X Close

Owen Jones represented the worst of Labour

Bon voyage. Credit: Getty

March 22, 2024 - 7:00am

Yesterday, Owen Jones dramatically stormed out of the party he said was in his blood, urging people to vote for Green and independent candidates in the upcoming election. In his video message, the Left-wing activist claimed his “political red line”, the reason he was handing in his membership card, had been crossed because the current Labour leadership is “backing war crimes and mass slaughter”. It seems unlikely the people of Gaza will be aware of his noble gesture of solidarity, but it has provoked comment here in the UK.

It is tempting to imagine those in the Labour leadership will be experiencing a sort of giddy excitement at the loss of Jones. But the Tories must also be delighted by the news, because to coincide with his resignation the Guardian columnist launched the “We Deserve Better” campaign, which will give financial support to Green and independent candidates.

Jones didn’t only trumpet his resignation in his podcast: in a 1,300-word whinge for the Guardian he complained that the party had become a “hostile environment” for those on the Left, and that he and his comrades felt like “pariahs”. This is a dizzying double standard.

To make such a claim, when Jones has supported the hounding of female journalists such as Suzanne Moore and Hadley Freeman from the paper for which he is still paid to write, takes some adamantine neck. And as a champion of Jeremy Corbyn, the Left-winger has failed to reflect on his own part in tolerating a hostile environment for Jewish politicians such as Luciana Berger, who left Labour following the former leadership’s failure to take claims of antisemitism seriously.

Jones also seems fairly sanguine about the monstering of those who know that biological sex is real, regularly deriding them as “Terfs” and “transphobes”. Gender-critical people who’ve hung on in the Labour Party have more experience than Jones of being treated as pariahs.

The first wave of resignations over the trans divide happened in 2017, after the executive committee of the Bexhill and Battle Labour Party handed in their cards en masse in support of women’s officer Anne Ruzylo. Ruzylo, a lesbian trade unionist of 30 years, says she was prevented from raising her concerns about gender self-identification and that she suffered harassment by trans activists within the party. In the years that have followed, thousands of former members have used the #labourlosingwomen hashtag on social media to signal their frustration at the party’s refusal to listen to them.

Grassroots groups, including Lesbian Labour, Women’s Place UK and Labour Women’s Declaration, have been shut out of meetings, refused stalls at conferences and smeared and harassed by fellow members. Lists have even been made on social media identifying gender wrong-thinkers. Meanwhile, openly gender-critical feminists such as Rosie Duffield MP have been given the cold shoulder by Starmer for years.

But there is one point Jones was entirely correct to raise. With surprising astuteness, he pointed out Starmer’s slippery stance on vital matters from how the party deals with accusations of racism to Israel’s attack on Gaza. And it is true: the Labour leader has the impressive lawyerly ability to speak out of both sides of his mouth at once: he is a consummate “flip-flopper”.

Starmer’s approach to the “woman question” also illustrates this. He has variously claimed that “it’s not right” to say that only women have a cervix, that “trans women are women” and that “99% of women don’t have a penis.” He has promised to protect sex-based rights, yet has pledged to introduce gender self-identification and failed to define “woman”. He has also not honoured his commitment to meet with Rosie Duffield MP.

Clearly, Starmer’s principles depend upon who is asking the question. To quote my fellow ex-Labour member Jones, this is “a sure sign of moral bankruptcy”.


Josephine Bartosch is a freelance writer and assistant editor at The Critic.

jo_bartosch

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

59 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago

“Jones didn’t only trumpet his resignation in his podcast: in a 1,300-word whinge for the Guardian he complained that the party had become a “hostile environment” for those on the Left, and that he and his comrades felt like “pariahs”. This is a dizzying double standard.”

It maybe, but its very true that Left wingers, critical thinkers, etc, are being marginalised or even booted out of the party, some are cranks who probably are best in a far left sect, but many aren’t, and are a loss.

