Opinion

OPINION: Why the Labour Party protects its antisemites

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For 100 years the Labour Party was the broadest church in politics. That all changed the moment it passed into the tender loving care of Team Corbyn.

Suddenly, faster than Margaret Beckett could say “let’s put Jeremy on the leadership ballot to broaden the debate”, it was bludgeoned into a groupthink mentality that would have Harold Wilson, James Callaghan and even Clement Attlee rolling in their graves.

Those former Labour prime ministers would be sickened to see the ideological and antisemitic depths their cherished party has plumbed.

Last week’s BBC Panorama documentary, based on the painful testimonies of eight former staffers, exposed attempts by Corbyn’s team to sway antisemitism disciplinary panel selections, files being mysteriously removed from party HQ and powerless disputes officers having nervous breakdowns over Corbyn’s reluctance to punish anti-Jewish members. It was the first time the leadership had been directly implicated in a process it’s always insisted is independent.

The programme did not show the Labour Party to be antisemitic, nor did it expose individual party members as anti-Jewish beyond those already incriminated by their own words. Rather, it revealed something altogether more sinister.

The inescapable conclusion is that NOTHING, not even opposing the cancer of antisemitism, is more important than The Project.

It showed you can consider yourself a proud “lifelong anti-racist” while leading a morally lost party where a robust approach to tackling racism is sidestepped for fear it might jeopardise the greater cause. It showed how even basic human decency can be sacrificed in Labour’s frenzied pursuit of pure socialism.

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That’s why the party didn’t report to the police antisemitic threats made to its MPs. That’s why the party refused to back a ban on Hezbollah, whose military wing is deemed a terrorist organisation by the UK. And that’s how Lisa Forbes can win a by-election, despite liking a post saying Theresa May has a “Zionist slave masters agenda”.

It is also how general secretary Jennie Formby, with a straight face, can tell deputy leader Tom Watson not to monitor antisemitism because of GDPR rules. That’s how the party can dismiss the testimony seen in Panorama as the words of “disaffected” staffers with “axes to grind”.

All of this, and so much more besides, is seen as inconvenient background noise distracting from The Project – i.e., renationalisation, redistribution and denunciation of modern centre-ground politics. All, apparently, for the many, not the few. (Or the Jew).

It’s not that the party endorses antisemitism. It’s just way down the pecking order. Corbyn and co don’t necessarily prefer the company of chomping antisemites, Holocaust deniers, conspiracy theorists, Hamas and Hezbollah. But if the world’s worst human beings help swell their ranks and share their broader world view, why not invite them to tea in parliament? It’s all grist for the mill. My enemy’s enemy and all that.

The Project cannot afford to sacrifice comrades just because they don’t like Jews. That’s why only 15 members have been expelled for antisemitism in four years. FIFTEEN. Labour MP Margaret Hodge calls it “permitted racism”.

This not so much begs as demands the question: why are moderate Labour MPs, and an estimated 200,000-strong middle-ground membership, endorsing all this with their continued presence?

Luciana Berger, the Jewish former Labour MP hounded out of the party, nailed it last week when she said: “Too many MPs are thinking first and foremost about their own re-election.”

Labour is now on par with the BNP as only the second party to face a formal investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. This will be a rigorously objective inquiry, with statutory powers to access off-the-record evidence such as texts and WhatsApp messages. The most damning outcome would see the party’s disputes and compliance unit placed under independent supervision. At least 30 further former and current staff members are poised to give evidence.

The EHRC moves at the speed of a tectonic plate but is poised to cause a political earthquake – plunging this sordid excuse for a political project into the abyss.

• First published by The Independent

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