Thursday, 5 May 2016

Corbyn and Livingstone cannot now both survive within the Labour party

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For example, when hosting a talk show on Iran’s notorious propaganda channel Press TV (whose UK broadcasting licence was revoked by the present government): witness here how he pulls up a caller over US involvement in Palestine, but responds merely with the answer “okay” when the caller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

Friday, 29 April 2016

Of course we need to support those 3,000 Syrian children looking for a home. We helped put them there

There are some times when Labour and the Tories divide on party lines, not because merely they are whipped differently – or that they have dark and evil hearts, see Uncuts passim – but simply because they have fundamentally different ways of looking at the world.

What might seem a no-brainer to ordinary folk – the desperate plight of children alone in the world and bearing no responsibility whatsoever for their fate – becomes a point of immovable principle to a pig-headed Tory party caught in a moment of blind, anti-immigration frenzy. 

And it is sadly difficult to think this is unconnected to the current turbulence within the party over its perennial, navel-gazing obsession, the EU. Along with Labour MPs, a few noble souls defied the Tory whip, but mostly the vote was a shabby affair on the part of the governing party; the parliamentary equivalent of a mumbled excuse.

No, if you need an example of why this country needs a Labour government, it was given to you on Monday night without too much fuss.

The Parliamentary Labour Party, having suffered a rather difficult few months, largely paralysed over how to respond to its politically disastrous new leadership, finally showed what it was made of and supported Lord Alf Dubs’* amendment. An amendment requiring the government to accept the 3,000 homeless, stateless and unaccompanied Syrian children into the country.

Bravo, PLP. Bravo. It was a good thing you did on Monday night, even if it ended in honourable defeat. We should, however, just remember one, painfully ironic thing.

Friday, 15 April 2016

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

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.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Operation Midland: time to examine our prejudices

Last week Operation Midland, a two-year investigation into an alleged homicide thirty years ago, concluded with no charges made. It was the latest of several inquiries into child abuse, some of which are still ongoing.

Back in 2012, the Metropolitan Police began Operation Yewtree, culminating in the arrests and convictions of a number of people, mostly media personalities. It was largely perceived as a success, rightly uncovering some terrible failings on the part of the media “establishment”, where stars had become “untouchable”.

The most shocking thing about the revelations was that it seemed that everybody knew. I still remember a conversation with a BBC producer perhaps a decade ago, who commented that “you didn’t leave children alone with Jimmy Savile”. How could it be, I asked myself, that a culture be allowed to grow which allowed people to commit horrific crimes against children with impunity?

And so, many finally got their just desserts. About time. A job well done.

There was, however, a downside. No wide-ranging investigation can dig up only guilty people. Inevitably, there would be those, like the thoroughly decent DJ Paul Gambaccini, who suddenly found themselves pushed into a media circus where their life and careers were trashed by mere virtue of suspicion. That they formed part of the same sick segment of society as Savile and Rolf Harris.

Friday, 18 March 2016

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

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”.

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