Defend Aaron Kiely (but for the right reasons)

The title of this article is not (entirely) satire. Workers’ Liberty Students have consistently criticised "left-wing" student politician and Labour Party careerist Aaron Kiely, exposing his support for police repression and cuts, and his attempts to wriggle out of accounting for these things (see here and here). That is part of the reason we feel the need to defend him against attack from the right.

On 10 October, the Daily Mail published a story claiming that Kiely had been paid almost £7,000 as a councillor in Thurrock this year, despite only attending one council meeting.

If the claims in the Mail article are true (and their grasp on facts is not necessarily rock solid: they claim Kiely is 20, when he is actually 23), this seems to answer a question we have asked repeatedly. Whether as a deliberate strategy or not, Kiely has not attended council meetings, so this year at least has not had to vote either for or against cuts (he attended half of last year’s meetings, so it seems likely he did vote for cuts at some point). Instead he has pocketed his councillor’s salary (on top of his salary as NUS Black Students’ Officer) without turning up and thus avoided trouble with either the Labour council leadership or the student left.

Apparently Kiely faces suspension for his attendance record. At a time when a small but growing number of Labour councillors face being disciplined for defying the official party line and refusing to implement the Coalition’s cuts, this is poor – particularly from a member of a self-styled Marxist group.

All that remains true. But, of course, the Daily Mail is not attacking Kiely for voting for cuts. It is attacking him because it sees a chance to cause trouble for the left. There is some indication that the story was directly planted by the Thurrock Tories, with quotes from a Tory councillor. Naturally the Mail has nothing to say about the hundreds of Tory (and Lib Dem, and other Labour) councillors who must have a similar attendance record to Kiely.

The article attacks Kiely not for the lavish praise he heaped on the police over last August’s riots, but for the mild comments about police racism which preceded it.

It also makes great play of attacking him for opposing Islamist ideologue Abu Hamza’s deportation to the US, a reasonable stance in itself, but one which makes the racist, terrorism- and immigration-obsessed Mail froth at the mouth. (We say in itself because Kiely and Socialist Action are very soft on right-wing political Islam.) There may be a directly racist element here: right-wingers gleefully attacking the NUS Black Students' Officer because he is the NUS Black Students' Officer.

We should defend Aaron Kiely against this right-wing attack. He remains a cynical, fake-left careerist, but such "leaders" need to be dealt with in the movement and by the movement. Socialists must fight the witch-hunting of the likes of the Daily Mail.