It’s hugely disappointing that Keir Starmer’s efforts to unify the party and focus on the national crisis of Coronavirus have been undermined by the leaked unpublished response to the EHRC investigation into antisemitism in the party, and the intensity of the reaction to it.
It’s never acceptable to use abusive language, even privately, to describe fellow party members.
We welcome Keir’s decision to launch an independent investigation into the content and leaking of the document.
The real scandal around the document is that it is a wholly inadequate, indeed laughable, response to a statutory investigation into whether our party was institutionally antisemitic under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
It ignores the question of what it was about the politics of the Hard Left that brought antisemites into our party and emboldened them to abuse Jewish members and their allies. Broadly this can be summarised as:
- Extreme variants of anti-Israel campaigning, that drift into antisemitic caricatures of Israel (comparing its behaviour to the Nazis or saying its existence is a racist endeavour) and supporters of Israel (alleging a global Zionist conspiracy)
- Antisemitic variants of anti-imperialism, portraying Jewish national liberation as part of a colonialist conspiracy
- Antisemitic variants of anti-capitalism, portraying Jews as detrimentally controlling global finance
All these have been motifs of far-left thinking and propaganda both within orthodox Stalinism and within some Trotskyist groups such as the WRP, SWP and IMG.
This is sadly not new. People from the current leadership of the Labour Hard Left published antisemitic cartoons comparing the Israeli PM to Himmler in Labour Herald in the 1980s, and argued for Poale Zion, now the Jewish Labour Movement, to be banned from the party.
Corbyn’s leadership brought people from Stalinist and Trotskyist backgrounds where such thinking is prevalent into the Labour Party and into its highest ranks. It meant that extreme ideas began to reach new audiences via social media. Taking effective action against them would have meant taking action against some of the leadership’s own cadres and closest allies, so the leadership repeatedly denied the scale of the problem and foot-dragged on taking action, and tried to resist definitions of antisemitism that included their or their allies’ preferred tropes.
Instead of addressing this, the document – less a report and more an 800-page statement by a particularly one-sided witness – tries to blame the failure to deal with antisemitism on the people who whistle-blew about failings at HQ; and then tries to establish a “stab-in-the-back” mythology that the 2017 General Election defeat was the result of a conspiracy by saboteurs at party HQ.
This is actually disgusting. Whatever the unacceptable language a few of them may have used privately, Labour’s staff worked all out for the best result possible in 2017, and its telling that the highly experienced team led by Iain McNicol delivered a far better result than the partisan Corbynites who ran the campaign in 2019 managed.
The promotion of a conspiracy theory about the allies of Jewish victims of antisemitism being responsible for Labour’s election defeats is a new low.
The “report” tries to blame all the procedural failings on antisemitism on the previous General Secretary and his staff, whilst offering no explanation for why, under the current General Secretary, NEC member Pete Willsman still hasn’t had conclusive action taken over his offensive remarks made last May, and even stayed on the NEC for six months after describing prominent rabbis as “Trump Fanatics” . The report doesn’t even mention his name. A five page chapter details the Kafkaesque situation where a complainant about antisemitism found his complaint led to him being investigated as well.
Quite aside from the politics of the report, its leak has caused multiple legal problems for the party around defamation and data protection, as it was unredacted and disclosed personal information about staff, victims and perpetrators of antisemitism.
This excellent article by Stephen Bush explains why the report does not substantiate the argument it tries to make (may be a paywall). You may also want to read this article by David Hirsh, one of the UK’s foremost experts on antisemitism and the GMB’s statement about the impact on its members who work for the Labour Party.