In the course of a wide-ranging interview in today’s Observer, Jeremy Corbyn was asked, among other things, about abusive behaviour in the Labour Party. His response was instructive:
I know that I have received more abuse than I ever use to. But then maybe I’m better known these days. But I receive more abuse than anybody else. The best way of dealing with abuse is: ignore it.
No, Jeremy, that’s not remotely good enough. Everybody knows you don’t deal with abuse by ignoring it; you confront it. It’s only when you do that and deal with the aftermath that abuse can be dealt with. Every social worker, everyone who works with victims of abuse – physical, mental and emotional – knows that. Ignoring it is accepting it; you may choose that path for yourself but, as the leader of an organisation that is supposed to promote values of care and justice, it’s your duty to speak out against abuse, wherever it comes from. and to act. Blanket condemnations are not good enough.
For example, I know of an example where a person – a woman – who challenged a Momentum line at a Labour meeting was barged in a corridor afterwards – by a man. Is your message – as leader of our party – to that member that she should simply ignore it? Don’t you think it’s your job to confront that kind of behaviour, even when (or particularly when) it comes from someone who styles themselves as one of your supporters?
Because if you don’t, you’ve got a problem. Leadership is about doing the right thing, even if it involves decisions that those around you don’t really like. It’s your job – and that of every member of the NEC, and of the party’s staff and officers at every level, to confront abuse. Because, actually, that’s what leadership looks like.