Labour London Assembly member receives formal warning over ‘racism’ complaint

GLA member and councillor rapped by party for response to left-wing commentator
GLA member Tom Copley (image: tomcopley.com)

London Assembly member Tom Copley has been formally warned by the Labour Party after a complaint over a Twitter comment to left-wing commentator Aaron Bastani.

Copley responded to a comment on protests in Iran by the Anglo-Iranian Bastani with the words, “Labour Friends of the Ayatollah”:

A meeting of the ‘disputes panel’ of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) yesterday decided to issue Copley with a formal reprimand, in spite of attempts by right-wing NEC members to dismiss the comment as ‘political banter’ and downgrade the party’s response to a ‘warning over future conduct’.

Mr Copley responded to a SKWAWKBOX enquiry with a lengthy statement claiming the decision was factional and dismissing the complaint as ‘politically motivated’:

The NEC has not found me guilty of anything.

This is an entirely politically motivated complaint timed deliberately to obstruct my campaign to be re-selected as a Labour London Assembly candidate despite my campaigning for more social housing, against wasted expenditure on the Garden Bridge, and my work to protect renters. The fact that a complaint has been made about a tweet from over a year ago just as the Assembly re-selection process is about to start is clear evidence of that.

The tweet in question was a satirical expression of dismay at a series of tweets that I regard as being wilfully soft on the Iranian regime. Iran’s theocratic government bans trade unions, persecutes socialists and has an appalling human rights record. As a gay man I find this lack of solidarity with protesters against a regime that hangs gay men from cranes disappointing, particularly from someone who is supposedly on the left. My tweet was an expression of that disappointment.

I’m astonished by the speed at which this complaint was dealt with, given the number cases of actual racism that have been waiting years to be dealt with. Only one quarter of the NEC were present at a meeting of the Disputes Panel organised deliberately at the last minute. I have absolutely no confidence in the objectivity of the Labour Party’s disciplinary process, which is dominated by one faction of the party.

Aaron Bastani told the SKWAWKBOX:

I’m sure Tom had no ill intent and an apology was enough to settle the matter. As an anti-racist party, it’s vital that we don’t use double-standards when it comes to everyday prejudice.

SKWAWKBOX comment:

The hypocrisy of the right was on display yesterday in the attempts by certain NEC members to minimise the significance of the comment.

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  1. Sorry. Sauce for the goose etc.(see. ‘antisemitism’ claims)

    I am fed up with comments – no matter how disagreeable, or inaccurate, whatever – being labelled ‘racist’ in a knee-jerk attempt at sympathy – rather than using argument.

    Nothing ‘racist’ at all there. Nothing to see. Move on. What a non-story!

  2. Can someone please explain why this is racist. If that’s the sum total of what Tom Copley said then I’m puzzled as to why it is racist.

    From what can be seen here it would be more than a little hypocritical to claim this is racist and then whinge at the exaggerated claims of anti-Semitism. We can’t have it both ways.

    1. Another thought – what the f. is the NEC doing issuing a formal warming? Yet more evidence of its flippy-floppy weakness on this issue.

      “The hypocrisy of the right was on display yesterday”

      What bollocks, Sqwawkbox – that’s hyperbole straight out of the Daily Bile playbook. It’s more a display of Bastani’s febrile imagination and hypersensitivity. Time to develop a sense of proportion, I think.

      1. RH, I entirely agree that it’s not racist so far as I can see and we have to be consistent. However, Bastani does say he just wanted an apology, which is a world away from the hang draw and quarter attitude of the Smearers.

      2. And as skwawky hasn’t opened comments on the Rachel Riley post, a whole world away from that as well.
        How does she call for a Labour politician to be ‘taken out’ without a storm of protest from the MSM, and calls for her to lose her job?
        ..oh, silly me, such naivety….

      3. Simon – you’ve put your finger on why I’m annoyed by this sort of exaggeration : it minimises and conceals the real crimes, confusing confected snow-flakery and the normal exaggeration of debate with serious abuse. (Note how Hodge’s lying slurs against Corbyn were, essentially, deemed acceptable rather than the potty-mouth disgrace that they were).

