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5 December 2019updated 09 Jul 2021 7:51am

Evening Call: Anti-Semitism in the Spotlight

By Jonn Elledge

The big story in British politics today: lawyers representing the Jewish Labour Movement have gathered sworn statements from several dozen current and former Labour officials, as part of the Equality & Human Rights Commission’s investigation into anti-Semitism in the party.

The sample of the allegations which have made it into the press today make for deeply upsetting reading. The Guardian cites one respondent, who listed 22 different examples of anti-Semitic abuse they’ve received at party meetings including “child killer”, “Zio scum”, “Tory Jew”, and, most chillingly, being told “Hitler was right”. Another quotes a comment at a ward meeting that “the only reason we have prostitutes in Seven Sisters is because of the Jews”, which is as baffling as it is racist.

Other testimonies claim that there has been political interference in the disciplinary process, and that information about complaints has been shared between the complaints unit and the leader’s office.

The party has said that the complaints process had been sped up and better resourced, and that there was now no backlog, though it has declined to release figures on how many complaints are still being investigated. It also says that new procedures meant that expulsions would be more rapid in future.

As for the leadership, Jeremy Corbyn maintains that he does not interfere with the independent complaints process. He added: “I deeply regret that there is any anti-Semitism within our society and obviously I regret the way in which some people have been hurt by it.” But whatever the contents of Corbyn’s heart, this problem has ballooned in his party and on his watch – and polling suggests that less than 10 per cent of the Jewish community will now vote Labour.

It seems almost tasteless to ask, given that we’re talking about an insidious form of racism here, but we’re now just a week out from polling day, so – what will this do to the election? As Stephen has often pointed out, “Gentiles don’t vote in the interests of Jews. See: all of history.”

But the NS politics team say they’ve found that, in their trips around the country, this issue does come up on the doorstep – as a mark of the competence, or lack thereof, of the leadership. Labour’s polling has been improving in recent weeks. If that now stalls or reverses, it seems likely that this scandal will be part of the reason why.

Some will point out that the Tories have a huge and under-discussed Islamophobia problem; that on Theresa May’s watch, the Home Office deported several British citizens who happen to be black; that this government has treated Britain’s 3 million European citizens and their loved ones abysmally. But none of those things makes it any less appalling that Jewish Labour members were made to feel unwelcome – and that the party did not do enough to protect them.

Good day for…

Unity on the right. Three Brexit party MEPs, including Annunziata Rees-Mogg, have quit the party to back the Tories at next week’s general election. A fourth, John Longworth, who had the whip removed yesterday, has done the same.

Rees-Mogg told reporters: “I find it absolutely unbelievable, but tragic, that the Brexit Party, with so many wonderful people, dedicated to a cause, are now the very party risking Brexit.” At any rate – the Tories are doing much better at drawing leavers into their camp than Labour is at attracting Remainers. Consequently, it feels increasingly like next week will not be a happy one for either Labour or Remainers.

Bad day for…

Anyone at the sharp end of the housing crisis, as one of the many things that will be awful about a Tory majority government is its abject failure to deal with this particularly domestic mess.

At last night’s national housing hustings, junior minister Luke Hall (me neither) genuinely suggested that spending half your salary on rent should still be classed as “affordable”. Meanwhile, Sajid Javid has been going on television blaming the rise in rough sleeping on the last Labour government. More from me on CityMetric here.

Quote of the day

“Excited to find out whether the Tories are going to press release any more of my jokes today.”

Former Labour advisor Tom Hamilton, who yesterday tweeted the Mirror’s splash (“Labour to put £6,716 in your pocket”), with the line, “Anyone who tells you Labour will put £6,717 in your pocket is lying to you, it’s as simple as that.” His words later appeared in a Conservative press release as a damning attack on Labour by a former staffer, and have been repeated by Tory MPs and media outriders for much of the last 18 hours.

There’s probably a lesson here somewhere.

Everyone’s talking about…

The looming impeachment of President Trump. The speaker of the US House of Representatives, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, announced this afternoon that she had instructed colleagues to draft impeachment charges, with a view to a vote before the end of the year. “The president leaves us no choice but to act,” Pelosi said, “because he is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit.”

Don’t get too excited though. While the vote is likely to pass the House, where the Democrats have a majority, it will almost certainly fall in the Senate, where they do not. Nonetheless, it will make Trump only the fourth president ever (after Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton) to formally face being impeached.

Everyone should be talking about…

The Australian running the Tory election campaign. No, not Lynton Crosby this time: his 35-year-old protégé Isaac Levido. There’s a great profile by Patrick, our 2016 Anthony Howard scholar (and current political correspondent), and George Grylls, our current Anthony Howard scholar, in this week’s magazine. Read it here.


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