Labour’s complacency is incredible

by Andrew Apostolou

The Labour Party is incredible. We lost the general election, but feel like we won because we were not crushed. Our painstakingly obscure position on Brexit looks like the diplomacy of Castlereagh when put beside the failures of David Davis. Our slogan of “For the many not the few” is appealing when compared to the Tories’ mishandling of the Grenfell tower fire and universal credit. Unlike New Labour, which worked diligently to earn power, today’s Labour Party gives the impression that it need only wait for the keys to Downing Street to fall into its lap.

Except that the electorate is unconvinced. Labour’s performance in the May 2018 local elections was mediocre, and we have failed to establish a commanding lead in national opinion polls. The voters do not trust us with the future of the country, a wariness that has sent our party to the opposition benches three elections in a row. After the financial crisis of 2008, the country has preferred laughably bad Tory leaders and their worthless promises. In 2010, Britain chose David Cameron and his “Big Society” over Gordon Brown. In 2015, Britain voted for Cameron’s promise of “stability and strong Government” over Ed Miliband–but received the instability of Brexit. In 2017, the electorate refused to give Theresa May the parliamentary majority with which to “make a success of Brexit” through “strong and stable leadership in the national interest.” Instead, the country delivered the hung parliament the prime minister warned against, but shunned Labour.

Britain remains sceptical because Labour is claiming that it can do for the country what it cannot do for itself: protect the vulnerable. The mood of the country favours more social democracy, which is why even the Tories reject “untrammelled free markets.” Still the country will not trust our party, which has a social conscience in its bones, because we have failed three groups miserably: women, minority women, and Jews.

Labour’s record on women is unimpressive. A senior party official sought to cover up a rape. The party has yet to take action against either the rapist or the official who discouraged the rape complaint. The party is still not learning. Labour initially allowed Kelvin Hopkins MP to question one of the women who has accused him of harassment, a decision only overturned after it appeared in the Evening Standard. Why should Labour women have to go to the media to obtain fair treatment?

The Labour Party’s record on minority women is similarly poor. They have complained about misogyny in the party. The most prominent recent case is Amina Lone, who claims that she cannot stand again as a councillor in Manchester because she is too opinionated about female equality. Others have said that Labour does not protect minority women. According to the Muslim Women’s Network UK “It appears that over decades senior Labour politicians have deliberately turned a blind eye to the treatment of Muslim women because votes have been more important to them than women’s rights.”

Despite the party’s denial, Labour has made it clear that it will accommodate attitudes to women that are inconsistent with its proclaimed feminism. Labour held a campaign event in Birmingham in May 2015 at which there was separate seating for men and women. The party’s defence was that “Everyone was together in one room and all were treated equally and respectfully.” The problem with this evasion is that separate is not equal. Neither the state nor a political party should interfere in the internal beliefs of religious communities. We can respect the desire for segregated seating at private religious and cultural events, but refuse it for public meetings. A Labour election rally is a gathering of a democratic socialist party- all are welcome and all sit where they please.

The greatest failure is on anti-Semitism. There should be not a moment’s hesitation in expelling anti-Semites. Instead, Labour has dragged its feet on disciplinary measures. It has not implemented even the half-hearted Chakrabarti report. Prominent Labour figures have dismissed antisemitism as smears or “mood music.” Jeremy Corbyn has used slogans such as “There is no place for anti-semitism or any form of racism in the Labour party, or anywhere in society, and we will make sure that our party is a welcoming home to members of all communities.” The party has resorted to patronising Jews, sending Emily Thornberry to tell Labour Friends of Israel that her husband has Jewish grandparents. Thornberry has exposed her own insincerity by sitting through an unhinged antisemitic speech by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and offering not one word of criticism.

Our party now claims that it will take the problem seriously, but it has taken two crises to get Jeremy Corbyn’s full attention.

The first crisis was in relations with the organisations that speak for most British Jews. After years of failing to persuade Labour to confront antisemitism in its ranks, Jewish communal leaders had to demonstrate outside parliament. These leaders, who want good relations with Labour, have thrown the party multiple lifelines–which Labour’s leadership has spurned.

