Posts Tagged ‘anti-semitism’

We need to talk about Momentum and anti-Semitism

17/01/2018, 01:25:56 PM

by Rob Marchant

Momentum is on a roll. It has just secured three places on Labour’s NEC. It is now on course to easily force deselections in seats where it does not like the sitting MP. It has also, as its first act in that newly-constituted NEC, just ousted the long-serving head of the Disputes Committee, Ann Black, on the left of the party – the Campaign Group, no less – but widely respected as fair and neutral.

“Fair” and “neutral” are words that we might struggle a little more to apply to her replacement, Christine Shawcroft. Shawcroft, you may remember, was one of the few party members who supported disgraced Tower Hamlets mayor, Lutfur Rahman, after he had been forced from office for electoral fraud and had not even been a party member for five years. A trick which got her suspended from the party (now reinstated). Amazingly, she was still defending him on Tuesday as the victim of “a terrible miscarriage of justice” (Rahman was also struck off as a solicitor a month ago).

Given Black’s long and distinguished tenure at the Disputes Committee, one wonders what motive there could possibly be for replacing her, other than to ensure that people on the far left that she might have found unpalatable will be allowed to join, re-join or have their suspensions lifted. You can almost picture Ken Livingstone and George Galloway rubbing their hands with delight as we speak. But more of Shawcroft later.

Momentum is clearly making moves towards its clear-but-as-yet-unstated objective of calling the shots within the Labour Party (if not necessarily of beating the Tories and securing a Corbyn government, a seemingly secondary priority).

Moderates everywhere should be concerned, not least because they are now at the start of a long process of being gradually squeezed out, constituency by constituency. This has been clear for some time and demonstrated by the examples we are about to give.

What is perhaps less obvious is that Momentum, unlike Labour, does not have such tight entry criteria or such an active Compliance Unit as Labour. This means that, although there is surely a majority of decent and well-meaning folk within Momentum’s 30,000 souls who essentially think that Corbyn is a good chap, there is a minority, for example from the old SWP, who have rather more disturbing methods of organising – a la Militant – and also more disturbing views.

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Labour and anti-Semitism: can’t get the stink off

05/04/2017, 10:57:15 PM

by Rob Marchant

“Can’t get the stink off/He’s been hanging round for days”, wrote Thom Yorke in 1993. “You do it to yourself, you do/And that’s what really hurts”. Lines that could have been written for Labour’s troubled, Stockholm-syndrome relationship with one man. A man who is still hanging round a party which somehow cannot seem to shake him off, either.

Last Tuesday, Ken Livingstone was, essentially, let off. A man who for years has ridden perilously close to anti-Semitism in his behaviour – we shouldn’t forget the “concentration camp guard” incident with a Jewish journalist in 2005 – finally crossed the line a year ago when he decided to argue that Hitler was a Zionist.

It is difficult to overstate how offensive both remarks was to Jews.

First, the obvious: mentioning Hitler in this context immediately spells “Holocaust” in the minds of most Jews.

Second, because the term “Zionist” has lately become a term of abuse on the left and code for “Jew”, rather than its literal meaning of someone who believes in Israel’s right to exist (hardly a high bar for most people – if you don’t believe it has a right to exist, you must believe it should be destroyed and, presumably, all its inhabitants either killed or deported).

Third, because it is grossly insulting to pretend that Israel, for all its many faults, is directly comparable to a regime which systematically massacred a whole people – themselves – on grounds of their race.

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In just one year, Jeremy Corbyn has alienated Britain’s Jews

14/09/2016, 10:57:24 PM

by Rob Marchant

This week has marked the first anniversary of Jeremy Corbyn’s arrival as Labour leader. The week has been full of the now-customary gaffes and blunders, yes. But a more disturbing revelation was that about the obsession with “Zionism” at the heart of the Corbyn “kitchen cabinet”.

