UK Politics

Labour and Antisemitism: The political plot twist that broke my bleeding heart

What does this mean for Labour?

By Robyn Wilson

Everybody knows that Left does not always equal Liberal. Look at Josef Stalin. He was a Leftie, in theory, to whom a million deaths was a statistic.

I can’t conceal my shock at the Labour Party’s recent anti-Semitic outing, though. This has been an issue since Shami Chakrabarti’s investigation into antisemitism within the Labour Party in 2016, rooted in anti-Israel comments made by MP Naz Shah.

Apparently void of the self-awareness that usually accompanies such brutal irony, Shah compared Israel to the Nazis. ‘Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party’ has its own Wikipedia page. This is officially a ‘thing’.

There is a long and messy history of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party. This much is undeniable. For those Bleeding Heart Liberals among us who have been voting Labour since we were able (and theoretically voting for them for years before), propping up the effigy of Jeremy Corbyn in our trembling arms, that undeniable fact is a terrible blow.

I lean to the Left because it places humanity at the heart of politics – to the extent that humanity is ever at the heart of politics. That is a debate unto itself, but for me, Labour is, as it has always claimed to be, the party of the people.

Our compassion is what sets us apart from the Right – they of the blood-sports and the 1% and Brexit. ‘Refugees Welcome’, ‘Love is Love’, ‘Black Lives Matter’. These are the words of the Left. ‘The Jews are rallying’, ‘Jews are financiers of the sugar and slave trade’. These are also the words of the Left. When did the party of the people become the party of some people? And what does this mean for the future of the Labour Party?

If Labour has sacrificed the moral high-ground, it must now decide what it wants to be. How will it pitch its policies and who does it hope will be listening?

For longer than has been comfortable, the Party has struggled to mount sufficient opposition to the current government, symptomatic of the steady decline of its identity. Labour has been characterised by silence on Brexit, interrupted only by the screeches of in-fighting, a Vote of No Confidence in its hapless Head Honcho, and anti-Semitism.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the dissolution of the People’s Party began around the time of the Chakrabarti enquiry. The challenge this posed, and continues to pose, to the Party’s compassionate character has left Jeremy Corbyn frantically in search of an angle.

Nobody knows what Labour stands for anymore. Even I have started deleting my emails from the Party without reading them. Corbyn has the unenviable task of rebuilding the People’s Party from the ashes; constructing a political machine that its supporters can believe in, a viable opposition rather than a shouting shambles of unrehearsed political performers united only in their common dislike, for one reason or another, of Theresa May.

Should his apology be grovelling or defiant? What policy can he possibly offer as a replacement for Labour’s abandoned humanism? And don’t doubt that a replacement is necessary, because if the People’s Party attempts now to return to its former platform, nobody will take them seriously. It’s painful to say, but the Party is now permenantly smeared with an anti-Semitic stain and I, for one, have no interest in watching it scramble back up onto the moral high-ground through a series of bumbling apologies.

Corbyn’s attempts to confine antisemitism to “pockets” of the Party are not helpful. As we’ve established, antisemitism within the Labour Party is a ‘thing’, and there’s no point trying to suppress it and carrying on cooing in the name of compassion.

What Labour needs is rebranding. It needs to look its ugly face in the mirror and ask itself who it is. It needs to present a united front. And, chiefly, it needs to promise a couple of believable policies (tell me again how you’re going to eradicate every penny of my student debt, Mr Corbyn) that differentiate it from the Conservative Party and deal with relevant issues – Brexit (it’s happening, and Labour need to get over that), social housing, hate crime, personal debt.

I hope that Labour can move past their current crisis. I hope the ‘Antisemitism in the Labour Party’ Wikipedia page will never need to be updated again. When the next General Election rolls around, I still hope that Labour will win, but I want to vote for policies, not opinions, and I certainly don’t want to vote for opinions as ignorant and antiquated as the ones aired recently. Maybe it’s time for the People’s Party to start listening to the people. Only then can they hope to win the people back.

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