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Saturday, March 31, 2018

Are key Labour figures still in denial on the anti-semitism row?

There is a rule in politics, as in other walks of life, that when in a hole stop digging. It is a rule that Labour's former disputes panel chair would do well to follow.

I believe that the facts in her case are not in dispute. Christine Shawcroft, stepped down as chair of Labour’s disputes panel on Wednesday after questioning the suspension of an alleged Holocaust denier. As the Guardian reports an e-mail has been made public in which she questioned the suspension of the Peterborough council candidate Alan Bull:

Bull was accused of sharing on Facebook an article headlined “International Red Cross report confirms the Holocaust of 6m Jews is a hoax”, illustrated with a photograph of the gates of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

In a public Facebook post on Friday, Shawcroft said she had not seen the “appalling and abhorrent” article before e-mailing left-wing colleagues on Labour’s ruling national executive council (NEC) to support Bull. “As soon as I saw it I told the member that he should have anti-Semitism training,” she added.

I have no problem with that explanation. She made a mistake. I would say though that in her position she should have checked before sending the e-mail. There is also a question as to whether somebody who chairs a disputes panel should be involving themselves in an issue that might come before them for adjudication, though I ask that without fully understanding her constitutional role.

However, to then go on and state “This whole row is being stirred up to attack Jeremy, as we all know,” Shawcroft went on. “That someone who has spent his whole life fighting racism in all its forms should find himself being accused of not doing enough to counter it, absolutely beggars belief.” just undermines her whole position.

It is this backtracking and caveating that is Labour's problem. It is also Jeremy Corbyn's problem, for no matter how good his anti-racist credentials are, he just seems to be incapable of taking a strong enough position to put the issue behind him.

As the Birmingham MP, Jess Phillips says, “The idea that the whole thing is a conspiracy is part of the problem”. She believes that Corbyn should personally urge Shawcroft to step down. The Labour leader’s office has pressed Shawcroft to give up the disputes panel chair on Wednesday but does not intend to intervene further, and that is why the issue refuses to go away.

Of course Christine Shawcroft is not the only one who is seeing conspiracies everywhere. Welsh Labour Grassroots Momentum have issued a statement on the anti-Semitism row that digs a hole so deep they may well have to start commenting on the Australian cricket ball-tampering row.

Rather than address the issue, they have attacked the accusers. They argue that 'supposed extent of anti-semitism within our party has been systematically exaggerated by those on the political right – with the support, sadly, of some Labour MPs – in an attempt to discredit Jeremy Corbyn, the socialist left and supporters of the Palestinian people.' and argue that allegations of anti-Semitism are being used as a political weapon against the Labour Party.

Whilst Labour continue to try to deflect criticism rather than address it head-on then it will continue to haunt them. And that applies to Jeremy Corbyn as much as it does to others in his party.
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