The suspension of Jeremy Corbyn
I am very conscious that in writing this blog, I am treading on sensitive ground on which I am unqualified to set foot. As with my previous posts on JK Rowling and trans issues, I am educating myself, and it’s a slow work in progress.
I am a longstanding member of the Labour Party. I have not myself witnessed any examples of anti-semitism in the party.
On 29th October, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission issued its report on anti-semitism in the Labour Party, and it made unpleasant reading, finding the Party’s agents and employees to have committed acts of harassment and discrimination, and to have an inadequate complaints system, with which the leadership’s office unlawfully interfered.
Jeremy Corbyn, former leader, reacted by condemning anti-semitism. He then went on to say that his office had acted to speed up action against anti-semitism, but that the problem had been “grossly exaggerated” for political reasons. He was asked by the current leadership to retract this latter statement and didn’t do so. He was then suspended from the Party.
Well. I have not read the EHRC report in full, although I have downloaded it and intend to do so. It is 130 page long. I have read the Executive Summary.
The road to the Commission report was a long one, and some of the events along it were a Panorama programme in July 2019, a previous report by Baroness Chakrabarti in 2016, not properly implemented – and a report by the party significantly entitled “The Work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to anti-semitism, 2014-9”, which was leaked to the public over Easter.
As a longstanding member, I obtained a copy of the leaked report, which I don’t think is currently in the public domain, and started reading it in spring. I’m about halfway through. It is 850 pages long.
I have not seen the Panorama programme, but intend to.
This Labour Party report, produced internally but plainly intended for the EHRC (and considered by them) also contains an Executive Summary. This includes the following statement:
“This report thoroughly disproves any suggestion that antisemitism is not a problem in the Party, or that it is all a “smear” or a “witch-hunt”. The report’s findings prove the scale of the problem, and could help end the denialism amongst parts of the Party membership which has further hurt Jewish members and the Jewish community.
This report reveals a litany of mistakes, deficiencies, and missed opportunities to reform, develop and adapt a clearly failing disciplinary system.”
The report then goes on to detail a lengthy history of factional fighting in the Labour Party, and in particular the reluctance of the Governance and Legal Unit (employed by the party) to co operate and support the leadership, ie Corbyn. It suggests that the probable reason for the admittedly shambolic anti-semitism complaints procedure was attributable to party employees in the GLU being more concerned with factional fighting, largely against the elected leadership, than in eliminating anti-semitism. (The report explicitly says that there’s no evidence that these GLU employees were motivated by anti-semitism themselves.)
This presumably explains Corbyn’s remark that his office’s interventions were aimed at making sure action was taken; and his annoyance that the EHRC are criticising him for doing this.
I think it’s these GLU employees or some of them who were portrayed as whistle-blowers against anti-semitism by Panorama.
The situation is undoubtedly complex and murky.
But my point is that since they had presumably read the Labour Party report, their own report, both the former and current leadership of the Party must have known in advance that the EHRC finding, when it came, was going to find that the Party’s systems were grossly inadequate, and that anti-semitism was indeed a serious problem (although hopefully being improved under Jennie Formby, the newish General Secretary.)
They must have been prepared for this, and to have known in advance that they needed to apologise and take blame. Keir Starmer and Jeremy Corbyn apparently spoke the night before the EHRC report was issued, a report which Starmer had been shown beforehand.
Yet Jeremy Corbyn chose this grotesquely-inappropriate moment to try to justify himself, and repeat that “anti-semitism has been exaggerated for political reasons.”
At the risk of being thrown out of the party myself, well, I daresay it has. Any bad thing about any party is liable to be exaggerated by their opponents. There are still Jewish Labour members who are supportive of Corbyn.
The problem may have been exaggerated by some, but it was certainly minimised by others.
Anti-semitism in the Party existed, maybe still does, and was substantial, and did harm, and caused pain, and was not adequately dealt with by a party of which Corbyn was the leader. Even if, as the leaked report seems plausibly to be saying, the inadequacy was partly or mainly due to party bureaucracy being antagonistic to Corbyn, even so, he was the leader, and the buck stops with him.
He was suspended under a rule that says “No member of the Party shall engage in conduct which in the opinion of the NEC is prejudicial, or in any act which in the opinion of the NEC [National Executive Committee] is grossly detrimental to the Party” and although I’m not particularly happy with such a blanket rule (it doesn’t even say “in the reasonable opinion of the NEC”) he surely did that.
I still think that Jeremy Corbyn is not consciously anti-semitic (although some party members undoubtedly were. There are horrendous examples in the leaked report.)
Why would he be? He was born in 1949, and to him “anti-semitism” presumably means Nazi death-camps. No decent human being could possibly be in favour of them; he is a decent human being; therefore he’s not in favour of them; therefore he’s not anti-semitic. Perhaps that’s the way his mind has worked; but of course I don’t know.
Just as I may feel: enslaving black people or refusing to rent to them is abhorrent behaviour; I abhor this behaviour; therefore I am not racist.
But we now know that you can be subconsciously racist, and I suspect, without wanting to be, that I still am. And anyone who says of unspecified “Zionists” at a meeting in Britain that they don’t understand English irony at some level seems not to accept Jews as British.
Jeremy Corbyn is (I believe) a decent and much-maligned human being, who has been put through a lot of pain. But on 29th October he struck back in a way that seriously damaged the party he loves.
Love from the PPI Blogger
(Still trying to keep off the subject of coronavirus. Of course, today no one is interested in the Labour Party. All eyes are on Pennsylvania and Georgia.)