Roll up. Roll up. Two more contenders for the Labour leadership have officially declared. Jess Phillips, the MP for Birmingham Yardley, and Lisa Nandy, who represents Wigan, have launched their campaigns. They join Emily Thornberry and Clive Lewis. Neither Sir Keir Starmer nor Rebecca Long-Bailey have declared yet. They are considered the front runners – with Sir Keir holding a strong lead in the YouGov poll of Labour Party members. David Lammy will not be standing. Ian Lavery, the Labour Party Chairman and MP for Wansbeck, has said he is still thinking about it.
Some have argued that to have a credible break with Corbynism, it is important to have someone who was not in the Shadow Cabinet. That would rule out Thornberry, Lavery, Starmer, and Long-Bailey. Also, some feel those who nominated Corbyn for the leadership back in 2015 showed chronic misjudgment – so that would rule out Lewis.
These criteria would leave both Phillips and Nandy in the clear – although Nandy was Shadow Energy Secretary for the first few months of Corby’s leadership. Both Phillips and Nandy can also point to the strong criticisms they have made of Corbyn on the issue of anti-semitism, for years.
Phillips spoke about the issue in her interview in The Times this morning. She says “it seemed like there wasn’t a really clear and principled stance against things like antisemitism” and adds:
“I don’t know why you wouldn’t just say sorry, because I’m fairly certain that he is sorry for the pain that has been caused. How could he not be?…Anyone who commits antisemitism or any racism or sexual harassment within the Labour Party should be suspended immediately… I don’t know why there is any appeals process needed when there is hard evidence. If you’ve posted Holocaust denial [online], I’m not sure that needs a debate.”
The dossier from the Jewish Labour Movement, including 70 testimonies from current and former Labour staffers, makes it hard to dispute that the Labour Party is institutionally anti-semitic. It goes beyond personal bigotry. It is political. For the Corbynistas it is a key part of their international mission that Israel is the enemy. That means defeating Israel, which means being “friends” with such outfits as Hamas. Even though Hamas hates Jews. Its 1988 Covenant declares:
“Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious.”
It goes on:
“The Islamic Resistance Movement calls on Arab and Islamic nations to take up the line of serious and persevering action to prevent the success of this horrendous plan, to warn the people of the danger eminating from leaving the circle of struggle against Zionism. Today it is Palestine, tomorrow it will be one country or another. The Zionist plan is limitless. After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying.
“Leaving the circle of struggle with Zionism is high treason, and cursed be he who does that….
“The Islamic Resistance Movement considers itself to be the spearhead of the circle of struggle with world Zionism and a step on the road. The Movement adds its efforts to the efforts of all those who are active in the Palestinian arena. Arab and Islamic Peoples should augment by further steps on their part; Islamic groupings all over the Arab world should also do the same, since all of these are the best-equipped for the future role in the fight with the warmongering Jews…”
There is lots more. But you get the gist. Surely Corbyn must be aware of these statements. Perhaps he winced a bit at some of the phrases. He probably was pleased that in 2017 there was a PR makeover and the references to Jews were replaced with”occupying Zionist aggressors”. Though Hamas was still devoted to murdering the same people. But for the Labour leader, the imperative is to be anti-western. Jews must take their place in the hierarchy of victimhood. If that means an alliance with those whose language is unsavoury and whose methods are brutal it is still an alliance that Corbyn is clear is morally right. It follows he can hardly condemn those who agree with him. So, if I can be of help to Phillips, he has not said sorry for the simple reason that he isn’t sorry.
It should also be obvious that this is not about some personal quirk of Corbyn but a far wider poison on the far Left. Rather than concerning some crude dislike of Jewish appearance or mannerisms it is something much more fundamental.
Yet less than a month ago, Phillips, Nandy and all the other leadership candidates, were working flat out for a Labour victory and to have Corbyn installed as Prime Minister. They knew what they were doing. They knew that British Jews were frightened of the prospect and that those fears were valid. Yet they kept knocking of doors, taking to the airwaves, pleading, cajoling. Doing all they could to make it happen.
In a way, some of the young naive Corbynistas have a better defence. They let themselves get swept up in a bizarre personality cult and would persuade themselves that any allegations against Corbyn must be media lies.
For the Labour “moderates” the mentality was summed up by the tweet from the historian Sir Richard Evans:
“Voting Labour with a heavy heart; I expect Johnson to win, in which case I hope Corbyn resigns as leader and is replaced by someone competent, popular, a Remainer, and above all, determined to recognise and deal with the cancer of antisemitism that has infected the Party.”
He changed his mind before polling day. But nobody who was aware of Corbyn’s allegiances and still voted Labour can claim to regard anti-semitism as “unacceptable.” They made a choice to accept it. They decided that indulging it was a price that would have been worth paying to secure a Labour Government. That is a choice that they must now try to justify.