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Editorial The attacks on Chris Williamson are an attack on Corbyn’s leadership

THE Labour Party does not have a widespread problem of anti-semitism.

If it did we would see a substantial proportion of its membership facing prosecutions for acts of violence or intimidation against Jewish people, convictions for hate speech in person or on social media and an avalanche of evidence-backed instances referred to the party’s disciplinary machinery.

We would see police investigations and extensive monitoring by the security services.

What the party does have is a statistically small proportion of instances that are routinely dealt with by the party’s disciplinary structures.

Over the last year Labour dealt with 1,100 complaints. Forty per cent did not involve Labour Party members.

In 220 cases there was no evidence. The remaining cases involved 400 party members who were deemed to require further investigation and action.

Twelve people were expelled while 44 quit before their cases were fully dealt with and, in line with the procedures earlier agreed, some were suspended or given written warnings.

Of course, this is not the end of the matter but it is unlikely that even the most searching investigation will reveal much greater evidence of anti-semitism among Labour’s half a million-plus individual members.

The clamour about Labour’s alleged anti-semitism is set against the background in which anti-Jewish prejudice is a persisting problem in wider society and where Labour has a markedly less substantial problem with the persistence of anti-semitic tropes in the thinking of its supporters than any other party.

Nevertheless in a YouGov poll commissioned on the eve of Labour’s 2018 conference, an astonishing 33 per cent of people thought Jeremy Corbyn was anti-semitic and 23 per cent thought his party was.

So why is there such a furore about something which the overwhelming majority of people with an opinion on the issue cannot possibly have any direct personal experience of, or insight into, and can only have formed their opinions through extended exposure to the public and media discourses around it?

Simply to state the question suggests the answer.

The way the issue is framed in the media, the way the contending forces in Labour’s inner-party battles structure their interventions and the context of a debate in which allegations of anti-semitism can no longer be disentangled from the arguments about Israel are the key to understanding why this question has been given such prominence.

Our ruling elites — the foreign policy Establishment, intelligence, military, oil, energy and big business circles, the monopoly media, parliamentary opinion, including numbers of Labour MPs — ground their collective world-view in the sanctity of the Western alliance’s unconditional support for Israel as the linchpin of imperial policy in the Middle East.

This formidable array of class forces will weaponise any issue that might undermine support for a politics that threatens this.

Tom Watson has given us an object lesson in corrupted language and unshakable hypocrisy when he described Luciana Berger’s departure as “Labour’s worst day of shame.”

Worse than the Iraq war for which he consistently voted?

Now it is Chris Williamson in the frame. His offence is not an injudicious use of language but his courage in staking out an uncompromising politics of resistance which is barely represented in Parliament and rarely with his passion. There is no point in running away from this battle and nowhere to hide.

This offensive is designed to lower the base of electoral support for Labour prior to an election. Last time Corbyn’s leadership and Labour’s radical manifesto demolished the media-conditioned 20-point Tory lead.

Anybody in Labour’s big tent that adds to its credibility damages the chances of a Labour victory.


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