The JVL Article LabourList Refused to Publish
Leah Levane and Jenny Manson submitted this article to LabourList about this week’s motion by the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP). It was rejected.
Labour MPs “demand answers about antisemitism” – but it is not clear they listened to the answers. LabourList featured the discussion at Monday’s PLP meeting demanding to know chapter and verse on progress with what they called the “backlog” of antisemitism cases. The effect is potentially to reopen the divisive campaign that rocked Labour all last summer. Do they really want to do this, especially at a time when the Tories are up to their necks in a self-inflicted BREXIT crisis, which means there is no telling when an election campaign might suddenly be upon us? Jennie Formby’s message to them was a record of consistent progress. Systems for processing complaints have been established and they are working; and the backlog of cases she inherited from her predecessor as General Secretary has been cleared. And this with a greater emphasis on due process than was evident in the past. They are now far more robust and fit for purpose.
Jennie stopped short of providing the PLP with the numbers on more recent complaints that are currently being processed, and in this she was absolutely right. Her professional role is to report on operational matters to the NEC and in particular she has vital duties of confidentiality.
It’s curious. The backlog was accumulated under her predecessor Iain McNicol, along with many deviations from due process, leaks to the media etc. But as far as we remember the PLP never raised those issues, at least publicly, about his regime.
From the wording of the motion discussed at the meeting (it was not actually voted on) it seems that what some of the MPs want is not so much for all allegations to be dealt with, but for all those complained about to be expelled. There is a subtle difference – with a proper process of investigation and deliberation not all allegations are found to merit expulsion. Some complaints may be unfounded. That’s what Labour, at last, has a better system for
The Chakrabarti report was a unique initiative. Nothing like it has been commissioned by any other party. Its recommendations, ignored for two years, have now been substantially implemented. What MPs should be pushing for is continual process improvement, as Jennie has been, aiming for natural justice coupled with a proper analytical examination of the facts.
In JVL as Jewish members of the Labour Party, spread over hundreds of constituencies, we have every reason to abhor antisemitism. We wish to have none of it in the party. But we are also aware that it is really rare, certainly less common than other forms of racism; and all the evidence suggests it is rarer in the Labour than in most other political parties (and rarer now than it was a few years ago).
In particular we are reassured by the anti-racist commitment of the Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn. And not only us; Rabbi Asher Gratt of the Charedi community has commented:
“Jeremy Corbyn’s personal pledge to be a militant opponent of anti-Semitism and a permanent ally of the Jewish Community and Jennie Formby’s statement that it is important to ‘eliminate the evil of anti-Semitism’ from the party, has in my view given great comfort and confidence to many British Jews that the Labour leadership is seriously determined in prioritizing to root out from their party those advocating anti-Jewish views.”
There are many views among Jews in this country. To say that there is a spectrum is to underestimate the number of dimensions on which opinions can and do differ. Yet many MPs persist in seemingly only recognising one.
The PLP motion referred to the demonstration held last year outside Parliament on behalf of the ‘Jewish community’. It was not. The majority of Britain’s Jewish population have no membership of or input to the organisations that called it. JVL, an organisation then not a year old, called a counter-demonstration that generated a surge of hundreds of new members. Thirty-four leading Rabbis including the Senior Rabbi of UoHC condemned the smear against Jeremy Corbyn, calling claims made to the media that Jews are outraged with Mr Corbyn’s leadership, irresponsible remarks against the respected leader of the labour party.
To us, like all your readers, there are very serious issues involved. Antisemitism is foul, and we need to be alert to its possible spread. We need to distinguish between the utterances of racists, the confused views of those who stumble into antisemitic tropes out of ignorance, and the principled criticisms that need to be made of Israel. We should acknowledge the efforts and progress that has already been made by Jeremy Corbyn, by Jennie Formby, and also by Party officers and grass roots members, entirely in keeping with the proud record of the Party in fighting antisemitism over a long period.
Leah Levane and Jenny Manson
Co -chairs of Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL)
6th February 2019