Cathy Newman of Channel 4 News [Image: from MadNewsUK].

Cathy Newman of Channel 4 News [Image: from MadNewsUK].

Johanna Baxter’s recent tour of the press, in which she spoke of abusive messages she had received as a member of Labour’s ruling NEC, took her to Channel 4’s Cathy Newman, and Ms Newman has written an alarmingly one-sided blog article as a result.

It is right that personal abuse should be highlighted and the perpetrators shamed, because it is not acceptable in any way.

But it isn’t acceptable to suggest that it is only being carried out by one side of a debate when that is not true, as Ms Newman has done.

I have responded to her article on the Channel 4 website, and am also copying that response below. Want to know why?

Because Channel 4 might censor it.

Here it is:

“What a disappointing article!

“While you are right to deplore intimidation of any kind in this debate, it would have been wiser to have noted, for example, the appalling amount of bullying to which Jeremy Corbyn was subjected by the rebels in the Parliamentary Labour Party, who seem to think it’s all right when they’re doing it.

“Have you seen the Twitter account @LabourCoupAbuse, which attempts to record incidents in which people who oppose Jeremy Corbyn abuse his supporters?

“Surely you must have heard the rumour that the Labour Party is scanning social media for members who use certain words to describe the anti-Corbyn element – ‘traitors’, ‘scabs’, and ‘scum’, I believe – in order to take away their vote in the leadership election? Yet it seems no attempt is being made to cancel the votes of anti-Corbyn members who call his supporters “Trots”, “rabble” or “dogs”, to quote some high-visibility examples used by MPs, I believe.

“Here’s another point: NEC members act on behalf of the Labour Party membership and are expected to be accountable to those members. That can’t happen if they vote in secret.

“Yes, it opens them up to unwelcome attention from a certain section of society but that can happen to anybody who has a public life – including TV reporters. I have been a local news reporter – and now a very popular political blogger – for many years and I’ve had more than a few myself. You cannot function in politics without being able to ignore them, or at least treat them with the weight they deserve.

“I reiterate: Abuse of any kind – from either side – is unacceptable.

“Why are you concentrating on only one side of it?”

When I interviewed Johanna Baxter, a member of Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee, last night, it was clear to me how upset she was about the abuse and intimidation she says she’s received. She’s normally a confident, self-possessed person, but last night she was trembling and holding back tears.

Ms Baxter says she’s received a couple of thousand emails urging her to put Jeremy Corbyn on the leadership ballot – a decision endorsed by the NEC at their meeting this week. What’s disturbed her is how many of those emails were threatening or abusive. She and some of her colleagues feel under siege.

Hence her decision to speak to me on last night’s Channel 4 News. Afterwards, there was a lot of support on Twitter for her. But there were also rather too many abusive tweets aimed both at Ms Baxter and myself for having the temerity to give her a platform. Some of the tweets challenged me and her to produce the evidence of abuse and threatening behaviour.

I haven’t seen all the emails, but the ones I have are nasty enough.

Intimidating, yes. Abusive, yes. Acceptable? Absolutely not.

The backdrop of intimidation aimed particularly at female politicians is alarming. A brick was thrown through the window of Mr Corbyn’s leadership challenger Angela Eagle earlier this week – a fact I put to my Twitter trolls, some of whom then ventured the opinion that Ms Eagle had set the whole thing up. Many MPs have been badly shaken after the death of the Labour backbencher Jo Cox last month. And now routine abuse online is generating a climate of fear.

Source: Labour leadership must stand up to intimidation and abuse | Cathy Newman


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