Monday, July 19, 2021

We Will Never Forget Dawn Foster

My blog, you can indulge me a bit about my friend.

Clearly, that couldn’t be allowed to happen. In mid-2019, I noticed that she hadn’t been in the paper for a while and assumed she was ill, so I texted her to see how she was. “Sacked,” she replied, typically to the point. It emerged that she had written a piece, about Labour’s then-deputy leader Tom Watson, that had so upset the paper’s gatekeepers that they decided she couldn’t be kept on. All she’d done was to point out that his boss had come within inches of winning the previous election with the kind of democratic socialist policies that people rightfully associate with, and expect from, a democratic socialist party. Wouldn’t it be better if the deputy leader of that party worked to ensure victory next time, rather than creating the conditions for its catastrophic loss?

The Guardian’s discomfort with Dawn’s perspective — a paper to which I’ve contributed, as a freelance writer, for fifteen years — revealed its institutional classism. Its editors’ failure to recognize the significance of including that perspective, and to do whatever it took to support her, to maintain lines of communication, and simply to accept the existence of blunt, angry people with extremely good reason to be blunt and angry, is proof of that. It’s also bad business: not everyone is a liberal, not everyone who reads the Guardian is well-off, and there is a large constituency of young, well-informed readers who — how to put this? — could do without being told that Jess Phillips speaks for them.