DOMINIC LAWSON: It’s surprising, but I’m feeling sympathy for Rebecca Long-Bailey 8 min read

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As if Labour doesn’t have enough problems with alienating Britain’s Jewish community, it now seems intent on becoming a hostile environment for Catholics, too.

This is the only conclusion to be drawn from the way Rebecca Long-Bailey has been treated after the candidate for the party’s leadership was revealed — shock, horror — to be a practising Catholic.

One of her rivals for the top job (or someone on their team) unearthed an interview Long-Bailey gave in Salford Cathedral during the last election, in which she said she ‘very much values’ the role of the Catholic community in providing education, and that ‘I pray to God every day…my faith is often the only thing that keeps me going’.

A candidate for the party's leadership, Rebecca Long-Bailey, was revealed to be a practising Catholic. She is pictured during the Labour leadership hustings in Liverpool

A candidate for the party’s leadership, Rebecca Long-Bailey, was revealed to be a practising Catholic. She is pictured during the Labour leadership hustings in Liverpool

Worse, or so her rivals would see it, is that she criticised an aspect of the law governing termination of pregnancy.

She pointed out that while abortions could not be carried out beyond the 24th week of a ‘normal’ pregnancy, it was allowed right up to full term if the unborn child was found to have a ‘disability’. Long-Bailey said: ‘I personally do not agree with this position.’

Dictated

In response, Long-Bailey’s rival Jess Phillips opportunistically dashed off a piece for the Daily Mirror declaring that ‘there can be no going back on abortion rights, not an inch’.

Meanwhile the former BBC and Channel 4 presenter Paul Mason — now campaigning for Keir Starmer to become leader, having previously been a cheerleader for Jeremy Corbyn — tweeted: ‘I don’t want Labour’s policy on reproductive rights dictated by the Vatican, thanks.’

Jess Phillips opportunistically dashed off a piece for the Daily Mirror declaring that ‘there can be no going back on abortion rights, not an inch’. She is pictured during the Labour leadership hustings in Liverpool

Jess Phillips opportunistically dashed off a piece for the Daily Mirror declaring that ‘there can be no going back on abortion rights, not an inch’. She is pictured during the Labour leadership hustings in Liverpool 

This is identical to the justification given for Westminster’s discrimination against Catholics in earlier centuries, namely that they were loyal to an alien authority: Rome. And it also has a parallel with the anti-Semitic trope rife among Corbyn’s most fanatical supporters, that British Jews are stooges for Israel. Just as the Jewish community had, for the most part, regarded Labour as its natural political home, so too did Catholics.

This explains why the Labour MPs Mike Kane and Conor McGinn declared: ‘For over one hundred years Catholics across the United Kingdom have formed the backbone of Labour’s vote. Neither of us have nominated Rebecca for the leadership. But we will not stand idle while her faith is being used to smear her.’

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I am not a Catholic. Nor do I share Long-Bailey’s political views, which are what you might expect from someone who even after the election gave Jeremy Corbyn ‘ten out of ten’ for his leadership. But for personal reasons, I am grateful for her criticism of the way unborn children with disabilities are regarded as suitable for eradication at any time in the womb, unlike those designated ‘normal’.

Former BBC and Channel 4 presenter Paul Mason (pictured) — now campaigning for Keir Starmer to become leader, having previously been a cheerleader for Jeremy Corbyn — tweeted: ‘I don’t want Labour’s policy on reproductive rights dictated by the Vatican, thanks'

Former BBC and Channel 4 presenter Paul Mason (pictured) — now campaigning for Keir Starmer to become leader, having previously been a cheerleader for Jeremy Corbyn — tweeted: ‘I don’t want Labour’s policy on reproductive rights dictated by the Vatican, thanks’

Our youngest daughter, Domenica, has Down’s Syndrome. And this condition is overwhelmingly the most common form of disability which, if detected, is considered grounds for termination. Indeed, mothers-to-be come under insidious pressure from medics to terminate, as some who refused have later related.

We didn’t know that Domenica was carrying a third copy of the 21st chromosome until she was born. But when she emerged with the visible signs of Down’s (floppy, with almond-shaped eyes and a distended tongue) to the evident dismay of the medical staff, we were soon given the bleakest prognosis for her quality of life. She would ‘suffer’ from her condition; she might never talk, or even walk.

It was all rubbish. Now 24, Domenica has a vast vocabulary. She has qualified as a Zumba instructor. She works two halfdays a week in the kitchens of Brighton’s Grand Hotel. And she has a capacity for sheer joy, to an extent that I have not witnessed in any other human being.

