The moderates have won a Pyrrhic victory on IHRA – the real battle was the NEC and it is lost

by Rob Marchant

Perhaps we should be grateful for small mercies. But in this case, small they are.

The party’s NEC, following months of public self-harm, has finally agreed to adopt the full IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, including all the examples. It really had little choice: even Gordon Brown intervened on the subject last weekend, not to mention the party’s three biggest union donors (albeit one very grudgingly indeed).

But even then, after all the damage done to Labour’s reputation in the eyes of pretty much anyone not in the Corbyn cult, it was adopted gracelessly rather than with contrition; that is, with the Corbynites’ now-traditional tin ear to the feelings of the Jewish community.

There were three ways in which this churlishness at the forced climbdown – as it unquestionably was – manifested itself.

First, the definition was adopted with a caveat: the party would also issue “a statement which ensures this will not in any way undermine freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of Palestinians”. A caveat which is, as anyone with any knowledge of the IHRA definition already knows, entirely unnecessary: it already makes the explicit point that criticism of Israel is not in itself anti-Semitic.

While it would probably be difficult to twist this into defending an anti-Semite, it is an act of petty defiance, a fig-leaf to cover the fact that the leadership never had an argument to reject IHRA in the first place.

Second, as the Corbynite propaganda site Squawkbox gleefully crowed, that this anyway left the door open to a further revisiting of the matter in September, when the new, entirely Corbynite-dominated NEC will sit for the first time during conference.

Astonishingly, even now, the Corbynites’ appetite for keeping this horrifically damaging story alive for months, or even years longer knows no bounds.

Third and most disturbingly, the meeting overran by hours because the leader himself had put forward an accompanying statement that, in the end, could not be agreed by the NEC.

Think about it: this was not a squabble among junior members of the political class, but a debate in which the leader of the party, already embattled on this issue for months, had actually doubled down.

In short, it was as if the leadership and its supporters had been dragged, kicking and screaming, towards accepting a simple statement, taken as red by governments across the globe. Which, of course, is exactly what happened.

No, the real story of this week came before this Pyrrhic victory for common sense, and they are linked.

The Momentum slate not only won hands down against the moderates on constituency NEC places: they elected Pete Willsman, even after his scandalous comments about “Zionists” in the last NEC (he recused himself from the IHRA discussion at this one, for obvious reasons). It is difficult not to conclude that his removal from the Momentum slate was merely a cosmetic, wrist-slapping exercise, not really intended to remove him from the NEC at all.

It is also to be noted that numerous Corbyn outriders continued to push for Willsman’s inclusion and, as far as Uncut knows, no communication was ever sent to Momentum members to formalise the change in the slate from “the JC9” to “the JC8”.

We should also mention that the slate also contained a member who had strongly campaigned against the expulsion of Tony Greenstein for anti-Semitism and, the coup de grâce, its highest-polling member is an open supporter of the theocratic (and homophobic, and deeply anti-Semitic) Iranian revolution. Nice.

If more evidence were needed that the Labour Party is currently in desperate trouble, it was all there in the last few days. Let us for a moment forget the damage done to the party’s image by Corbyn’s former antics with wreaths over recent weeks.

Projecting things forward even over the next twelve months, predictions are not difficult to make: rule changes will be passed at conference, making it easier to deselect MPs and lowering the threshold for MP nominations in future leadership elections.

As well as ensuring a Corbynite succession as leader, these changes will further marginalise moderates and quite probably make any not deselected think seriously about early retirement, defection or starting a new party. (Even Corbynites are now starting to worry that the exodus of MPs might kill the party’s chances at a general election, although not enough to offer them more than token olive branches.)

And finally, with the cancer of anti-Semitism, you now have the recipe for months, or even years more turmoil, because the unstoppable force of Corbynite “anti-Zionism” has now met the immovable object of the resistance of Britain’s Jews. Neither will back down (and quite rightly, in the latter case).

No, any attempt to reverse the direction of the party’s travel toward the far left at this point is likely to make the slow, painful expulsion of Militant look like a tea-party. And the recovery after that, let us not forget, took Labour another decade.

It may be that the party is still saveable, although it has, like the Tory party in the 2000s, completely lost sight of what it takes to win a general election. If it were ever to happen, it could only ever be because the boost of Tory meltdown trumped the negative of a leader largely disliked by the country. As Raf Behr argues in the Guardian, the time has passed for moderate MPs to paint over the cracks and pretend they can muddle through to an election. They will have to choose to stay and fight to the death, or leave.

Labour’s now-existential problem is that they may, in either case, have left it too late.

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

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28 Responses to “The moderates have won a Pyrrhic victory on IHRA – the real battle was the NEC and it is lost”

  1. greggo says:

    Great to see Pete Willsman arriving at Labour HQ and being greeted by leading members of the Jewish voice for Labour…
    Let’s hope the 172 back stabbing cowards F off and start a SDP mk2 let’s see how far they get without the Labour banner….

