Theresa May’s denial, Labour antisemitism and nasty politics

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Theresa May is continuing to deny that there is any link between Tory austerity and rising violent crime, particularly the current surge in knife crime. There is “no direct correlation between certain crimes and police numbers”, she says, despite Scotland Yard making it clear that the opposite is true. The deputy assistant commissioner revealed yesterday that after the weekend, which saw two teenagers stabbed to death in London and Greater Manchester, shifts were extended and advised that the increased presence “made a difference”.

Jeremy Corbyn tweeted last night: “Theresa May must start listening to police chiefs across the country who understand the impact of cutting 21,000 police officers on violent crime. You cannot keep people safe on the cheap.” Even the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, gave a response to an urgent question in the Commons that emphasised resources, i.e. disagreed with May – as he is wont to do these days, presumably with an eye on his leadership prospects.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party is still mired in its antisemitism crisis. General secretary Jennie Formby addressed the weekly PLP meeting last night, where the Observer story about political interference from Corbyn’s team in disciplinary cases dominated. Dame Margaret Hodge has now added to the claims, telling Radio 4 this morning that she has seen evidence that this has occurred under Formby’s tenure. Labour denies that leader’s office staff have “overturned recommendations on individual cases” and says the Observer report applies only to an old system used under the previous general secretary, Iain McNicol.

Hodge has also said that Charlie Falconer, who could be about to accept a role reviewing Labour’s handling of antisemitism cases, is “not independent”. The MP for Barking warned there would be “another Chakrabarti fiasco” if the process wasn’t overseen by someone outside of the party. The problem there is that the party hierarchy will only give such power and responsibility to someone deemed trustworthy, and the inner circle does not easily trust outsiders. A Blarite who resigned in the 2016 coup was already a leap of faith.

Looking at the wider context in which the antisemitism crisis exists, politics feels particularly nasty right now. Labour members in the worst local parties dread going to meetings, which do not consist of comradely debate but of shouting and bullying. Labour MPs often casually talk of receiving horrendous abuse, particularly of a racist and misogynist nature. Revealing that “only a couple of weeks ago someone claiming to be a Jeremy supporter was arrested for making threats to rape and murder” her, Angela Rayner said yesterday: “My house has panic buttons fitted. My colleague was assassinated doing her job that I do week in week out. Jeremy was attacked this weekend. We have to stop the personal attacks and be kinder to each other.” Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

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