Politicians Should Not be Judged by the Contents of their Underpants, but by the Content of their Character
Posted Under: Gender Politics,Labour,Racism/Fascism
Writing in today’s Guardian, the last standard bearer of the dead dream that is a socialist Labour Party hit out at critics by saying that if necessary, he would stand aside to secure Diane Abbot’s nomination for Labour leader. In fact, John McDonnell went further to say that “if my standing down would mean securing any woman on this ballot paper, or any black person, of course I will do so.”
That’s very noble of him. I’m sure he’d hold the door open for them too, unless he had to run off to help an old lady cross the street. McDonnell is right to say that principles must come before career. But giving a leg up to female and ethnic minority candidates, regardless of their policies, is not a principled position in and of itself. Would his offer extend to Thatcher? Or Mugabe? Clearly he felt saddened by the decisions of such shining leftwing beacons as Harriet Harman and Yvette Cooper not to stand. Why? Because there aren’t enough vaginas on the ballot paper. Diane Abbot adds one, and can at least be said to have mildly progressive views.
But the point is, politics should not be about the colour of your skin, or the contents of your underpants, but the content of your character. It should not even be – and this will be a controversial point amongst socialists – about class. The defining point has to be policy. It doesn’t matter that John McDonnell is a middle-aged white male. It wouldn’t matter if he were Oxbridge educated like the New Labourite clones leading the race. All that matters is that he has the right policies, the right ideas, the right values. Of course more needs to be done to remove barriers to women and ethnic minorities succeeding across society and parliamentary politics is not exempt from this. But this cannot come at the expense of ideology.
Like most of the world, I cheered when Barack Obama won the US election. Not because he was black, but because he wasn’t a right-wing nutjob like the opposition. If the situation had been reversed, if McCain had been on the left and Obama the right, I would have forgone the opportunity to celebrate America’s first black president and cheered the man with the better politics regardless of his skin colour. To pretend otherwise is, well, slightly racist. It’s in this sense that I find McDonnell’s arguments, sincere and noble as they are, somewhat patronising. Yes, John, principles must come before career. But they must also come before colour, creed or sex. So go out and fight for them. And then maybe you’ll be in a position to genuinely help build a society that is free from all forms of discrimination.