Wednesday, November 25, 2020
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Starmer’s waiting game against the extremists

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SIR Keir Starmer has acted decisively against Left-wing Labour MPs over anti-Semitic conduct, as Rebecca Long Bailey and Jeremy Corbyn can both attest. Lloyd Russell-Moyle decided to quit the front bench after having to apologise for extreme comments on a couple of occasions and probably felt that his own forced exile was just a matter of time.

In the wake of the Equality and Human Rights Commission report into anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAAS) has produced a 72-page document  complaining about the conduct of more than a dozen Labour MPs and activists who have expressed bigotry against British Jews and Judaism generally. It is rather comprehensive and includes behaviour such as Rebecca Long Bailey’s endorsement of Maxine Peake’s anti-Israel conspiracy theory for which Long Bailey was removed from the front bench, and Richard Burgon’s hostile rant against Zionism, which he denied having made right up to the point at which the video evidence was published, and then defended himself by smearing his accusers for having got wrong the date he poured forth his rant.

The largest section is reserved for the conduct of Jeremy Corbyn going back over a decade. Each section documents the actions of the politician and CAAS’s analysis of why it is anti-Semitic.

However, it is likely that Sir Keir will not do anything about any of it.

The reason for this could be that, in the majority of the cases reported by CAAS, the offending actions took place before Sir Keir became party leader and thus before his ‘clean sweep’ policy could be implemented. Any action taken, even on activity which is in breach of party rules, could be classed as retrospective and the person acted against could argue that their activity, while now regarded as anti-Semitic by the party under Sir Keir’s leadership was clearly not so under his predecessors, or action would have been taken. Thus any action now could become a trial of the Labour Party’s policies, processes, and their implementation under previous party leaders, which would only expose Labour to yet more shame. Sir Keir, being a legal expert of some standing, will understand the anathema of taking retrospective action. Retrospective law is a rarity in the English legal system, if not across the world.

If this is how Sir Keir is working, it does not mean that the extremists mentioned are off the hook. It is clear that Sir Keir has a quite strict zero tolerance approach. Long Bailey and Corbyn were both invited to withdraw their offending statements. In both cases they refused to do so. Having been given the one chance, they were both punished. So there seems to be a consistency in Sir Keir’s regime. An MP can say the wrong thing, but if he or she does not retract and consequently apologise for saying it in the first place, there is no quarter given. It is therefore possible that Sir Keir will simply wait for the rogue element of the Parliamentary Labour Party to slip up, as it is likely that they will be unable to change their ideologically-informed behaviour overnight. In such a way, Sir Keir will have successfully been able to enforce party discipline amongst the extremists. Corbyn and Long Bailey have gone down pour discourager les autres. It remains to be seen if the rest of the Starmersceptics have now got the message.

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Paul T Horgan
Paul T Horgan works in the IT Sector. He lives in Berkshire.

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