  2. anosrep says:

    I never ceased to be amazed by the arrogance of those Labour ‘moderates’ who think they have some profound insight into how to win an election and the left hasn’t the faintest idea, even though under Jeremy Corbyn the party gained votes and seats for the first time in twenty years, contrary to the incessant apocalyptic prophecies of those same ‘moderates’ (this blog declared that Labour would lose at least ninety seats, two and a half weeks later we, er, didn’t).

  3. vern says:

    Anti Semitism is just the beginning – decades of stupidity from Corbyn are waiting to be unleashed. And still they will probably blame American or Russina involvement.

    its taken 12 months to get this far and its not yet fully concluded, bullying of party members has taken 2 years and again is not resolved, Corbyn and Labours position on BREXIT is still not clear after 2 years, May might not be the best PM but at least she has the bollox to make a decision every once in a while. Corbyn simply cannot make a decision – because, the self serving £millionaire has never had to.

  4. paul barker says:

    This piece shows interesting signs of having finally grasped whats going on but The idea of hundreds of Labour MPs fighting “To the Death” is hilarious.
    Its certainly not too late for the “Dozen MPs” to break away or simply join The Libdems but they need to get on with whatever they have decided to do & not waste more time & energy on people who, in the end, will do nothing. Just get on with it.

  5. David Jonson says:

    1. Just to point out that Tony Greenstein was not expelled for anti-Semitism but for engaging in impolite polemics with various people, including a Labour Councillor.

    2. Also, anti-Zionism != anti-Semitism.

    3. Israel *is* a racist endeavour.


  6. John P Reid says:

    Greggos, you do realise when the SDPtook 4 million votes with them labour were out of power for 16 years had to become new labour and some of the 172 arent MPs or in the party anymore, and Kate Hoey wasn’t part of the 172

  7. Tafia says:

    Lord Adonis, Labour Peer, on LBC

    “If you’re a Brexiter, I hope that you won’t vote for the Labour Party because the Labour Party is moving increasingly against Brexit… I’m saying if what you want is Brexit delivered, you should vote for the party that is going to deliver Brexit, which I’m afraid is the Conservatives.”

    So that’s 36% of it’s national vote that Labour doesn’t want and if only a tenth of them switch to the Tories, the tories will get a massive majority at the next election.

  8. Tafia says:

    Two were de-selected last night.

    Gavin Shuker MP (Lab, Luton South)
    Joan Ryan MP (Lab, Enfield North)
    (Kate Hoey and Frank Field were deselcted last week)

    To be replaced at the next election by Momentum-backed far Left candidates no doubt.

    Two further recent deselcttion attempts failed:-

    Graham Stringer MP (Lab, Manchester Blackley and Broughton)
    John Mann MP (Lab, Bassetlaw)

    Common theme is that all six are either pro-Brexit or pro-Israel, or both.

    With regards Joan Ryan, a Corbynista at the meeting tweeted after the result was announced “using her Jewishness as privilege”.

    But never let it be said Labour has become anti-semitic. Dearie me no.

  9. Anne says:

    I would have liked to have seen a greater cross section of members on the NEC – perhaps even more regional representation. I am afraid all this talk of deselection, name calling, inward thinking is playing into the hands of the Tories and certainly making the party unattractive to the voting public. We should be looking at ability of repestatives – people can think about working policies – those who resonate with the general public. Unless this is achieved we will not make gains with the general public.
    At the moment I will remain a member of the Labour Party but they have got a lot of work to do – our objective should surely to be a elective Party for government, because quite frankly the very idea of Boris Johnson as PM fills me with dread.

  10. Rob weren’t you promising to leave Labour last* year? This could be a good time to put that promise into action if you feel it’s so bad and a lost cause.

    * It could have been the year before. It’s hard to keep track. A bit like trying to work out how many times Maureen Lipman has stopped supporting the Labour Party.

  11. buttley says:


    I am guessing this is the tweet you were referring to?

    “#JoanRyan’s sense of entitlement, seen here below using her Jewishness as Privilege is outrageous.”

    The choice of words are inflammatory & factually incorrect

    As far as i was aware, Joan Ryan is not Jewish.

    Looking at the twitter timeline, she was not at the meeting, and is not a member of the constituency, as she lives in Stockholm Sweden.

  12. John p Reid says:

    Daniel Speight lipman has only left once
    Paul Barker the idea of jays hoey leftvlabour she’s back the libdems is silly
    There’s more to the Labour Party than constituency seats, if momentum take over and I don’t canvass and the candidate loses the seat
    I’d still canvass for the mayor and council

    See 6months from now if there’s more deselections, but then what if candidates who lost last time want to stand again and momentum try to get their candidates
    But then some momentum outside the metropolitan bubbles aren’t on the same page some momentum in MC areas want to stop brexit

  13. Tafia says:

    There is a woman in Poland called Uwe Jacowitz or something similar.

    She sprayed anti-semitic slogans across one of the last remaining walls of the Warsaw Ghetto.

    She has been invited by Momentum to be a guest speaker at the forth coming Labour Conference

  14. buttley says:


    “Liberate all Ghettos” & “Free Gaza & Palestine” are now anti-Semitic slogans?

