Campbell told media he doesn’t want to be in the party any more. Mandelson told them he feels ‘dirty’ in it. Both appeared comfortable when Blair’s Labour was rebuked by highest court for racist justification for discrimination against Pakistani candidates
Former Blair right-hand men Alastair Campbell and Peter Mandelson have – just for a change – been attacking the Labour Party and its leadership this week.
Campbell has told any media that would listen that he no longer wants to get back into the party, although Labour insiders say that this ‘decision’ came around two weeks after he was told that his expulsion for supporting the LibDems was being upheld after legal advice.
Mandelson, for his part, told the Jewish Chronicle that he would remain in the party but feels ‘dirty’ doing it, because of its supposed antisemitism and failure to take ‘effective action’.
“It is nothing more than the old plea that you have nothing against employing a black person but the customers would not like it.”
It’s curious, then, that neither man appears to have felt any qualms about being in the Labour Party in 2007 – when judges in the highest court in the land criticised Labour’s justification for a decision to block Asian candidates as being equivalent to the old racist argument “that you have nothing against employing a black person but the customers wouldn’t like it”.
Alastair Campbell, especially, can hardly have been unaware of the widely-reported case – as his brother-in-law was the one making the argument to the Law Lords on behalf of the party.
The case against Labour was brought by the CRE (Commission for Racial Equality) – the forerunner of the EHRC (Quality and Human Rights Commission) – and concerned a decision by the Labour Party to block the candidacy of Raghib Ahsan, a Birmingham councillor.
Mr Ahsan as one of a number of Labour figures of Pakistani origin accused of padding the local party with Asian members. They were subsequently exonerated as no evidence was found of any untoward memberships – but Labour blocked his candidacy.
Ahsan was ultimately awarded over £120,000 in compensation for Labour’s actions – but not before Labour had appealed the case until it ended up before the UK’s highest court.
In 2007, Labour’s case was put by Gavin Millar QC – the brother of Alastair Campbell’s partner since the 1980s. Part of Labour’s argument, as assessed by the judges, was that the party could “discriminate against a Pakistani candidate if they held no racist views about Pakistanis but thought it was better not to have a Pakistani candidate” because of voters’ views.
The judgment of the Lords was scathing of the argument:
The only meaning which I can ascribe to the distinction is that it would be acceptable for the Labour Party to discriminate against a Pakistani candidate if they held no racist views about Pakistanis but thought that it was better not to have a Pakistani candidate because the electorate would identify “the problem” with the Pakistani community.
If that is what the distinction means, it seems to me unacceptable. It is nothing more than the old plea that you have nothing against employing a black person but the customers would not like it. In essence it is a defence of justification based on political expediency.
Neither Alastair Campbell nor Peter Mandelson felt a need to resign their membership in protest at the Labour Party’s discrimination and racist argument, in spite of the withering verdict. Neither appears to have felt compelled to tell the press that they ‘felt dirty’.
In fact, the following year Mandelson not only retained his membership but returned to Cabinet as Business Secretary and peer, while Campbell served as a Labour adviser as late as the 2015 general election. Neither, of course, quit over Campbell’s 2005 poster campaign against the Jewish then-leader of the Tories, Michael Howard, which was widely condemned as antisemitic.
The SKWAWKBOX contacted both men to ask why the 2007 incident did not trigger similar reactions to their comments this week. Neither responded by the time of publication.
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