Domenica Lawson pictured with her father Dominic Lawson. Now 24, Domenica has a vast vocabulary. And she has a capacity for sheer joy, to an extent that I have not witnessed in any other human being

Domenica Lawson pictured with her father Dominic Lawson. Now 24, Domenica has a vast vocabulary. And she has a capacity for sheer joy, to an extent that I have not witnessed in any other human being

This is not unusual among people with Down’s, though. In 2011 the American Journal of Medical Genetics published a paper entitled ‘Self-perceptions from people with Down’s Syndrome’, based on a survey of 300 people with the condition, aged 12 and over.

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The authors concluded: ‘99 per cent of people with DS indicated that they were happy with their lives, 97 per cent liked who they are, and 96 per cent liked how they look.’ You wouldn’t get anything like such positive feelings from a similar questionnaire among ‘normal’ people.

Cerebral palsy is perhaps the next commonest form of disability observed in the new-born. So listen to what the comedian Francesca Martinez (who has CP) says: ‘I have several mates with “severe” CP (I prefer “uber-wobbly”) who fall over regularly or take an age to get a sentence out. But they tend to be happier than pretty much everyone else I’ve met.’

Comedian Francesca Martinez (pictured), who has cerebral palsy, says: ‘I have several mates with “severe” CP (I prefer “uber-wobbly”) who fall over regularly or take an age to get a sentence out. But they tend to be happier than pretty much everyone else I’ve met’

Comedian Francesca Martinez (pictured), who has cerebral palsy, says: ‘I have several mates with “severe” CP (I prefer “uber-wobbly”) who fall over regularly or take an age to get a sentence out. But they tend to be happier than pretty much everyone else I’ve met’

She added: ‘Most parents-to-be still fear that their beloved newborn will turn out to be — oh, the horror — disabled…Had my wobbliness been detected in the womb, my parents would probably have been advised, by a softly-spoken but firm doctor, to have an abortion.’

Offensive

It is barbaric that people like Martinez — or my daughter — should be stigmatised in the womb as deserving, on grounds of their disability alone, inferior protection.

Because if they were not deemed to be inferior, why is it legal for them to be aborted right up to the moment of natural birth, when such terminations between 24 and 40 weeks are illegal if the unborn child has no detected flaws?

It is bizarre that the Labour Party, which sees itself as anti-discriminatory above all, should be blind to this. It is offensive that when Long-Bailey makes this point, it is attributed to her allegiance to ‘the Vatican’, rather than a genuine concern about an aspect of the law that discriminates against disability to the extent of making it a special reason for extinction.

But in turning on Catholics, it is Labour that seems to have a death-wish.

The real abdication was much more toxic

Comparisons between Prince Harry’s departure from Royal life and the abdication of his great-great uncle Edward VIII are a real stretch, and not just because ‘Megxit’ is trivial set against the abdication of the monarch when Edward chose to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson.

The financial negotiations —with Harry agreeing to reimburse the taxpayer for the £2.4m spent on the home on the Windsor estate which had been gifted to the couple — are also trivial compared with the bitter row over money between Edward and his brother George VI. Edward had managed to wring an annual allowance of £25,000 a year — equivalent to no less than £1.75m in today’s money. He also got George to cough up £300,000 for the royal residences of Sandringham and Balmoral (over £20m now).

It then emerged that Edward had given a grotesque underestimate of the other financial assets he had retained. George wrote to him, after discovering this: ‘I am not seeking to reproach you … but the fact remains that I was completely misled.’

And in a letter to Edward’s friend and advisor Walter Monckton, Queen Elizabeth — whom we later knew as the Queen Mother — referred to Wallis Simpson as ‘the lowest of the low’. I have learned all this from my wife, who happens to be Walter Monckton’s grand-daughter.

Monckton was one of a handful of guests at the 1937 wedding in France of Edward and Wallis. After the service, he had what can only be described as a frank discussion with the bride: ‘I told her that most people disliked her very much because the Duke had married her and given up his throne, but that if she kept him happy all his days, that would change; but that if he were unhappy nothing would be too bad for her.’

In that respect, at least, there is a genuine similarity between then and now. If Meghan makes Harry ‘happy all his days’ the British people will (and should) treat her with kindness. We can only hope that this part of the fairy-tale comes true.

'Megxit’ is trivial set against the abdication of the monarch when Edward chose to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson (pictured after their marriage at the Chateau De Cande, in Monts, France, June 1937)

‘Megxit’ is trivial set against the abdication of the monarch when Edward chose to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson (pictured after their marriage at the Chateau De Cande, in Monts, France, June 1937)