Joe Carlebach was the Leader of the Conservative Group on Hammersmith and Fulham Council.
I was astonished to read the comments of Peter Willsman at a recent Labour Party NEC meeting, relating to the continuing saga of Labour and its problem with antisemitism – comments that were also recorded and released last night which I can only describe as offensive and bizarre.
He is clearly heard saying (shouting) in a tirade that he blamed Jewish ‘Trump fanatics’ for ‘false claims’ of antisemitism in the Labour Party, and actually asking his fellow members of Labour’s ruling body to raise their hands if they had ‘seen’ antisemitism in Labour!
Apart from the obvious abhorrence, these comments are significant as they represent the latest manifestation of the Labour Party’s on going struggle with antisemitism.
These are not the comments of a junior staffer or known ‘crack pot’. They are the comments of a full member of Labour’s National Executive, its most senior body. The comments were apparently made in the presence of the Leader of the Labour Party, with seemingly no indication of any attempt by him to intervene. There also seems to be no appetite to discipline Willsman on the part of the Labour Party because he wrote an ‘apology’ to Jennie Formby, Labour’s General Secretary .
Contrast this to the reaction of the Labour establishment to Margaret Hodge’s emotional confrontation with Jeremy Corbyn where she called him an ‘anti-Semite and a racist’. For her troubles she is now the subject of a Labour Party disciplinary investigation. The incredible speed with which the Labour Party acted in this case makes an interesting comparison with the incredible slowness of its response to many of those accused of antisemitism.
(For the record we have also learnt that there are apparently now 252 Labour Party members being investigated for comments they have made about and to Margaret Hodge on line since this incident.)
On the face of it, many will dismiss this as yet another example of Labour’s inability to confront and address its growing problem with antisemitism. Some might even say: big deal, why are you surprised, what did you expect.
In 2016 I wrote an article for this site entitled ‘Labour’s slowness to act on anti-Semitism is disgracing it’. At that time I was sure that the surfacing of this form of racism was an anomaly, that it would be good enough to call it out and that it would be dealt with.
As a committed Conservative I have absolutely no love for the Labour Party and its ‘mad cap’ left wing philosophy. However, as a great party of state and Her Majesty’s Official Opposition, I felt sure that the matter would be dealt with. I wrote then:
“The Labour Party leadership needs to get a grip on this situation. It needs to sign up to a zero tolerance policy for any and all forms of racism including anti-Semitism, and ensure that this is enforced, well understood and adhered to throughout its membership and party apparatus. It needs to do this now.”
Over two years later we find not only has this issue not been dealt with, it has spread untreated like the pernicious ‘disease’ it is.
Let us remember that we are not talking about a small fringe party of little relevance. Labour could form a government in the coming years. As such they will control the great organs of state and determine the future of our nation.
For me, this is a watershed. It shows clearly that Labour have proved themselves incapable of dealing with prejudice and bigotry. This is not just the Labour leader but, I regret to say, the Party in its entirety. Many in Labour have come out saying the right things about the evils of antisemitism, but they have patently failed to actually do or change anything.
The time has passed for words, now is the time for action. No more soft excuses. No more procrastination. It is time for solid, implementable plans with defined actions to finally address the issue of racism in Labour’s ranks.
This issue should concern everybody in Britain, not just the Jewish community, because a party that seemingly tolerates such behaviour is frankly capable of much else besides. The future tolerance and moral fabric of our nation is therefore at risk, and that is something about which everyone should be deeply troubled.