Why The People’s Vote March Is An Exercise In Division

Today, a million people are expected to hit the streets of London to protest against Brexit. They will represent a relatively broad political spectrum, from left to right, unified on one issue; they either want Article 50 to be revoked or for a further Referendum on the deal, in what they refer to as a People’s Vote.

This government, so ardent until recently in their commitment to deliver Brexit, are now in divided disarray. They have let down Leave voters and Remainers, because their incompetence has not only failed to heal the division between us, they’ve prised it open and poured fuel into it.

Despite this dire situation, and despite the fact I voted Remain, I will not be attending today’s march. Why? Because I believe this campaign, as well meaning and genuine as many of its supporters are, is holding a lighted match above the fuel poured on by the Tories. None of the arguments I’ve been presented with up to now, from democracy is fluid, to lies were told, to it was 3 years ago and older Leave voters have died off to be replaced by young pro Europeans, has convinced me that either a 2nd Referendum or a revokation of Article 50, won’t rip this country apart even further. What we need is a way to bridge the divide and only Labour are offering to be that bridge. Had Labour decided to only fight on behalf of Leavers or Remainers, they would have won plaudits from the group they chose to champion, whilst completely alienating the group they ignored. Instead, from day one, Corbyn has steered the party to try to see Brexit from all perspectives, and been criticised on all sides for it. That won’t worry Jeremy though. If it’s right, it’s right, and if his own personal history has taught him anything, it’s that being right usually means getting credit much further down the track. Today he will be the target of much condemnation. Marchers will claim he should have thrown all his weight behind their campaign. But Jeremy was absolutely right not to. Not just because 70% of Labour’s constituencies voted leave, and it could damage us electorally, but because the EU Referendum was one of the largest democratic exercises this country has ever seen, with one of the largest turnouts, sold as a once in a generation vote.

To reverse Brexit before its been implemented, would be to drive a poisoned arrow through the heart of democracy, and the wound it creates will fester and spread in ways that’s impossible to predict. What Labour are offering is a compromise deal that has the ability to mitigate the potential damage caused by a harder Brexit, whilst respecting the Referendum result.

Corbyn has recognised the drivers behind Brexit. The Brexit generational divide is often a point of focus, as Remain campaigners celebrate the way the conveyer belt of life is replacing old Leave voters with young remainers, but leavers and remainers are also divided along class, geographical and educational lines, and Labour recognise that, and want to bring these groups together.

The People’s Vote campaign has failed miserably to do this. Rather than win the hearts and minds of Leave voters, they’ve chosen to patronise them, sneer at them, mock them and dismiss them. They have not only alienated Leave voters, but working class Remain voters like me, who don’t want to be associated with them or their campaign.

Interview after interview, sneering, arrogant, often middle class Remainers, alienate thousands more Leave voters. The way they want to resolve Brexit is born from this arrogance, this inability to get into the shoes of Leave voters; they’d probably insist they were fumigated first. I grew up in a council house. My mum was a cleaner, my dad a meter reader. We didn’t have a phone, a car, or foreign holidays. I know what it’s like to have very little, with little to lose. I get Leave voters, who’d had enough of a failing system, a system that was being propped up by an arrogant establishment. Whilst Remainers bemoan the potential loss of ease with which they can move abroad, many Leave voters are struggling to make ends meet. Brexit involved risk, but it also represented change and change is very enticing when you are already in the shit and things can’t get much worse. 

Had an EU Referendum been called five years into a radical Corbyn led Labour government, I suspect Remain would have won, because the drivers of Brexit would have been less of an issue. That’s why it’s so frustrating and ironic that the most prominent People’s Vote campaigners (think Alistair Campbell and Chuka Umunna) so detest Corbyn and everything he stands for. They can’t bring Leave voters along with them because that would involve offering Leave voters hope in the form of Corbynomics and a future Labour government and that is the stuff of their nightmares. Instead they will slate him in their speeches and alienate another hundred thousand Leave voters.