      4. Simon

        Entirely agree about Riley, but she obviously noted that a similar remark didn’t do Jess Phillips’ career any harm!

        And it’s always careerism that guides these people’s every move…

      5. Tim, to be fair to ‘our Jess,’ the phrase she used was more obviously metaphorical than Riley. What I found unforgivable was her taking part in that ugly and appalling ‘protective cordon’ on the day Marc Wadsworth was thrown out of the Labour Party.
        …but I agree, the ‘stabbing in the front’ was something which brought her to prominence – and imagine if someone had used the same phrase about Ruth Smeeth. Expelled the same day I expect.

    1. Danny, I’ve read the article. The situation of the people in the camps is appalling. Likening it to concentration camps to make a pro Brexit point is hyperbolic nonsense, the sort of argument that even UKIP might balk at.

    2. Danny, surely it’s the members of the EU not the EU itself that determines the response to refugees.
      Or maybe by ‘the EU’ you actually meant the 27 individually?
      Seems to me Greece bears the brunt of disproportionate numbers simply because they’re nearest to the trouble spots, despite being the EU member least able to bear it.
      England is presently trying to leave the EU in large part to avoid migration.
      Has the UK lobbied the EU to increase funding for refugees or offered sanctuary to greater numbers? Not to my knowledge.
      I don’t know the figures but my impression is that the UK behaves as if it made a very generous contribution militarily and now expects the 27 to do their share by dealing with the regrettable aftermath – by mopping up the migration.
      If I’ve misunderstood the situation I’m ready to be corrected.

  3. In Copley’s ‘lengthy statement’ he appears to be using the same ‘It was satire’ excuse that UKIP leader. Gerard Batten, used to try and defend Carl Benjamin’s tweet to MP Jess Phillips.
    It wasn’t satire in either case.

      1. I don’t think it’s racist. I think it’s deeply insulting, though. Marc Wadsworth got thrown out of the Labour party for less, IMO.

      2. Dave G 18/04/2019 at 4:56 pm·

        “I don’t think it’s racist. I think it’s deeply insulting,

        Is this faux outrage on your part or can you explain why you found it deeply insulting?

      3. Are you having difficulty thinking up a plausible reason for why you chose to be deeply insulted

      4. “Marc Wadsworth got thrown out of the Labour party for less”

        Don’t link Marc Wadsworth with Bastani’s posturing over a pretended offense. The former was an actual victim.

        The only connection is evidence of the NEC’s total inability to deal with such issues.

      5. SteveH 18/04/2019 at 5:31 pm · ·

        Calling a British-Iranian a Friend of the Ayatollah’s, when they are not, is insulting.

      6. RH 18/04/2019 at 5:10 pm ·

        You think Bastani is a friend of the Ayatollahs?

      7. Dave G 18/04/2019 at 7:35 pm

        Maybe the Iranian protesters who’s international support Bastani was seeking to undermine would be the ones best qualified to answer that question

      8. Dave G, I’d say it was rude and glib, but no worse than a lot of the stuff btl here. Not a matter for discipline.

      9. Simon Dewsbury 18/04/2019 at 7:48 pm

        Being rude looks to be what got Wadsworth chucked out of the party.

      10. Dave G, yes, or rather being rude to someone who was prepared to weaponise their race/religion in response.
        But 2 wrongs don’t make a right.

      11. No – that’s not what got Marc Wadsworth chucked out. The whole thing was about placating the Israel mafia.

        And ‘being (a bit) rude’ or, more accurately ‘hyperbolic’ a sacking offense? FFS!

        I have no view about Bastani – beyond that he was playing a game of fakery re.the ‘racist’ virtue signal.

    1. But the tweet to Phillips was a world away from this. No real comparison.

      1. Exactly. I’m no fan of Big Loudhailer – but a proper sense of proportion tells you immediately that this is in a different category.

