How Martin Bright Got Sacked From The Staggers

Nick Cohen, writing in Standpoint, reproduces an old Private Eye column:

Last April the Eye said:

Charlie Whelan, Gordon Brown’s former spin-doctor, still acts as an enforcer for his old boss, and at the British Press Awards, he was in his usual thuggish form.

He toured the tables at the Grosvenor House Hotel in the company of fragrant Tory hackette Tara Hamilton-Miller. It was late in the evening, and he was a little tired and a touch emotional.

Hamilton-Miller introduced him to Vanessa Thorpe, the Observer’s arts correspondent. ‘I’m sure we’ve met before,’ said Whelan. Thorpe explained that she was the partner of Martin Bright, the New Statesman’s political editor, and they had bumped into each other at a Labour bash. ‘In fact,’ she added, proudly, ‘Martin and I have just got married.’

Instead of congratulating her, Whelan’s face darkened. Geoffrey Robinson, the wealthy Labour MP and one of Brown’s oldest friends, bankrolls the Staggers. Next to its office, is the Robinson-funded Smith Institute, a think tank that so blatantly provided jobs and favours for Brown’s allies, the Charity Commission investigated it.

Brown’s aides expect Robinson and everyone he employs to follow the party line. They hate Bright because in a documentary for Channel 4, he investigated the corruption allegations against Ken Livingstone’s cronies, the London Mayor’s use of public money for political purposes and his alliances with ultra-reactionary Islamists. He then compounded the offence, by writing articles for the Statesman that were insufficiently adulatory about the Great Helmsman.

Immediately after the Livingstone documentary, Neal Lawson the Brownite lobbyist was telling anyone who would listen that Bright had to be punished.

Whelan followed up by giving Thorpe and listening hacks a rambling monologue in which he asked her to agree that her husband and father of her two children should be fired. ‘I’m no fan of Livingstone but Martin Bright should not be political editor after what he did,’ he said. ‘You can see that. I’m going to talk to Geoffrey. He can’t allow this. He can’t allow criticism of Gordon. If Geoffrey’s got any sense, he’ll listen.’

A few months later, Bright was forced out.

Instead of Bright, we get Mehdi Hasan: a man who believes that non-Muslims are “kafirs” and like “cattle”, and who both praises and takes a face value the Supreme Leader of Iran’s ersatz anti-nuclear rhetoric.

The punishment of Livingstone’s critic contrasts dramatically with the favour shown to the former Mayor.

Despite having allied with supporters of the clerical fascist parties, Hamas-Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami, despite having stood against an official Labour candidate, despite having integrated the leading members of the anti-Labour Trotskyite cult Socialist Action into his office, Livingstone is honoured by the Labour Party.

Indeed, this weekend, two Labour ministers participated in his “Progressive London” conference, at which the USSR’s former ‘agent of influence’, Richard Gott, and the self-admitted traitor, Azad Ali also spoke.

The justification for the indulgence, I assume, is that Livingstone is considered an electoral asset, who can energise the Party faithful. Therefore, he deserves protection.

That’s not my view.