This is our truth, tell us yours
It’s very simple.
Bear in mind that, as a blog, we have a track record of pointing out that political parties and their peripheries are not always safe places. We have blogged about Elliott Johnson, and Comrade Delta. I’ve written about my own regrets and mistakes in these circumstances in this blog; I still ask myself if I could have prevented a serious offence somewhere down the line if I had been more aware at the time. So we’re entitled to take a non-partisan approach to Bex Bailey’s account of trying to explain to the Labour Party what happened to her.
We’re only a blog, a collection of political and philosophical ephemera put together by two left of centre activists who have a long and intimate connection to the Labour Party. One of us, at least, could tell more than one story about bad sex (or good) at party conferences and events, but all of it was consensual. By the time I stopped going to conferences I was happier going on swingers websites and looking for non party people to scratch the random sex itch while I was away; somehow, if only intuitively, I recognised the conference atmosphere was unhealthy.
That said, let’s start from where we are.
We believe Bex Bailey.
More than that, we recognise the shitty, awkward conversation Bex recounts having with a Labour official, because it’s a conversation that is entirely congruent with politics as it happens in Britain today. If one of Chris Rennard’s alleged victims came forward and recounted a similar conversation with LibDem party officials we would not be surprised. Elliott Johnson may well have had a similar conversation with senior colleagues in the Conservative Party; this is not a partisan issue. It’s how politics is practiced in an environment where politics is not a public good, but a private career.
Here is my shorthand set of rules; it may well not be ideal, but it’s better than where we are.
First rule of being a political party when someone reports an assault, or a rape, or bullying? Don’t be a political party.
It isn’t about politics. It’s about safeguarding. It’s about all the things that matter, about people being safe, being protected, and being believed and valued. The more vulnerable, the more marginalized the individual, the more they must feel valued, and safe, and believed.
If you think that’s about politics, more than about the victim, and safeguarding, you’re not a progressive. Simple as.
The second rule is just as simple. Don’t do the police’s job. It’s their job to decide what is a crime, and what’s not. It’s their job to investigate, and their job to provide evidence to the CPS. If, like the SWP, you set up a parallel inquiry, you’re a party to the abuse, after the fact.
The third rule is the flipside of the second. Don’t investigate, but safeguard. If you have the name of someone in your party, or who wants to be around your party, who can’t be trusted in the company of other activists, or members, or passing strangers, safeguard the many, not the one. Safeguarding doesn’t require the criminal standard of proof (despite what the LibDem rules said in the Rennard inquiry) but the balance of probabilities, and, in such a case, the need to make members safe means the balance is tilted, in the event of doubt, in favour of protection.
It doesn’t matter who the alleged ofenders are, or where they are in their career. Don’t be deceived, as a party, by the tactics of the moment, because no matter what calculation you make, it will almost certainly be wrong. Your refuge, your safe place, is the principle. Make your organization the safe place, where no-one can ever accuse you of putting party before principle, and you will be bullet proof.
Labour, right now, needs to name the official who mis-advised Bex Bailey, or to demonstrate how they will fix the problem.
They could do a lot worse than start by saying that the Labour Party will always strive to be a safe place. If that means less shagging at party events, it’s a price worth paying.