If one were to try and characterise the notable achievements of the Corbyn leadership in its first year – as the often-hilarious results of the #1yearofJeremy hashtag on Twitter showed, these were not always positive – perhaps the most disturbing is the almost complete alienation of the British Jewish community.

From the comments of Ken Livingstone about Hitler, to the suspension of 18 party members over anti-Semitism and the fiasco which was the party’s own report into the matter, Corbyn has shown, at best, a terrible tin ear for the subject, the effects of which may now tarnish the image of his party for years.

And so it was that, this week, we found Corbyn’s communications chief Seumas Milne accused of removing the Hebrew from the leader’s Passover message, because it sounded “too Zionist”. This accusation was made both by Joshua Simons, a former advisor to the leader and also Dave Rich of the CST, an organisation created to help British Jews fight anti-Semitism. Although only Rich actually named Milne, he did so not on a specialist blog, but in the New York Times.

This is the level of obsession that the leader’s office has over matters which are anathema to ordinary people.

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Corbyn’s “straight talking, honest politics” mask finally slipped in the Observer interview

17/08/2016, 09:00:42 PM

by Rob Marchant

So much has been made of Jeremy Corbyn’s honesty and freshness, that it is high time for us to probe it. After ten months of “straight talking, honest politics”, this weekend’s long and detailed Observer interview turned out to be rather insightful.

  1. “People should have the right to take part” in the leadership election campaign (having just joined the party). Now, apart from the fact that the Court of Appeal said that they shouldn’t (i.e. that the NEC is sovereign), historical precedent says otherwise. Major political parties have always had freeze periods for membership before they can vote, for the simple reason that it helps prevent manipulation and entryism. As various members have commented, you have a freeze date of 6 months just for selection of a council candidate, how on earth can you justify having a freeze date of zero, for something as important as the party leader?
  1. “That is what democracy is about” – no, that is not what democracy is about. Democracy is about having free and fair elections, not ones which are open to manipulation. That’s why we have freeze periods. We might also note that until recently Corbyn was not averse to appearing alongside good old Lutfur Rahman, the now-disgraced former mayor of Tower Hamlets, convicted of election fraud in 2015.Talking of election fraud, it is interesting to note that one of Corbyn’s key supporters in Momentum, Marsha-Jane Thompson, also has a conviction for it. Perhaps unsurprising, then, to find out she led the unsuccessful appeal to the NEC when Rahman was rightly deselected as Labour’s mayoral candidate in 2010. And Christine Shawcroft, suspended for defending Rahman and now not only back in the party but elected to the NEC. This is the respect for “democracy” which we are dealing with in Corbyn’s Labour, and that is why Labour HQ rightly fought back against it.

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Jeremy Corbyn is Labour’s Donald Trump. The Republicans are showing us what not to do with a disastrous leader

09/06/2016, 11:06:20 PM

by Samuel Dale

Every Republican in the United States is being asked a very simple question that must be answered: will you vote for Donald Trump as president?

There are four approaches. First, total support as we have seen from Chris Christie and Marco Rubio. Secondly, qualified support as shown by Paul Ryan, John McCain and others who are holding their nose and voting for Trump out of party loyalty.

Thirdly, abstention and neutrality as backed by both former President Bushes, Jeb Bush, Lindsay Graham and others. Finally, outright rejection which is not currently a popular view but is backed by Colin Powell and other Republican mavericks.

These are the four choices that Labour members will face in 2020 when they are asked the same question: will you vote for Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister?

The Republican mess is a useful guide for how Labour members can handle the Corbyn nightmare in 2020 and how not to handle it.

1. Total support

Christie, Rubio and Carson look like the shameless job-hungry careerists that they are. They spent months claiming Trump was totally unfit to be President – not in the normal primary knockabout but seriously unfit to hold office.

There will be Labour total supporters come 2020 who fear for their role in the party if they show disloyalty to Corbyn such is his grassroots support.