The second crisis was in Jeremy Corbyn’s Jewish support base. After claiming antisemitism was not such a great problem, they changed their minds when they met it head on. One leading Corbyn supporter, who has doubted allegations of antisemitism and voted against considering expulsion of a party member who “blamed Zionists for causing his problems in the party,” is Jon Lansman, the leader of Momentum. Yet when Lansman decided to run for the post of party general secretary at the beginning of March 2018, he encountered the very antisemitism that he had previously termed a “political football.” Momentum’s leadership now admits what its supporters previously dismissed, that there is a significant problem of antisemitism in the Labour Party. A couple of days later, a Corbyn-supporting activist resigned from his local Momentum steering committee after receiving a bucket full of antisemitism from fellow Momentum activists.

Still, the anti-Semites, and those who protect them, will not go quietly. The Peterborough Labour Group of councillors has investigated two councillors who complained about an election candidate sharing Holocaust denial material. The candidate now admits that he was wrong to share a claim that the Holocaust did not happen and that he requires training against antisemitic prejudice. In Bristol, party activists gave a perfect demonstration of our party’s problem by shouting down Thangam Debbonaire, a minority woman, for opposing antisemitism.

The Tory reaction to Labour’s failures is not to do better. It is to welcome us to the political sewer and observe that we are as bad as they are. That, in essence, was the cynical response of Theresa May to Jeremy Corbyn when confronted with the Windrush generation scandal: “I will not take an accusation of callous from a man who allows anti-Semitism to run rife in his party.”

Our job is to prove her wrong. Our job is to protect the vulnerable inside our party. Only that was can we rebuild support, such as from those who voted for Brexit because they felt abandoned by the country. People will not vote Labour if we are the same as every other party. They will vote for us because we are different.

Andrew Apostolou is a historian and a London Labour party member

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7 Responses to “Labour’s complacency is incredible”

  1. John P Reid says:

    Covered up an ALLEGED rape

    Not sure when the Sheffield council election results are, they’re not the liberal elite of London, but labour could lose Sheffield, not just stoke in Trent and Sunderland

  2. Vern says:

    Andrew, you could go back over various posts from the past 12 months to know that Labour under Corbyn has peaked and is now finished as a force. It’s become embarrassing to mention the strapline “for the many, not the few” as this is nowt more than an empty soundbite.

    If you believe the party is incompetent that is Magic Grandads fault and the immediate rabble of fools he keeps.

    It’s destroying the party from within and another 4 years may see a catastrophic collapse of the party as we know it.

    Desperate times call for desperate measures and someone who isn’t frightened by Corbyn and McDonell should make a stand and banish these guys from the party….for good!

  3. philip martin says:

    Two points : don’t listen to what Corbyn says; watch what he does (or doesn’t do).

    And Corbyn loves all Muslims for their votes; his problem is that they hate Jews and want them all dead yesterday. See above.

  4. buttley says:

Jack Straw, speaking in 2005 as Foreign Secretary

    “Unless we all start to believe in conspiracy theories & that the officials are lying,

    that I am lying, that behind this there is some kind of secret state which is in league with some dark forces in the United States,

    & also let me say, we believe that Secretary Rice is lying,

    there simply is no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition full stop.”

    Reminds me of Jonathan Aitken’s “simple sword of truth & the trusty shield of British fair play”

    David Miliband, Foreign Secretary in 2008 told Parliament that CIA torture flights had in fact made use of the British territory of Diego Garcia in 2002.

    Straw’s blatant porkies , he said, were due to “an administrative error.”

    Today, the Tories bail his pro torture, war criminal, arse out.

    Cost to taxpayer for this cover up so far, just a mere £11million or so

    And Straw’s response to all this?

    “In every case where my approval was sought I assumed, & was entitled to assume, that the actions for which my approval was sought were lawful,”

    Which is just the kind of cock wombling response, i would expect from this wank stain on the face of humanity.


    It was also nice to see Labour recovering 4915 of the 28259 votes lost during Milliband’s reign in the Havering Council Patch.

    A small recovery granted, but still a good gain to build on.


    Interesting to see what is classed as not racist in Ilford.

    Maybe they could get him to paint a nice mural for his penance

  5. John P Reidr says:

    Thanks buttley, completely irrelevant to the article, but needed saying

  6. Paul says:

    I find this article slightly amusing..

    Castlereaghs family home was outside a small village called Greyabbey in modern day Northern Ireland.

    Even if he wanted to be one, he could never stand for election as a Labour candidate because of where he lived.

    As for women’s rights and how Labour treats women members, look at how it treats its women memeners in Northern Ireland. They are definitely second class.

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