This is a guest post by reader and frequent contributor Brian Goldfarb.
Before we begin, I just want to mention that Labour Antisemitism has been a key issue of this blog ever since Jeremy Corbyn was elected Leader of the Labour Party back in 2015. Therefore it is with great satisfaction that we can bring this sorry and sordid subject to a close with the publication last Thursday by the UK Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) of its long-awaited report on its investigation into the rampant antisemitism and bullying that has been taking place in the Labour Party ever since Jeremy Corbyn was elected as its leader.
Jewish organizations such as the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), the Community Security Trust (CST), the Board of Deputies, the Labour Against Antisemitism group, as well as grass-roots organizations such as the Sussex Friends of Israel and numerous other Friends of Israel groups, all contributed evidence gathered in the field (some of which I have reported on over the years in this blog). The BBC itself, not known for its philo-semitism, produced a riveting report on Labour Antisemitism in its Panorama program. Together, they resulted in a devastating report.
To his credit, the new Labour leader, Keir Starmer, immediately apologized and promised that action will be taken to rectify the situation.
The worst, but perhaps the most amusing part, was the “grand finale” where Jeremy Corbyn, gloriously unrepentant and stubbornly unwilling to admit to any wrongdoing at all, astonishingly blamed the media for exaggerating the reports of antisemitism! He thus put the final nail into the coffin of his own political career and was immediately suspended by Starmer. He ought to have been fired but hopefully that is still to come.
Here is Brian’s take on the whole issue:
A while ago, Anne posted this article of mine in which I speculated that, with the election of Keir Starmer as the Leader of the UK Labour Party, things might just have got better for the Party. In turn, this followed an earlier article on whether Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party until March this year, was or was not an antisemite. The answer came, loud and clear, on 29 October, 2020, when the UK Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) reported on this matter, as a result of submissions to it by the Campaign Against Antisemitism, the Jewish Labour Movement (which used to be known as Poale Zion and of which I am a member, as well as of the Labour Party) and other interested organisations: guilty as charged. Indeed, in my view (and that of a friend who is now a retired lawyer: see paragraph 5 below), the Report was absolutely damning of the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Given that the only other UK political party that the EHRC had investigated was the avowedly racist British National Party (a lineal descendant of Mosley’s British Union of Fascists of the 1930s and beyond), this was hardly good company to be keeping.
For those interested in investigating just what the EHRC had to say, and with time on their hands during Covid-19 lockdown/furlough/convalescence, the details can be found here at the EHRC report itself [I have posted another link above which has the same report – Anne]: Yes, it’s a 130 pages long, BUT it’s large type and takes, honestly, only 2 hours to read (providing you don’t want to take notes!).
Here is a screenshot of just one small passage from the report – but how damning in those few words!
So, a little (re-posted) history: among other things, Corbyn managed to wonder out loud why an obviously antisemitic wall painting (although I’m not happy as a Labour Party member to be using an article from the Communist Morning Star) got painted out by the local (Labour-controlled) council [in East London]. If anyone needed convincing of his (to be very polite about it) tin ear concerning antisemitism, this should have been the final straw. In the second article linked to above, I noted his questionable behaviour in proclaiming that Hamas and Hezbollah (classified as terrorist organisations by most Western governments) were his “friends” (with “friends” like these, who needs enemies?) and his desire to entertain to tea on the Terrace of the House of Commons Sheikh Raed Salah, who had been banned from the UK by Prime Minister Theresa May and imprisoned in Israel for promoting the blood libel.
You will understand that I am being very polite here: I have no wish to be accused of libel by Jeremy Corbyn. Especially when he is defending a potential libel case against him by John Ware, the journalist who produced the Panorama documentary “Is the Labour Party Antisemitic?”.
All that said, I did manage to download and read the EHRC report on the date of publication (Thursday, 29th October) and found it damning in its conclusions that the Labour Party had, indeed, broken the law concerning antisemitism and its treatment of Jewish members of the Party as well as its failures to deal with antisemitism expressed by “agents” of the Party. This view of mine was confirmed during a zoom session that evening with friends: he is a retired lawyer (although not in human rights) and came to the same conclusion.
A word of explanation is required here: “agents” of the Party are those who hold official positions on behalf of the Labour Party. That is, Members of Parliament (MPs and/or Members of the House of Lords taking the Labour Whip), local authority Councillors, elected on the banner of the Party (or, indeed, candidates), elected members of the Party’s various governing bodies (I won’t confuse you with even more alphabet soup here: let’s keep that for the comments – if any – below this article!). Ordinary members (like your author) might escape this oversight because they hold no official position and what they say, do or write has no binding effect on the Party at large.
