Saturday, 12 May 2018

The shame of Barnet - losing a council because the voters think you're racist

Image result for welcome to barnet imagesThe general consensus of the UK media is that Labour did not achieve the result it needed to in the local elections last Thursday. As largely expected, it had lukewarm results in London overall and disappointing results outside.

But the most significant result of the night was surely that in Barnet, where the Tories in midterm, in London, actually regained a council that they recently lost to No Overall Control.

The reason? Unsurprisingly, the Jewish voters of Barnet, surely the council with the highest Jewish contingent in Britain, turned away from Labour in droves. Because they were fed up with Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to tackle anti-Semitism, two years after the Chakrabarti report. And, as the Jewish Chronicle’s Stephen Pollard pointed out:

Crucial point about Barnet is its not just Jewish Labour voters who have been disgusted by the party's handling of its antisemites - it's non Jews too.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Why McCluskey tried to bully moderates last week and why it didn't work

Wes Streeting (left), one of the five MPs attacked by McCluskey, among the
group who escorted Ruth Smeeth MP to the hearing of Marc Wadsworth,
who left her in tears at the launch of the Chakrabarti Report
A week ago, the leader of Britain's largest union, Unite, decided to wade into the anti-Semitism debate with size 10 boots on and have a very personal go at five named MPs. Essentially, he clearly hadn't got the memo from Corbyn where he accepted that the party really did have a problem with anti-Semitism and tried to cling onto the idea that it was a "smear", whipped up to destabilise the Dear Leader. He then went further, saying these MPs would be "held to account" (translation: deselected). It was a serious misreading of the gravity of the situation, in terms of both media and the party's representatives.

Firstly, kudos to the MPs concerned: Chris Leslie, John Woodcock, Wes Streeting, Neil Coyle and Ian Austin. All five of them are people I have met at least briefly over the years, and they are all decent and politically sound, especially on this touchstone issue (yes Ian, I have moved on from the time you bawled me out over Gordon's laptop, or whatever it was).

You should all be proud to wear this threat as a badge of honour - you are being singled out, essentially, for defending Jews. Good on you. Right now, people need to stand up and be counted as a matter of honour.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Labour’s current situation with anti-Semitism is unsustainable

Let’s try an experiment. Since anti-Semitism is a form of racism, let’s simply use the word “racism” as we outline the following facts.

In the last four weeks, a British mainstream political party has:
  • Received a letter, addressed to its leader by two well-respected national community groups, protesting perceived institutional racism within it;
  • Been demonstrated against, twice, by anti-racism campaigners, the first of which demos was attended a number of its own MPs;
  • Had various members threatening those same MPs with deselection and abusing them online over their attendance of said anti-racism demo, including a celebrity member demanding their expulsion;
  • Had hundreds of members attending a counter-demo, against the anti-racism demo, which included a banner from the country’s biggest trade union;
  • Had its leader attend a controversial event with a radical left-wing group who also criticised the first anti-racism demo;
  • Had its leader found to be a member of a number of Facebook groups infested with racists, ultimately forcing him to close his Facebook account;
  • Had its leader support in an online Facebook comment the painter of a racist mural;
  • Had its Head of Compliance resign, after his department had already been significantly beefed up to deal with a flood of disciplinary issues connected with racism;
  • Appointed a leader to the party machine – ultimately in charge of dealing with first-level disciplinary issues – who had previously been in controversy over remarks that many perceived as downplaying racism;
  • Had to remove the chair of its Disputes Panel for championing an activist suspended for posting about the “Holocaust Hoax”, and only after public outcry was said chair actually removed from its National Executive Committee;
  • Replaced said chair with NEC member who worked for, and has in the past defended, former London mayor Ken Livingstone, also currently suspended for alleged racism;
  • Had another NEC member write a piece in the Guardian criticising MPs who attended the anti-racism demos;
  • Had a cross-party group of peers ask the Met to investigate various Facebook posts by its members for inciting racial hatred;
  • Had a sister party in another country suspend relations with it over perceived tolerance to racism.
It’s not pretty, is it?

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Labour's anti-Semitism tipping point - or not?

An update on the many things I have written on Labour, Momentum, the left in general and anti-Semitism over the last seven years: I and others have wondered in recent months whether or not Labour is actually close to a "tipping point" on the issue, where its failure to deal with the issue can no longer be swept under the carpet.

On Sunday, a row which had really been rumbling quietly since 2012 came to the surface: a Facebook post of a blatantly anti-Semitic East End mural was defended by Corbyn. While one presumes (and he maintains) that he had not really looked at it very closely, it is still extraordinary that even a backbench MP would not notice the images of bankers with big noses, playing Monopoly on a board supported by the bodies of black slaves, and find it somewhat, er, problematic.

Rightly, the Campaign Against Antisemitism and the Board of Deputies of British Jews wrote Corbyn a very strongly-worded letter on the subject last weekend and, perhaps for the first time, Corbyn apologised in an "emergency" Sunday night statement for the apparent resurgence of anti-Semitism within his party; really a tacit acknowledgement of the dismal failure of his Chakrabarti report to address previously-reported problems. He stopped short, however, of acknowledging his personal complicity in encouraging this resurgence via numerous other episodes (see Centre Lefts passim).

It will be difficult now for Corbyn not to act in cases such as Ken Livingstone's, however it seems clear that neither does he directly hold the ring on all such matters and may not be prepared to challenge his new General Secretary (or the father of her child, Len McCluskey), the NEC or other figures within wider Labour circles.

It might even be that, at some point, the powers behind the throne see fit to ditch Corbyn in favour of someone like Emily Thornberry, who has been quietly positioning herself as the "pro-Jew" succession candidate. While it seems unlikely that such a leadership would be any better than Corbyn's in many areas (e.g. foreign policy, as we recently saw over Iran), at least - at least! - something might finally be done to rid the party of this particular cancer. 

That said, there have been many previous false dawns on this issue going back to the Miliband leadership. It would be unwise to hold one's breath.

Monday, 26 March 2018

The Labour MP’s dilemma: when does this become party before country?

Image result for labour party imagesIf there were a week for Labour MPs to question their continued acceptance of the party whip, it was surely the last one.

Should we cite the lack of apparent sanction on Chris Williamson MP, who appeared onstage with Jackie Walker, suspended from the party for anti-Semitism along with Tony Greenstein, and then proposed their readmission to the party, to rapturous applause?

Or the stitch-up of the General Secretary choice, effectively handing control of the party machine to Len McCluskey and his acolytes? Triggering the resignation of six key staff-members? While the aforementioned Walker and Greenstein celebrated outside party HQ, barracking the party’s remaining staff and telling them they were coming for the rest of them? And a General Secretary herself, notorious for questioning the neutrality of Baroness Jan Royall to run an anti-Semitism inquiry, on the spurious grounds that she had once visited Israel?

But the real question for Labour MPs is simple: can you genuinely look yourself in the mirror in the morning and say “I want Jeremy Corbyn to be Prime Minister”?

Yes, we know there are millions of supporters to whom we owe a Labour government. Yes, we know you may well think he’ll probably never get there, but that’s not the point. What if he does?

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