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Why do we still have to explain why Holocaust denial is wrong?

I think of the survivors of the Holocaust and feel shame. 

The Holocaust is one of the most well documented and researched periods in history. There are clear records of the systematic and industrial scale of the Nazi plan to murder the Jews of Europe. Not only from historians but from the Nazis themselves. Most importantly, we have the testimony of the lucky few who managed to survive whilst their families were shot into pits, deported and sent to gas chambers or simply left to starve to death.

You would therefore think that those who seek to deny or to denigrate this history would be given short shrift.

Which is why it has been all the more shocking to see the Holocaust once again called into question, and the root cause of this tragedy - antisemitism - rearing its head at a mainstream political party conference.

You only have to look at one single day with a series of deeply uncomfortable interventions by those who should know better: we had director Ken Loach suggesting that debate about whether the Holocaust happened is OK, saying “history is for all of us to discuss”; Len McCluskey, General Secretary of the Unite Union labelling concerns about antisemitism as “mood music”; and then Ken Livingstone - never one to hold back on his views on this particular topic - stating that making offensive remarks about Jews is not necessarily antisemitic…err, OK Ken.

When you have central figures making these sorts of insulting and ignorant comments, they embolden those who have only one agenda – to undermine the truth of the past and to whip up hatred against Jews today.

I think of the survivors of the Holocaust, some of whom we are fortunate to still have with us, and feel shame. After everything they suffered, they have to witness this. The pain and hurt this must cause.

How many times do we have to defend basic truths that should be considered sacrosanct? How many times do we need to explain that antisemitism is as much a form of racism as any other?

We have all been alarmed by the rise of the far-right around the world in recent months, culminating in the terrible events in Charlottesville in August. And equally we worry about the far-right gains in the German elections for the first time in decades.

Yet, it is all too easy to point the finger at events elsewhere - sometimes we need to look in our own backyards and admit where the problems lie. And there are problems here.

We need our political leaders to take a stand and say when a line has been crossed. We need to be clear that antisemitism will not be tolerated and reflected in concrete action. We need our leaders to be clear that they will not stand by as the truth of the Holocaust is undermined on their watch. 

Karen Pollock MBE is Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust.

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Labour will win the London elections – they’ve just lost the spin war

The question is, does that matter? 

Cancel the champagne in Jeremy Corbyn’s office? A new YouGov poll for Queen Mary’s Mile End Institute shows Labour slipping back from the record-breaking heights of 53 per cent in the local elections in London… to the still record-breaking heights of 51 per cent.

There are two things to note first off: the first, of course, is that Labour would still be posting the best result of any party in the capital since 1971, and its best since these boroughs were founded. The second is that as the change is within the margin of error, it could all be noise.

My sense, from talking to the local parties throughout the capital is that there has been a slight fall in Labour support but it is not evenly spread. In Barnet, the party’s ongoing difficulties with antisemitism have turned what looked a certain victory into a knife-edge fight. In Wandsworth, stories in the Standard about the local Momentum group have successfully spooked some residents into fearing that a Labour victory in that borough would imperil the borough’s long history of ultra-low council tax, while the presence of a fairly well-organised campaign from new party Renew is splitting angry pro-Remain vote. But elsewhere, neither Labour nor Tory local activists are reporting any kind of fall.

However, it does show how comprehensively Labour have lost the spin war as far as what a “good” set of local election results would be next week: as I laid out in my analyses of what a good night for the major parties would be, Wandsworth and Westminster councils, both of which would stay blue if this poll is borne out, should not be seen as essential gains for Labour and should properly be seen as disastrous defeats for the Conservatives.

However, CCHQ have done a good job setting out a benchmark for what a good night looks like to the point where holding onto Bexley is probably going to be hailed as a success. Labour haven’t really entered the spin wars. As I noted on our podcast this week, that’s in part because, as one senior member of Team Corbyn noted, there is a belief that whatever you do in the run-up, the BBC will decide that there is merit in both sides’ presentation of how the night has gone, so why bother with the spin war beforehand? We may be about to find out whether that’s true. The bigger question for Labour is if the inability to shape the narrative in the face of a largely hostile press will be a problem come 2022. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman and the PSA's Journalist of the Year. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.