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?

Friday, 16 March 2018

Not just Skripal: we should all care about what Putin's up to elsewhere in Europe

Putin's passion for rearmament is well-known (he currently spends around double the proportion of GDP on defence that NATO members do). But so far, his targets have all been able to be dismissed, in Chamberlain's awful words of appeasement, as "faraway countries".

However, today there is a piece of news it could be easy to lose in all the Skripal fallout is this, and it's scary: according to Newsweek, the Putin regime is helping support a new military buildup by Serb separatists in Bosnia. In fact, the West's current focus on the Skripal case could just form a convenient piece of magician's misdirection away from bigger events.

For those of us old enough to remember Srebrenica and other massacres of ethnic Muslims in the 1990s, this could easily become a much worse bloodbath than that currently still taking place in Eastern Ukraine.

More importantly, whereas Eastern Ukraine is still a long way from EU borders (Ukraine itself is enormous), Bosnia is not. In fact, it's part of a mini-oasis of non-EU states, centred around the shores of the Adriatic and surrounded by EU (and various NATO) states.

What better way to cause chaos and fear in the member states of Putin's favourite hate-object, than to foment a new civil war? Which could also conveniently scupper Serbian accession to the EU? In a theatre at the heart of the EU project, but not actually part of it? Where everyone can witness the might of the new Russia at close quarters? A case of look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair?

Watch this space, but a renewed, Putin-sponsored war in the Balkans could make Ukraine look like a tea-party.

On the form of the last couple of days, not to mention his denial of genocide in Kosovo fourteen years ago, no doubt my party leader will be quick to denounce Serb/Russian aggression when it it happens.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Three reasons why Jennie Formby should not become General Secretary of the Labour Party

By Rwendland (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons
Following the abrupt resignation of Iain McNicol – apparently not fallen on his sword but pushed under a bus by the party leadership (£) – there are currently two candidates to be Labour’s General Secretary: Unite’s Jennie Formby and Momentum’s Jon Lansman.

While this might be reasonably likened to choosing for your leader between Ghengis Khan and Pol Pot, there is always a least worst option and, in these difficult times, it is important to take note which it is.

Here’s why Formby should not be General Secretary.

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