The Williamson case demonstrates only too clearly that anti-Semitism is no longer an issue that may be discussed in rational terms in the Labour Party. It is not enough to characterise anti-Semitism as a scourge. You are only permitted to claim that this scourge is endemic to the party and to accuse the leadership of “not doing enough”. The argument is that the leadership needs to act “more quickly”, which is to say without due process and merely on someone’s say-so. Unless you can combine a claim of rampant anti-Semitism in the party with a frontal attack on Jeremy Corbyn, you are implicitly damaging the party. These are the prescribed positions from which any departure is itself deemed to be anti-Semitic. The politics of Senator Joseph McCarthy irresistibly come to mind.
Tony Benn used to say that he grew more radical as he got older. As in many things, Benn was unusual. People are generally apt to grow more reactionary as they get older. This is particularly true of MPs of all persuasions. For all its timid and marginal reforms of itself, the Palace of Westminster is still more like a traditional gentlemen’s club than any other institution. MPs are easily lulled by the comforts and the rhythms of the House.
It fogs the mind that Century Twenty-One
Already has a sixth of its span run.
Those born in the first months of the millennium
Can vote – all we can do is to pinchpenny ’em.
The hope is slim they ever can afford
To own a home. It seems a poor reward
For working internships and zero-hours,
No job security as came with ours.
I’m thankful for the age when I was young –
The Swinging Sixties, long gone, fully swung.
W Stephen Gilbert The issue of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party has not gone away, nor will it. It first arose ahead of the local elections in 2016, the first electoral test of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. The local elections of 2017 were subsumed under the general election campaign, but the matter recurred before the local elections this year. There are further such elections next May, when it may be expected to resurface with new supposed outrages from the past. There is a very simple reason why this will happen. As a means to damage Corbyn and to weaken his chance of leading the party into the next general election, it is a proven success. It is very tricky for him to refute decisively: denial is readily twisted into the ineffectual state of being deemed to be psychologically “in denial”. Corbyn’s long-established support for Palestinian self-determination is readily reframed as opposition to Israel and then parlayed into an existential threat to the Jewish state. His widely recognised reputation both as an anti-racist and as a straight …
As the poisonous and potentially irrevocable conflict inside the Labour Party gathers pace, it seems a useful exercise to try to plot the origins of the animus. This analysis is written from the perspective of an unashamed supporter of Jeremy Corbyn; nonetheless, it is intended to be as factual and objective as possible and to avoid assumptions, speculations and accusations. Much of the heat in the present conflict is undoubtedly generated by the deployment of propaganda. The deconstruction of some of the myths that inform the anger is one of the aims of this essay.