Archive for the 'Antisemitism' Category


64 LAB peers pay for Guardian ad to tell Corbyn that he fails the test of leadership

Wednesday, July 17th, 2019

Time to bet on him not surviving 2019?

The wording of the ad above is powerful and will get a lot of attention but the question is how will it impact on the future of the Labour leader who won the job convincingly in the 2015 leadership election and retained it a year later.

The wording is quite smart because it does not accuse him of being antisemitic but questions whether his approach to the crisis that has engulfed the party for 4 years is down to his failure as leader.

It comes at a time when there is a real possibility of an early general election and, of course, we’re now in the run up to the Party Conference season. My guess is the peers are trying to exert the maximum pressure on him to step aside and make way for someone else.

One of the things about members of The House of Lords is that there is no way that the party machine can touch them. They are there for life or until such time as they decide themselves not to be active members of the upper house.

This must put Corbyn’s future into serious doubt as he did appear to be the most secure of all the party leaders because of the view that he continues to have widespread backing amongst the party membership.

In recent months Corbyn’s leadership ratings have dropped substantially and in the latest Ipsos Mori polling 75% of those sampled said they were dissatisfied with his leadership. This is the highest negative ever recorded of any opposition leader and suggests that he is a an electoral liability. Even most LAB voters in the polling say they they are dissatisfied.

On Betfair it is a 29% chance that Corbyn will leave the leadership this year. That might be worth a punt. Currently Rebecca Long-Bailey is the favourite to succeed him.

Mike Smithson


As we wait for the controversial Panorama report on LAB and antisemitism

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

The programme is on BBC1 at 9pm.

Mike Smithson


A year on since Corbyn’s anti-semitic mural row and the issue continues to plague LAB and its leader

Monday, March 11th, 2019

This could cost LAB more than just Jewish votes

It was in March last year that the antisemitic row within LAB gathered media traction following the revelation of his positive response on Facebook in 2012 to what was clearly an anti-semitic mural on the wall of a building in East London. That led amongst other things to demonstrations in Parliament Square against him and the party.

Commenting at the time under the heading “Corbyn’s ‘regret’ over an antisemitic mural doesn’t go remotely far enough” the Guardian columnist Matthew D’Ancona wrote:

“…. why does Corbyn – admirably proactive in tackling other forms of prejudice – seem to squirm and dither when confronted with allegations of antisemitism? As Richard Gold, a party member active in the anti-racist Engage campaign, put it in his submission to Shami Chakrabarti’s inquiry into Labour antisemitism: “[It is] as though being unpleasant to Jews … should be excused or minimised, treated merely as rudeness or bad manners, rather than racist behaviour…

…Antisemitism is on the rise all over the world. According to the Community Security Trust, a record number of antisemitic incidents were reported in the UK last year. Why does this bother Corbyn as little as it seems to? Does he believe in universal rights and equality of worth, or not? The fact that the Labour leader appears to regard allegations of antisemitism as an irritant rather than a fundamental issue says nothing good about him. In this respect, at least, the writing is upon the wall.

In spite of all that has happened since D’Ancona’s observations are as relevant today as they were a year ago.

The hard fact is to the LAB leader this form of racism has the potential to dog him as long he survives in the job. Whenever any issue related to antisemitism comes up his response continues to be closely monitored and highlighted.

His ultra loyal supporters, of course, shout “smear” and blame the media but that has little impact.

If there is an early election, and with TMay’s precarious parliamentary position that is a risk at all times, Corbyn’s less than convincing position on antisemitism looks set to be massive distraction to the LAB campaign and will influence more than just Jewish voters.

  • The Marf cartoon above first appeared in the Jewish Chronicle

    Mike Smithson

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    What might the Tories learn from Labour

    Friday, March 8th, 2019

    The Tories might well look at Labour’s current travails over anti-Semitism and sigh with relief. “At least we’re not as bad as that.” They would be wise not to be so complacent.

    Anti-Semitism is not  confined to Corbyn’s Labour or to the Left in general. The attacks on Soros by some Tory-leaning papers, even Mrs May’s “citizens of nowhere” speech, echoed some pretty standard tropes about rootless disloyal cosmopolitan people somehow undermining good old native British culture.  And there have been enough people within the Tories willing to use and spread offensive and hateful imagery and statements about Muslims, Jews and foreigners in general to show that they are not immune.

