In the past month a list has being doing the rounds on the internet which names Labour Party councillors who have pledged their support for Owen Smith, the leader of the soon-to-be failed coup against Jeremy Corbyn.
But, as it turns out, not all of the councillors on this well-publicised list even support Smith, as I recently discovered after posting my article “Leicester’s Tricky 19: New Labour Careerists Seeking New Careers” (August 21).
In my article I pointed out that local Councillor Teresa Aldred had signed up to the list of Owen Smith supporters; but to my surprise Aldred commented under my article: “I’d like to make It fully known I didn’t sign anything supporting Owen Smith. I’d like this noted whoever signed it wasn’t me.”
So much for Smith’s hordes of supporters.
On a different point, Councillor Vijay Riyait also left an informative comment under my article, as he has actually been an unrepentant supporter of the coup against Corbyn. He began: “Nice of you to worry about my deselection considering we’ve never met. You know nothing about me or my life.”
But for the purposes of my article I knew everything I needed to know about his life. First off, Mr Riyait had signed a public statement supporting the coup against Corbyn (at the end of June). Then Mr Riyait had signed another public statement backing Owen Smith’s coup attempt.
It is for these simple reasons that I suggested that Mr Riyait’s career within the Labour Party may soon be coming to an end as a result of his impending deselection. Significantly, Mr Riyait is a proud supporter of the poisonous Blairite faction of the Labour Party, ‘Progress’.
In his comment under my article, Mr Riyait couldn’t understand how his attacks upon the leader of the Labour Party might be related to my calls for his deselection. Thus in his defence he pointed to his own, and his parents, working class backgrounds – a point which only served to emphasize how distant he was (politically-speaking) from the majority of working class Labour Party members who continue to support Corbyn. He explained:
“You won’t know my parents came to Leicester as migrants originally from the Punjab and then Tanzania. They never went to school and worked in the factories of Leicester. We spent most of my parents’ later life from the Thatcher period on benefits.”
This strange defence is one that is often resorted to by Blairites (a good recent example being the disgraced Labour MP Simon Danzuk). As it happens, I was already familiar with Mr Riyait’s working class background from a blog post he made in 2012 in which he announced proudly that he was standing for election to the strategy board of Progress – which he described as an “unashamedly New Labour Pressure Group”. At the time he had written:
“My parents having come to Leicester from the Punjab, India via East Africa in the early 60s with no formal education and having worked in the local factories and being trade union members.”
Finally, as a further defence against my criticisms of his recent anti-democratic actions, Mr Riyait boasts of his own political opportunism:
“I have fought the Govts cuts, opposing in Labour Group the cuts to our care homes, adventure playgrounds and recently supported the call in on the £250K to be spent on one street in the city centre. Do you want to know how Su Barton voted on that? Do you want to ask the Vaughan Centre campaigners what they think about me and my support?”
But the main reason for calling for the democratic retirement of local Labour councillors (like Riyait) is because they are actively supporting an undemocratic coup against the leader of their own party.
It is important to remember that the now debunked Blairite policies of austerity that Mr Riyait wholeheartedly embraces would result in a Labour Government committed to carrying through massive cuts to public services. So it is supremely ironic that Mr Riyait is keen to tout himself as a lone rebel fighting the good socialist fight for the people of Leicester.