Labour’s current situation with anti-Semitism is unsustainable

by Rob Marchant

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 three 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?

Now imagine if the Conservative party had been found guilty of such a list of actions with regard to, say, the Afro-Caribbean community. There would have been cries of “Enoch Powell” and national disgust that, in 2018, the Tories had regressed back half a century in their thinking about race.

The Labour Party is merely ‘lucky’ that, sadly, people in general do not generally treat anti-Semitism as they do other forms of racism. The lines are blurrier and, besides, current populist rhetoric about “elites” on both left and right plays nicely into the stereotype of the all-controlling, rich Jew.

But it is no less important and no less pernicious. And it will ultimately filter through.

It remains to be seen whether the current “death by a thousand cuts” of near-daily press stories on anti-Semitism will kill off the party itself – we have already arrived at the point where that is at least a possibility – but what’s clear is that the current situation is not sustainable. We can see that the Leader’s Office still does not take this seriously and sees it as a plot to undermine Corbyn. We can also see that the party’s disciplinary mechanisms are now hopelessly hobbled, both on the side of the party machine and that of the NEC.

That is: a General Secretary already known to have spent years fraternising with the anti-Israel left, which clearly contains most of these anti-Semites, is unlikely to move quickly and decisively to fix the problem. It is quite possible, if not likely, that the new Head of Compliance will be a Corbyn place-person. The Disputes Panel will continue as ineffectively as it did, briefly, under Christine Shawcroft. The wider NEC will continue to dither over the key cases, such as Ken Livingstone.

Here’s a distinct possibility. The result of all this is that the media noise generated by all this ultimately grows to a deafening level and starts to affect Labour electorally. This may well not be as early as the local elections in a few weeks’ time. But it will come, sooner or later.

At this point there will be senior politicians who realise that things will never change under current leadership; that is, who will realise that it’s ultimately Corbyn or the party, and move to challenge him, long before the 2022 elections, by which point he will anyway be 72. Succession will obviously happen before long, and in such cases ambitious politicians generally need only the flimsiest of excuses to bring it forward.

While this would by no means signify a return to normality and a new leader would likely come from the same Corbynite milieu, at the very least the cancer of anti-Semitism might be exorcised and the party saved. We should always remember that, as Liz Kendall put it in the first leadership campaign, the Labour Party has “no God-given right to exist”. As any Liberal Democrat will ruefully tell you about their now-defunct parent party, the Liberals.

We shall see. But the party is in terrible trouble right now.

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour party manager who blogs at The Centre Left


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12 Responses to “Labour’s current situation with anti-Semitism is unsustainable”

  1. John Wall says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever met a Jew I haven’t liked, what’s wrong with me?

  2. Vern says:

    All perfectly valid and reasonable points Rob that further endorse my opinions of Corbyn and the company he keeps. We have been mugged off by him and the party is now on a downward spiral. Someone in that leadership team who is sufficiently far enough away from Corbyn’s far left thinking needs to emerge from this mess.

  3. Alf says:

    We will do very well in the local elections. We will win the next general election too.

  4. Connelly says:

    What a load of embittered bile

  5. Henrik says:

    “Labour hates Jews” – that’s the accepted narrative. It’s already out there and most people I know believe it to be true; although most also understand that it’s a pretty hard-Left thing, most people also understand that’s who owns the Labour brand, now.

    Doesn’t really matter that much, Labour isn’t in conversation with the electorate, it’s in a long and horribly embarrassing conversation with itself.

  6. Tony says:

    We should always be on our guard against genuine cases of anti-Semitism.
    However, the current controversy is 90% about something completely different. It is Jeremy Corbyn’s attitude to Israel which is the real motivation here.

    False allegations of anti-Semitism were first made when the (Jewish) Ed Miliband was leader:

    http://www.tribunemagazine.org/2016/05/dont-let-these-racism-smears-stick/

  7. John P Reid says:

    Ok but it would better if you’d put links to point 3 David Lammy and Thangam Debonaire we’re called out for deselection by members of their CLP and Ken loach said the same, but it’s not really a threat unless any of them have power to do so, do you something I don’t in that matter

  8. John P Reid says:

    Worse still was when Chris Williamson MP defended anti Semites on line, the Chakrabarti report was a disgrace

  9. Mike Homfray says:

    The Chakrabati report will be what we implement – certainly nothing more as people like Marchant would like to see.

    I predict that the number of votes lost over this issue will be nil. The only people likely to switch votes because of it are already not voting for us – like it or not, its only those directly affected who consider these sort of issues. I remember when I was involved in gay rights issues that some gay people didn’t vote Tory because of their policies at the time, but there weren’t enough of us to make any difference.

    Strongly pro-Israel Jewish people, according to all the available evidence, don’t vote Labour anyway, and on one level, that is a rational decision, as they wouldn’t agree with our likely stance on Palestine under Jeremy’s leadership . I do agree with it.

    Its sad that Rob Marchant is still writing the same sort of stuff about the party, which refuses to either die, or change its leader, or move to the right. The democracy review will make this ever less likely. I wonder if Rob Marchant will still be pretendi ng to be a Labour supporter even though he clearly disagrees with everything we now stand for.

    We’ll never be a wishy-washy centrist party again, Rob. When you vote Labour, you’ll be voting for left wing socialism, and just watch those centrist MP’s take the Hunt-Reed route or get deselected…..

  10. Tafia says:

    Personally I don’t believe the Labour Party is anti-semitic. What I believe has happened is anti-semites have manged to hijack the anti-zionist/ anti-Israel stance (which is perfectly legitimate position) and warp it.

    The problem is this small hard core of outright anti-semites are in Corbyn’s protected zone and are being allowed to act with impunity, in the main because I think the leadership don’t see as a serious problem. Well it isn’t yet but unless it’s destroyed now then it very quickly will become a serious problem.

  11. John P Reid says:

    Mike Homfray you missed the demo yesterday there were a couple of long time labour supporters who said they’ll hold their nose vote Tory for the next time in 2022, and Tafia is right April 17 post

  12. BillC says:

    Has Corbyn gone yet?

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