    Baroness Warsi can be criticised for some of the views she has expressed (about Prevent, about Sara Khan and the Commission for Countering Extremism) but her complaints about how some in the Tory party view Muslims raise worrying questions, questions which need addressing seriously.

    The most important lesson to learn from Labour’s problems is that the sooner you stamp down hard on problems, the easier it is to root them out. Early effective action makes it easier to create the right culture – a culture which is unwelcoming to those who wish to discriminate against “others” and who spread or use hateful words, imagery, insults, whether this is because they believe them or because they think them useful in some greater cause.

    There are three more important lessons to be learned:-

    1. It is not enough to make speeches about clamping down on such abuse. This must be accompanied by actions, at all levels of the party from the top down, and not just when the press is looking but on a sustained basis. Those who care about such matters will notice if action is taken just for show.
    2. Establish the scale of the problem. Properly. Organisations hate doing this – it’s washing your dirty linen in public, it can be demoralising for those who don’t behave badly, it feels as if you’re giving ammunition to your opponents. But unless you know the extent of the problems you face, you cannot seriously put in place the measures needed. What’s more, it looks as if you’re trying to cover things up. So when you do try and deal with an issue, you run the risk of not being believed. Better to be open when the issues are small and resolvable than be forced into an inquiry under pressure when your credit is already low. And better this than be investigated by outside bodies, when you have lost control. The Tories would be wise to take advice – and be seen to be doing so – from the Equalities Commission on best practice.
    3. Have a robust, thorough, independent investigative and disciplinary process, staffed by people who know what they are doing and who understand how to spot and avoid an actual or potential conflict of interest. This is not that hard, if the will is there. Not doing so or just doing the bare minimum will cause endless grief; the damage to reputation will hugely outweigh the costs and be very long-lasting. It is the falsest of false economies.

    This may not be something that matters to many voters, but it is emblematic of a party’s moral compass, of how it is perceived. Voters’ decisions are made as much for emotional reasons as following a cool rational assessment of parties’ policies. Labour has suffered in part because the allegations of anti-Semitism by its own MPs are at odds with its image of itself as an anti-racist party. It makes it seem – to some, anyway – nasty. It took the Tories a very long time indeed to shed their “nasty party” tag but it will not take long for them to reacquire it. (Some will argue that this has already happened.)

    But why should the Tories be bothered by this? There have been no demonstrations outside Parliament or polls showing significant percentages of Muslims wanting to leave or complaints that the Tories are posing an existential threat to Muslim life in this country. Nor has Mrs May invited Tommy Robinson to tea, described him as a friend, gone on foreign trips with members of the Klu Klux Klan. Indeed not. But that is to set the bar very low indeed.

    And what about the distinction between not insulting Muslims and criticising Islam? Questioning, criticising, challenging an idea, even a religious idea, is essential in a free society, no matter how uncomfortable that may make its adherents feel. All true – and there are certainly many aspects of Islam, of how a community with a fundamentally credal culture integrates into a secular one, of the realities of how some Muslim or Muslim heritage groups behave – which warrant vigorous criticism and debate.

    But that criticism can all too easily be dismissed if it comes from a party which permits vulgar hateful abuse against individual Muslims and seeks, implausibly, to justify this by claiming it as merely criticism of a religion. That too is a lesson to be learned from Labour (which has sought to justify abuse of Jews by claiming that this was just criticism of a foreign country or its government). Such Jesuitical distinctions just compound the offence and the insincerity of the explanation.

    So why are the Tories vulnerable to a charge of hatred of or contempt for Muslims (and other minorities)?  Three possibilities:-

    1. The legacy of the Leave campaign, the way May’s government seemed to divide the nation into patriots and outsiders, the Go Home vans, the Windrush debacle make it far too easy for some to think it acceptable to indulge in “othering”of those who look or are different. Even Johnson (in favour of permitting the burqa to be worn) could not resist using childish and bullying language when making his arguments, arguments which might have been listened to with more care had he reined back his insatiable desire for a headline. Depending on how Brexit is – or is not – implemented, it is easy to see how a “stab in the back” complaint against “saboteurs” allegedly owing their loyalty to others could morph into something much more sinister aimed at minorities.
    2. UKIP  may now be a busted flush headed by a leader determined to outdo one of his leadership rivals in anti-Muslim bigotry. But for a party once described by Cameron as full of “fruitcakes, racists and loonies”, it has been remarkably successful at changing Tory policy. Tory membership is low; the Tories are divided, exhausted, effectively leaderless and no longer really know what they are for. These are the conditions which make it vulnerable to determined entryists. It would not take many of them mouthing off about loyalty tests and the rest to create the impression that Tories hate Muslims. Even a Muslim Home Secretary born into a poor family is not sufficient inoculation against the harm that entryists can do.
    3. It is a fair assumption that many Leave voters cared more about non-EU immigration than EU migration. (Why would the Turkey and “Breaking Point” posters have been used had this not been the case?). The irony of the Brexit vote is that it is precisely this sort of immigration which has now increased to its highest level for years. Easy to see how this can create the perfect environment for a backlash against such migrants, many of whom will likely be Muslim.