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If the March today had any interest in uniting Leave voters and Remainers, rather than letting itself be turned into yet another self congratulatory scorn fest, they would be singing Corbyn’s praises for trying to unite the country, for trying to exhaust all possibilities to find a Brexit compromise, for addressing, with our radical manifesto, the issues that led to people voting leave, but they won’t. Instead they will try to put a match to the fuel May has poured on.

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Don’t Let The Weaponisers Divide Us Over Antisemitism

Being on the brink of writing a piece about Labour and Antisemitism, finger hovering over the ipad, is like standing with one foot hovering over a minefield. Why do it? Why risk putting a foot wrong and being labelled an Antisemite or a weaponiser of Antisemitism? The writing of such a piece is fraught with risk and danger in these febrile times, but I feel I have to write it. I feel I have something to contribute to this discussion that removes some of these landmines, and allows us to find ourselves again on common ground.

Left leaning Labour members have become divided into two distinct camps over Antisemitism in Labour. The first camp are those who want to tackle it head on, write and sign open letters of apology for Antisenitsm on the left, name and shame tweeters they consider to be Antisemitic, make educational videos about Antisemitism and divide members into good or bad on the issue. These members fear we have lost the trust of the majority of Jewish supporters and are on a mission to win it back. This group usually recognise an element of bad faith in claims that the party is institutionally Antisemitic, and recoil from twitter accounts that make flippant or malicious accusations without evidence, but divert much more of their outrage against members who claim that ‘Antisemitism is a smear concocted to make Corbyn unelectable’ or to ‘suppress criticism of Israel’. They have no time for members they deem to be denialists or who they believe to be minimising Antisemitism. They find them frustrating and have little empathy for them. Because they feel they are more enlightened on the issue, they can slide into a bubble of group-think in which they pat eachother on the back, and fail to question their methods or judgements.

The second camp are in the majority. These represent the members who are exhausted, depressed and angry over the claim their party is institutionally Antisemitic. The outrage they feel over Corbyn being accused of Antisemitism, is visceral. They are angry at the media for its blinkered reporting, refusal to play devil’s advocate on the subject when interviewing anyone who makes claims about institutional Antisemitism, and repeatedly point out the media’s gaping blindspot when it comes to the Tories and Islamophobia.

When the first camp tweet about Antisemitism in Labour’s ranks, this second camp are liable to become angry, indignant and defensive. They claim camp one are playing into the narrative being set by a hostile establishment. They often say things like ‘Labour hasn’t got an Antisemitism crisis’, or ‘I’ve never seen any Antisemitism’ which obviously in many cases is true. The vast majority of this group acknowledge the existence of Antisemitism in the party and express a desire to irradicate it, but feel demoralised over the fact this is probably not 100% achievable, which means claims of institutional Antisemitism will never, ever go away. Their defensiveness can occasionally make them rush to defend the indefensible, or gloss over mistakes people have made.

I have had a foot in both these camps because of the fact I have a lot of followers on twitter, have seen some horrific cases of Antisemitism and have undergone an evolution in my thinking about it. I feel both camps have got some things right and some things wrong. This is my attempt to hold a mirror up to both camps, in the hope we can see for ourselves what we are getting wrong and right. Once we figure that out, we can bridge the divide that’s grown between us.

So how did we become so divided on an issue such as Antisemitism?

The fact its been weaponised is the main reason. We all feel we’ve been plunged into this alternative reality where the general public think we are on the far right. According to a lot of right wing Labour MPs and the establishment media, Mosley’s black shirts have nothing on us. We seeth hatred toward Jewish people and Jewish people see us as an existential threat. Considering the vast majority of us have never had a hateful thought about Jewish people in our lives, this has all come as a nasty shock. Or it would have, had we not already had a good grounding in being thugs, trots, misogynistic trolls and bullies. All that’s happened is we are dealing with our distress and feelings of impotence in different, and not always healthy ways.

Let’s start with camp one. This first camp often forget to take into account how much Corbyn supporters have been attacked and villified unjustly for the past three and a half years which has resulted in usually kind, positive and open people becoming cynical and hardened over anything that’s thrown at them, including claims we face an Antisemitism crisis in our party. Camp two are more open and direct about the way the right of the party have been ruthless and calculating in their efforts to destroy Corbyn and our movement since its inception: moving swiftly from method to method, claim to claim, smear to smear, until they found one that stuck.