It is important to step back a little and note that the Labour Party had, indeed, expelled members, even high-ranking ones, for antisemitism. However, the point was made by the Report that far from this being a straightforward process (even if, necessarily, stretched out, to avoid any suggestion of a witch-hunt or a rush to judgement), it was slowed down even further and often interfered with by the Leader of the Opposition (henceforth LOTO). I read a long article elsewhere on this whole process last month in which I had to wade through, refer back and (almost) make notes as to what set of initials referred to what. LOTO is the “The Leader of the Opposition’s” Office; GLU is the Governance and Legal Unit (which is supposed to have sole oversight as to who gets investigated for offences against the Party’s code of conduct, if apparently guilty of such an offence or offences, what recommendation as to what level of discipline, if any, should be applied and by whom). However, LOTO often got involved, especially if the alleged offender is/was high-ranking enough (look how long it took for Ken Livingstone to be suspended, before he decided to leave the Party before being expelled).
I won’t, at this stage, go into further detail as to who and how the process of investigation got stretched out and how the referral process got slowed down by interference by other bodies within the Labour Party – you really need to read the actual Report to get the full flavour. However, to understand just what pressure the GLU was under, you might try and find the Panorama programme referred to above: now former employees of the Labour Party detail some of this interference and at least one talks of seriously considering suicide, such was the pressure he was under to, one way or another, NOT find high-ranking members of the Party guilty of antisemitism when, to the members of the GLU, the case appeared open and shut. You may recall my reference (in yet another article here: I reviewed a book by (Lord) John Mann (of Holbeck Moor) and told the story of how he almost came to blows with Livingstone). There is a more important story to be told.
Last Thursday (as this is written) 29th October, after the Report was released, we (my wife and I) were watching the television news. Keir Starmer had just repeated his intention and determination to root antisemitism out of the Labour Party: he would already have read the Report some days/weeks before. He had also made it very clear that anyone who didn’t whole-heartedly accept the findings of the Report and its recommendations as to what had to now happen (as he did) had no place in the Labour Party. So far so good. What happened next is instructive, indeed, very instructive. Following that news snippet, the BBC switched to a news conference by the Jewish Labour Movement (see paragraph 1 above) on the Report, attended by, among others, Dame Margaret Hodge, to whom I have also referred elsewhere, as staying in the Labour Party in order to dance on Corbyn’s political grave. She had a barely repressed Cheshire Cat smile on her face.
During this news conference, there were rolling headlines at the bottom of the screen (a now common practice for all news programme: it can be distracting, but in this case, it was riveting): Jeremy Corbyn was given an interview to another (or other) journalist(s). His claim was that (a) antisemitism was awful; (b) it must be rooted out of the Labour Party); but (c) it was being exaggerated for political purposes; and (d) the Party, under his leadership, was in the process of dealing with it (there may have been other statements along the same lines, but these will do for the purposes of this article).
If there was ever an example of someone displaying the existence of possessing a tin ear for what was going on, this is it. Starmer had already said that anyone not fully accepting the findings of the Report had no place in the Labour Party, and here was the last Leader doing just that. Corbyn later claimed that Starmer had assured him that he (Corbyn) would suffer no consequences for responding to the Report; Starmer has repeated several times (as late as 1st November, on the BBC Andrew Marr Show) that he never gave Corbyn any such assurance. Further, there are reports in both Sunday’s and Monday’s papers that even Corbyn’s late comrades, such as John McDonnell, tried to get Corbyn to make no comment at all ; they do not want a war within the Party.
The next thing we knew, the General Secretary of the Labour Party had suspended Jeremy Corbyn from the Party and the whip had been removed. Starmer claims that he had no hand in this and wanted Corbyn back in the fold (i.e., he needed to row back from what he said).
Who knows. Watch this space.
Brian, thank you very much for this excellent, in-depth review of the history of both the antisemitism and the bullying of Jewish and pro-Jewish members in the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn. You have shown how this bigotry was encouraged by Corbyn even as he claimed plausible deniability – until it was no longer either plausible or deniable.
It is very good news that Keir Starmer appears to have taken the reins of the party firmly in hand. It can only be for the good of Britain and the British Jewish community that this scourge is going to be confronted and hopefully eliminated. Certainly it will no longer be tolerated in the Labour Party.
One final note to close this circle: when I first started my blog, almost 10 years ago, one of the journalists who most enraged me with his anti-Israel screeds, always full of exaggerations, distortions, made-up “facts” and outright lies, was the Independent’s Robert Fisk. He became famous in journalistic circles for his inaccurate (to say the least) reporting, so much so that his name became a verb: “to fisk” an article means to rip apart an article point by point to prove its inaccuracy. Well, Robert Fisk passed away yesterday. I will not celebrate his passing, but neither shall I mourn him. I hope his method of reporting follows in his wake. It seems perfect timing that this should have occurred at the same time as the publication of the EHRC report on Labour Antisemitism.