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Porn, fags and Big Macs: Labour and the ethics of business donations

Corbyn and the Big MacBack in 2002, New Labour accepted a £100,000 donation from Daily Express proprietor Richard Desmond, a man who made his original fortune from printing pornographic publications under such lurid titles as The Very Best of Mega Boobs and – hey, let’s not be squeamish, because Blair certainly wasn’t – Spunk Loving SlutsQuestioned on the issue, cabinet minister John Reid retorted:

If you asking if we are going to sit in moral judgment and have a political judgment on those who contribute to the Labour Party, the answer is no.”

And there you have it. Business bungs to Labour were at that time officially a morality-free zone, in which even political calculations played no part. One wonders what the current crop of feminist Labour MPs – the ones that routinely indict Corbyn for alleged low-level non-violent misogyny, even as they threaten to knife him in the front – would have made of that one?

Censoriousness, dear reader, is no part of my intent. Adult entertainment is patronised by such Labour stalwarts as Simon Danczuk, and if he can somehow assuage his desire to sext teen dominatrices while drunk and horny in a Spanish hotel room, all to the good.

But tactically, the decision was risibly stupid. The money came with the condition attached that it had to be spent on political advertising in Express newspapers, where it can have won but few to the Labour fold.

Offset that tenuous gain against the number of women who will have declined to vote Labour in disgust at it taking cash from a purveyor of low-level non-violent tit and bum mags, and the exercise will almost certainly have been self-defeating.

But even 14 years ago, New Labour had form for this sort of stuff. I’ve just started reading Tom Bower’s biography of Tony Blair, Broken Vows, which in chapter five goes over Formula One tycoon Bernie Ecclestone’s controversial £1.0m gift to Labour 1997. The Blair government subsequently delayed the implementation of EU restrictions on tobacco advertising, which would have hit F1 for six.

Bower lifts the lid on the fibs, half-truths and questionable excuses that Blair and his supporters advanced at the time. This affair was, it now looks, every bit the straightforward cash transaction the cynics among us felt it was at the time. The lessons here are obvious; whatever Dr Reid misguidedly contends, the question of just who a democratic socialist party should be bankrolled by is a question in which both morality and political judgment absolutely should be exercised.

Fast forward to the current furore over Labour’s apparent refusal to accept £30,000 from McDonald’s, in return for a stand at this year’s party conference. This has attracted the ire of Hostile Group types such as Wes Streeting and . The latter even took to the public prints to slam the move as ‘a juvenile piece of gesture politics’.

Actually, Labour got it right this time. While McDonald’s employment practices have improved in recent years, it remains notorious worldwide as a bastion of hostility to trade unionism.

On those grounds alone, there is absolutely no ethical reason that a party which famously emerged out of the bowels of the TUC should turn a blind eye and bank the dosh.

It is true, as Austin points out, that the company employs 100,000 people in this country. But newsflash; a large chunk of them won’t be lovin’ it working there. Many actively hate their McJobs, and will secretly be pleased to see their employers coming in for a big of stick.

Nor will millions of customers necessarily be offended, as Austin asserts. The overwhelming majority simply won’t give a toss, one way or the other. People eat at the Golden Arches because it is cheap and convenient. That’s all. Even diehard punters know that the food is nutritionally nugatory.

In short, forget the charges of falafel-crazed Islington North foodie snobbery or disdain for the Big Mac-eating proletariat. This is just the Labour right taking another potshot at Jezza, and there will be another excuse along next week. Do us all a favour, and give it a break for once, guys.

10 Comments

  1. john P Reid says:

    surely the question is, who are we to judge morality on what’s socially acceptable, regarding adult entertainment. why is the phrase boobs lurid? or for you to feel discusted at it’s legal afterall, when the labour party has lost elections as we’ve not had enough money is hypocritical especially when the Tories were proposing opting in, rather than opting out of the union fee

    Danczuk has admitted his text was stupid, he’s single ,the lady was one of his constituents who was after a job as well

    as it happens the Express backed the labour party in the elections we won!!

    what Jess Philips feels about corbyn, be it wanting to legalise sex workers or not having enough women in the top job, or turning a blind eye to segregated muslim meetings is one thing on the other hand Philips has aright to say that she feels Jeremy is unelectable,

    how could Blair have stopped EU laws having advertisements on the TV of European countries Grand prix with cigarette adverts on the cars, and labour refused the Ecclestone money

    remind me wasn’t labour also founded by the Co-op and fabians and we bullied out various fabians who went to the SDP, and the TUC has never accepted responsibility to losing us elections after the winter of discontent, if a party is formed out of practices years ago,it doesn’t mean those practices are relevant now.
    and MCdonalds creates jobs, something that union militantism lost.

    yes the public won’t give a toss,theyll just see it’s another sign of snobbery and stop voting for us, and despite what you say still feel islington champagne socialists are snobs, but then losing votes on a left ticket is amoral victory ,isn’t it,

  2. Karl Stewart says:

    “…what Jess Philips feels about corbyn, be it wanting to legalise sex workers or not having enough women in the top job, or turning a blind eye to segregated muslim meetings is one thing on the other hand Philips has aright to say that she feels Jeremy is unelectable…”

    Jess Phillips is a revolting right-wing gobshite who should have been arrested when she made a public death threat against Corbyn during her interview with Owen Jones.

    1. John P Reid says:

      Why is being right wing revolting,and why is she right wing?

    2. James Martin says:

      I think calling her right-wing implies that she actually bothers to think of political positions and ideology, whereas she gives the impression of not thinking at all before she says something, and indeed seems to say things as an alternative to thinking at all. Her dreadful comments on Question Time comparing the hundreds of sexual assaults, including rape, that happened in Koln on NYE to an average night out in Birmingham is a classic example with the only question being which city she insulted the most with it.

      1. Karl Stewart says:

        She said she would knife Corbyn “in the front”, which is a death threat.

        She should have been arrested.

        1. John P Reid says:

          The phrase knifed in the back, Is used politically to remove someone from power when they’re not looking, in the front means with their knowledge

          1. Karl Stewart says:

            A reference to someone else ‘stabbing in the back’ another person is a well-known expression.

            A first-person threat to ‘knife’ someone ‘in the front’ has never been used as a ‘phrase’ or as a ‘figure of speech’ by anyone ever.

            If gobshite Phillips wants to try to excuse her death threat on those highly dubious grounds, she should tell it to the judge.

            A few years ago, two young working-class guys were each sentenced to four years for making what they claimed were ‘humorous’ facebook comments allegedly encouraging people to smash windows in Warrington.

            Their claims that they were ‘only joking’ and that no window-smashing actually took place were dismissed by the court, which sentenced them both to four years.

            But of course these two guys were not the darlings of the right-wing establishment.

          2. John P Reid says:

            Knifing someone in the front , has been used all the time,it’s the opposite to knifing in the back

  3. Karl Stewart says:

    Phillips’s death threat reminded me of comments made by that other right-wing gobshite Jeremy Clarkson, when he ‘humorously’ called for strikers to be shot.

    And also of Sarah Palin’s ‘gunsights’ threat to Democrat congress members who voted for healthcare.

    1. John P Reid says:

      Just recall clarkson wants to stay in the EU

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