This second camp are right to feel anger toward those who have cynically weaponised Antisemitism. These weaponisers care not a jot about Antisemitism, the well being of Jewish people, or reducing Antisemitism in our party or the country as a whole. They are right to feel frustrated and dismayed that the media refuse to be balanced in its reporting on this issue. The vast majority of this camp would be the first ones to stand between Jewish people and a group of fascists intent on doing them harm. Imagine how it feels to be thought of as an Antisemite by virtue of supporting a life long anti racist? This is basic psychology. If you are constantly under attack and told you are something you know you are not, you become defensive, hostile and bitter. That’s why Chris Williamson, arguably the MP most close to the membership, received a fervent round of applause at a Momentum meeting when he said Labour were too apologetic about their handling of Antisemitism because they had done more to tackle it than any other party. Its what a weary membership are saying in the privacy of their living rooms up and down the country. Not because they are Antisemitic, but because they are NOT Antisemitic and are sick of the constant insinuation that they are. These same members have started to doubt any claims of Antisemitism because of a growing culture of passing judgement, without taking into account context or nuance. As their cynicism grows, so has their callousness about the issue. People start to put #antisemitismsmears on their twitter bios, not appreciating how that feels to Jewish people who have seen genuine, and at times horrific cases of Antisemitism on the left. In their quest to defend themselves they have become blind to the fact that they are playing into the weaponisers hands; weaponisers who want them to sound callous to a Jewish person reading their tweets. They want us permanently on the defense, and permanently angry and bitter because anger and bitterness can make us clumsy and thoughtless in the way we express ourselves.

The first camp, in their admirable quest to win back the trust of Jewish people, call out antisemitism when they see it, without always taking into account the way they do it and whether it’s being done in a way that reduces the understandable defensiveness of camp two. This doesn’t pose a problem if it’s a clear case of Antisemitism, but unfortunately it’s not always been that clear cut, and people see these efforts in the context of a McCarthyite style witch hunt. Moreover, these trials by social media can get lumped in with accusations made in bad faith, as well as breed resentment in those who feel it fuels the narrative that we are all Antisemitic. Because this group often neglect to balance their efforts to win back trust by reducing defensiveness, they inadvertently undermine their own efforts to achieve the former. This group also has a tendency to ignore left wing Jews who defend the ‘wrong’ people, or deny we have an Antisenitsm crisis, because their opinions are met with derision by ‘mainstream’ Jews. Whereas camp two do the exact opposite.

How do we bring these two camps together? is a question I’ve been asking myself ever since I became aware of them. And here is my answer.

By seeing everything to do with Antisemitism through the lens of empathy and context and a recognition that we have been divided by those who seek to divide us. If we stick to these basic facts when talking about and dealing with Antisemitism, we will always be on common ground.

1. Antisemitism exists in our party.
2. The level at with it exists is not indicitive of a Party that is institutionally Antisemitic.
3. Any level is too much, but always stress the majority of members abhor Antisemitism.
4. No one should rush to judgment on anything other than the clearest cases of Antisemitism, and must always take context and nuance into account because rash or unfair judgments of antisemitism do nothing to eradicate Antisemitism, can destroy lives and reputations, and cast doubt on any judgement we make in the future.
5. We should all work to educate ourselves and eachother on Antisemitism and the more insideous forms it can take, and recognise that even if we ‘get it,’ and feel patronised by efforts to educate, others might not yet.
6. People can say or share something Antisemitic without being Antisemites. Education is key to avoiding this happening.
7. Acknowledge that there are those who have weaponised this issue, and be unified in our condemnation of them.
8. Remain compassionate toward all Jewish people of the left and right, who have been upset by Antisemitism stemming from the left. Don’t feel that by condemning or acknowledging antisemitism on the left, we are feeding into any narrative other than our own which states we are a proud anti-racist Party that stands against Antisemitism wherever it originates. And do not prioritise the opinion of one Jewish group over the other. Recognise all have a right to be heard and have a right to contribute their thoughts and feelings on the subject.

