The Labour Party brings to mind any number of Yiddish expressions — most of them involving the performance of lavatorial functions — but none more so than the proverb Der mentsh trakht un Got lakht. Man plans and God laughs.
The Almighty’s black humour is surely at work in the resignation of Christine Shawcroft, chair of the Labour Party disputes panel. The woman responsible for rooting out anti-Semitism has been caught defending a council candidate accused of posting Holocaust-denying content on social media. In a leaked internal email, Shawcroft called for Peterborough’s Alan Bull to be reinstated after suspension for ‘a Facebook post taken completely out of context and alleged to show anti-Semitism’. One of Bull’s alleged posts read ‘International Red Cross report confirms the Holocaust of six million Jews is a hoax’ and a link to a neo-fascist website, Renegade Tribune. Bull insists screenshots of his Facebook page have been doctored. The Renegade Tribune has reported his plight under the headline: ‘UK Labour Candidate Shared Holohoax Article from Renegade Tribune, Suspended by Party’.
Shawcroft was put in charge of the disputes panel just 71 days ago, after the far-left ousted Ann Black, who is herself a left-winger but had seemingly displeased her comrades with her handling of membership rules and suspensions for, among other things, anti-Semitism. Her resignation, and the fact it came about via the leaking of an email sent only to fellow far-leftists, is being spun as proof that there is now an appetite among some Corbynistas for tackling Labour anti-Semitism. Undoubtedly, they are a ruthless, power-hungry bunch who make New Labour look positively unambitious by comparison. They would surely say or do or feign anything to get into Downing Street. Asked on Sky News this morning, John McDonnell would not say whether Shawcroft should also recuse herself from her NEC seat. (He later said she shouldn’t step down).
I hate to be a pain but it’s been three days now. Three days since Jeremy Corbyn acknowledged ‘pockets of anti-Semitism’ in the Labour Party and pledged himself as a ‘militant opponent’ of Jew-hatred. What has happened since then? Apart from Labour’s anti-anti-Semitism chief quitting after defending an accused anti-Semite, the answer seems to be nothing much. Richard Angell, head of the centrist pressure group Progress, has suggested a programme of actions to take on Labour anti-Semitism. Wes Streeting and John Mann have done likewise. Indeed, there seem to be more plans for ridding Labour of Jew-hatred than there are figures at the top of the party with any interest in or motivation to adopt them.
It was stirring to watch the Enough is Enough rally at Westminster. It always is to see Jews standing up for themselves. It was impressive that some Labour MPs turned up and pledged their solidarity. ‘Silence is filth,’ as Jabotinsky wrote, but that does not mean that speech is sufficient. When Labour moderates are done talking about their abhorrence of anti-Semitism, their frustration at the leadership, their proposals for beginning to address the problem, what exactly are they going to do?
Wait to see what scraps they are tossed by the new rulers of the party? Hope there is nothing else in Jeremy Corbyn’s long, dismal career of fringe leftism and moral relativism? How many more Facebook groups are there? How many comments and articles written over the last three decades waiting to be stumbled upon by a bored hack? How many videos of Corbyn at rallies, beside what unsavouries, before what flags, espousing what views? A Corbyn-led Labour cannot tackle anti-Semitism beyond positioning and tokenism because, although the problem doesn’t end at the top, that is where it starts.