In defence of heckling

The non-news story about the heckling of a schoolgirl at the Labour Party conference this week had largely passed me by when it first hit the headlines. Typical anti-Labour and anti-socialist ranting by the right-wing press, who will seize on anything, however trivial, to try and discredit their opponents. Even I can’t get angry at every affront to the truth printed in the feral British media.

And reading through the versions of ‘events’ as presented by the Daily Mail and the Sun, that is basically the sum total of it. Total horseshit by dyed-in-the-wool reactionaries.

But it’s been increasingly getting on my tits over the last 24 hours so I think I’ll say a few words about it now. I’m in that kind of mood. Mambo is angry, although the reasons have more to do with having my bike stolen last night than events at the Labour Party conference.

Fucking disaster. The brakes were worn out, the gears were jumping all over the place and the wheels were buckled, but that isn’t the point. I loved that bike.

Anyway, I’ll put aside my personal misery aside for a moment and set the scene for you. Labour Party conference I mean, not the scene of the greatest crime in history.

It’s a rather staid, cynical conference trick to roll out one of ‘the public’ to discuss an issue in a supposedly non-political way. I suppose the intent is to demonstrate that the party leadership is down with the kids or something, but more importantly to reinforce a particular political agenda. In this case, it is that Academy Schools are basically amazing and Labour shouldn’t really say much to oppose them. It would be ‘anti-aspirational’.

The pupil, Joan al-Assam, an Iraqi girl who came to the UK aged 6, said the following:

‘Some of us explore our creativity through thousands of hours of brushstrokes and hundreds of hours of art. To many of you this may seem extraordinary that an inner city school offers so much, but to us at Paddington this is nothing but normal.’

Yes amazing. Doing art at school? How utterly extraordinary. I’ve never heard anything like it. They do Maths and English too there apparently. Gadzooks. And at an inner-city one to boot? My god! I thought all they got taught was how to shoplift and shoot up.

An audience member was quick to point out one of the two options below, depending on which of the two wank-rags is being more accurate:

‘They do that at comprehensives too you know.’


“Comprehensives have extra-curricular art too.”

Either of which is true. I’m pretty sure most, if not all, comps offer a fairly broad range of subjects for their students. They kind of have to legally I think.

Of course the conceit of Academies is that they are offering something new and innovative in contrast to bog-standard comprehensives.

They aren’t though really. They are just an instrument for policy-makers who are either desperate, myopic, craven or just plain old-right-wing to remodel the education system along their own desired lines, and will in fact remove the limited democratic control that LEAs had over education.

Al-Assam’s speech was feeding into the dangerous lie that Academies are the answer to the education problems we have, when in fact they will only serve to make them worse. The heckler was absolutely right to question this narrative. It is to the Labour Party’s shame that it had to be someone from the floor who had to take a stand.

So what exactly is the problem with the heckling? Is it such an awful idea for someone who is talking bullshit, even if she is just a kid who has probably been put up to it, to be questioned on what they have said?


The problem at Labour conference is that there isn’t enough heckling.

Stories like this are manna in heaven for the foaming-at-the-mouth right-wing press, who will seize on any instance of left-wing dissent, however trivial, and try and exploit it in their anti-socialist crusade (why are they so obsessed with the left? Are we really a big threat why now? Are they really that insecure?):

 “Resurrecting Old Labour’s views on education” And there was me thinking it was just a one-line putdown and not a detailed socialist manifesto…..

“But when she made an emotional speech about how the school has helped her, she faced yobbish abuse from a woman believed to be a member of one of the teaching unions.” Yobbish? Was she probably pissed as well then? These left-wing women. Out of control. Almost certainly a dyke too wearing a “hang all men” T-Shirt.

“Teachers turned round the school with a focus on solid academic subjects such as maths” And yet earlier the article was supporting the schoolgirl for arguing that she was expressing herself through the medium of art…….

“Joan, a star pupil at the academy which opened in 2006, sought asylum in Britain at the age of six from Iraq with just the clothes on her back.” Is it worth observing at this point that if the Sun and Daily Mail had had their way she wouldn’t have been allowed to seek asylum in this country in the first place……?

Gutter-journalism at its worst. Although if you really fancy having your enthusiasm for the human race diminished, read some of the comments below the articles.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Robert
    Oct 06, 2012 @ 20:38:11

    I bet she’s an MP in five or six years time.


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