then it is no longer possible to say that this is an isolated problem of passionate ordinary folk getting a bit too carried away.
If the political Right has a problem in Britain (and it does; small-c conservatives are utterly underwhelmed and uninspired by the rootless premiership of David Cameron, no major conservative legislation has been enacted in the precious months following the 2015 general election victory, and the only motivated people online seem to be the ones churning out bigoted memes about migrants) then the Left should realise that they have a problem, too.
It may have started innocently enough, with Ed Miliband and his MPs turning a blind eye toward (and thus tacitly encouraging) overheated anti-Tory rhetoric as the coalition government found its feet back in 2010. And there may have been every good reason in the world to let demoralised Labour activists blow off steam by promoting the notion that this utterly unremarkable, centrist government is actually on an ideologically charged “more Thatcher than Thatcher” mission to roll back the state (if only it were true).
But the time has come to admit that the experiment has gotten out of control, and that the swivel-eyed anti-Tory hysteria has metastasised and started to re-infect the very left-wing political elites who first let it loose back in 2010. We see it in the ferocity with which some Jeremy Corbyn supporters attack their (far from blameless) centrist colleagues, calling them Red Tories. And now we see it in the shape and form of a senior trade union leader calling for Conservative supporters to be rounded up and shot.
I don’t spend much of my time worrying about what is best for the Labour Party or the British left-wing movement in general, but in this case I am writing out of genuine concern over what is happening to one side of the political debate in this country – the side which now finds itself represented by spokespeople like the RMT’s Steve Hedley.
Calling for all Tories to be “taken out and shot” is a juvenile piece of rhetoric from a half-baked political mind. It’s not a serious threat – let’s not go down the censorious road of calling the police on anybody who ever utters a mean word about us – but neither is it evidence of a person or political philosophy capable of showing respect, understanding nuance and thinking in colour, the kind of behaviour required of a movement which aspires to lead.
The closer Steve Hedley is to mainstream left-wing thought, the further the Left will be from tasting power again. Which is why any Labour politician with an ounce of sense must now furiously disassociate themselves from Hedley’s inflammatory remarks.
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