Wednesday, 22 November 2017

erasing feminist history - the Bristol mayor 'horsewhip' story


When Winston Churchill arrived at Temple Meads station in Bristol on November 14th 1909, he was attacked with a whip by Theresa Garnett, a suffragette, who shouted "Take that in the name of the insulted women of England!"

 Churchill was Home Secretary at the time, and had authorised forced feeding of imprisoned Suffragettes.

On the anniversary of this incident, Mal Sainsbury, a Bristol Labour Party member and a woman very active in her local community, posted the story on Facebook, commenting
And now there are loads more of us angry women in Labour-controlled Bristol who would quite like to take a horse whip to anyone who votes to strip our city of vital services, close most of our libraries and withdraw funding from all our public parks in the name of 'austerity'. 'Deeds not words' so come and gather on College Green tomorrow from 5.pm for the full public Council meeting at 6.pm to discuss and vote on these disgraceful and completely unacceptable cuts in the City Hall.
Bristol played a major role in bringing down Thatcher's government over the Poll Tax. In those days 5000 of us gathered on College Green and were charged by mounted police.
There are legal and viable alternatives to accepting and implementing Tory brutality and incompetence, and we Women of Bristol will be standing up for all our citizen's rights tomorrow.
Please join us and bring your metaphorical horsewhip to lick our Mayor and Councillors into shape!
Her comment was selectively quoted and used to characterise it as a racist attack on Marvin Rees, the mayor. Here, on Operation Black Vote, it is apparent that the writer calling for her expulsion from the Labour Party was not in possession of the full facts, or that they chose not to reveal them.

Labour party member Mal Sainsbury informed a Bristol local party Facebook group that she’d like to take a ‘horse whip’ to Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees for the cuts he is being forced to make to some local services. She goes on to encourage others to join her: "Please join us and bring your metaphorical whip to lick our Mayor ". 
As a matter of urgency Labour party head office must suspend its racist members in Bristol until a investigation is undertaken, and sanction those who have supported such appalling rhetoric.
It's possible that a case might be made for insensitivity in Mal's post; I'm not the one making that case, though, because I think the response misses the point. Referencing an important moment of Bristol's radical and feminist history in the context of current affairs seems perfectly legitimate; and attempting to silence and mischaracterise that reference is misguided and mischievous, and reflects poorly upon those making that claim.

(postscript 24th Nov) it seems that Bristol mayor Marvin Rees is a member of OBV, the organisation which published the inflammatory article calling for Mal's expulsion from the Labour Party. And as of today, that inflammatory article is still present on OBV's website, despite them being in full possession of the facts, and despite discussions between Mal and OBV as a result of which they expressed themselves satisfied that 'her intentions were not racial'. Anecdotally, I understand that a lot of hostility has been generated against Mal Sainsbury online as a result.