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Starmer does have to get rid of the Socialists though. He wouldn’t want to damage his election prospects by leaving too many nut-job Left Wingers in the Party.

Dave Weeden
Dave Weeden
4 months ago

Just when many people think Labour will romp home at the next election, Owen Jones backs a campaign which “will target the seats of senior Labour MPs.” There is no rational explanation for this behaviour. He MUST be a Tory sleeper agent. (Except none of them could run a whelk stall, and they’re all totally indiscreet.)
He’s right that Starmer is untrustworthy and doesn’t possess any principles, but by this point he’s said so many bad things about Sir Keir that at least one or two of them would be true just by chance. Still, we can now look forward to ‘Russell Brand [or blokeish celeb du jour] has endorsed “We Deserve Better” and the Tories and Labour should be worried” appearing in the Guardian before October.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
4 months ago
Reply to  Dave Weeden

The ‘rational explanation’ for Owen’s behaviour is straightforward: ocean-going narcissism.

John Howes
John Howes
4 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

If you will forgive me, I feel ‘rational explanation’ may be overegging the pudding.

David Brown
David Brown
3 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

let’s hope there’s an iceberg

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
3 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

‘ocean-going narcissism’ – beautiful phrase.

James Kirk
James Kirk
4 months ago
Reply to  Dave Weeden

I often wondered if Corbyn was a mole. Starmer’s injected dozens in to make up.

John Howes
John Howes
4 months ago
Reply to  Dave Weeden

If wee nerdy lad is to target the seats of senior Labour MP’s and Galloway’s mates are doing a save HAMAS run as well, it may not be an easy shoe in for Labour. Given that Pixie Balls-Cooper declined to answer if Labour would pay the WASPI victims having made an impassioned denouncement of the Tories. It would appear we should rename it a General Defection, if/when it arrives.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
4 months ago

Is Owen Jones gay? He’s never mentioned it

R Wright
R Wright
4 months ago

As gay as Gove.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
4 months ago

Labour’s not doing well on the whole “broad church” thing these days.

AC Harper
AC Harper
4 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

The current culture rewards one-cause obsessives who are an awkward fit in a ‘broad church’, left or right.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
4 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

You can’t represent the working poor and millionaire public sector and media professionals at the same time. The interests of these two groups are diametrically opposed.

Starmer has realised this (with nudging from Blair). Expect ever higher taxation and regulation of small business with the rent-seeking middle class bought off with rising house prices, fat contracts for the corporates and GDP growth driven entirely by mass immigration. The Blair formula in short.

Stephen Follows
Stephen Follows
4 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

The only broad church in Westminster is the Catholic cathedral.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
3 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Is it possible to have a broad church when it comes to socialism?

Catherine Conroy
Catherine Conroy
3 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I love this. Yes, those fools are tearing themselves apart. They’ll still get elected because of Tory fatigue but all they’ll do is argue among themselves.

Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
4 months ago

I suspect he won’t be the last. There must be many in the media class who are now thinking, ‘I’ve been batting for Labour against the Tories for years, now I’m going to have to defend them and their policies once they are in power’.

Timothy Baker
Timothy Baker
4 months ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

I am old enough to remember when Labour represented the WORKING class. An old Labour councillor told me that when he first joined the party its membership consisted of factory workers, shop workers and agricultural workers. He said he was the only councillor in his party who had actually come up through the trade union movement, but now he was outnumbered by the hard left who had never done a day on a shop floor in their life.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
4 months ago

Oh no, not a hissy fit from Talcum X ?

Now he’s left Labour, he’ll have more time to look for those ‘broody lesbians ‘ to make a baby with. BLESS.

We can have a whip round ( ooeeer) so he can bring succour ( or should that be ‘sucker’?) to those Hamas tunnel-dwellers under A&E departments in Gaza.

Just the sight of his ‘Queers for Palestine ‘ flag is bound to cheer them up – or at least give them some target practice.

