Posts Tagged ‘anti-semitism’

Vicki Kirby McCluskey: more allegations of anti-Semitism, as the party’s entry procedures descend into farce

16/03/2016, 10:21:17 PM

by Rob Marchant

Welcome to the modern Labour party, where it appears that, after less than 18 months of penitence, an anti-Semitic comment can be forgiven. Then, er, unforgiven shortly after, once the story’s been published by Guido Fawkes.

The story: Sepember 2014, Kirby is suspended from the party after offensive comments comparing Israelis to Hitler. Not to mention a tweet from her Twitter account regarding Jews and big noses, as Tom Harris, sometime of this parish, noted in the Telegraph.

March 2016: It is discovered that Kirby has been reinstated. When this appears in the media, she is suspended again.

While we might be glad that, in the end, the unpleasant Ms Kirby will be prevented from spreading hatred around her fellow activists, the whole episode shows that existing membership controls have become a shambles.

Right now, control sensibly exercised by the party machine is clearly being overridden by the NEC; but that may just be the opening salvo in a war over the party’s “border controls”.

What happens next? The situation will, by definition, continue until either (a) the NEC stops reinstating suspect members – requiring a change in the balance of power between left and right on the NEC itself, and possibly a conference rule change – or (b) the Head Office executive powers to suspend them in the first place are relaxed.

Given that Head Office changes are easy for the party leadership to make and changes at the NEC level are hard, it is easy to see that the most likely outcome is (b), that the Compliance Unit at Labour HQ will be weakened or even removed, as John McDonnell proposed two weeks ago. Along with such a move would go all the party’s defences against people like Kirby rejoining.


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Anti-Semitism: head-in-the-sand Labour still does not see the danger

17/02/2016, 10:48:01 PM

by Rob Marchant

On Monday, the chair of Oxford university Labour club, starting point for generations of Labour cabinet ministers, resigned, claiming a number of his fellow Labour Students were showing anti-Semitic behaviour.

Which begs a reasonable question: should the British left, and Labour in particular, be worried about the resurgence of anti-Semitism? Or is this all just an isolated incident, blown up by the nasty, right-wing press?

Let’s look at that for a minute.

First of all, this resurgence is a fact. Five years ago, I wrote in the New Statesman about its spread amongst the British far left, where it often masquerades under the name of legitimate political criticism of Israel: the left-wing BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement against Israel; most of the left-wing “free Palestine” organisations; and various Islamist extremist groups with links to the first two.

Since then, the phenomenon has since got visibly worse.

The non-profit CST, which monitors anti-Semitic incidents in Britain, reports that 2014 and 2015 were the highest and third-highest years for incidents, respectively, since it started recording in 1984.

And of course this is not just in Britain, but across Europe. The Paris attacks last November hit a Jewish community centre and a pro-Israel theatre. There was a later poisoning attempt at a Parisian synagogue in December.

Yes, a barney between student politicians might seem relatively trivial, but Paris was a timely and shocking reminder of where anti-Semitism ends up. In violence and murder.

Of all the world’s continents, Europe should surely understand that, from the horrors that have happened within living memory there.


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Corbyn’s skeletons are already tumbling out of the closet. What would happen if he was leader?

19/08/2015, 05:44:57 PM

by Rob Marchant

If current polls are to be believed, Jeremy Corbyn is about to become Labour leader, not just by a small margin but by a landslide.

That is, as our own Atul Hatwal pointed out on Monday, a pretty significant “if”. For a number of reasons; protest voting in polls but not in elections, “shy” voters, ease of manipulation by flashmobs of more informal polls, difficulty of accuracy polling such a select group, further change in the final few weeks and so on. Given this, it is still perfectly possible that Corbyn will fall at the ballot stage, despite Westminster’s prevailing wisdom.

But let us suppose for a moment that he is genuinely on course to win.

In this case, we are at a genuinely historical turning point – a convulsion – for the party; one of a kind it has not really experienced since Ramsay MacDonald’s “betrayal” in the 1930s.

In short, the wilderness years of the Fifties and Eighties would soon start to look like a tea-party.

In the few short weeks following the election, the psychological state of at least a segment of the party, like any person after a cruel blow, has been evolving rapidly. In this case, from initial denial; through collective tantrum, angry with the world; through to depressive isolationism and potentially actual self-harm.

And the divide over the Corbyn “insurgency” is no longer an issue of right and left. While you might expect to hear noises from the political centre at Uncut, the concern here is not merely from the point of view of his politics, disastrously out of touch with the British electorate though it might be (for the record, Anthony Painter makes an admirable fist of taking these seriously and rebutting them point by point here).

