Sunday, 17 February 2019

Wavertree CLP’s rotten leadership shines a light on the party’s

Image result for wavertree imagesIt has been said during the last week, and not by Labour-watchers accustomed to hyperbole, that this might have been the week when a party’s split became irrevocable.

While that may or may not be true, it is difficult to remember a time when the parliamentary party was in such disarray, even in the mad 1980s, or the late 1950s’ nadir.

Perhaps this is partly because of Jeremy Corbyn’s true, Eurosceptic colours on Europe finally becoming clear, to all but the most avid Kool-Aid drinkers in the strange party that is now Labour.

The Labour leadership’s Janus-faced position on Brexit is both embarrassing and terrible for the country, particularly if it leads, as seems quite possible, to a hard Brexit, which will undoubtedly hurt the country for years, perhaps decades. But that is a situation which can, in some sense, be rectified. It is a function of the leadership, not local parties.

The current situation with anti-Semitism, however is not so easy. A stain on the party’s previous good name for anti-racism is a deep wound, one from which it is perfectly possible it will never recover. And it has by now infested many local parties, which are much more difficult to fix, as any witness to the party’s slow purge of Militant will tell you.

There have been many, many CLPs have been suspended over the years, mostly for subverting the party’s internal democracy, via fiddling votes or entryism. But never can one recall a local party having been suspended for rampant racism, as the party’s Deputy Leader and others have called for Liverpool Wavertree to be.

Luciana Berger, its decent and competent MP, has been targeted by her own local party in a vicious campaign of racial harassment. It is hard to overstate the freakishness and sickness of some of the comments to be found on Facebook and Twitter, many by people who are clearly party members, local and not. One Twitter account I reported on Monday was wishing her unborn baby dead. And there are many, many more.

Now, some say that Berger has not worked her local base hard enough and is now paying the price. There may even be some truth in it. But it’s hardly the point.

No, even so, there is no way that the attack on her which led to the calling of a Saturday Extraordinary General Meeting – to which she was summoned, in the manner of a Salem witch, to prove her innocence by metaphorically drowning – was not racially-motivated.

It’s not rocket science: the mover of the motion was a 9/11 “Truther” and conspiracist, who shared awful material on social media explaining how Israel was behind 9/11 attacks and referred to his MP as a troublemaking Jew, er, “Zionist”.

But it is normal, in the time-honoured traditions of the local party meeting, for nutty motions to be put forward, and ignored. What is extraordinary is that it should be backed by the local party officers, to the extent that it should be allowed to proceed to a show trial.

Or not. Step forward local CLP chair, Dr Alex Scott-Samuel, a man who has appeared on the Richie Allen show, broadcast by super-conspiracist (and racist sympathiser) David Icke. Since his appearance on the Lizard King´s show has come to light, he has left the employ of Liverpool University, where he was a lecturer (and who rushed clarify that he was no longer one, after the Jewish Chronicle’s original story).

Just think: the normal world rejects someone, the party embraces them. How is that? Because, right now, this is not a normal party.

I am sure there are some decent people among the party’s local officers, horrified by the bullying attacks on Berger, infused as they are with the rank odour of anti-Semitism. But they are clearly not in the majority.

The attack on Berger was then effectively supported on national TV by none other than John McDonnell MP, who opined, in true, Stalinist show-trial manner, that she simply had to deny that she was thinking about joining another party and it would all go away.

Except, even then, it surely wouldn’t. A better metaphor might be, let the witch recant so we can burn her anyway.

But the behaviour of a normally-functioning, mainstream political party aspiring to govern in the coming months, it was not.

The Shadow Chancellor needn’t have bothered squandering his scant political capital, however, because a few short hours later the motion was withdrawn by the CLP, perhaps in part thanks to an online campaign by the Jewish Labour Movement, rightly calling him out.

The following day at a meeting of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) – home to many superannuated far-lefties and backers of the dreadful Pete Willsman – an unrepentant McDonnell defended – again – suspended Jackie Walker*, she of the Jews-financing-the-slave-trade meme.

If anyone had thought that McDonnell was “Corbyn-lite” on anti-Semitism, they really hadn’t been listening hard enough.

Later, General Secretary Jennie Formby declared on Twitter that there is “no constitutional basis” on which to suspend Wavertree CLP. As if.

As Ian Austin MP rightly put it:

And finally, a week after Formby herself had firstly told the PLP that it was “impossible” to eradicate anti-Semitism in the party and only after much uproar, she finally published figures last Monday on the cases that the party had processed.

Out of an oddly small number of 673 actual complaints taken on – other estimates put those submitted as in the several thousands – only a pitiful twelve cases had resulted in expulsions since April 2018. With a further 49 logged as the member having resigned before being pushed.

In this utter shambles of a week, it seems there is no escaping the mire of anti-Semitism into which this party has waded.

Its Leader, Shadow Chancellor and General Secretary are only some of the leading lights that have led it there; further, their subtler tolerance and complicity has emboldened other, nastier outriders.

As a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger Times leader put it this week (£), what all this shows about “the current state of a historic party of the centre left is a scandal that its founding figures could scarcely have imagined.”

A split may not be inevitable. But, devastatingly for many members, it is really getting difficult to shrug off the “institutional racism” tag from this once-great party.

This post first published at Labour Uncut

*Walker is conveniently, according to Wikipedia, the partner of Graham Bash, a friend of Corbyn’s for over thirty years. In the cosy world of Corbynism, it is therefore unsurprising that she still remains without expulsion, despite having been suspended under investigation for over two years now. The most likely outcomes at her 26th March hearing are likely to be either wrist-slap punishment; or conceivably, if even the normally-docile NEC really cannot stomach keeping her in, a Livingstone-style, jump-before-pushed resignation might ensue. But that seems an outside chance unless there is a serious mobilisation on the part of members and MPs against her.

1 comment:

  1. Rather a pity this otherwise good analysis deploys all the Remainer 'project fear' claptrap.
    Adjustments yes (including FTAs such as the ones Trump, CANZAK,Japan left on the table). Damage?...hysterical nonsense


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