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Misogyny and the left

Brand when he was guest editing The New Statesman

“How do you not see something that’s right in front of you?” asks Hadley Freeman in The Sunday Times. I’ve been wondering that myself since the Russell Brand story broke, because the comedian was right in front of me – “literally in my workplace”, at The Guardian – and I didn’t see it. Like so many on the left, I was convinced by his columns that he was on the correct side. “My side. The side that was against nasty politicians and the evil Daily Mail and so on.” When he went on Newsnight in 2014, he was so “obviously idiotic” that I wrote a piece about it, but because he was on “my side”, I still included this line at the end: “Brand is, I have no doubt, one of the good guys.”

Partisanship is a “helluva drug”. But there does seem to be a special vein of nastiness on the left when it comes to women. Gerry Healy, leader of the Workers Revolutionary Party in the 1970s and 1980s, was accused of being a rapist yet “vehemently defended by supporters”. In 2013, a 19-year-old accused Martin Smith, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party, of rape. Again, the SWP “swept the allegations under the carpet”. People say things have changed since the likes of Jeremy Corbyn and Billy Bragg were cosying up to Brand. But they haven’t, really. Rather than praising a comedian who joked about “choking women with blow jobs”, far-left men today express their misogyny by “sneering at women for defending their rights” on trans issues. Labour MP Jess Phillips wasn’t making it up when she said: “Left-wing men are the worst – the actual worst.”