John Howes
John Howes
4 months ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

If there’s to be a ‘whip round’ may I bid £100 to administer the first 100 lashes!

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
4 months ago

I’ll send him that book ‘How to be a happy homosexual’ (I’ve finished with it).

Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
4 months ago

Good. Labour needs to be purged of rubbish like this.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
4 months ago

But what will be left if you do that?
A couple of dozen people tops.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
4 months ago

Owen Jones, Talcum X, the increasingly ludicrous Marxist schoolboy- vying only with James O’Brien as the most objectionable media voice of the Left..
Anyone who wants to see Labour lose should mourn wee Owen’s departure from the party. He is political Kryptonite. Every candidate he endorsed in 2019 went on to lose. He fanboyed Corbyn to a record defeat, yet still insists “we won the argument”, the poor lad is as delusional as he is infuriating. Owen made it his personal mission to see Boris lose his seat in Uxbridge, and appeared many times in support of his Labour opponent. The result of all Owen’s effort? – Boris nearly doubled his majority!

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
4 months ago

He represented the Socialist Worker Party faction and their work in electing Jeremy Corbyn, the SWP being obsessed with Israel and originally established by an expatriated campaigned for the 1970s Palestinian intifada.
However, the Labour Party left after this fiasco is also a disaster, lacking any updated political identity other than what they’ve borrowed from the US Democrats and standing on a single platform of a Europhilia with secret economic plans to align with Frankfurt and have a go at entering the euro single currency again.

Fabio Paolo Barbieri
Fabio Paolo Barbieri
4 months ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

And that is bad because?

Robert Tombs
Robert Tombs
4 months ago

If you’re Italian you must know why.

Fabio Paolo Barbieri
Fabio Paolo Barbieri
3 months ago
Reply to  Robert Tombs

Tombs, well named, I moved back to Italy three years ago, and I live incomparably better than I did in the UK. You are an idiot who knows nothing whatsoever of anything outside his “salesmen not wanted” welcome mat.

Michael K
Michael K
4 months ago

Is there a pressure group or something a Labour member can get involved with to try to push for change? The party seems infested with woke activists and incompetent middle managers terrified of questioning anything.
I genuinely feel politically homeless.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
4 months ago
Reply to  Michael K

I suspect many on the right would share your concern.

James Kirk
James Kirk
4 months ago
Reply to  Michael K

Hold your nose and give Tice a chance. Plenty of their candidates have dirty fingernails. Labour have well and truly pulled the ladder up.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
3 months ago
Reply to  Michael K

there is, Its called The Conservative Party.

Dick Barrett
Dick Barrett
4 months ago

It is always good to see someone seeing the light late in the day rather than never seeing it at all. However, Jones helped to bring Starmer to where he is by not helping to repudiate the hysterical campaign about “anti-semitism” which was used to undermine Corbyn, and with it the socialist policies he advanced.

James Kirk
James Kirk
4 months ago
Reply to  Dick Barrett

I think it was more IRA, Hamas and by inference ISIS that Jones ‘forgot’ about.

Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
4 months ago

Good riddance to be honest and this from someone who has been reading The Guardian for 50 years and has always voted Labour unless a Lib Dem would be the better option to oust a Tory. I have no problem with John Harris and Aditya Chakrabortty but Owen is beyond the pale.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
4 months ago

Israel’s attack on Gaza? Who attacked who on October 7th?

Edwin Blake
Edwin Blake
4 months ago

Has all the hypocrites accusing Jones of hypocrisy are clearly confessing by projecting.
He has been principled in exposing and documenting Israel’s genocide over many months. He is the opposite of the Sir Keir Rodney Starmer KCB KC.

Neiltoo .
Neiltoo .
4 months ago
Reply to  Edwin Blake

The number of people who don’t understand what the word genocide means is quite amazing!

Pedro the Exile
Pedro the Exile
3 months ago
Reply to  Neiltoo .

and simultaneously depressing and frightening

Anthony Roe
Anthony Roe
4 months ago

Is ‘Owen Jones’ a real person, has anyone seen him in the flesh? Prehaps I could employ him to clean my windows.

