Army veteran slams Labour right-wingers’ poppy appeal attack on journalist Aaron Bastani

Novara Media's Arron Bastani next to veteran Joe Glenton and Labour MP John Mann
Joshua Funnell

A British combat veteran has jumped to the defence of Novara Media’s Aaron Bastani, who has faced attacks from Labour right-wingers for daring to criticise the performance of the Royal British Legion (RBL) in dealing with homeless veterans.

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson and MP John Mann both condemned Bastani, with Mann saying the journalist “needs throwing out of the Labour Party today”.

But a British Armed Forces veteran spoke exclusively to The Canary about the comments from Mann and Watson, and he didn’t pull his punches.

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The offending tweets

Bastani discusses the RBL issues at length in an episode of Novara Media’s The Bastani Factor. But in summary, he tweeted:

Continue reading below...

He also questioned the morality of RBL pay structures:

But it was this tweet in particular that seemed to provoke the biggest backlash:

The political policing of poppies each year has now become a British tradition. And John Mann was one of the first to weigh in, doing so in characteristically brash fashion:

Tom Watson was also quick off the mark:

Watson seemed to take aim at Bastani not just for his views there, but also for being a relatively new member, invoking the deputy leader’s previous “desperate conspiracy theory” about ‘hard-left entryists‘ joining the party.

An army veteran speaks out

It didn’t take British army veteran Joe Glenton long to stand up for Bastani, though:

He also praised Bastani’s work, saying:

‘Gammon of the Somme’

Glenton, who served six years in the army, wrote in the Independent recently that:

It is that time of year when a vocal and presumably rather unfulfilled section of our society begin to fantasise openly that they not only fought but actually died at the Somme.

And that:

It is testament to the lamentable state of public debate in this country that what should be a sombre and thoughtful annual commemoration, during which we reflect on the glory-less truth of death in war, has become instead a carnival of dumb obedience where even the mildest critique is liable to be crushed under an avalanche of blood-drunk gammons.

Speaking to The Canary

The Canary asked Glenton for his thoughts on Mann and Watson’s comments. And his response speaks for itself:

It’s important to understand who they are and what their politics are. They both came into parliament in 2001. They’ve both been uncritical, or openly supportive of, Britain’s recent wars. They voted for those wars and were against investigations into those wars. You would think, given the amount of people – some of whom I know – who have died because they sent us to Afghanistan and Iraq, that it might give them a moment’s pause before they start wading in on the topic of people’s right to criticise the tone of remembrance.

Because what Bastani was really doing [with the RBL] was raising… a question of resources. Where do resources go if these organisations are so wealthy and there are 13,000 veterans on the streets?

But there is no evidence that they are concerned about the welfare of veterans, other than their annual bout of rhetoric. There’s no evidence to suggest, in terms of their political record, that they are concerned about British armed servicemen or veterans.

What they are concerned about is whether they can recover the zombie politics of Blairism and it can takeover the Labour Party again.

The troops come to battle

But Glenton wasn’t alone in sticking his neck out for Bastani (who did a formidable job of defending himself):

Labour’s pro-war faction should take a seat

Those who have done the most to put British servicepeople in harm’s way should think twice before they moralise and lecture about how to respect military sacrifice.

When around 13,000 veterans find themselves on the streets, the onus falls on both government and charity officials, past and present, to explain why.

People should not be publicly shamed for demanding real material change to alleviate the suffering of veterans.

Bastani put it best, “Remember the dead, fight for the living”.

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