What Labour can learn from the Crusades

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Most people who study history know that the period in which the Crusades took place was a time of horror, violence and appalling intolerance towards people of different faiths.

It’s true that a few excesses may have occurred as Europe’s armies descended upon the Holy Land (e.g. numerous cities sacked and burned, women and children butchered in their thousands etc. etc.). But on the other hand, the Crusades helped to strengthen the power of the Church, at least for a time. They were also an excellent way of dealing with the very many young and unemployed noblemen of Europe who were bored and looking for trouble.

I am reminded of the Crusades every time I hear someone say that Labour is a broad church. If it is a church, then it’s one divided and in need of a common enemy.

The Labour Party will soon have a new leader, and that leader will need to find a way to unite the various factions, and quickly. Those factions include a number of caucus members who have historically shown more inclination to attack the leader of their own party than fight National for control of the country.

So whoever wins the leadership contest will need a big, bold, inspiring idea to unite the troops. I’m not saying that the idea should involve looting and sacking cities, or putting entire communities to the sword. No, not at all. It’s become so damn hard nowadays to get away with any sort of atrocity without the International Criminal Court trying to interfere.

But the big, bold, inspiring idea will certainly target a dangerous and hated foe we do not understand, one that fills us with disgust and fear.

There is only one category of people that ticks all these boxes, and it is a mercifully small category. It would make no sense to launch an actual crusade against Islam, not while there are so many Muslims in the world. No, that would be utterly nuts. Let’s leave that one to the Americans.

The dangerous group I have in mind, while small, ought to fill all right-thinking people with indignation. Their poisonous writings are designed to stir up anger against us, and appear deliberately aimed to inspire hostility and contempt towards our most hallowed institution.

We cannot let these people go on doing this. They are our enemy, and they must be stopped.

I’m not entirely sure what practical steps we can take against these people, since they live on the other side of the world and are well protected by the laws of their nation. But even if our new Labour Party leader does little more than ramp up the rhetoric against these poisonous creatures, that would be a pretty good start.

We must not allow these English rugby journalists to go on attacking our beloved All Blacks. They are hurting our feelings.

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The period of the Crusades was also notable for the zero tolerance displayed by religious authorities towards any form of heresy. It was bad enough if you worshiped the wrong god; if you worshiped the same god in a slightly different way, then you were just as much an enemy and had to be destroyed.

In all of Labour’s efforts over the last few weeks to put the horrors of the election result behind it, the party has lost sight of the need to root out anyone with a slightly different point of view. Indeed, there is a huge risk that the winner of the leadership contest may even try to accept these differences of view as if they are normal and to be expected in any mainstream political party.

But heresy must always be stamped out. If indeed Labour is a broad church, then why do we go to church other than to worship? Most traditional forms of worship involve sacred rituals and a body of dogma that cannot be questioned, and anyone who defies the sanctity of those holy things is a defiler who must be driven out.

If you do not worship my god in exactly the right way then you are a threat, although admittedly I don’t entirely understand why. It just feels wrong to allow within the party someone who I might end up having a mild argument with over a quiet cup of tea during a gathering of party people. What if I spill my tea? What if my vanilla wine biscuit ends up crumbling between my fingers as I engage in a point by point refutation of some party member’s insidious views on the retirement age and capital gains taxes? Who will vacuum the crumbs off the floor? Why does nobody ever think about the poor cleaner when they start an argument?

How can we fight National effectively while at the same time engaging in robust and constructive debate about the way ahead? I don’t dare to think what might happen in 2017 if we end up being side-tracked by internal discussion and consultation in good faith about the best way to achieve victory.

That’s why this leadership contest is a golden opportunity for the winner. Whoever wins (and by “whoever”, I mean of course the person I ranked first on my ballot paper) must drive out of the party anyone who threatens to have an opinion of their own. Many of these seditious troublemakers have already made themselves known during the campaign by publicly backing the wrong candidate. Rounding them up shouldn’t prove too difficult.

The traditional method used by religious authorities to deal with those it disagreed with was fire. But times have changed, and various provisions of the Crimes Act now make it impracticable for party activists to burn at the stake those who don’t believe the things they should. The most we can now do is expel from the party those we disagree with.

We should give those who erred the opportunity to publicly repent of their actions, but if they persist in holding incorrect opinions they must be expelled. Excommunicated!

To my friends within the party, you can avoid all of this bother by simply voting for the right person. You know who that person is.

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