    Dislike of minorities does not need to be a given.  Indeed, it should be something which no decent country or party should indulge in.  But its absence cannot be taken for granted. It is not always parties’ better angels which rule.  The Tories should take no comfort from the beams in Labour’s eyes.  They should concentrate on removing the motes from their own.



    Hobson’s choice – the issues facing unhappy LAB MPs

    Thursday, March 7th, 2019

    How far does loyalty stretch? How far should it stretch? Loyalty to persons who have behaved wrongly is misplaced loyalty but is more common than it should be. Still, even in the absence of misbehaviour there is no one easy answer to this, especially for anyone who has voluntarily joined a group because they believed in its mission, in what it was trying to do.

    The question is even more difficult for members of political parties given that these are, inherently, broad groupings – with left and right wings and views which necessarily change according to the times and the voters’ demands.

    Still, for all that, there are usually a set of values, of principles, a way of looking at the world, however imprecisely these may be delineated, which all in the party can sign up to, ends which they share, even if they may on occasion disagree fiercely about the means.

    And parties generally have mechanisms to keep out undesirables and entryists, those seeking to use the party label, the party’s goodwill with voters, to achieve what they could not do were they to face voters under their own label. (This has been a particular issue in the past for Labour, given the number of small Far Left groupuscules, and a Labour leadership rather more alert to Far Left entryist tactics.

    Even the Tories have had to take steps to eliminate those groups which threatened their good name – see the Federation of Conservative Students in the 1980’s, though their response to UKIP in recent years has been somewhat incoherent.)

    What stretches that loyalty to breaking point?  Sometimes it can be the leader, behaving in a way which leaves Ministers with little option.  See, for instance, Geoffrey Howe talking about the “tragic conflict of loyalties with which [he had] struggled for perhaps too long.”   Still that was an argument within a government, within a party about policy and about the leader’s management style.  Howe was not saying that the Tory party was no longer Tory.

    More often it can be a sense that the party has changed in a way which no longer makes it what it truly is, what it truly ought to be – “the party has left me” argument. This was the complaint made by the three Tory MPs joining TIG: that the Tory party had become more and more like UKIP and less and less like the party they joined and believed in.

    It was the essence of the Gang of 4’s complaint about Labour in the 1980’s– that it had moved to the Left, been infiltrated by those who were not real Labour and was, as a result, taking positions which no longer made it Labour and, critically, which were electorally unpopular. By contrast, according to recent opinion polls (which the Tories would be wise to ignore) their move towards UKIP-style policies on Europe is not, apparently, denting their popularity.

    Ah, but there’s the rub. If a move to the extremes is electorally popular but renders the party unrecognisable from what it has always been, is it still the same party? Or has it fundamentally changed? And what should a disaffected member do then? What matters more: popularity or sticking to the essence of a party’s values? And who determines what those values are?

    This dilemma is particularly excruciating at present for Labour MPs not particularly enamoured of their leader. The claim of some that voters should vote Labour but that if Labour win they will not make their leader, PM, is ludicrous and/or dishonest.

    The brutal reality for such MPs is that Corbyn is popular with the membership, which has increased significantly in recent years. He achieved, unexpectedly, a significant increase in the Labour vote in 2017 so there is evidence, recent opinion polls notwithstanding, that he can be popular with voters, not simply Labour members. His allies are in control of all the key levers of the Labour party. His values are increasingly becoming Labour’s values.

    Are his values really Labour values, though? It’s not all that obvious that they are. When Kinnock (a leader on the Left of Labour) and his allies were fighting hard to expel Militant, Corbyn opposed this. During the last Labour government he voted 428 times against his party.