No, for many on the party’s left as well as the right, the reality is that the party is looking to take on a leader with personal credentials considerably less attractive than those of Michael Foot. If you still doubt this, read on.

We have already heard about Corbyn’s disturbing apologism for the IRA in its heyday, his “friends” Hamas and Hezbollah. Phenomena comfortably explained away by his supporters as “engagement” in the cause of peace. But in the space of twenty-four hours, two rather more damning stories have surfaced.


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This is a competition between individuals who aspire to govern a country. It is not a charity event

17/06/2015, 10:35:38 AM

by Rob Marchant

We’re like that in the Labour Party, aren’t we? Oh, he’s a nice bloke, he deserves a shot at this. One of us. Can’t we swing it to get him on the list? Or, worse: we’d better put him on the list, or there’ll be hell to pay.

Never mind that the rules of the list are that you need to get 35 MP nominations. Nominations, note, not pity transfers. It is perfectly right that all sections of the party should be represented in this ballot. But those – and only those – which have earned them.

So when a bunch of MPs decide at the eleventh hour to switch nominations specifically to let Jeremy Corbyn MP limp onto the shortlist, it is against the spirit of the rules, even if it is not against the letter, plain common sense and the seriousness of a leadership election.

Then again, as Jonathan Reynolds MP noted on Monday, neither is this anything approaching serious politics. It is not.

In one move, a small section of the PLP has achieved three things. One, it has shown its contempt for its own rule-book, were it not clear enough already. It has reinforced the idea that, if the rules provide a result you do not like, pressure people to bend the rules and they will.

Two: it has strengthened the voice of its most extreme wing far beyond its genuine representation in the Labour Party (if you don’t believe this, wait and see how Corbyn actually polls in September, or recall Diane Abbott’s dismal poll in 2010).

Three: it has played right into the hands of a few hard-left clowns, whose strategy was to mobilise in order to hammer an online poll at LabourList, in the hope that its (at that point clearly meaningless) result would create unstoppable momentum for a Corbyn place on the leadership list.


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Week 4 of the campaign: the good, the bad and the ugly

26/04/2015, 01:27:31 PM

Uncut’s weekly review of the campaign looks at the events of week 4.

The good

Chuka Umunna’s interview in the Guardian

One of Labour’s most visible performers this campaign has been the shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna. His polished media performances have ensured that he is on the Labour press office’s speed-dial when the toughest interview bids arrive.

Inevitably in an election campaign, interviews are about the issues of the day. It’s hard to see the person rather than the political position. Chuka’s interview in the Guardian probed a little deeper and offered a glimpse of what makes the man tick.

It revealed a personal biography which is a story of struggle, success, loss and revival. One which shines a light on who he is and the type of politician that he is maturing into.

Chuka’s father’s rise, from penniless migrant to running a thriving business, is clearly enormously influential.

Most immediately, it explains why Chuka is instinctively comfortable with business and able to put businessmen and women at ease with Labour, in a way that other Labour front-benchers cannot.

Yet there is more to Chuka than just being Labour’s business-whisperer.

The duality of being the child of an immigrant and a successful businessman creates a rare perspective. Most politicians lead their lives in a straight line – they are born into a class and remain in that class.

Chuka’s world was one simultaneously of disadvantage and privilege.

It’s why the rhetorical cadences from Ukip on race and identity are familiar to Chuka from his youth, as they are to anyone from a minority who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s.

What Ukip say today about Eastern European migrants was said about Asian and African migrants from the 1950s through to the 1990s.

The manner in which his father faced this and overcame it, informs the direct and robust way that Chuka addresses Ukip.

Chuka’s father’s achievements and Chuka’s upbringing have given him the self-confidence to challenge Ukip in a way that his party colleagues seem to lack.

The subsequent loss of his father when he was 13 was evidently and understandably a pivotal moment in Chuka’s life.

It also places him in a rather unique category of politicians.

The Phaeton complex describes the behaviour and development of children who experience the loss of (or separation from) one or both of their parents. It seems more than a coincidence that this group is so over-represented among political leaders –Winston Churchill, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair to name just a few.

Whether Chuka’s future will be as starry as some of the other political Phaetons is unclear yet, but in an election of dry photo-opportunities and endlessly rehearsed lines, the Guardian interview with Chuka offered something more than the standard, and increasingly stale, fayre.

