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15 July 2019updated 08 Sep 2021 2:42pm

Richard Ferrer column

By Richard Ferrer

For 100 years the Labour Party was the broadest church in politics. That all changed the moment it passed into the care of Team Corbyn. Suddenly, faster than Margaret Beckett could put Jeremy on the leadership ballot in order to “broader the debate”, it was bludgeoned into a groupthink mentality that would have Harold Wilson, James Callaghan and even Clement Attlee rolling in their graves.

Those former Labour prime ministers would be sickened to see the ideological and antisemitic depths their cherished party has plumbed.

Last week’s BBC Panorama documentary, based on the painful testimonies of eight former staffers, exposed attempts by Corbyn’s team to sway antisemitism disciplinary panel selections, files being mysteriously removed from party HQ and powerless disputes officers having nervous breakdowns over the Corbyn’s reluctance to punish anti-Jewish members. It was the first time the leadership had been directly implicated in a process it’s always insisted is independent.

The programme did not expose individual party members as anti-Jewish. Rather, it revealed something altogether more sinister — that nothing, even opposing the cancer of antisemitism, is more important than The Project. It showed you can consider yourself a proud “lifelong anti-racist” while leading a morally bankrupt party where racism is pardoned for a greater cause. It showed how even basic human decency can be sacrificed in Labour’s pursuit of power.

That’s why the party didn’t report antisemitic threats made to its MPs to the police. That’s why the Labour Representation Committee – founded by John McDonnell – called for the Jewish Labour Movement’s expulsion. That’s why the party refused to back a ban on terror group Hezbollah. That’s how Lisa Forbes can win the Peterborough by-election, despite “enjoying” social media posts wondering why “Palestinians don’t knife more Jews”. That’s how general secretary Jennie Formby, with a straight face, can tell Tom Watson not to monitor antisemitism because of GDPR rues. That’s how the party can dismiss the agony of eight former staffers as “disgruntled axe grinding”.

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All of this, and so much more besides, is just inconvenient background noise distracting from The Project.

It’s not that the party endorses antisemitism. It’s just way down the pecking order. Corbyn and his allies don’t necessarily prefer the company of chomping antisemites, Holocaust deniers, conspiracy theorists, Hamas and Hezbollah. But if the world’s worst human beings help swell their ranks and share their world view, why not invite them to tea in Parliament? It’s all grist for the mill. My enemy’s enemy and all that.

The Project cannot afford to sacrifice comrades just because they don’t like Jews. That’s why only 15 members have been expelled for antisemitism in four years. Fifteen. Labour MP Margaret Hodge calls it “permitted racism”.

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Which not so much begs as demands the question: why are moderate Labour MPs, and an estimated 200,000-strong middle-ground membership, doing endorsing all this with their continued presence?

Let’s name and shame. Wes Streeting, Jess Phillips, Stella Creasy, Tom Watson, Louise Ellman, Liz Kendall, Margaret Hodge. Luciana Berger, the Jewish former Labour MP hounded out of the party, nailed it last week when she said: “Too many MPs are thinking first and foremost about their own re-election.”

And what about Labour’s still-loyal Jewish peers, Levy, Winston, Mendelsohn and Kestenbaum? Why aren’t these Lords a-leaping?

Labour is now on par with the BNP as only the second party to face a formal investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. At least 30 further former and current staff members will give evidence. The EHRC moves at the speed of a tectonic plate but is poised to cause a political earthquake — plunging this sordid excuse for a Labour Party into the abyss.

Richard Ferrer is editor of the Jewish News