At the beginning of this month, the SKWAWKBOX highlighted the by-election contest in Crewe between Labour candidate Natasha Maroni and a swaggering, worse-even-than-the-norm UKIP candidate who was absolutely convinced he would walk what he considered a two-horse race against an outclassed opponent.
Ms Maroni scored a stellar win for Labour, polling 3 times more votes than the nearest challenger and pushing the UKIP braggart into an embarrassing 3rd place in his supposed two-horse race.
Just weeks after that victory, Councillor Maroni faces the threat of suspension by her local council – for the ‘crime’ of having sworn at the blatant provocations of a shameless racist.
The person in question chose to initiate a tirade against the councillor for daring to challenge racist tweets/retweets like these about the John Lewis Christmas advert:
This wasn’t the limit of the odiousness in question. The same account also retweeted what could well be considered an incitement to assassination of a head of state:
and a tweet calling the German Chancellor worse than a predecessor who started a World War and annihilated millions:
as well as a host of unashamedly racist and islamophobic sewage that made this author feel in need of a shower after trawling through it.
As well as the direct insults and racism, the tweets from the person in question triggered a flood of ‘dogpiling’ from followers that involved personal, sexual and homophobic abuse of a hideous sort.
Eventually, Cllr Maroni could take no more and told the racist to “f*** off”. It’s the opinion of this writer that she’d have been justified in saying far worse and I applaud her for standing up to vile racism of a sort that has come out from under its stone since the referendum result and, even before that, the Brexit campaigns dog-whistle exploitation of the refugee crisis.
Crewe Labour group’s reaction
The racist in question, or someone aligned with her, made a complaint to Crewe Labour. Their response was to instruct Ms Maroni to apologise and to close her social media accounts. She refused to close any accounts or to apologise to the racist tweeter but was prepared to issue a general apology for the swearword only. As a result, disciplinary action is now threatened – including the possibility of suspension from her position as councillor. Action could be taken as early as this week.
While support from her fellow Labour councillors has been conspicuous by its absence, support from local people has been substantial. I’m going to focus on one particular supportive individual, as her story bears significantly on what should be Labour’s reaction to the increasing tide of unashamed racism, rather than – as some on the right of the party, such as the useless Stephen Kinnock recommend – ‘triangulating’ to it in the misguided hope of ‘relevance’, by talking against multiculturalism and switching to ‘assimilation’.
The supporter in question is a professional woman who was born abroad but is a longstanding resident of the UK and married to a British citizen. For the ‘crime’ of wearing a ‘Remain’ badge during the EU referendum debate, she was viciously assaulted and seriously injured, sustaining fractures to the face:
She may well have suffered much worse, but her attacker – who was explicit that this was a hate-crime – was interrupted during the assault and ran off.
This lady wrote a letter to the local paper and Mayor in support of Cllr Maroni:
I’m writing to you as I heard there is an official complaint against Cllr Maroni, as the victim of a violent hate crime last June (the same day Jo Cox died) that left me with severe facial injuries, I’m glad that Ms Maroni spoke up and doesn’t tolerate it.
I have the documentation of the incident (police incident number XXX of 16/06/2016) and attach a picture of the hospital form.I’ve been living in the UK for over 10 years (moved here as my husband is British and there would be no language problem), I have been forced to drop my maiden name on all social media due to threats and abuse, I’ve been told to **** off home regularly, accused of being a benefit cheat (I never was on benefits, not here nor in my native country, in fact I own a company with my husband), I have rescue dogs from English rescues, but as they are Dobermans or the look like Dobermans, sometimes people throw stones at them and tell me to get English dogs as this is England. I thought Nottingham, Yorkshire and Liverpool are parts of England – that is where the dogs are from.Personally I’m afraid to leave the house on my own now, if somebody mentions my accent and asks where I’m from, I freeze, because often that is followed by insults and accusations.So thank heavens that somebody like Cllr Maroni speaks up.
During a lengthy interview that may be published as a separate article, the woman who wrote the letter told the SKWAWKBOX:
This is honestly no longer the country where I made my home. Until about 18 months ago I never thought we could see someone like Hitler in this country, but now I can easily imagine it and it’s scary – so scary that I’m seriously considering leaving the UK, which has been my home for over 10 years, although thanks to Cllr Maroni it will be with a slightly less bitter taste in my mouth.
