After yesterday evening’s Commons debate on anti-Semitism, a number of voices from across the political spectrum have been actively spinning the subject to promote their own political ends. This is wrong, no matter whether one is on the left or right. Anti-Semitism, and indeed any form of racism, is not a subject to be spun for party political advantage. But it is a subject that should be take seriously.
So let’s consider what the situation is, and what we can deduce from that. We should usefully start at the very beginning, as it’s a very good place to start.
One, some within the Labour Party have behaved in a plainly and sometimes blatantly anti-Semitic manner. That is inexcusable, and nor is it a matter for debate. It has happened, and action must be taken to prevent its recurrence.
Two, the Labour leadership has acknowledged that it has happened, and has committed itself to eradicating the problem. Jeremy Corbyn has made that commitment, and the party’s new General Secretary Jennie Formby has committed to executing the policy.
Three, there is no reason - none whatsoever - to doubt the leadership’s commitment or to dismiss that commitment out of hand. Those on the fringes of politics engaging in such dismissive behaviour demonstrate only their absence of credibility and character.
Four, there is no reason why any Labour MP should not state publicly that they have been the target of anti-Semitic attacks, and nor is there any reason why they should not have joined the protest outside Parliament recently. Those MPs were free to make that choice; Corbyn endorsed their choice, and Ms Formby has underscored that endorsement.
Five, there is no place in this debate for comparative dismissal of some complaints of anti-Semitic behaviour: if the likes of Ruth Smeeth point out that they have been the targets of that behaviour in the past, it is not acceptable to say “yes but she once got something wrong”. Dismissing anti-Semitism in that manner cannot be allowed to stand.
Six, the greater determination indicated by Ms Formby to deal with outstanding complaints of anti-Semitism will mean that some Labour members will be reprimanded or dismissed from the party altogether. That, too, should not be made the subject of “yes, but” protests.
Seven, no-one should be above this particular law: if the likes of Ken Livingstone are judged to have behaved badly enough to warrant dismissal, then there should be no exception made for him, or anyone else. Out should mean out.
So far, so straightforward. Now we come to other parties, the wider question of racism, and indeed other forms of discrimination and prejudice.
Eight, that Labour has admitted that the party has had a problem with anti-Semitism does not mean that no other party is thus affected. So that leads us to one conclusion.
Nine, the likes of Nadine Dorries, who compared a Jewish former MP to a Nazi concentration camp doctor, should not escape censure. It will be interesting to see how the Tory Party deals with the matter - if it deals with it at all.
Ten, anti-Semitism is not the only form of racism prevalent in Britain today. Therefore, the determination to stamp out racism cannot end with anti-Semitism. Any form of discrimination on the basis of race, colour, religion or culture cannot be allowed to stand.
Eleven, prejudice or discrimination against the LGBTQ community is also unacceptable, and should not be overlooked, merely because it is not racial prejudice. So is sexism and misogyny, which featured strongly in That Spreadsheet (of Tory MPs).
Twelve, it would help immeasurably if the press establishment were to avoid completely the use of nudge-nudgery which is little more than a dog-whistle to racism and other forms of prejudice, merely for the purposes of political or commercial advantage. This has in the recent past included Racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and Xenophobia.
Thirteen, it would ill behove the Tory Party to use the potential dismissal by Labour of Ken Livingstone to excuse the incompetence in office of his successor as London Mayor, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, who is himself a vicious and unapologetic racist.
Fourteen, racism also includes Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment. That may not include many MPs, whatever their political stripe, but it certainly includes the press that shills for them. If the Tory Party is serious about the issue of racism, they should both tackle their press pals, and be prepared to call out their blatant prejudice.
Fifteen, don’t even think of calling “racist” on anyone else when you harbour racists and manipulators of racial prejudice in your ranks. Hello Campaign Against Anti-Semitism.
Sixteen, anyone who was using the issue of anti-Semitism just to dump on the Labour Party should hang their heads in shame. This is too serious a problem just to be used as leverage by those seeking cheap political advantage. The Guido Fawkes rabble aren’t capable of such contrition, but, you know, just a thought.
And Seventeen, just as anti-Semitism cannot be an excusable response to the actions of the state of Israel, nor can criticising those actions be inferred to be anti-Semitic.
Labour must tackle anti-Semitism and eradicate the problem within their ranks, however small it might be. So must other parties. All parties and their supporters must tackle all forms of racism. That must extend to other forms of discrimination and prejudice.
Ultimately, though, this will come down to that same old problem: it is easy to make the accusation, less easy to take the necessary action, and not at all easy for those using the problem for their own ends to admit that they are not themselves blameless.
In conclusion, it’s good to see so much effort dedicated to combating anti-Semitism. It’s only sad that the issue wouldn’t even be on the media radar for 99% of the time, and in 99% of the circumstances. And that, media people, is not good enough.