antisemitism,  Labour Party

The latest Labour antisemitism report – a few first thoughts

The internal report into Labour’s handling of the antisemitism crisis, recently leaked to Sky News, has – predictably enough – been woven into two competing narratives.  Not surprisingly, opponents of Jeremy Corbyn are focusing on indications that it reflects badly on his own faction, and on its willingness to identify and deal with antisemitism.  Others, with equal predictability, are highlighting indications that there was an attempt to sabotage Corbyn from inside the party, and that this impeded attempts to deal effectively with complaints.

There’s a kind of symmetry (albeit not a perfect one of course) between the two ‘sides’ in this dispute.  The report appears to have been drawn up by defenders of Corbyn, a fact which immediately casts doubt on its overall credibility. This point has of course been leapt on by his opponents. Somewhat similarly the report itself apparently seeks to demonstrate that many of those most vocal in complaining of antisemitism had an anti-Corbyn agenda.  This does rather miss the point – many people opposed Corbyn not because the Green New Deal, or whatever, was the hill they’d choose to die on, but because of a whole range of dubious views and associations, several of which opened him up to charges of antisemitism.  In other words, concerns about antisemitism were a cause of misgivings about Corbyn, not some kind of cynical strategy.

The Labour Party’s lawyers have apparently expressed concerns over the report being submitted to the EHRC, ‘due to fears it could damage its wider case’. It’s interesting that those in both the Corbyn and anti-Corbyn camps have expressed a wish that it should be submitted. For example Gideon Falter, of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, maintains that the report is itself an instance of factionalism, and has asked that it be submitted to the EHRC to inform their decision making. Others are insisting that it’s the Labour right which is keen to suppress the report.

Despite being firmly on the anti-Corbyn wing myself, I don’t find it hard to understand why many Corbyn supporters – or indeed just Labour supporters – might be concerned by some of the information leaked from the WhatsApp discussions. A list of examples is included in the Sky News Report. It’s possible to sympathise with some of these revelations while acknowledging that others might reasonably be angered or frustrated by them. For example I can definitely identify with the reported conversation over struggling to look pleased when Corbyn did better than expected in the 2017 election. Other leaks are more problematic – whatever your politics:

Conversations in which the same group refers to Mr Corbyn’s former chief of staff Karie Murphy as “medusa”, a “crazy woman” and a “bitch face cow” that would “make a good dartboard”

A discussion in which one of the group members expresses their “hope” that a young pro-Corbyn Labour activist, who they acknowledge had mental health problems, “dies in a fire”

However, doubtless equally vile stuff was shared by those from the Corbyn faction. More serious from the point of view of the antisemitism crisis are allegations that he and his team were misled over various key facts relating to some of the complaints, and the progress being made with them, in order to make the party’s handling of the issue look bad.

My sense is – although I should note I haven’t researched responses exhaustively – that those on the anti-Corbyn left have been focusing more on counter accusations – such as the improper leaking of personal data – rather than rebutting the central claims directly. However this may, certainly in part, be down to the sheer difficulty of investigating a long series of allegations about a complex organisation when we don’t have access to all the data needed to evaluate those claims – although we may be able to point to elements missing from the report because they didn’t suit the writers’ agenda.

Keith Kahn-Harris has an interesting series of tweets on this story, and offers a gloomily balanced conclusion.

The internal Labour Party report on antisemitism has now been publicly leaked. On a v brief look it appears not to easily fit into any existing factional narrative. At the v least it demonstrates a deeply screwed up organisation.