Azim on ‘mental health slur’ anger: ‘crank’ is common among ‘young high profile activists’

On Wednesday, LabourList published an article under the inflammatory, “The real battle for Labour’s soul? Lansmanites vs Cranks


As an article, its aim is fairly transparent – and it is not to promote unity among the Labour left. It has lazy and unevidenced assumptions in abundance and dismisses people on the wrong side of her manufactured divide as bigots.

Ms Azim talks of the left as ‘we’ and ‘our’, but in August 2016 she wrote:

Around 10 months ago, I decided my faith in Corbyn had waned, and that I’d lay my cards on the table and declare why I had decided to sod it…

I am standing here today because of that: because of the urgency, the sense of necessity that is not borne from ideology but desperation, of living life precariously, to urge you to vote Owen Smith.

I began Jeremy’s leadership with hope, but then came dread, watching the party under his stewardship abandon people like me.

Ten months before August 2016 is October 2015. Jeremy Corbyn was first elected as Labour leader in mid-September 2015. Ms Azim’s ‘faith in Corbyn had waned’ only a month or so after he was elected.

But in the same article, she went on to admit:

I cannot speak as a former Corbyn supporter.

‘Left’ is a flexible concept, clearly – even though most left members in the Labour Party would run a mile rather than be identified with Owen Smith.

The article also attempts to portray NEC candidates Peter Willsman and Ann Black as ‘Corbynite’ equivalents, muddying the waters for any members yet to vote who do not understand the importance of electing the ‘JC9‘ – of which Ms Black is not one.

However, some of the greatest outrage in response to the article has been its use of ‘cranks’ to describe the left that she considers undesirable – because many feel it has connotations that render it a mental-health slur:

crank response.png

The SKWAWKBOX contacted Ms Azim to ask for comment on the anger caused by her comments. She denied that the word has any negative connotations regarding mental health – but her response was also revealing in a different way:

No dictionary definition of ‘crank’ that I’ve seen mentions mental health.

I have suffered from mental health problems myself including anxiety and depression, my dad suffered from OCD, and I would not use a slur given my personal circumstances.

Crank is a common term used on [sic] the young high profile left wing activists.

It is not a slur by any definition and I do not recognise it as such. I would never recognise it given my circumstances.

Apparently there is a group that considers itself ‘the young high profile left wing activists’ – and they consider at least some others on the left ‘cranks’ and that the use of such words is unproblematic.

And as Ms Azim seems to consider herself one of the ‘young high profile’ group, as suggested by her defence of her frequent use of ‘cranks’ in her article, the membership qualifications seem not to include any particular commitment or adherence to the left of the Labour Party or to the leader who has taken the party back to being a genuine alternative to the Tories.

The left appears to need some new ‘young high profile’ spokespeople who have a better understanding of what left-wing is and a more demonstrable, down-to-earth commitment the grassroots left and the working class.

It’s to be hoped that Jon Lansman is preparing to distance himself from any self-identified elites – especially those with questionable track records as regards the left and its leadership.

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  1. The left appears to need some new ‘young high profile’ spokespeople who have a better understanding of what left-wing is and a more demonstrable, down-to-earth commitment the grassroots left and the working class…….Sounds suspiciously similar to Blairite definition of themselves. Another bunch of would-be Stalinists.

  2. “Young high profile left wing activist” = “Look how many Twitter/FB/Snapchat followers I have – I could be an MP easy.”

    Thinks her best chance is with Labour until she’s old enough for the Tories to take her seriously.
    Meanwhile she’s doing her bit to undermine those nasty, smelly socialists by pretending to be one of them – just one of the sensible, respectable ones.
    She’s so clever they don’t have a clue…

    Draws the line at sitting through 3 hour CLP meetings though – well who wouldn’t, what with all those terrible old ‘grass roots’ type uneducated, bigoted plebs.

  3. No matter how long I look at this sentence I cannot find a way to define it in the way used in the article and the commentary.

    “Crank is a common term used on [sic] the young high profile left wing activists”.

    The usage of the “on” in context seems to suggest a meaning in which the term is used “against” the specific group which comes after in the sentence rather than “by” that group.

    1. Calling someone other than your close friends a ‘Crank’ is meant in a derogatory way no matter how you try and dress it up. I guess you can make some some excuses being a young up-start but this one clearly appears not to be a Jeremy fan also.

  4. Calling anyone a name (snowflake, crank, are common), is evidence of attacking the person not the policies or politics. Simply shows a lack of ability to argue a position without stopping to personal abuse.

  5. Just to add as a 65 year old. Terminology changes I agree but when I was very young we had no less than four mental houses around our area. In fact if you said the name of the town you were from you always had the sarcastic remarks. Now we as a community not knowing better always used the term crank and crankhouse to refer to the patients in the said hospital.
    It was only later when in comprehensive school taking German that I learned the expression comes from their word for hospital and was then twisted as a derogatory term by the British.
    I think history will support me in this. Perhaps someone could pass it on to her?

  6. The dictionary definition does not specifically say anything about mental health but it describes behaviour which is usually caused by mental health issues. I have OCD and I have obsessions with different things which causes me alot of distress. The dictionary definition quoted by Sienna, specifically mentions people with obsessions. Azim comes across as politically naive in her article yet Mandelson et al are happy to promote her writing as it serves their purpose.

  7. Also what’s with calling people ‘eggs’? I’ve never heard that phrase used to describe people before. Am I just out of touch? Is it like young people calling good things “sick”?

    1. Is it a reference to the fact that Twitter profiles without a picture show an egg (or used to)?

  8. “Eggs” didn’t even arouse enough curiosity in me to look it up. I know it’s not PC to say it but I seriously couldn’t give a flying one about yute-speak – it’s like a lost generation, a cultural vacuum.

    Can’t even be arsed to learn which are Millennials or Gen-whatevers.
    I haven’t heard an interesting toon from one of the shallow little twinkies since – Dylan, really. Well, Arcade Fire anyway.

    Ten seconds of Hollyoaks was enough yute TV for me.
    Selfies of kids all with pneumatic lips, pissing away bandwidth on movies and streamed music, WTF’s that about?
    Grime FFS?

    Apart from The Inbetweeners and Danny MacAskill on a bike I never notice them – completely off my radar.

  9. To me crank means oddball to be dismissed, although derogatory I remember far worse terms, flung by angry opponents, with pre 1960s associations to mental illness and disability.

    So now we are ‘K’crankies eh? I remember them as an act. Have I learned the reason they used a K rather than C? I still wont rise to it. Insults are flung by those who know they are losing an argument.

    Seems frustration is mounting and tempers are still fraying in extreme ‘centrist’ circles. Sticks and stones and all that.

    The disgusting verbal and written assaults on Corbyn, Abbot et al are a different matter entirely. LP members and those who support Corbyn and Socialism have to be a strong, resilient foundation.

  10. Mz Azim, don’t try to teach your granny how to suck eggs!
    Now, that’s a very old saying and it means how it reads!

  11. At the 2015 leadership election she backed Andy Burnham. In 2016 it was Owen Smith’s turn for Azim’s golden vote.

    Azim has never supported Corbyn as an article on Medium in support of Owen Smith makes clear: ‘I cannot speak as a former Corbyn supporter’.


    She works for the Institute for Public Policy Research which is described as Tony Blair’s favourite think tank.

    One thing is for certain: she’s no socialist.

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