  4. the Naivety of the left was also displayed… this should have been milked like a cow! labour don’t get any main stream media support, never forgive the right wing tossers, they haven’t let up since corbyn won! get them out of the party… they can always join the chuka tinge lot

    1. Get a grip – it was a comment in the context of a debate about Iran. There is indeed a debate to be had about the nature of the regime and the way to relate to its repressions. To frame that in a left/right context is simply politically illiterate. To make judgements on the basis of left/right supposed identity is morally inept – at best.

  5. Labelling people as ‘friends’ of an unsavoury foreign regime is alright;

    A/ As long as it’s anywhere but Israel, because that’s undisputably antisemitic and undisputably offensive, and gets you dismissed from the party to appease a few self-important shit stirrers.

    And B/

    As long as the people doing the offending are homosexual because doing anything other than issue a formal reprimand will be classed as homophobic bullying, no doubt.

    I’m sick to fucking death of people (from ANY walk of life) taking offence over the pettiest of matters, and worse still, hiding behind their creed, colour and/or sexuality in a sickening attempt to garner sympathy or somehow absolve themselves. Thehave no qualms about sropping people in the shit over fuck-all, therefore they don’t deserve sympathy.

    I wish the lot of them would just fuck off and take their incessant, invalid whining somehwere else and let decent people get on with REAL issues that MATTER TO EVERYBODY.

  6. “I have absolutely no confidence in the objectivity of the Labour Party’s disciplinary process, which is dominated by one faction of the party.”

    Yes, and that faction is the right wing. That’s why the only people getting expelled are from the left.

  7. It seems that Labour’s NEC is not fit for purpose. It behaves like a bunch of headless chickens when it has to judge the seriousness of accusations and allegations. Instead of acting like adults and in most cases telling complainants to get lost and grow up, it referees and invariably makes the wrong decision.

    1. I think that about sums it up – rabbit headlights stuff, with the headlights often under the control of Tories who happen to be jewish.

      When a senior Labour figure feels compelled to apologise for simply outlining the indisputable practical implications of zionism, we are in a bad place.

      1. Chris Williamson … anyone …. yep we are in a bad place indeed , however a great deal of it is ( so obviously ) politically motivated and created to further certain objectives and aims , we must balance things re the NEC , there are some good socialists in there , just they are outgunned at present by the RW.
        Time I hope will change this balance

      2. You are obviously right about political motivation being part of the picture.

        But I am afraid that a large part is also cringing timidity an plain brute ignorance of the issues. As I’ve argued before, the attitudes on display in the MSM, whilst partly fueled by political malice, are also a great deal to do with a fictional, lazy-minded taken-for-granted narrative. I find that sort of unwitting complicity more frightening and difficult to shift.

  8. I really can’t be arsed jumping through hoops to read the Twitter thread or any prior relevant threads – but if I understand correctly Bastani was, quite reasonably, arguing that Western intervention in Middle East affairs hasn’t been universally successful.
    Copley, quite reasonably, used irony to compare Bastani’s stance with that of Labour Friends of Israel’s defence of another state whose actions are also in many respects indefensible.
    Never even heard of Copley until now so have no idea whether he’s left or right.
    Bastani being of the left I’d normally take his side – but if he complained to Labour purely on the basis of that one tweet and there’s nothing else under the surface then I’d call Copley’s tweet fair comment – and not in the least racist.
    I’d just make them apologise to each other and shake hands – we’ve got bigger enemies to fry.

    1. That puts it into perspective very well. It comes under the heading of ‘robust’ – even hyperbolic – political debate – not blind prejudice. Civility is about keeping things in proportion, not claiming victimhood at every minor offense.

      All that Copley seems to have been guilty of is a shorthand, saying that you have to be wary of facilitating the religious knuckle-draggers rather rather than improving the lot of the ordinary Joe in Iran. Which seems a fair enough point to make.

    2. David, can we put you in charge of the NEC disciplinary committee? I’m sure it would be an improvement!

      1. You’ve heard the expression ‘even a stopped clock’s right twice a day’?
        I get to be right maybe once a week.

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