The Labour Party has an image problem with a hatred of Jews that a hundred little Chakrabartis with a hundred large brushes and a bottomless vat of distemper couldn’t effectively whitewash into fake news.
It’s not just a question of accidentally sharing platforms with unsavoury characters or being caught out in a spot of wreath-laying at the grave of terrorists, because that sort of thing could happen to anyone unpleasant, careless or stupid enough to let it.
It’s more a matter of having taken an internationally accepted definition of anti-Semitism and pruned bits off to tailor it to the Labour Party. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) has a definition of anti-Semitism which the Jewish Chronicle tells us has been adopted by 31 countries and more than 130 local councils, the police, the CPS and the judiciary.
You might think that local councils involving themselves with international definitions of anti-Semitism are virtue-signalling at the taxpayers’ expense and what the police are signing up to is probably much the same kind of thing, interwoven with threads of the hate-crime orthodoxy which keeps so many police happily anchored to their desks.
However, if an international alliance has a definition which is adopted by this and many another country, that is a serious expression of how civilised people regard anti-Semitism and you are going out on a bit of a limb if you opt for a bespoke version with derogations from the original script.
The IHRA definition would have constrained the kinder, gentler Left from heaping contumely on Israel and Israelis and the nasty repressive regime which is coincidentally the only democracy in the Middle East. The Labour anti-Semite will protest that he loves Jews, adores eating kosher and attended the bar mitzvah of his best friend’s son. It’s Zionists that are the problem. In a nutshell, it has been acceptable up till now to claim that Benjamin Netanyahu is Hitler, or for the unhinged and semantically challenged Leftist that Benjamin Netanyahu is literally Hitler.
Labour is now rumoured to want to tackle the problem head-on and formulate what will be spun as an entirely new and fresh approach. In fact it will and should be seen as no more than a grudging acceptance of the unexpurgated IHRA definitions by an obdurate and insincere old duffer. Perhaps Labour’s NEC has read Karen Harradine’s piece here at TCW and taken to heart some good advice, but it is too late to disguise the truth that Corbyn’s Labour Party is like a stick of rock with a socking great swastika running right through it.
The difficulty with the new direction, should it emerge as trailed, is two-fold.
First, any number of people and not just Guido will be trawling the internet for past comments by Labour’s bigwigs and pygmies that fall foul of IHRA provisions, and Labour’s spinners will be issuing an endless string of rebuttals saying ‘Jeremy meant . . .’ ‘Jeremy misspoke . . .’ ‘Jeremy’s remarks have been taken out of context’, ‘What about Tory Islamophobia?’ At a lower level, Jew-hating minions with rebarbative Twitter and Facebook accounts will be shuffled out of the limelight before being quietly rehabilitated.
Secondly, the compulsive nastiness born of conviction ingrained in so many Labour parliamentarians and Momentum activists so far outruns self-discipline that rules, new rules, old rules, will not be respected any sooner than Ken Livingstone can stop talking about Hitler and possibly not even then. One cannot rein in, far less curb, the true believer, and far too many of these people with their wild zealots’ eyes would not look out of place staring from a cover of Der Stürmer.
The current Labour leadership and its acolytes will never be able to escape the accusation of being anti-Semitic because the charge is accurate, and the more they obfuscate and wriggle the more impossible their position will become.
Despite interventions from both Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, the resignation of Frank Field and the threat of a wider no-confidence vote within the parliamentary party, his activist support makes Corbyn impregnable for the time being. So he is destined to wallow in a welter of hollow denials and clear contradictions until he chooses to resign his leadership. It requires no great sense of English or any other kind of irony to welcome the obloquy and opprobrium with which he will be daily assailed while he buries what’s left of Labour.