Much has been made by the mainstream media and those wishing to smear Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters – and by association, Corbyn himself – of a photograph of a man at a pro-Corbyn rally wearing a t-shirt bearing the words ‘eradicate the right wing blairite vermin‘.
Tellingly, the man is standing between two smirking members of the Labour party’s right-wing, one of whom works for Progress, the arch-blairite, secretively-funded party faction ‘boasting’ such MPs as Chuka Umunna, John McTernan and John Spellar, and one who works for Portland, the PR company run by former Blair aides including Alaster Campbell, which many believe to be the orchestrators of the parliamentary Labour party (PLP) coup against Jeremy Corbyn.
The Progress/PLP narrative for the image is that the message is typical of the ‘dogs’, ‘rabble’ and ‘mob’ of ‘Trots’, ‘entryists’ and misogynists etc who are supposedly responsible for abuse, bullying and threats toward ‘loyal’ MPs – and the media has been all too happy to run with that representation.
The one person who has not had a voice in the whole matter yet is the gentleman wearing the t-shirt – the one person who knows why he was wearing it and who can humanise the caricature the anti-Corbyn camp would love us all to accept as reality. I’m pleased that the SKWAWKBOX has been able to interview him today. The interview with – let’s call him Ged – is reproduced below.
SKWAWKBOX: Ged, your side of the story has been conspicuously missing from this whole furore, so thank you for being willing to give this interview. That shirt – why did you wear it?
Ged: What it’s basically about, for years now there’s been no real opposition in mainstream politics, with the blairites going along with Thatcherism. When Corbyn started talking about opposing austerity, it gave hope to millions.
Ever since then, the blairites in particular have been directing a barrage of lies and absolute rubbish at him and I was frankly pissed off with it. Nye Bevan, the father of the NHS, when he talked about Tories he called them ‘lower than vermin’, so the idea for the shirt seemed appropriate.
I first got the shirt on the May Day March in London – of course, people understood I was talking about political eradication. Then at the Corbyn rally, these two blairites picked up on it and publicised the picture, making out it was representative of threatening, abusive Corbyn supporters, which is just complete nonsense.
There was even stuff going around that I was part of an ‘underground organisation inspired by the recent murder of [Labour MP] Jo Cox’ – what absolute filthy rubbish. I did become extremely paranoid for a week or two and with good reason – people recognising me in the street, staring at me, giving me a wide berth. Nobody got physical with me, but I was very worried they might, especially as I was recently hospitalised for treatment for mouth cancer, which left me a bit messed up.
S: The famous – or infamous – picture of you with the t-shirt has you flanked by two people who can safely be said to be strongly opposed to Jeremy Corbyn – Lewis Parker, who works for Portland and Anna Phillips, who works full-time for Progress, looking rather pleased with themselves. When they came up to you to take the photo, how did they introduce themselves?
G: Up until that point, there were loads of people wanting selfies with me because they liked it so much. They came up to me in the same way: ‘Great t-shirt, can we have a picture with you?’
S: So they didn’t identify themselves?
G: No, not at all. They just acted as if they liked it and wanted a picture with me in it.
S: What did they say when taking the picture/pointing at the slogan?
G: Not much, but as soon as they left, someone else came up with audio equipment claiming to be from the BBC and asking why I was wearing the shirt – but I don’t think he was. There was no logo on his equipment and I’ve never heard the footage used. I don’t think he liked my answer that the blairites were a bunch of closet tories that had no place in the party, as he went away straight after that.
S: Were there any others wearing similar?
G: No, I was the only one – at least as far as I saw. They’ve tried to make out as though it means something about Jeremy’s followers, but it was just one pissed off 61yr-old bloke making a political point, but they’re taking it literally and blowing it up out of all proportion.
S: How do you feel about it now?
G: I’m much more bothered about what they’re doing to Jeremy but I’m very angry about the way it’s been portrayed – like it was stirring up violence and hatred.
I’m a union health-and-safety and equality rep and we’re not exactly known for being hateful or inciting violence, so it’s just typical of the ridiculous lengths they’ll go to. Anything to smear Jeremy and his supporters!
S: How has the whole incident left you feeling?
G: Very worried, including worry about how my employers might react. I’m not in the best of health and it’s been a lot of stress.
S: And what happened to the t-shirt?
G: It’s tucked away at the bottom of a drawer and won’t be coming out again!
S: Many thanks for giving your perspective. Considering the worry it’s caused you, it’s remarkable that you seem to bear no antipathy toward the two people who – I think it’s safe to say – set you up in order to make a cheap political point without any concern for the impact it would have on you. Talk about abusive and hateful!
G: You’re very welcome. Thank you for giving me chance to tell my side of the story – I didn’t think I’d get the opportunity.
Abusive and hateful indeed. As with all of the current deluge of smears and false accusations by Jeremy Corbyn’s opponents – and apparently done with scant regard for the impact on the innocent people affected by their misrepresentations, whether a widowed mother working in Corbyn’s parliamentary office or a frail man in his 60s with a naive taste in t-shirt slogans.