9. Be guarded against antisemites who infiltrate our party because of our natural sense of justice around the treatment of Palestinians, and try to direct our anger toward ‘Jews’ rather than the state of Israel. These people are using us and are NOT our comrades.

10. Remember the vast majority of us share the same abhorance of antisemitism and are on the same side.

The above might sound obvious but in this fever pitch environment, we are struggling to act with calm and logic. I say we, because this is not me preaching. I have struggled with this issue as much as everyone and am still trying to find a way to negotiate it that feels right to me. And of course my way may not feel right to you. All I can do is offer you my insights and solidarity, and hope they help, or at least provide some food for thought at this difficult time.

We Are Better Off Without The Spoilt Splitters

Seven MPs have quit the Labour Party today, citing the Party’s Brexit strategy and failure to tackle Antisemitism as the issues behind their decision. But are these really the reasons they’ve made like a Banana and split? The right of the party have form on this. When Labour were on track to win a GE under Michael Foot, the gang of four, supported vociferously by a terrified establishment, formed a new party to split the left vote. The right of the Party only approve of broad churches when they are the Arch Bishops and the left are the altar boys – seen but not heard.

Even before Corbyn’s first leadership win, the right of the party have been doing everything in their power to sabotage a Corbyn led Labour Party. They have blamed Corbyn for everything from misogynistic trolling and Antisemitism to Brexit, in their bid to lose him support. That’s not to say Antisemitism does not exist. Recent figures revealed that 0.1% of the current membership have been investigated or disciplined for Antisemitism, and both MPs and members are divided over Brexit. However both Antisemitism and divisions over Brexit exist in wider society, therefore it is nigh on impossible for Labour to be free of these issues entirely. That’s not to say more can’t be done. But if these MPs felt strongly enough about turning Labour around, they should have stayed to fight for change from within, just like so many Left wing MPs did when they were in despair over the pro-war, pro-privatisation agenda of the New Labour government. The fact they have left, tells you this isn’t about those things, it’s about the leaving, and the damage that can be done to Labour through their leaving. Its about splitting the left vote, just as it was in 1981. This is history repeating itself.

The response to this split has been reasonably calm on twitter. Yes, there is anger and indignation. The vast majority of members do not recognise Luciana Berger’s description of their party as institutionally Antisemitic, and that includes Jewish members. The implication for them is they are staying in a Jew hating party, which must be a particularly distressing accusation to have levelled at you if you are Jewish. The members are keenly aware there are major divisions over Brexit, but have huge respect for eachother and MPs across the Brexit divide, such as Clive Lewis and Dennis Skinner. So the members see through these disingenuous claims.

One major reason for the calm, is the fact this has been a long time coming. These MPs were always going to work relentlessly to damage us within the party (see screenshots below), so they might as well do it from the outside. They could never accept Corbyn’s leadership. They are not socialists and don’t approve of our direction of travel. They are like spoilt children who want to trash the Party now they are no longer in charge. And they are hypocrites. They shout repeatedly for a ‘People’s Vote’ because they claim people need a say on the changed circumstances of Brexit, but won’t call by-elections now they are no longer Labour MPs. They only support democracy when it goes their way, and we are sadly, better off without them.

 

 

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Open Letter To Brian Cox

There is no doubt in my mind that renowned scientist and TV celebrity Brian Cox is far more intelligent than myself. However when it comes to emotional intelligence, our roles reverse and my intelligence dwarfs his. And not just mine. Every Labour member outraged by his attack on shadow chancellor John McDonnell over his recent declaration that friendship and Tory MPs don’t mix, is an intellectual giant next to Cox.