I just don’t understand how people are demonised for coming here as if they’re chasing our supposedly generous benefits. Almost every country in Europe is far more generous with benefits and pensions – and for those working, the working conditions are terrible compared to many countries. The other day I was at a car boot sale and a child was crying because his toys were being sold – his mother told him to be quiet because he needed new shoes. If people are coming here, it’s not because it’s cushy!
Her ‘reward’ for speaking out in support of the councillor? A torrent of abuse:
I got graphic threats about raping me and my rescue animals; some said I wasn’t hit hard enough, some saying that they’d like to hit me too, that I shouldn’t complain because I was just smacked a bit, not ‘even’ raped. I never thought I’d see anything like it in this country.
What it all means
There is much talk among the media and certain sections of the Labour party about the supposed ‘threat’ from UKIP in ‘Labour heartlands’ and the need to ‘tack toward’ UKIP to counter the ‘threat’ by ‘talking tough’ on immigration (that worked well in May 2015, after all!).
But that’s the most catastrophic idiocy. As well as being immoral and cowardly, it’s also electorally stupid. Labour failed in the last General Election for being ‘business as usual’, with ‘they’re all the same’ being an extremely common comment on the doorstep and high street. Trying to neuter UKIP by sounding like them is foolish in the extreme.
If Labour wants to convince voters, it can only do so by being authentic – and Labour’s authentic position, as the recent celebration of the 80th anniversay of the anti-fascist Battle of Cable Street shows, is to take a firm, principled and uncompromising stand against racism in all its forms.
People are sick of ‘more of the same’ from politicians. Sticking to old formulae will fail, while a straight-talking, principled politician can shake the foundations – look at Jeremy Corbyn.
Even if it didn’t convince voters, it would still be the right thing to do. As the tragic death of Labour MP Jo Cox and a recent report showed, the racist far-right is on the increase in the UK, as well as in France and other European countries. Unless we want to leave a hideous vat of hateful vitriol to our children and grandchildren, those of goodwill must make a stand against it.
And that includes Crewe Labour party and council Labour group.
Any disciplinary action against Cllr Maroni will send exactly the wrong message, at the wrong time, to the wrong people. It will embolden the racist purveyors of hate even further, while disheartening those who stand for something better.
The Labour party in Crewe, as well as the National Executive Committee if necessary, must stand up for Cllr Maroni and plant a red flag – the Red Flag – in the sand. A rallying call to the humane and tolerant that are still the majority in this Tory- and UKIP-blighted country.
They must show courage and stand for what’s right. That way lies the Party’s best hope of electoral success, but even if it didn’t, that wouldn’t change what’s right and necessary.
Prevarication and triangulation have been Labour’s downfall in the past 6 years and more. Pragmatism and principle point to the same conclusion, because spinelessness inspires nobody – neither on the doorstep nor at the ballot box.
And if that means telling the racist Right to f*** off, so be it.
What you can do about it
If you’re in the Crewe voting area, write to your councillors and tell them that you will not stand for any compromise or for any action against Ms Maroni for standing against racism, bigotry and islamophobia.
If you’re not, you can still write to your MP and ask them to pass on to Labour’s NEC that you want no sanction imposed on the councillor. If you’re a Labour member, raise this matter at your next CLP meeting and ask them to pass a motion in support of her.
And wherever you live, there are some further actions you can take:
First, share this post on your social media so that everyone you know is informed and those inclined and able can act.
Second, follow @tasha4ctc on Twitter and send her a message of support. Make sure to include Crewe Town Council (@CreweTCouncil), Crewe Labour party (@crewelabour) and the Crewe Chronicle (@CreweChronicle) so they know of your support.
Councillor Maroni needs you to stand up for her. And the country needs us all to stand up for what’s right and against evils like racism. Even if that means using the occasional swearword.
Postscript: well played to Shadow Business Secretary Clive Lewis for coming out in strong support of Councillor Maroni:
— Clive Lewis MP (@labourlewis) December 27, 2016
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