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Firstly, I should thank Mike Joslin for inviting me to share some my thoughts on Gorton. I have sat back and watched as friends and colleagues have taken cheap shots at each other, and I criticised the nature of some of the content that this site has posted as of late. So I’m grateful Mike took that with grace, and invited me to vent on here, rather than social media.
Here’s where I become the most disliked person amongst the candidates vying for selection, and the factions behind them. Batten down the hatches…
Now in the last two weeks, we’ve seen candidates emerge, mud slung everybody who’s anybody telling us how they’re somehow linked to Gorton. That’s right, it’s by-election time folks. From the outside, it all seems pretty standard, but I thought I’d provide some context. See, Gorton has seen it’s fair share of internal problems (to say the least!) and this by election has brought all for those underlying problems to the forefront and caused an explosion of egos, factions and bullying.
One of the major talking points about the candidates is the almost immediate candidacy of Sam Wheeler, who’s a member of Gorton North ward. It’s fair to say that when that Huffington Post article was posted the day after Sir Gerald had died, I was apoplectic. Not because I particularly dislike Sam, but the timing of it. Gerald had been my friend for well over a decade, someone who mentored me, guided me and encouraged me like no other, and to see that article emerge so quickly showed a complete lack of respect to a man who deserved so much better. I don’t care who pushed Sam so quickly, but it was disrespectful and plain stupid.
That being said, at least Sam had waited until Sir Gerald had died. It’s no secret that several of the candidates vying for the Labour Selection have been positioning themselves for years to take over from Gerald in a vulture like manner. Whether it was by recruiting members and creating a faction like atmosphere in some wards, or competing to be Sir Gerald’s number one fan, this sort of crap has been going on ever since I became a member eleven years ago.
So contrary to many, it’s not something I hold solely against Mr Wheeler. I’ve always found those actions and motives of most of the field of candidates distasteful and naked careerism.
Something that hasn’t been talked about much is just how disrespectful some candidates have been acting, given the context of the by-election. I don’t know about you, but when I attend a funeral or a memorial, I turn my phone off. Pretty standard practice, yeah?
When I heard that a group of members were taking selfies with a priest at one memorial for Sir Gerald, I laughed it off as a joke. Then I saw Cllr Dzidra Noor posted a photo of herself signing the book of condolence, and I didn’t really know how to react. It gets better. At the wonderful memorial for Sir Gerald at Gorton Monastery, I witnessed former PPC Amina Lone taking selfies with her friends on the pews during the service. Yeah. Needless to say neither of those two will be getting my vote.
The reason the nature of the commentary of this selection process is so infuriating to me is because providing such a reactionary debate in which candidates and factions resort to amateur politics and playground name calling is undoing the hard work that a number of us had been doing to repair this CLP.
For years now this CLP has been tearing itself apart over the succession of the seat and the control of the Executive Committee. Whole Branches cast of as ‘nutters’ and others as ‘trots’, an atmosphere of intimidation, exclusivity and bullying, and holding back of young members have been serious problems here for a very long time.
I’m not interested in being part of a faction of ‘the good guys’, or perpetuating the same old tired politics of intimidation and fixing. Nor am I willing to tolerate fake social media accounts, so that so-called comrades can hide behind a computer and attack our own people, under the delusional thought that no one knows who’s behind them.
Along with Tom Williams (Gorton South member) and others, I had been working on bringing people together. We’d worked so hard on creating a more inclusive, campaign focused and fun CLP. The fact is the majority of members in Gorton just want this to be fun again.
They want to see a united Labour Party in Gorton, where all ideas matter and everyone’s effort is valued. They have absolutely no time for factions, or being called to a certain meeting to vote a certain way, or to see our elected representatives act like children on social media. Seriously, it’s embarrassing.
This by-election could do wonderful things for Gorton. Whoever the candidate is, they could unite our constituency and lead by example. They could bring everyone together to make this place fun again. They could rid the CLP of bullying, intimidation and controversy, and ensure that everyone is free to attend meetings without a CLP Officer screaming at a teenage woman.
There’s so much potential here in Gorton. There’s so much to be positive about! Whoever emerges as our candidate will have a shot at representing one of the most diverse, vibrant and exciting constituencies in the country.
My advice to our candidates, we are all Labour. You’re not enemies. You’re all passionate people and that’s what we need, but let us see how you’ll beat the opposition, not each other.