The fact Cox shared his contempt for this view on twitter, is even more evidence of his lack of emotional intelligence. He claims to be apolitical, yet lacks the imagination to realise many thousands of his followers are suffering, or know people who are suffering under this government’s policies. He can’t stand in their shoes, which is the essence of what makes someone emotionally intelligent. From where he is sitting, as a wealthy celebrity, the country is in pretty good shape. I have the emotional intelligence to understand his lack of understanding to some extent. However I can’t help wondering if he ever walks anywhere, because you don’t have to go far in this country to see desperate people huddled in shop doorways with their sleeping bags and cardboard mattresses. You’d have to be very selective in your news sources to ensure you missed out on discovering how many disabled people have been devastated by cuts, how much our NHS is in crisis, how thousands of elderly and vulnerable people are failing to get the social care they so desperately need, how many people are suffering from mental illnesses with little to no support, how much crime is soaring due to police cuts, how so few young people can ever countenance buying a home, or renting one that’s affordable and of a decent standard, how many students lie awake at night anxious about mounting debt, how many people, working or unable to, have been forced to rely on food banks to survive, and how many desperate souls have taken their lives as a direct result of this government’s cruel and needless austerity agenda.

When I read Cox chastise McDonnell for his views on Tory MPs and friendship (and let’s be clear here, McDonnell stated quite clearly he was referring to friendship, not nods of acknowledgment or a civil chat which are an inevitable part of Westminster society), I wondered if he’d take the same stance if John McDonnell said he couldn’t be friends with a psychopath who got their kicks from torturing people mentally or physically. Because he might as well have said that. Just because Tory MPs wear suits, speak eloquently and can even be charming, doesn’t make them any less heartless or cruel. It doesn’t make the death and destruction they deliberately cause any less heinous. These psychopaths have somehow managed to  convince Cox, and people like him, that they are well meaning, decent human beings. The odd bit of suffering that results from their policies is just a touch of collateral damage, not worthy of scrutiny.

I’m just amazed that someone as intelligent as Cox, believes them. 

 

Antisemitism Deserves Strong Condemnation. But So Does Cynically Weaponising It

Jewish people have a collective history few white Anglo people can relate to. Scapegoated, persecuted, exiled and killed over centuries; the impact this has had on their collective psyche cannot be underestimated.

A feeling of fear and mistrust will have permeated throughout their families and communities. It’s easy for us to dismiss these fears as irrational, but they are anything but.

Alongside a decade of relentless and hope-stifling austerity, fascism is on the rise. The primary targets appear to be Muslims, but there were 1,382 anti-semitic incidents recorded against Jewish people in 2017, and particularly worrying is a 34 per cent increase in incidents involving violence when compared to 2016.

It is essential that Labour members validate the concerns of Jewish people. To dismiss the entirety of anti-semitism in the party as a fabrication or smear is downright damaging and wrong.

Some 0.1 per cent of Labour’s members have been investigated for anti-semitism over the past three years. We need to deal with each case that arises swiftly and by means of education wherever possible, so that we are not simply passing the buck onto wider society.

However in the same way we must never turn a blind eye to anti-semitism, we must never turn a blind eye to those who would weaponise it to further their own ulterior agenda.

Both are deeply destructive to the peace of mind and feeling of safety of Jewish people.

When I was 15 years old, I was taking a shortcut to school through my local hospital as per usual, but that decision on a sunny December morning changed my life and the way I looked at the world forever.

Without going into details, I was assaulted in that alleyway. My life was threatened and I believed I was going to die. My life was never the same again.

If a man walked on the same side of the road as me I’d go into a panic and cross over, heart pounding, breathless, terrified.
I didn’t know it then, but I was suffering from PTSD. This has had a knock-on effect throughout my entire life.

As my children entered their teens and sought greater independence, these old fears resurfaced with a vengeance.

I became an overprotective mother, which made me feel like a terrible person and parent.

After 18 months of counselling, the fear became more manageable, but as my counsellor said to me once: “Michelle, you will always worry more than other mothers. That is just how it is.”

Now imagine if Michelle, aged 18, say, had met a partner who was deeply insecure. Imagine if this insecure person went way beyond validating my fears, and instead compounded and exaggerated them by showing me every news article he could find about assault, rape and murder.

To keep me afraid and under his control, he might tell me he was the only one who could keep me safe in this big, bad scary world we live in.

If I tried to shed some of my fear by researching statistics, he might tell me statistics aren’t important when you are the one being attacked.

Now imagine another scenario, where Michelle meets someone who validates her fears, but tries to reassure her that statistically she is very unlikely to experience such a trauma again in her lifetime.

