THE next Labour leader will have an enormous task ahead to unite the party and bring some order to the chaos of its organisation. He or she will need to be inspirational as well as having attention to detail.
One of the candidates is Wigan MP Lisa Nandy. Perhaps we can learn something of her suitability for the post from her chairpersonship of the Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East (LFPME), which she took over more than a year ago.
The front page of the organisation’s website features Tom Watson, ‘MP for West Bromwich East’ as a Parliamentary supporter. Mr Watson quit as Labour deputy leader and as an MP in November. The membership list of MPs is strewn with errors. The people of Oldham West and Royton and their constituency MP, Jim McMahon, would be surprised to learn from the list that their MP is Michael Meacher. He died in 2015. (Mr McMahon is also on the list). According to the list, Simon Danczuk is the current MP for Rochdale. Mr Danczuk was suspended by the Labour Party in 2015 after it was claimed that he had sent explicit messages to a 17-year-old girl. He was banned by Labour from standing as a candidate, resigned from the party and was replaced as MP for Rochdale by Anthony Lloyd in 2017.
Other former MPs on the list include Sadiq Khan, who left parliament in 2016 to become Mayor of London; Steve Rotheram, who left Parliament in 2017 to become Metro Mayor of Liverpool City Region, and Andy Burnham, who left Parliament in 2017 to become Mayor of Manchester.
Six LFPME members who lost their seats in 2016 are on the list. The December 2019 election results had a massive impact on the Labour Party but have not been recorded.
The website claims: ‘Currently, 131 MPs support our work in Parliament.’ The actual number is far fewer at 93. You would have thought that some of them at least would have looked at the list to find out about changes – who had joined, who had left. You would have thought that a good look at the website was an absolute priority for Lisa Nandy when she took over. Her mind was on other things, it seems, such as making sure that the introductory loop which shows film of her and other people with the right connections looked good.
In passing, the list uses an unusual organising principle. Instead of listing MPs in alphabetical order by constituency or surname, it is in alphabetical order by first name.
The amateur writer or writers of the Wikipedia page on LFPME have updated their membership list (in alphabetical order of surname) to reflect the election results of 2019 and earlier developments. They have professional standards whilst Lisa Nandy has shown not the least interest in doing something about the chaotic website of the chaotic organisation of which she is chair.
The problems posed by Palestine and the the Middle East are massive and intractable. They cannot be solved by the methods advocated by the members of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East.
Take as an example the slogan ‘Stop Arming Israel’, often used by opponents of Israel, including members of LFPME. In the dangerous world of the Middle East, what would be the consequences of a weakened Israel? Iran is a dangerous and powerful state which would be all too ready to occupy Israeli territory if it could, as well as Gaza and the West Bank if it could. There are non-state adversaries (the equivalents of ISIS and the Taliban) who would seize the chance to occupy Israeli territory, and Gaza and the West Bank, if they could. The fact is that Israeli power protects Palestinian territory from coming under the control of powers vastly less humane than the Israeli state. Palestinian apologists may claim that Palestine is oppressed and that the worst (or only) oppressors are the Israelis, but they and Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East ignore political and military realities.
Even the name of the organisation, ‘Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East’, amounts to gross falsification. Israel is presented as the main problem in the Middle East. The vast ambitions of Iran go unrecorded. The barbarities of Iran go unrecorded. Iran executes juveniles and others for a very wide range of offences. Israel has never used the death penalty in its modern history (Adolf Eichmann is an exception).
Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party has been widely and rightly publicised. The deeply misguided illusions of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East have not received nearly enough attention. The failures of LFPME reflect badly on Lisa Nandy and have relevance, I think, to the election of the next leader of the Labour Party.