After Home Secretary Sajid Javid overplayed his hand and gave his followers the clear suggestion that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had indulged in Holocaust denial, the condemnation came thick and fast. More importantly for Javid, so did what appears to have been a communication from Jezza’s lawyers, and thus what may be a long process of rowing back and finally retracting and apologising.
Javid had told a Tweeter who gave the impression of supporting Corbyn “How can you even question the Holocaust. Please think carefully about what you are saying. Don’t be misled by Corbyn”. That other Tweeter then vanished - the account was either closed voluntarily, or forcibly suspended. This left Javid’s Tweet standing there on its own, and standing on its own, it looked seriously bad - and seriously defamatory.
So seriously defamatory that MPs like Clive Lewis were moved sufficiently to intervene: “.@sajidjavid are you seriously accusing @jeremycorbyn of being a Holocaust denier? Seriously I’d apologise, detract and wind your neck in. And whilst your at it launch an investigation into Islamophobia in your own sorry excuse for a political party”. We never do hear about the Tories’ very clear racism problems, do we?
And then, it seems, the lawyers became involved, or perhaps it was merely the threat of their involvement. Javid then told “Corbyn is not a holocaust denier. I am happy to make that clear. My comment referred to @Muhammad_S_85 buying into Corbyn's position on anti-Semitism”. But that is not nearly good enough.
As Skwawkbox has noted, “Javid’s retraction looks mealy-mouthed at best, still leaving a smear hanging in the air like a bad smell”. It infers anti-Semitism on Corbyn’s part. It allows those like Daniel Sugarman from the Jewish Chronicle to observe “Never in my worst nightmares did I ever imagine that I'd see this country's Home Secretary having to plead with a Corbyn supporter not to deny the Holocaust”.
The damage has been done, and will not be undone by Javid’s half-apology. It has convinced no-one; instead, there was disbelief and ridicule, typical responses including “That's not an apology. You misrepresented his position, insinuating he pardons Holocaust denial and you continue to misrepresent his position by saying Mohammad somehow buys into it. Not good enough. Try again, stating what Corbyn's actual position is”.
And lawyer Chris Corney concluded that Javid was not yet out of the woods. “36 hours and that's the best your legal team can do? And you are now alleging that someone who was a holocaust denier was ‘buying into’ Corbyns position on anti-semitism. That's a new libel. I'd swap advisors Sajid”. It certainly looks that way.
The only way that Sajid Javid is going to make amends, and start to undo the damage he has done - perhaps not accidentally - is going to be the kind of apology that the deeply unpleasant Ben Bradley was forced to make after claiming Corbyn was a paid agent of the former Soviet Union. Meanwhile, one more question needs to be asked.
Just why do the Tories and their hangers-on think it acceptable to routinely defame the leader of the opposition? It’s not just one rogue MP - and it’s time they cut it out.