Labour and antisemitism: back to square one

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Last night, the Parliamentary Labour Party passed an ‘Action on Antisemitism’ motion at its weekly meeting. They are “dismayed that there remains such a backlog of antisemitism cases”, the motion reads, and “very concerned by recent reports that a number of cases of alleged antisemitic activity from high-profile members have been dropped”. Examples in mind include that of ex-Labour MP Jim Sheridan, who was recently reinstated to the party and promptly claimed complainants had “overreacted”. It is understood that his suspension related to a post in which he said he’d lost “respect and empathy for the Jewish community and their historic suffering” due to “what they and their Blairite plotters are doing to my party”.

Ahead of the meeting, LabourList exclusively published the message sent from general secretary Jennie Formby to the PLP. She explained that “significant progress” has been made to improve party complaints procedures under her watch, from recruiting more staff and expanding the disciplinary committee (NCC) to not using education or training as a sanction. But many MPs were angered by Formby’s approach – both content and tone – at the meeting itself, where it was reported that she told the PLP she answered to the national executive committee, not them. “The resolution was unanimously supported by the Parliamentary Labour Party and the general secretary of the Labour Party basically said she wasn’t prepared to give us the information that was required in the resolution,” Dame Margaret Hodge MP commented afterwards.

The Jewish Labour Movement’s secretary Peter Mason has today written for LabourList outlining the persistent concern (and exasperation) of the sole party-affiliated Jewish group. Like the PLP motion, JLM wants answers on when the code of conduct consultation promised last year will take place, whether antisemitism awareness training will be extended, and more. Mason concludes with the suggestion that the Labour Party could now meet the Macpherson Report definition of institutional racism. With the party already advising that they will not answer the PLP motion’s 11 questions (“Complaints processes are confidential and the party has a responsibility to protect members’ data,” a spokesperson said), another stalemate on Labour antisemitism has been reached. As always, this issue is inextricably linked to factionalism within the party, and therefore cannot be resolved. There is no trust on either side of the conversation.

Speaking of impasses, Theresa May will be in Northern Ireland today as she explains her anti-backstop mission and aim to Brexit in a way that “commands broad support across the community in Northern Ireland… and secures a majority in the Westminster parliament”. As that is impossible with the plan she is currently pursuing, our time is more usefully spent looking at where potential Labour rebels are at. Lisa Nandy says she has been “overwhelmed” by constituent emails advocating ‘no deal’ but is more adamant than ever that such an outcome must be blocked. That means voting for a deal. Meanwhile, Caroline Flint has told colleagues – via The Sun, as if Labour members weren’t already unhappy enough with her – that they should “back a deal and move on”. As long as that deal is bolstered by “commitments on workers’ rights and environmental standards”, which means reviving the unselected Labour ‘inbetweeners’ amendment. Will this be enough to save May’s deal?

Sienna @siennamarla Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

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