Eleanor Barlow
Eleanor Barlow
4 months ago
Reply to  Anthony Roe

Oh he is a real person, more’s the pity. His article in the G is pure spite because he can’t get what’s on his shopping list for Labour’s manifesto pledges. Cleaning windows is about all he’s fit for, but like many lefties, he’s got ideas above his ability level.

David Brown
David Brown
3 months ago
Reply to  Eleanor Barlow

when your ability level is as low as his, every idea falls into that category

Ray Ward
Ray Ward
4 months ago
Reply to  Anthony Roe

Yes, he’s real. I heard him speak and met him. Not impressed

Graeme Kemp
Graeme Kemp
4 months ago

Who cares what Owen Jones thinks?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
3 months ago
Reply to  Graeme Kemp

I’m sure his mummy , whose shadow he still lives under, cares about his utterings. Kind of like the parental delight you experience when you are convinced your child’s first word was something amazing but everyone else just heard a loud burping sound.

Richard C
Richard C
4 months ago

Jone’s departure is clearly a boost for the Labour Party as some wary Lib Dems and Red Tories – that is, the Conservative parliamentary party – will now see it as a safer home for them.
Being wrong on pretty much everything didn’t stop Biden from becoming President and it hasn’t cost Jone’s his job so maybe that’s the way of the future in the media classes, as it is in the political?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago

Mr Jones has a phenomenal talent for self-promotion. What’s astonishing – and is one of the many reasons I stopped buying and even reading the paper – is how willing the Guardian has been to encourage him in these endeavours.

David Brown
David Brown
3 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

exactly, he was once a decent voice for the working class until he realised they had no interest in bringing about the next marxist revolution at which point he took agin them big time in favour of more potentially revolutionary sectors like trans

Wild Mare
Wild Mare
4 months ago

Any chance of him retiring to a Trappist monastery?

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
4 months ago

whenever someone utters things like war crimes, oppression, and genocide, it’s a good indication that they are parroting talking points and have nothing useful to say. One could reasonably question the extent to which the Israeli govt is pursuing retribution for October 7, but it’s poor form to act as if that day never happened.

Mike Cook
Mike Cook
4 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

It is not retribution, the response is to destroy a barbaric army that has declared it intends to commit further genocide.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
3 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

How is it retribution? Hamas have said they are prepared to have a re run of Ocotober 07th. Only a fool wouldn’t take their enemy serious when they tell yiu their intentions. Perhaps the citizens of Gaza who cheered and spat at the body of murdered young women should reflect on their part in all this. As should those who built the tunnels and shelter Hamas in civilian spaces.

James Kirk
James Kirk
4 months ago

My Dad was Sunday Mirror Labour. Mum was Sunday Times Tory. He hated Wilson, ‘Does he want to give it away to Heath??’ he’d rage. ‘Scanlon? He’ll get industry shut down!’
Mum hated Thatcher. Poor me. I’ve never given Labour a thought beyond wondering who could vote for Prescots, Rayners, Corbyns, Abbotts, Lammys. Take Starmer and his blind eye to chilld grooming. Tories? I can’t bear the Ellwoods, Tugendhats. Social climbers and Remainers who quote democracy only when it suits. Not even meritocrats.
Talcum X, love it. Deport him to N. Korea.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago

More time now to play with his plastic hammers and sickles.

John Lammi
John Lammi
3 months ago

Does he ever tell the truth?

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
3 months ago

I think you mean the tip of the iceberg

Alistair Scott
Alistair Scott
3 months ago

I’ve always thought Rod Liddle’s renaming of Jones as Squealer was painfully accurate.

Catherine Conroy
Catherine Conroy
3 months ago

Great article, thanks.
I’d love to see the back of both Starmer and Jones, duplicitous careerists.
The Guardian, sinking more deeply into identity politics bullshit.