    As to the desecration aspect, “near the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto” doesn’t quite generate the same moral repugnance.,20.9927161,3a,37.5y,97.79h,96.45t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1syjyn9plrkUIy3JTKu7Xwkw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

    Link above, the same car park wall in may 2014, four years after this moral outrage, it had been repainted & re graffiti-ed, not quite hallowed ground it was made out to be, but good try.

  15. Landless Peasant says:

    “we should be grateful for small mercies” What do you mean “we” ?

    And when you refer to “the Jewish community” what about the Left wing anti-Zionist Jews? Or don’t they count in your little world because they’re the wrong kind of Jewish people?

    A very presumptive and one-sided piece of drivel as usual.

  16. greggo says:

    Nice to see tafia get his arse owned on here ….
    JP Ried….24 Labour MP’s defected to the SDP only 4 managed to save their seats at the next election …The rest went into oblivion
    So let the careerists f off and see how far they get without the Labour banner

  17. buttley says:

    here is a tweet from somebody who lives 800m away from the crime scene.

    his/her closing remarks

    “So the Times’ attempt to create hysteria over the defling of the Warsaw Jewish ghetto wall/fighters monument is either appallingly researched or more likely made up as part of their deflect from Tory racism to Labour- sorry but thats what it looks like”

  18. @ John P ReidDaniel Speight lipman has only left once

    Probably why I said, “A bit like trying to work out how many times Maureen Lipman has stopped supporting the Labour Party”, John.

  19. john P Reid says:

    Greggo, how many of the ex labour seats of those SDP MPs went to the Tories in 83, and remind me how many more years were out of power.

    By the way ,anti semite Ken loach has now come out in support of that Ewa Sacowetz who desecrated the Jewish tirubute with garfiiti, you know Ken loach who said at conference last year, we should be free to say the Holocaust never happened,

  20. steve says:

    Quite right, Rob.

    The whole episode is scandalous and outrageous. Do y’hear? Scandalous and outrageous! That’s right. SCANDALOUS AND OUTRAGEOUS!!!

    How on earth can anyone remain a member of this party?

    But one must suppose it takes a lot of guts to join the LibDems…

  21. Tafia says:

    buttley, it was classed and filed as anti-semitic whether you like it or not – and encourging the overthrow of Israel (free gaza AND Palestine) , is classed as anti-semitic even in this country

    And I believe Momentum are now claiming they didn’t realise what she had done and are now considering pulling the plug on her.

  22. buttley says:


    This is the most recent legal ruling i am aware of pertaining to this subject, if you know of more recent case law or a conflicting judgement, i will happily be corrected.

    Ronnie Fraser v The University and College Union

    The judgement is extremely damning of the plaintiff, his lawyer, & witnesses, it was not appealed as this would have made it a precedent

    Judge A.M.Snelson:

    ““A belief in the Zionist project or an attachment to Israel or any similar sentiment cannot amount to a protected characteristic. It is not intrinsically a part of Jewishness.”

    “We are also troubled by the implications of the claim.

    Underlying it we sense a worrying disregard for pluralism, tolerance and freedom of expression, principles which the courts and tribunals are, and must be, vigilant to protect (for a recent example, see Smith-v-Trafford Housing Trust [2012] EWHC 3221 (Ch)).

    The Claimant and his advisors would have done well to heed the observations of
    Mr Beloff and Mr Saini concerning the importance which the law attaches to
    political freedom of expression.”

    “Lessons should be learned from this sorry saga. We greatly regret that the case was ever brought. At heart, it represents an impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means. It would be very unfortunate if an exercise of this sort were ever repeated.”

  23. John P Reid says:

    Well if she left labour once she’s stopped supporting it once

  24. Landless Peasant says:

    “Labour’s first post-‘IHRA’ anti-Semitism accusations have been made – and they abuse the new rules”

    “Remember when right-wing Labour MPs were screaming for the party to adopt the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism with all its examples, including those that make it almost impossible to criticise the Israeli government?

    Remember how those people swore blind that adopting these examples would not lay party members open to false accusations by those abusing the new rules?

    Well, they lied.

    (Or at least, they have been proved wrong.)

    The first accusations under the new system are starting to come to light, and they are damning.

    Consider the case of Eleanor Penny, a correspondent for Novara Media, who happens to be Jewish…..”

    (Mike Sivier)

  25. greggo says:

    Tafia gets his arse owned for a second time on here.
    J P Reid doing his best in trying to explain that black is actually a shade of white .

  26. John P Reid says:

    Greggo careful dating black and white gets police officers suspended these days

    Landless Peasant- since vox politics out their comment on criticising labour and the IHRA mark serkwotka has said that Israel is behind the myth that there’s dmtinsemiries in the labour party, and he’s been told he won’t be told of

  27. Landless Peasant says:

    Israel obviously does have a vested interest in preventing a Leftwing Socialist government in Britain, hence the smear campaign against Corbyn. It wouldn’t surprise me if Mossad were involved.

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