The Labour Party has a long tradition of standing for equality and social justice against bigotry and intolerance. The accusations of anti-Semitism within the party sully that record and Jeremy Corbyn was right to suspend Ken Livingston and set up an enquiry. You may not be surprised to hear that I, like most people who are fans of logic, deplore anti-Semitism but I do recognise that lazy thinking does exist on the Left. There are some people who identify the actions of the state of Israel with all Jews, which is obviously stupid, and this laziness needs to be tackled. However now those people on the Right of the Labour Party are seeking to portray all Corbyn supporters as having a problem with Jews, and this needs to be called out. Warning: I’m writing this piece in anger so expect occasional swearing.
The Blairite wing of the Labour Party is not happy with the state of the party. To be brutally honest I’m not happy with the progress made under Corbyn either and one of the reasons for my annoyance is Blairites undermining Corbyn at every turn. Whether it is public resignations, refusals to serve in the Shadow Cabinet, or leaking criticism to the press the neo-liberal wing of the Labour Party (which shouldn’t exist by the way) is sewing the seeds of its own destruction.
This culminated the other day in a strange turn of events. Jim Murphy, the Blairite former Scottish Labour leader, has denied the nomination of Rhea Wolfson to the Labour National Executive Committee (NEC). According to Wolfson, Murphy had spoken to members of the Eastwood Constituency Labour Party, which was Wolfson’s local branch, and said that because Momentum has endorsed Wolfson they shouldn’t back her. This was Murphy’s smear of choice because there is a large Jewish community in the area and by claiming Momentum was anti-Semitic Murphy was undermining the potential success of the party. I’m much more ruthless than Corbyn and if I were Labour leader I would argue that any member actively undermining the party in this way should face immediate suspension, but I’m willing to be convinced that I’m wrong.
The whole point of this story is to illustrate how irrational this criticism is, and there are two ways to look at it. The first one is that Momentum wasn’t the only group to endorse her. The centre-left group Grassroots Alliance also endorsed Wolfson, and, by Murphy’s own logic, this would imply that the Left and the Centre-Left parts of the Labour Party were complicit in anti-Semitism. Essentially, again by Murphy’s own brilliant guilt by association ‘logic’, anyone who is in the Labour Party who is not ideologically similar to Tony Blair dislikes Jews.
Now obviously this is a ludicrous argument to make, and I’m sure that Murphy wouldn’t use this same line of argument, but there is another angle to this. If you are saying that Momentum supports a candidate, and that this group has a problem with anti-Semitism, you are implying that the candidate in question shares a lot of Momentum’s views including anti-Semitism. Again, Murphy was clever to only allude to this and not to say it out loud because if he did he could be sued for defamation. Murphy has used the legitimate problem of anti-Semitism to undermine the Corbyn leadership and to stunt the career of a Labour Party member.
The other way to criticise Murphy is to do some rudimentary research, because he had then he would have discovered that Rhea Wolfson is Jewish. This bit is frustrating because it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Murphy thinks that there is a serious problem with anti-Semitism in the party, which is why he is so outspoken against Momentum. His action, therefore, is to deny the only Jewish candidate a position on the NEC. If you really had the interests of the Labour Party at heart, wouldn’t you put a Jewish person on the NEC to prove the party wasn’t institutionally anti-Semitic? By allowing people to write headlines about Wolfson being denied this place, you reinforce the perception in people’s minds that the party is anti-Semitic.
Also this fuckwit has disproven his own point. If Momentum is riddled with anti-Semitism, like a dog is riddled with fleas, why would they support the only Jewish candidate for the NEC? Surely if they were incredibly hostile towards Jews they would have been smearing Wolfson and not supporting her. Again Murphy is not using logic, he’s peddling faux concern in order to undermine a leadership that he doesn’t support.
I was fully expecting the Labour leadership contest to be fiercely fought because that is the nature of all political campaigns. Indeed, I was expecting there to be a period of Blairites acting up because they were not happy with the result. However polls of the membership have shown that Corbyn remains incredibly popular and this should be taken into account because they are the ones who vote for the leader. With this in mind I return to a point I made months ago: put up or shut up. In other words support the leader supporters voted for, or say nothing because if you keep undermining the success of the party then who’s fault is it if the Tories win. If Blairites keep openly undermining the leadership and the party looks disunited Labour will not have lost the 2020 election because Corbyn is too left-wing. They would have lost it because Labour’s neo-liberals didn’t like the result of a democratic choice by the the party’s supporters.