Last month, Clive Lewis became famous for his reaction to his huge General Election victory in the early hours of Friday 9 June.
Just a few days later, after the Grenfell Tower tragedy, he was in the headlines again for the brief, evocative tweet above that he sent out about the role that our economic and political system played in the deaths of so many residents in the ill-fated high-rise – and the need for that system to change.
It was a masterpiece of succinct political communication. It was also provocative enough to rouse the right-wing media – from Fawkes to the Daily Politics show and everything in between – to first attack it and then use it as a challenge to every Labour politician, even weeks later.
Lewis has spoken exclusively to the SKWAWKBOX about that tweet, its meaning, its aim and the reaction to it:
First of all the medium of twitter – the right has always tended to have better slogans than us. If you understand neoliberalism you know they’ve spent decades honing their buzzwords, making their views seem like common sense. That’s how they govern.
The Left has usually stuck to trying to explain facts and as Ronald Reagan said: “if you’re explaining you’re losing”. But now the right’s coherence is falling apart and social media has played a key role in that.
That tweet was a slogan, on Twitter you’re limited to 140 characters so you’ve got to be concise and nail the message. Some people say it’s unfeeling, it’s political – but people burning in their homes is political.
And it’s not just the people who died in Grenfell Tower. There are hundreds of buildings affected, thousands of people – and sometimes things just need to be said.
Some people say it played into the right’s hands by giving them something to criticise – look, some people will take anything you say and twist it so you have to say what you think.
All austerity was is the next stage in the Tories dismantling the post-1945 settlement as they’ve always wanted to do – using the crash they created as an excuse. Now we have commentator after commentator saying it’s time for the system to change. It’s nine years overdue.
I stand by it. It’s not incitement to violence in any way, it’s saying get rid of this nefarious system whose time needs to end.
The Establishment keeps trying to attack a resurgent Labour Party for saying what it thinks – John McDonnell’s accusation that the victims of Grenfell Tower were murdered has similarly been used as an attempted criticism by the right. But these comments ring true to most people – because they are.
Labour’s ‘straight-talking, honest politics’ has come into its own and people are responding to its obvious authenticity. Well played Clive Lewis – and John McDonnell, and David Lammy and others who have ‘told it like it is’.
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