This is the road to disaster. Members and MPs should think about the long-term future of Britain and how to install a centre-left government. Blindly backing Corbyn will taint supporters and the party for decades to comes, just as it will for some Republicans. Differences must be made clear.

2. Qualified support

This is perhaps the worst approach of all. Paul Ryan set out a seemingly sensible idea of being a critical friend of Trump, calling him out where needed and pushing his own conservative agenda.

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If the Labour leadership won’t stand against anti-Semitism, who will?

30/05/2016, 08:53:40 PM

by Frazer Loveman

Two days ago the Labour party lifted the suspension of Jackie Walker, the vice-chair of Thanet Labour and also vice-chair of Momentum’s steering committee. Her comments regarding the African holocaust on Facebook, where she had suggested that Jews had been “chief financiers” of the slave and sugar trade have now seemingly been deemed by the Labour party leadership to have been perfectly acceptable, with no further action necessary.

Now, I don’t know Ms Walker, I don’t want to judge whether or not she is actually an anti-Semite, but her remarks were at the very least misguided and distasteful. What is more offensive is that she refuses to recognise or accept this, posting a blog on May 26th in which she does not offer contrition, or an apology, but instead doubling down suggesting “anti-Semitism is not a major problem” before going on to discuss the “increasing convergence between Zionists, the right of the Labour Party, the Tories and our right wing media”. This has been her stance all along, as characterised by her response on Russia Today when she again claimed the issue was not anti-Semitism, but the restriction of free speech (as she misappropriated the Martin Niemöller poem First They Came) within the Labour party, comparing her suspension to McCarthysim.

This inability to even countenance that she may have made remarks that could be considered anti-Semitic is almost worse than making the remarks in the first place. When it was revealed that Bradford West MP Naz Shah had shared anti-Semitic images on Facebook she showed nothing but remorse, apologising for the posts and actively reaching out to the Jewish community, culminating in her appearance yesterday at a Synagogue in Leeds where she once again fully apologised and said that she had been “ignorant”, but now “understood” more about the situation in Israel and how the BDS movement effects normal Israeli citizens.

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The results are in on Corbyn’s first few months. No matter how you spin it, they’re terrible

13/05/2016, 01:51:37 PM

by Rob Marchant

The leader’s office spin operation began long before the elections, because everyone knew they would be bad. The objective was simple: essentially, anything, anything at all to try and make them look other than the disaster most expected.

For example as Dan Hodges, sometime of this parish, pointed out, the Corbyn team decided on a tactic (of comparing the outcome with 2015 results, instead of 2011 or 2012 when the seats were last contested) was leaked to the BBC. It was patently foolish. No sane psephologist would try and compare an election with the previous year.

And when even the Leader himself ended up describing the results as “not good enough”, we still had incoherence in the party’s appearances on the media. In only the latest in a series of car-crash interviews, Diane Abbott memorably described the results as “steady progress”. Oh, my aching sides.

But they were all attempting to spin the unspinnable.

Yes, Sadiq Khan did a highly professional job in winning the London mayoralty, the one bright point of the elections. But even he did not manage this without exposing his past as a cuddler-up to unpleasant elements of the Islamist far right. Not, as the Tories tried to imply, because he is a card-carrying Islamist himself; he is not. But he has been ruthless enough in his pursuit of political support to schmooze with extremists until quite recently, in a way that should make party members nervous.

And let us not forget that London is, historically, a Labour stronghold par excellence. In fact, the two Boris wins in 2008 and 2012 may arguably be seen as the result, not just of the pendulum swing against Labour nationally, but also of a serious falling-out-of-love with one Ken Livingstone on the part of the London electorate.

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Corbyn and Livingstone cannot now both survive within the Labour party

03/05/2016, 07:03:57 PM

by Rob Marchant

Political historians will one day chronicle last week. In their texts, Thursday will surely turn out to have been a watershed day for Labour. It was the day that the party could no longer ignore the fact that some of its senior people not only tolerate anti-Semites in their ranks, but can even slide into making similarly ignorant statements themselves. That it truly had a problem.

