THE report of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) investigation into the extent of institutional anti-Semitism in the Labour Party is due to be published today.
It’s been a long time coming. The scandal exploded for Labour in the spring of 2016, when MP Naz Shah was exposed as publicly supporting the idea of deporting the Jewish population of Israel out of the Middle East. This was exacerbated by Ken Livingstone’s defence of Shah in a live radio interview where he asserted that Hitler was actually a Zionist. It was followed by reports of anti-Semitic online posts by numerous members of the Labour Party, including officials and elected politicians.
Labour invited the once-charismatic Shami Chakrabarti, feted to Olympian heights for her role as director of Liberty, a human rights advocacy group that traces its origins to the 1930s, to conduct an investigation and produce a report. The terms of reference were unfocused and the inquiry was to look at all kinds of racial bigotry in a cynical exercise in dilution. The report itself was an amateur bodge-job and was widely dismissed as bogus. It did not help that Chakrabarti was rapidly ennobled by Jeremy Corbyn and entered the Shadow Cabinet. Never in modern public life has such a virtuous public figure seen her stock so rapidly fall. Charkrabarti was reduced to being rolled out by Labour to spout Corbynist slogans whenever television producers despaired of inviting Corbyn ally Barry Gardiner back in front of the cameras to oil his way through interviews.
The Home Affairs Select Committee, chaired as it was for a considerable period by Labour National Executive Committee member Keith Vaz, made an inquiry whose results were published in the autumn of 2016 into the whole culture of anti-Semitism and produced a report that tried too hard to share blame across both major parties. During hearings, Corbyn was helped by Chakrabarti who kept passing him post-it notes until ordered to cease. However, the report did dismiss Chakrabarti’s own report as ‘ultimately compromised by its failure to deliver a comprehensive set of recommendations, to provide a definition of anti-Semitism, or to suggest effective ways of dealing with anti-Semitism’.
The ongoing campaign of hate against British Jews by Labour Party members was somewhat obscured by Corbyn’s feat in increasing the number of Labour MPs. However this was a transient achievement due mainly to a disastrous campaign by Mrs May who, with a government in chaos following the Brexit vote, tried and failed to secure a personal mandate. The crescendo of incidents caused the EHRC to bow to complaints and announce an official investigation in May of last year. This was just five days after Mrs May announced she was stepping down as Prime Minister. The Conservative Party was in a state of flux and the idea that it would win a landslide victory at the end of the year appeared ludicrous. Whilst it was regarded as inevitable that there would be a General Election before 2022, it was also seen as likely that Corbyn would still be Leader of the Opposition when the EHRC report was published. It is therefore possible that the report would have been used as more ammunition by Corbyn’s opponents to dethrone him or split the party. Bear in mind that by this time, The Independent Group of defecting MPs had come into existence.
The Left seemed to know how the EHRC report would go down, probably because they were aware of their behaviour and knew it was inexcusable outside the narrow confines of their perverse ideology, and so in the summer of last year they started to manufacture reasons to discredit the forthcoming findings. These efforts included a series of articles in the Morning Star and reached a zenith with a mammoth 860-page document that was leaked to discredit non-Corbynist party officials.
However, Corbyn is no longer party leader and Labour has recovered in the polls, so the report may cause now-unneeded damage to a party that is, in the words of its current leader, ‘under new management’. The EHRC by its nature is more likely to have socialists and Labour Party members amongst its staff, and these might influence the strength of the report’s conclusions. Public officials might also baulk at disclosing evidence so damning that the Labour Party would collapse under a welter of lawsuits from victims of institutional racism.
The draft report was released in July to Sir Keir Starmer and to those personally criticised in it as part of the ‘Maxwellisation process’, to allow individuals a right of challenge before the final report is published. This seems to be the reason why publication has been delayed. At least two individuals have reportedly gone to the courts for a judicial review into the report’s findings, one being the ultra-Corbynite Chris Williamson, whose conduct was deemed so extreme that even after Corbynists had taken over the running and managing of the Labour Party in its entirety, they could not save him from suspension. The other is Ken Livingstone. There may have been more. It was reported that senior members of Corbyn’s office took legal advice just before Labour capitulated to a lawsuit brought by party whistleblowers to prevent a settlement, so they have form in this area. It is possible that the report’s findings have been watered down as a consequence.
We will soon know how far the report goes but it appears some people are still trying to put themselves on the side of the saints. The normally publicly taciturn Karie Murphy wrote an article in Monday’s Guardian, perhaps as a form of pre-emptive defence, where she tries to ‘set the record straight’ about what went on while she was Corbyn’s chief of staff. Her concluding words are interesting.
‘I hope Keir Starmer and his team build on the hugely improved system I believe[emphasis added by this author] we instituted, and he uses the space afforded to him by the dialling down of the politicised media campaign on this issue to rebuild relations and trust with Jewish communities.’
Murphy only believesthat the new system she claims to have instituted is hugely improved. It seems probable that she is mentioned in the EHRC report, and that perhaps the EHRC believes otherwise.
What will be the consequence of the report’s publication? Sir Keir Starmer has promised ‘zero tolerance’ over anti-Semitism, so there might be a purge of members, perhaps even reaching Corbyn, who attacked Labour’s whistleblowers settlement in such a way that he is now being taken to court himself. Sir Keir cannot be seen to under-react. He has been successful in rebuilding support for Labour, albeit entirely due to the extraordinary conditions of the current Covid crisis. In the absence of resolute action to back his commitments, this support could wither. As was commented during the 2019 General Election campaign, comparing it with 2017, ‘The Souffle Never Rises Twice‘. Sir Keir is the most inexperienced politician to become Leader of the Opposition in the last 100 years or longer. He will have to see if he can play the same kind of blinder that saw Boris Johnson sack 21 rebel MPs a year ago, lose control of the Commons, but still win a landslide after Corbyn was pushed to support the calling of a General Election. I do not think Sir Keir has it in him. Expect a socialist fudge.