    In 2012 he congratulated George Galloway on his victory in Bradford West. When did it become OK for a Labour MP to support those defeating Labour candidates in a formerly Labour seat? Corbyn seems to have been at best semi-detached from the party whose label he wore, at worst severely at odds with it.

    What about since he became leader? What about those people whom he has appointed as his closest advisors, those he relies on and trusts, those whose advice he seeks and who speak for him? What do they say about the values he has brought to Labour and increasingly stamped on it?

    Well, we have Andrew Murray (Corbyn’s “Special Political Advisor”)– a member of the Communist party for 40 years until December 2016 becoming a Corbyn advisor 4 months later, just after his former party announced that it would be working “full tilt” to get Corbyn elected. Of course, he may have changed his views. The fact that he continues to write for the Morning Star, a paper described by Corbyn as“the more precious and only voice we have in the daily media”and one following the Communist Party’s platform might perhaps give the lie to that.

    Labour has had ex-Communists in high places before, of course: Denis Healey, for example. But it was rather clearer that he had disavowed his former views than it is with Murray. Or what about Andrew Fisher, suspended from Labour for urging voters to vote for another party (Class War), but now reinstated. Or Milne with his background in Straight Left, a pro-Soviet faction within the Communist Party. Milne has never hidden his admiration for Soviet Russia, Stalinism or for its current leader, Putin, and was described as sharing “Jeremy’s world view almost to the letter.”

    It has been said of Labour that it is best governed from the Left. It is certainly now that. But the question for Labour MPs is whether this is a Left which belongs within the Labour movement or one which is using it as a vehicle to achieve ends at odds with what Labour really is. Is it correct that,  as one Labour MP put it: “These people are not Labour, have never been Labour, but we now find them in our party.”?

    And if they take the latter view, do they leave – and allow the entryists the power they want – or stay to fight a perhaps unwinnable battle and give cover to those who have taken over, making it seem that the party is still at heart recognisably Labour?  What they surely cannot do is ask people to vote Labour while pretending or hoping that this does not mean Corbyn as PM or a Labour party based on his values.  It is surely time for unhappy Labour MPs to put up or shut up.




    Fringe concerns. Why all the focus on anti-Semitism in the Labour party?

    Wednesday, March 6th, 2019

    Imagine, if you will, that Labour sweep to power under Jeremy Corbyn. There is much that an avowedly socialist government would wish to do. No doubt it would look at nationalising key industries. It would open up the spigots of the Treasury, letting its funds gush into any number of spending channels. It would look to make irreversible redistributions of wealth.  

    What it would not do, however, is seek to redraw the boundaries of the Middle East – it would neither have the time nor the wherewithal. Aside from making a few essentially token moves, Israel and Palestine would be left to fend for themselves. That question is peripheral to the priorities of a UK Labour government.

    This leads me onto the subject of this piece. Much has been written about the current debate about anti-Semitism which is convulsing the Labour party at present. Relatively little has been written about what is superficially the most baffling question, which is why this has arisen in the first place.

    Jeremy Corbyn has certainly had a longstanding interest in the troubles of the Palestinians (his interest in the difficulties that Israel might face is less well-attested). Backbenchers can luxuriate in problems where they can make only marginal differences and for more than 30 years Jeremy Corbyn found causes around the world to champion.

    On becoming Labour leader, however, he needed to focus on the things that matter most to voters. In fairness, a lot of Labour’s efforts have been to do exactly that. The 2017 manifesto was a melange of different vote-grabbing policies, lacking coherence but having pizazz. Despite strenuous attempts by the Conservatives, Labour have striven mightily to consign Jeremy Corbyn’s past eyebrow-raising connections firmly to the past, with some success at least as far as younger voters are concerned.

    Despite all this, Labour have spent the time since the last election bogged down in increasingly raw arguments about anti-Semitism. Why has this proved the hill that Jeremy Corbyn might die on?

    Many of the Corbynites vigorously argue that this is all something got up by the enemies of socialism to discredit the congregation. They regard the instances being found as being wilfully exaggerated, have decided that wreath-laying was not at the grave of a dead Palestinian terrorist (whatever the facts might show), point to many Jews who agree with the criticisms they have made of Israel and note that the critics of perceived anti-Semitism are voluble critics of the Labour leader on many other fronts too.

    There is the germ of a point here. The pearl-clutching by many on the right about anti-Semitism is hypocritical in the extreme, given how relaxed they were about campaigning for Leave under a poster that whipped up untrue fears of millions of Turks being poised to descend on Britain. It seems that bigotry is acceptable to them when it furthers their own ends. Such are the debased politics we now endure, a politics of motes and beams.

