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Sunday 4 March 2018

A few words on Munroe Bergdorf and Labour

Last November there was a stoush about a young guy called Josh Rivers. You may remember.

He was the first black man to be appointed Editor of the magazine Gay Times. But he had a past on Twitter and Patrick Strudwick at Buzzfeed had either found it or someone had pointed Strudwick at it. He had found tweets that were horrific, just the worst. Here's one of them.

Now Strudwick read that tweet one way but I read that another, as Rivers seeing whatever TV show or film he's talking about as promoting a stereotype. Maybe I looked at it that way because I went and looked at the sort of stuff that Rivers was tweeting at this time in 2011.

I've underlined his raging sexism.

Having looked at his old Twitter and then at his most recent Twitter what I saw was a working class black gay London lad, with an activist single mother, who was learning the refined ways of Diversityville. The codes, the lingo, the genuflections. That was all there in his recent Twitter. And for whatever reason someone hated him enough to go trawl through his history.

(Rivers has deleted his Twitter account so it's not now possible to go look.)

Rivers was trashed across all media, even Radio Four did him in. Buzzfeed got their man and now it's immortalised forever on Wikipedia.

The pile on was compete. All his friends abandoned him, nobody spoke in his defence and to my shame I was one of those who said little.

This was a rare comment defending Rivers that was made at that time, one I have a lot of sympathy with.

Both Rivers and today's outrage-du-jour Munroe Bergdorf have said things on Twitter which they later publicly regretted. I have said things I regretted. I bet you, the reader, have too. Yet we seem to have all gone along with a culture where some people are selected to be hung out to dry, to be firmly excluded from the group, for things we know we might have either also done or which could be painted as horrible by a determined adversary. That's not really new but perhaps what is is the sheer amount of piety and righteousness it gets wrapped up in. If there is a line to be crossed that line is dependent on who you are and who's in your team.

Which leads me to this ...

The obvious point

The obvious point is that Rivers got completely different treatment to what we're seeing now with Munroe Bergdorf. 

The other obvious point is that there's a reason why we're even talking about Bergdorf, why she's a thing and why she's defended when Rivers wasn't, and it is linked to what happened to Rivers .

It's the same crowd that generated both of them as stories.

Bergdorf is a thing because Labour's Dawn Butler MP took it upon herself to appoint an 'LGBT Advisory Group'. Hence the photo op with Corbyn. 

Bergdorf's appointment to that group sucked all the air out of the room so there was little left for either why Butler had done this - was it all her idea or her staff's or who came up with this?  - or who were these other people in this group? And how on earth had she not spoken to Labour LGBT, the party's affiliated, representative, long-standing, democratic (you get the picture) LGBT group?

When Labour LGBT sounded off about what Butler had done she quickly apologised and made Labour LGBT the 'secretariat' (no idea either what that means) to this Advisory Group and their complaints stopped. 

Labour lovin' entrepreneurs

Butler's group appears to have been the idea of Linda Riley and Anthony Watson. Riley has enough history for a determined, Strudwick-like, journalist to get their teeth into. This is Watson.

'Lead LGBT Advisor to UK Labour'? Really?

I don't see either Riley or Watson having their histories investigated. (Mind you, Watson's Twitter TL is a deadend, folks. It strongly reminded me of the characters Fluffy and Uranus from the 90s cartoon Duckman. Not a hair out of place.)

What I do see is this same crowd of professional 'diversity champions' all failing to apply the 'standards' they applied to Rivers to their pick for the in-crowd - Bergdorf.

And the sole reason we're even aware of Bergdorf's existence is that this crowd got the ear of Dawn Butler and deliberately snubbed LGBT Labour in order to promote themselves. (They're 'entrepreneurs', remember. Bergdorf's Twitter profile is links to her management and her press contact.)

Helen Lewis made the point today that Bergdorf is in there, in this Advisory Group, just because of her identity but I think she's there because Butler got captured by this professional 'diversity' crowd and what Bergdorf really adds for these people is a little stardust. Both Riley and Watson are Directors of GLAAD, the Hollywood focused diversity organisation whose brand is all about leveraging stardust for the cause. 

The story should be why we're even talking about Bergdorf, but that's not the story.

La Strudwick

Final word: Can I just remind you of something Patrick Strudwick wrote about Rivers?

This is directed at a black, gay working-class Londoner who Strudwick and his ilk decided to collectively take against. It is beyond patronising and yet he got away with it. In fact he's doing fine.

If you're wondering whether Strudwick has had anything to say on the Bergdorf kerfuffle - Not a peep.