POLITICIANS are judged by their actions as much as by their words. Or at least they should be. Jeremy Corbyn was widely touted as being a ‘lifelong anti-racist’, and thus could not possibly be an anti-Semite. This did not, however, take into account his apparent obsession with sharing platforms with numerous anti-Semites here in the UK and across the Mediterranean and Middle East. But because he just pressed the flesh and shared bread with these bigots, but never shared their words, he was let off the hook. Corbyn seemed to follow the Irish Republican maxim for use on arrest: ‘Whatever you say, say nothing.’ Corbyn’s political career is based on his saying virtually nothing, and sometimes even less.
So the actions are perhaps more important than the words of a politician. If all a politician did was to say things, nothing would actually happen. People could go about their business without let or hindrance. Instead we have speed limits and income tax, and now laws making it an offence to leave our dwellings without legally acceptable reason. These did not spring from nowhere and were not the spontaneous action of a community living in a Marxist fantasy.
Which all brings me to Corbyn’s successor, the Right Honourable Sir Keir Starmer KCB QC, the latest in the line of white, middle-class males to lead a party that trades on the politics of identity, equality, and the rights of minorities, so long as those minorities are politically correct or accept their ‘victim’ status as clients of the party. Sir Keir has had the misfortune to become leader in the middle of a national crisis, when people look to the government for help rather than to blame it for interference in our affairs. It is acknowledged that being Leader of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition is the hardest job in politics: nobody is interested in what said leader says or does as he has no power in a Parliament when a government has a commanding majority. So what has Sir Keir been doing?
As an incoming party leader, he has reshuffled shadow ministers, kicking out the most slavish Corbynites such as Richard Burgon, of whom one Commons wag has said: ‘I just feel sorry for the village that’s getting its idiot back.’
But Sir Keir has made one appointment that says rather too much about him. He has appointed Naz Shah as Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion.
This is a very important post. The antithesis of community cohesion is communal violence. We in the UK are far too familiar with this. Communal violence has been waged in the streets of Ulster for over half a century to the point where ‘peace walls’ have been erected across previously passable thoroughfares to defuse tension through physical separation. Cohesion is still seen as largely impossible. In London, communal violence has escalated into an epidemic of murders committed by rival gangs of black teenagers as they battle for control of territory, forbidding anyone with affiliation with their opponents from traversing their ‘turf’ on pain of mutilation or death. So it is concerning that Sir Keir should have appointed an MP to examine government policy on improving communal peace who was by all appearances until about four years ago a comfortable and proud anti-Semite.
It is the burden of anyone in public life to have their social media posts trawled for juicy controversy, and there is surely nothing more juicy than racist posts from an MP of a party whose members routinely call their opponents racists. This is what happened to Naz Shah. It was discovered that she had supported an image posted on Facebook that suggested that the Jewish population of Israel should be deported to the USA. Given the history of Jewish mass deportations in the last century, this was more than a little insensitive. Shah had been appointed as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, essentially to be McDonnell’s eyes and ears in the Palace of Westminster and to garner and preserve support for him and his ideas amongst Labour backbenchers. McDonnell had been unequivocal in demanding expulsion of anti-Semites from the Labour Party. Shah was just sacked from her post, and suspended from the Labour Party.
But the revelations had immense consequences for Labour. Ken Livingstone’s defence of Shah on live radio made things worse for Labour. Further instances of anti-Semitism amongst not just the rank and file, but also councillors and others, led to calls for an inquiry. The report produced was a whitewash. Labour was exposed to be structurally anti-Semitic, and Corbyn’s tacit enabling of this culture led to the party being investigated for racism by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The only other political party to be so investigated has been the BNP. Livingstone was forced to quit Labour. Shah’s suspension was lifted after she underwent a programme of what seemed to be voluntary re-education. But she was the first domino to fall in the cascade of exposures of Labour Party members high and low of not only holding, but also enthusiastically sharing, anti-Semitic opinions.
This is not the only time her malodorous opinions have been exposed. She expressed sincere support for a spoof post that said: ‘Those abused girls in Rotherham and elsewhere just need to shut their mouths. For the good of diversity.’ When Winnie Mandela died, Shah paid tribute to her using a quote of Mandela’s where she spoke of ‘necklaces’, placing burning tyres around the neck of opponents to kill them as a method of liberation.
It is not clear whether Shah did this out of support, ignorance, or stupidity. In any case it demonstrates appalling judgment. What did Shah think ‘our matches and our necklaces’ actually meant? Given Shah will now have to do media interviews, we may find out. This remains a burning issue.
Naz Shah is the very last person Sir Keir should have appointed as Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion. Instead it seems that she was his first choice. Shah has on three occasions had to be brought up after sharing appalling opinions through either incompetence or design. Sir Keir must have known of these or thought they would just go away.
They shouldn’t. Oppositions aspire to government. Shadow spokeswomen aspire to office. We know far too much about Shah to believe she is fit for either, and Labour’s candidate selection processes have been since exposed as amateurish. With a depleted opposition due to Boris Johnson’s landslide election victory last December, Sir Keir may have had a shallow pool of talent from which to select, especially if those exiled by Corbyn in 2015 and 2016 are quite comfortable chairing select committees. Sir Keir also could not be seen to be bringing back New Labour against the wishes of the extremists Corbyn allowed to flood into the party. Sir Keir could have appointed Shah to any junior shadow position, but he chose her for Community Cohesion. It was a poor choice and Sir Keir showed poor judgment. In kicking out Burgon and bringing in Shah, Sir Keir has traded an idiot for something worse. It is not clear whether this appointment is a joke or an insult or both, but it is little more.