    There is no doubt that many of the critics of perceived anti-Semitism within the Labour party are no friends of Jeremy Corbyn. And there is no doubt that one of the consequences of social media is that every whackjob with a twitter account and a Labour membership card can be held up as an example of an institutional problem.

    Yet it is not just made up by the leadership’s opponents. Jeremy Corbyn himself has accepted that there is a real problem. Jon Lansman, the head of Momentum, acknowledges a major problem. Many of the instances of abuse are appalling, no matter how insignificant the instigator. Some of the instigators are senior and repeat offenders. Labour has already supposedly accepted that it needs to act here.

    On every other front the Labour leadership has focused on voters’ central concerns. For example, it has been rigidly disciplined about not stirring up controversy about NATO membership or Trident, about both of which Jeremy Corbyn has Firm Views and about both of which he could actually do something were he to become Prime Minister. When did you last hear about either of those subjects? You can be sure that if Labour were elected you’d hear a lot about both.

    Why would he throw away that hard work for no reason?  It’s not as if he really needed to do very much. The party’s usual channels for dealing with disciplinary offences were there and needed only to be used.  A few stern words about respect for all communities and dissociating himself from the extremes on social media would have brought self-appointed outriders to heel. Meeting MPs who had suffered intense abuse would have healed rifts. The rest is silence.

    Jeremy Corbyn did not do that. It appears to have been an active choice to let this controversy continue to rage. Indeed, the leadership appears to have meddled with the disciplinary process to the advantage of some of those potentially to be sanctioned.  

    So is this something which is so dear to Jeremy Corbyn’s heart, despite his outward recognition of the problem, that he refuses to take the steps necessary to close it down? The unsentimental shutting down of the rest of his minority opinions strongly suggests otherwise.

    This leads to the inevitable conclusion that this being actively used by the Labour leadership in some way. The only conceivable use that I can identify is that it is being used to stamp the leadership’s mark on the rest of the Parliamentary Labour party.

    By driving out MPs or forcing them to hunker down unhappily behind the leadership, the leadership get definitively to remake the party in their own image. It might be massively unpopular with voters but that really doesn’t matter. One way or another, they get the Labour party – an asset of great value in the long term and worth a lot of short term pain.  

    Some MPs have already broken away and others are clearly considering their options.  The leadership presumably wants those MPs to be seen to be making the final decision, so that they can then condemn the betrayal. So it plays grandmother’s footsteps on the subject, alternately stirring the subject up then backing down. Each retreat is signalled as a concession, to be undermined shortly thereafter by another affront to which MPs need to decide whether to respond.

    If this is right, we should expect more defections and perhaps a lot more. The MPs on the right of the Labour party have sent their scouts. At some point one of these calculated provocations will have the calculated effect. Both the leadership and the defectors will then get what they want.

    Alastair Meeks


    Corbyn harking back to LAB’s GE2017 vote share is no solution to the party’s current challenges

    Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

    For many he is seen as the problem

    Little noticed in this week’s political turmoil was some new polling from YouGov that had Corbyn dropping to a new low in its well/badly ratings. The trend was in line with all the other leader ratings that we’ve seen the last few weeks that whatever the pollster and whatever the question format Corbyn’s position is on the decline.

    The historical record shows that for an opposition party to re-take power the leader has to have a clear ratings margin over the incumbent PM.

    The 54% negative number from YouGov was not as bad as the 72% who told Ipsos MORI that they were dissatisfied but it is still the worst it has been with this particular question in this polling series

    This coincided with the 8 MPs announcing their departure with their reasons all pointing to the leadership of Corbyn particularly on Brexit and his failure to address the ongoing anti-semitism within the party.

    Looking back since the 2017 General Election the factors that seemed to have triggered a decline in Corbyn’s personal position have related to anti-semitism and his ambivalence on Brexit. It was the events in March last year that lead to MPs demonstrating against him outside Parliament that ended his comparative ratings honeymoon.

    That Corbyn’s position is secure because of the membership base should give lots of hope to those opposed to LAB.

    Labour’s fundamental problem is that it has a leader who is not popular even amongst many of those who voted for the party in 2017 but is almost totally secure in his position.

    Mike Smithson


    A shock poll from Opinium sees the Tories move to a 7% lead

    Saturday, February 2nd, 2019

    Mike Smithson