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It felt predictable when yesterday’s Sunday Times splashed with a story on Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis – it showed that the crisis was as bad as many in the Jewish community had been arguing it was for at least the last two years and that the evidence implicated Jeremy Corbyn and his closest allies.
The newspaper obtained a spreadsheet recording a large number of incidents. They included Labour members alleged to have posted delightful things like “Heil Hitler”, “F*** the Jews” and “Jews are the problem”. Those people had not been expelled from the party at the time of writing.
Crucially, the paper revealed that “Corbyn’s office has been involved in approving, delaying or blocking at least 101 complaints”. But why is a political office dealing with something that really should have nothing to do with them at all? Well, the Labour leadership and its cult-like followers can only understand Jews in the context of Israel and the Middle East. If they are bothered about anti-Semitism at all, it is only because Jews may leave in some marginal seats and they think it might stop the glorious leader making it all the way to Downing Street. It’s all about politics, not morals.
Corbyn’s political secretary Amy Jackson had insisted to Dame Margaret Hodge that the opposition leader’s team would “never” interfere in anti-Semitism complaints. In January, Corbyn himself told Dame Margaret that “I don’t involve myself in the complaint at all.” However, in an email from April 5th Corbyn’s Chief of Staff Carrie Murphy insisted that Jackson herself be kept in the loop. “I think it’s important for Amy Jackson to have an overview of all complaints that involve elected politicians or candidates,” wrote Murphy.
This sums up perfectly how team Corbyn has approached the crisis. No moral outrage. No concern about the threat and upset that they may be exposing a minority community to. Just pure politics.
The problem is exacerbated by the weird, pseudo-Soviet procedures and committees that seem to dominate Labour, which make sure barely anything can be done. The report outlined that in February, when officials tried to quickly process a complaint against someone alleged to have made vile comments about Ruth Smeeth, Corbyn ally Thomas Gardiner, who leads Labour’s governance and legal unit, demanded to know “why this case is bypassing normal procedures?” He was worried about procedure, not allegations of anti-Semitic abuse against a young, female, MP.
I encountered the politicisation of anti-Semitism myself when I debated Eddie Dempsey, a representative of the RMT trade union, on television back in August 2018. Dempsey was convinced that accusations of anti-Semitism levelled against Corbyn by former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks were political, designed to undermine the man he supported. He may well have changed his mind on things now, I don’t know, but then it was clear he could only see the issue of anti-Semitism through a political prism.
When this vile issue reared its head earlier in the year, Simon Johnson, the Chief Executive of the Jewish Leadership Council told me that there was “increasing doubt that huge progress will be made on anti-Semitism under this leadership”. Nothing that has happened in the weeks since have done anything to dissuade me that Johnson was right.
It won’t change either. Not until the Corbynites understand that they are dealing with an issue of morals, not politics.