Progress in righting some of the wrongs of the past (more…)

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If “never again” is to be more than just a phrase, we cannot let Mein Kampf be a best-seller

09/02/2015, 07:00:42 AM

by Thomas Docherty

Today, a cross-party report on anti-Semitism has been published which has my personal backing and that of our party leader. Anti-Semitism is a societal ill and the 34 recommendations of that report form an important roadmap to recovery. I was particularly concerned to read in the report about the increasing trend towards using Holocaust imagery and inappropriate Nazi comparisons in the context of debate on the Middle East conflict.

As readers might know, my opposition to racism and anti-Semitism is well established. Last month, I wrote on a related matter to the Culture Secretary asking him to consult on the sale of the notorious Mein Kampf, Hitler’s political philosophy which led to the systematic murder of six million Jews and others in the Holocaust.

In recent weeks and specifically following the horrendous Charlie Hebdo attacks the debate over “the right to offend” has served to underline the central importance of free speech in our society and to our democracy. Whilst I appreciate that some will disagree with me, I believe that the sale and distribution of Mein Kampf must be debated as it transcends the limits of acceptable discourse. There is, of course, historical value in its limited distribution and in proper academic study of its contents. However, the ease with which it can be obtained from online and other retailers is profoundly disturbing. Surely, we can’t be expected to believe that it’s ranking as a bestseller for Amazon arises from academic demand for the tome.

From humble beginnings, Hitler’s political design ended in unique horror of holocaust. The seeds sown by Mein Kampf are still inciting racial hatred and fuelling anti-Semitism today and it is no surprise that it has been banned in a number of other countries. The distribution of Mein Kampf twinned with the demeaning and trivialisation of the Holocaust is a very worrying trend. I was struck to read in the All-Party Parliamentary Report into Anti-Semitism during last summer that Hitler, Holocaust and Nazi were among the top 35 key words used on Twitter in relation to Jews. I was equally concerned to see that the term “Hitler was right” had trended across the world.


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Laugh if you can, but be afraid

22/01/2015, 09:58:26 PM

by Ian McKenzie

I like Dan Hannan. I rarely agree with him, many of his views are politically toxic, but I respect him. He’s a right-wing Conservative, self-described as coming from the Whig tradition, and he’s an MEP. He was a high profile supporter of the People’s Pledge, the campaign for an In-Out referendum on the EU, and I was its Director. We used to do a little double act banter at fund-raising dinners: he would do the highbrow politics and the Euroscepticism; I would do the lowbrow campaigning and the Europhilia. He wants the UK to leave the EU; I want us to stay a member.

Dan is extremely good company and the most dangerous sort of political opponent there is: he understands your position better than you do and he respects it. He is well read, well prepared and unfailingly polite. If the Trots had done their Trotskyism Dan Hannan style, they’d be running the Labour Party by now.

Because I take Dan seriously, it was with some sadness that I read his reaction to the Charlie Hebdo murders, and I scribble this blog post with considerable trepidation.

He introduces several dichotomies: we are asked to believe that the Charlie massacre was not as an act of holy war but merely a crime; the perpetrators concerned not soldiers, but common criminals, not religious zealots but pathetic figures. And then, rather strangely, he suggests the public policy response to Islamism should be to ignore its stated rationale as mere self-description, and subject it to ridicule. Seriousness or ridicule are his choices.


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Goodbye, Lord Ahmed. You will not be missed

15/05/2013, 09:43:18 AM

by Rob Marchant

Ah, Nazir Ahmed. There are two sides being put to your story. On the one hand, there is yours. Its claim is that you have been put upon by an unfeeling Labour party, which will not give you a “fair hearing”.

On the other, there is the more obvious, alternative explanation, that you were allegedly caught saying something anti-Semitic, following a long stretch of seemingly unpardonable behaviour from your good self, and then resigned from the party in anticipation of being pushed – via a letter which can only be described as weaselly – in order to hang on to some vestige of personal credibility.

I shall leave the reader to decide which explanation seems the more fitting.

A brief recap from the Mirror:

“The Times reported that he blamed his 2009 prison sentence – for sending text messages shortly before his car was involved in a fatal crash – on pressure placed on the courts by Jews ”who own newspapers and TV channels”.

So, according to the translated interview video, the conviction had not been down to Ahmed’s guilt, as a mere court of law found, it was clearly another Jewish conspiracy.

As we shall see, it seems that Ahmed has perhaps simply always been one of those characters who feels that the law, and the rulebook, does not really apply to them. In fact, in a wonderful example of this, here (24:28) he describes his short prison sentence as “quashed”, just as he says it was “overturned” in the Times video. It wasn’t.


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