THERE are several strands to the BBC’s Panorama programme, broadcast last night, covering Labour’s structural anti-Semitism. The party has decided that it will not defend itself against the charges of racism, but will instead directly and indirectly attack the programme and the brave people who came forward to expose the corruption of Labour’s inner workings since the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader.
However there was one part of the programme that Labour could not attack. This was the testimony of party members who are Jewish. Time and again these party members talked of coming face-to-face with aggressive anti-Semitic abuse from other members of the Labour Party, at party meetings and at party conferences. It was in the form of ranting and heckling, which, if it had been directed at a black party member and based on skin colour, it can be assumed would result in an almost instant expulsion.
But that is what was missing from the programme. None of the victims of this public vitriol was able to tell the camera that the offending member had been investigated and expelled. If these anti-Semitic racists had been expelled, it could have helped in validating the bland official statements from Labour’s press team, aka Seumas Milne, that peppered the programme.
And that is the core issue here. Strip away all the procedural issues, back-and-forth emails, interference, the dodgy people with whom Corbyn shares platforms but with whom he always seems to disagree once he has been rumbled, the incessant but half-hearted press releases committing Labour to dealing with its institutional racism but never actually delivering. The killer piece of evidence is that none of the victimised party members could state to the camera that their complaints had been dealt with in a swift and decisive fashion. The consequence of this organised negligence by senior Labour officials has been to validate anti-Semitic behaviour.
Imagine being the party member who has expressed their darkest and most evil sentiments loudly and openly in the face of another party member. Perhaps shortly thereafter there might – just might – be a moment of pause and reflection after the cathartic release of so much racist bile in a public arena. Perhaps the racist bigot might realise that they could have gone too far in an organisation that advertises itself as anti-racist. Perhaps they fear expulsion. And then – nothing happens. Or perhaps less than nothing, where party officials say that such behaviour was ‘unhelpful’ or some such, but little more. The bigot has been more or less let off the hook. Perhaps the bigot’s fellow bigots in the Labour Party commiserate at even this light sanction, consoling the bigot that he or she only said what everyone else was thinking. Suddenly the bigot is validated and strengthened for having the perverted courage to express their bigotry openly. And so the bigotry below the mock-virtuous facade of a bogus anti-racism is reinforced. The only transgression in anti-Semitism in Corbyn’s Labour is the tone, not the underlying sentiment.
If Labour wanted to challenge the programme, all it had to do was to present success stories, where Jewish party members who had been on the receiving end of racist abuse had seen the expulsion of the offending member. It could have anonymised the victim and perpetrator unless the victim waived their anonymity. It would have been the easiest way for it to rebut the accusations and to demonstrate that its processes are actually working. And surely, given the slavish nature of support for Corbyn, there would have been at least one Jewish member of the Labour Party victimised in such a way willing to come forward to support the leadership. Yet Labour could not present a single Jewish member who could state that they had been promptly and fairly treated over a complaint of anti-Semitism.
Instead, Labour has gone on an outflanking kind of attack, briefing its members to use social media to deflect and defuse opinion and to offer rebuttals, but not to engage with anyone who disagrees.
Revealed: Here's how Corbyn team want MPs and 'outriders' on media to fight back on BBC story. pic.twitter.com/GPnQ2m7P0H
— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) July 10, 2019
It is therefore reasonable to draw a conclusion that the party’s processes are not working and never have. Labour seems to have realised the party can attract more votes from a position of anti-Semitism than it can from a sincere and uniform anti-racism.
For the last 48 hours, Labour also could not present anyone in an official capacity to be interviewed about this issue on any live broadcast programme. True, politicians have been interviewed on this issue, but these have been in a personal capacity. All these politicians have displayed is their impotence. On Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, had to confess to Justin Webb that he had been formally excluded by the Corbyn politburo from any access to any membership issues. While he had a lot to say on what should be done and who should do it, he has tacitly admitted he has no authority to drive change. In fact the only way that Labour has been forced to discipline its most prominent anti-Semitic members is by Watson leading a revolt of MPs, presumably threatening to leave the party and form another grouping. Watson had to admit that he has no influence in the party on this matter, stating that the only person who could root out anti-Semitism in Labour was in fact the facilitator of anti-Semitism in Labour, Jeremy Corbyn.
One would imagine that Watson’s admission that his role is meaningless would make him feel humiliated and angry, but he did not sound so. One might also wonder why he does not resign on principle. But interviewer Justin Webb did not ask him.
Previously, in place of a party official, a Labour-supporting proxy in the form of the Guardian’s Dawn Foster was rolled out to state the party line. Presumably when this useful idiot spoke, it would have been possible to see Seumas Milne’s lips move. Foster tried to play down the abuse as a ‘handful of cases’. But Foster had nothing to say about why a statutory investigation was being mounted by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission over what she stated was a small number of cases, but that was because the interviewer, Mishal Husain, like Justin Webb, did not think to ask this obvious question.
Democracy is about making public offers to attract political support. Labour’s anti-Semitism is not quite a public offer, but it is an offer nonetheless. While the Panorama programme will deter all right-thinking people from supporting the party while it is run by the Corbyn-fronted politburo, a lot of wrong-thinking people will find the party attractive. It is to be hoped that at a general election the anti-Semitic vote does not tip our country into the nightmare of racist Marxism. It seems clear that there is a disturbing and possibly decisive minority of people across the country whose voting preferences are informed by anti-Semitism and that Labour is courting their votes.