Jeremy Corbyn, though apparently unfazed by associating with Holocaust deniers such as Paul Eisen and extremist preachers such as Raed Salah (check out his “hilarious” swastika joke here), is not thought by most commentators to be remotely anti-Semitic. But his willingness to embrace all-comers in the name of “dialogue” between communities, especially on the question of Palestine, has made him used to mentally blocking out the offensive things that others may say about Jews, to the point where he appears not even to see the problem.

For example, when hosting a talk show on Iran’s notorious propaganda channel Press TV (whose UK broadcasting licence was revoked by the present government): witness here how he pulls up a caller over US involvement in Palestine, but responds merely with the answer “okay” when the caller calls Israel a “disease”. Nice.

But he – or his office, at least – took an enormous step yesterday in suspending one of his party’s most famous figures and one of his own strongest supporters, Ken Livingstone.

While the reasons for Livingstone’s suspension seem fairly straightforward, Corbyn as leader has been extremely slow to act on the issue of anti-Semitism in general. Only the day before, he had been content with Naz Shah’s “fulsome apology”; until later that same day, when the media clamour became too much and she was suspended in a humiliating U-turn.

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Ed Miliband knew Livingstone was an anti-Semitic conspiracy nutter FOUR YEARS ago but STILL backed him for London Mayor

01/05/2016, 09:21:31 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Revelations on Ken Livingstone’s anti-Semitic views might have led the news in recent days, but Ed Miliband was fully aware of them in 2012.

Despite this, he still gave Livingstone his full backing at the last London Mayoral election.

The evidence that Labour’s leadership understood the detail of Livingstone’s opinions came yesterday in two devastating tweets from Miliband’s top spinner and consigliere, Tom Baldwin.

The purpose behind Tom Baldwin’s tweets was to highlight the anti-racist bona fides of his old boss but inadvertently he made the classic PR’s mistake: to confuse presentation and substance.

Before the 2012 Mayoral election, when Ed Miliband was on the stump for Livingstone, he knew exactly what Livingstone thought about Hitler, Zionism and the Jewish people.

He knew enough to force Livingstone to excise the relevant passages from his memoirs but did not feel sufficiently strongly to take action against the candidate for the substance of his anti-Semitic views.

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This kind of racism has not happened in any major party since the 1980s. Discuss.

13/04/2016, 09:52:53 PM

by Rob Marchant

Let us ask ourselves a simple question. When is the last time a major political party was seriously accused of endemic racism?

That is, racism with a link to a segment of the party’s politics; not of a couple of isolated individuals, but of a group of activists in the rank and file, including numerous elected representatives who clearly showed (written) evidence of racist attitudes?

And accused not by a hostile newspaper, or an opposing party, but by a moderate and respected political organisation representing that minority?

Or such that that same minority’s house newspaper would have actually introduced a logo linking all the stories on Labour and racism against that community, there having been so many recently?

All these are things which have come to light in the last few weeks. About Jews.

In Labour, the party of the anti-racists.

It’s difficult to think of when racism was last acceptable in politics but we probably have to go back to the 1980s, at least. In the 1980s, Labour was determinedly anti-racist. The Conservative party, as blogger Adam Bienkov points out, still had close links to the rather unpleasant Monday Club, but was nevertheless largely retreating from the bad old days of Enoch Powell and, as the entrenched party of government throughout the decade, could neither really afford to alienate big sections of the population.

By the late 1990s, though, the Tories were largely free from overt racism (although a significant portion of its membership continued to be homophobic, as evidenced by the persistence of its Section 28 anti-gay legislation). But it was not acceptable to be racist in either party, if it ever had been, and Labour naturally continued to fully endorse a multi-cultural Britain.

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