Man derails landmark Labour commitment to drive ‘impatient feminism’ and ratify Istanbul Convention in bid to stop violence against women
SELF-PROCLAIMED human rights activist Peter Tatchell offered a “half-baked” apology for disrupting a speech by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Saturday in an action widely condemned as “misguided and opportunistic.”
Mr Tatchell led a small group which heckled Mr Corbyn’s speech at Central Methodist Hall, London, holding placards denouncing war crimes in Syria and calling for sanctions on Russia for its role in the bombing of east Aleppo. The action interrupted Mr Corbyn’s keynote speech on domestic violence and women’s rights.
When asked by the Star to comment on accusations that his actions had silenced the voices of women and diverted attention away from the crucial issue of women’s rights and domestic violence, Mr Tatchell said: “It’s a pity, sorry about that,” but went on to claim that “it wouldn’t have received any coverage in the mainstream media anyway.”
He insisted that he had been correct to target Mr Corbyn, alleging that while the Labour leader has strongly opposed war crimes perpetrated by Saudi Arabia in Yemen, he is less vocal on those committed by “fascist Assad and the neoimperialism of Russia.”
He attacked Mr Corbyn for letting shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry lead on foreign issues, claiming that Labour’s interventions on Syria were “all talk and no action.
“Not good enough.”
Mr Tatchell repeatedly denied that he had impeded discussion on women’s rights, claiming falsely that “only part of Jeremy’s speech was devoted to women’s issues.”
He insisted that women’s rights and domestic violence were not the main content of Mr Corbyn’s speech and that his stunt could have been avoided if “Jeremy had listened to appeals from Syria solidarity organisations.”
However women’s rights were the main focus of the speech that Mr Corbyn had been due to deliver as he was to set out Labour’s support for the Istanbul Convention, committing a Labour government to ratifying the treaty.
The convention guarantees standards of care and support for domestic abuse victims and is an international treaty that commits to preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.
Britain is a signatory to the convention however has not ratified it. Mr Corbyn’s full speech, published in the Star today, mentions women 52 times.
Stop the War Coalition convener Lindsey German said she was not surprised that Mr Tatchell had taken attention away from “the major issue of the human rights of women” and dismissed his “half-baked” attempt at an apology.
“He always thinks that his is the most important issue and is contemptuous of others, even when the cause is an important one such as this,” she said.
She slammed Mr Tatchell for attacking one the most left-wing leaders of the Labour Party in its history and accused his action of not only silencing women but of “aiding and abetting the right wing.”
“He’s also attacked Stop the War Coalition which has been at the forefront of campaigning against the government’s foreign military interventions. He claims to be on the left and a supporter of Stop the War initially but the reality is that he has supported every war since we were established.
“What he’s calling for now is increased military intervention in Syria. We are clear that there needs to be a humanitarian solution and that means a ceasefire, an end to all bombing and immediate aid under the auspices of international organisations. Also Syrian refugees must be allowed into Europe.”
Mr Corbyn pledged that women will be central to any future Labour government and promised to continue the fight against gender injustice and to prioritise the empowerment of women over war.