Michael Foster’s suspension for comparing Corbyn supporters with Stormtroopers is every bit as ridiculous as the comment he made. What has politics come to?! People can draw their own conclusions about Foster from what he says without some bureaucracy intervening to decide what is permissible and what isn’t. McDonnell rightly opposes the suspension but wants ‘rules’ laid down to determine what is and isn’t permissible. This just make matters worse. Free speech entitles people to say outrageous and insulting things. The Labour Party can urge people to conduct themselves in a considerate way but they can’t – and shouldn’t – try to impose it. If everyone saying stupid, offensive, outrageous things were expelled political parties would be quickly denuded of members.
Is it possible that Foster colluded with NEC members to ensure his suspension in order to justify the purge of Corbyn supporters for even more trivial offences? It does make you wonder. But in fact, the threat to free speech is more serious. We appear to be creating a culture in and around the Labour Party where political differences are routinely portrayed as personal attacks, and since personal attacks can be outlawed more easily than political differences, this is what a craven political culture is attempting to do.
The consequences can already be seen in the hysteria about anti-Semitism. Labour is not remotely ‘anti-Semitic’ yet is on the defensive everyday because someone said that it is, and once an accusation has been levelled, it is up to the accused to demonstrate their innocence. Isn’t it obvious what is wrong with this? And why aren’t Jewish democrats and intellectuals up in arms protesting about it alongside the compromised liberals of the Guardian? They will rue the day they allowed this witch hunt to proceed.