Monday, 13 January 2020

It’s Not Over Until The Conference Sings

It’s Not Over Until The Conference Sings

The Board of Deputies Ten Pledges is like an ultimatum designed to ensure an exodus from the Labour Party of ordinary members who’d never vote for Jess Phillips or the other right wingers in the leadership election. The hope presumably is that you march off in a huff into the political wilderness (where new UK parties always go to die) and ensure that Real labour values are subordinated to Blairism/Centrism - and Labour becomes once again Tory-lite.

So, don’t get mad, get even. Every member who leaves Labour now only brings joy to those right wingers and the Tory-influenced Board of Deputies who can only win if you leave. Your leaving is the only conceivable way to clear the field for the Blairite recapture of The Labour Party. Rather than walk into the trap they have prepared for us, we should confound any expectation and remain in the party to fight our corner. Don’t forget, without Conference approving anything, these Ten Pledges are not rules in the Labour Party. So, by staying you are not subordinating yourself to any of these Ten Pledges or to anyone who adheres to them. The party belongs to the members, not the leadership contenders.

Most establishment religious organisations are conservative with a small “c” or indeed with a capital “C”. In that, the BoD is no different to the Church of England and others. It is undeniable that this creates a natural synergy between such organisations and the Tory establishment. The leader of the BoD for example is a self-confessed “life-long Conservative supporter” and “personal friend of Boris Johnson”.

Fighting real antisemitism is something we all do as a matter of course. My understanding has always been that if you hate a person just because they are Jewish, or if you attributes motives to someone based on their Jewishness, or if you blame the Jews en masse for anything, then you are being antisemitic. Yes, we all need educated, especially if we are not Jewish, as to what can be perceived as antisemitic. Yes, we must listen to the whole Jewish community, including – but not exclusively – the Board of Deputies. But we must also state four clear facts, not to divert or deny, but rather to maintain a sense of perspective. A real leader of the Labour Party would ensure these facts are stated fearlessly and embedded in the public narrative.

1. While antisemitism exists in Labour, it is no more prevalent in Labour than it is in the UK as a whole. Indeed, studies suggest it is slightly less.
2. Charges of antisemitism have been used to smear people.  While instances of genuine antisemitism have been thankfully called out and those responsible thankfully dealt with, there have certainly been false charges of antisemitism used to smear both ordinary members and even Jewish people. Stating that some cynical types have weaponised antisemitism as a smear against political opponents is not the same thing as denying antisemitism exists. Both can be true. Indeed, both are.
3. Many of those seeing antisemitism in Labour are turning a blind eye to obvious antisemitism elsewhere. Boris Johnson’s book, his party’s congratulating anti-Semites in Europe on election victories, unveiling statue to self-confessed antisemite Lady Astor and many other examples are ignored by many purporting to root out antisemitism. Why? While nothing would excuse not addressing antisemitism in Labour, it does make you wonder why antisemitism is less offensive to those people when it is in other political parties or from people they consider allies. Surely, if you are against antisemitism you are against it everywhere, not just in one place?  
4. The Board of Deputies does not represent all Jewish people in the UK. 1000s of Jewish people in the UK support Corbyn’s Labour party and they would not think themselves less Jewish for doing so. There are other established Jewish groups who support Corbyn specifically and Labour in general. The BoD Point eight denies them the right to be heard. That is wrong. Every Jewish voice must be heard, not just the ones the BoD agrees with.

Certainly, due to the impression apparent in the media for whatever reasons, Labour has to engage with Jewish groups. But it should do so with the four points being part of the discussion. Labour should state too that of all the parties it has the most comprehensive dedicated campaign to rid antisemitism from its ranks.  

Finally, the problem with adopting the Ten Pledges is supposing they are being proposed in good faith.  They are not. It is being done to force the implosion of the Labour Party or at least rendering its most determined opponents of the UK establishment silent. It is a bad faith ultimatum designed to disqualify dissent in the UK. It will not stop at the Ten Pledges. It will just be the start. If we stay, the expulsions will start. It will be a purge on the scale of the Foo Fighters Purge of 2016. However, we survived that due to the numbers. Another reason to stay.

What the UK establishment wants is Labour Party tamed and committed to neoliberal policies. It wants a leader like Jess Phillips or Keir Starmer. It knows it cannot get this based on the current membership make up. However, if the membership leaves on masse in reaction to leadership hopefuls adopting The Ten Pledges, then the likelihood of Phillips or Starmer winning increase.

Of course, many Labour members see this for what it is, a move to reduce the number of radical members. So we will stay. We still have the numbers. Come Conference, these numbers will count in our favour. But only if we stay. And fight to keep our party.

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