Imagine if this person, having my best interests at heart, encourages me to face my fears, and take small steps towards conquering them.

Whenever he catches 18-year-old Michelle reading news stories about rape and murder, he reminds her that they are very rare occurrences, and that millions of women go about their lives without anything dreadful happening to them.

Which is the healthiest of these two scenarios?

Many left-wing Jews are being labelled the wrong, or even non-Jews, for taking the second position in this debate about anti-semitism in the Labour Party.

They never doubt its existence or how dreadful it is for those who experience it. However they will put the stats out there and question the motives of those who would have the general public believe that Labour is a hotbed of fascism.

If we quote our left Jewish comrades, we are labelled as anti-semitism deniers, cranks, or even anti-semitic. There is a touch of McCarthyism around this discussion that makes me very uneasy.

Of course there will be Jews on the political right who have valid concerns and need to be listened to.

However, we need to question those who fan the flames of people’s concerns for their own agenda.

It is no coincidence that the same MPs who said we were mad to vote for Jeremy Corbyn, called him unelectable, blamed him for Brexit, conducted an attempted coup against him, labelled him a threat to national security, yelled at him to shut up when he apologised for Iraq, insinuated he was a Putin apologist, are the same MPs who are trying to smear this honourable and decent man as an anti-semite.

Corbyn never planned to be leader. He hasn’t conducted all his campaigning through a prism of what it would look like once he became leader.

He hasn’t vetted every single person he has spoken to or shaken hands with. He followed his instincts when using diplomatic language, because he never thought of the way it would be turned and twisted by his enemies.

If we want a leader who can’t be criticised by the mainstream media and the Blairites, we need a Blairite leader; someone who supports war over peace, privatisation over nationalisation, big business over ordinary struggling people and political expediency over principles. And I don’t think many of us want to go down that path again.

 

By Chelley Ryan

 

(first published in the Morning Star)

#FBEU – Not In My Name, Even Though I Voted Remain

The attitude of the Follow Back Pro EU brigade on twitter (#FBPE) is typical of so many arrogant MPs who think they can overrule the ‘stupid public’ on Brexit, and I say this as a remain voter. It’s that kind of know-it-all arrogance that drove people to want to give MPs a shock by voting leave in the first place. The EU is not some saintly institution. When Greece were already on their knees, they shoved their faces in the dirt for good measure. Yes, there are positive aspects to the EU, but let’s not be blinkered about the bad. UnFuck2

For example, they are increasingly neo-liberal in their ethos, and undemocratic. They didn’t stop our government imposing cruel austerity measures, low wages, and greater work insecurity on our people. Why would they when they deliberately imposed the same and worse on the Greek people? They want to impose competition in all our industries and services and will make our nationalisation plans a battle. Saying to people, it’s shit now, but it will get even more shit if you don’t listen to us better informed, smart people, is hardly inspiring is it? If you want to guarantee your arguments won’t be listened to, tell those you’re persuading they are stupid, deluded, were misled, and need saving from themselves.

Our best hope now is a Labour government who will radically redistribute wealth and quality of life back into the realms of the many, not the few. As for the economic argument, we will still be one of the world’s richest economies in or out of the EU, but it’s what a government decides to do with that wealth that’s important. Use it to give huge tax breaks to the rich, or invest it in the many and see the economy grow as a result.

We Won’t Go Quietly Into The Night

 

We must look like ants from way up there

Insignificant nothings, wisps of air

When you’re born into so much wealth

Why should you care about National health?

Housing, no problem, schooling too

Write a cheque, that’s what you do

Since you’re old enough to understand

You’re told it’s wrong to give a hand

It encourages sloath, lack of drive

Only tough love will help us thrive

You’re told you’re special, born to rule

By teachers at your boarding school

We share a planet, country too

But you don’t get us, and we don’t get you

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Still people like us keep voting you in

In awe of your poshness, we let you win

‘Newspaper’ barons confuse us too

With fake news and the hate they spew

Divide and rule is their game

Pages filled with rage and blame

Immigrant, muslim, socialist, youth

No one is safe from their contempt for truth

They pull our strings and make us prance

To their tune they make us dance

Meanwhile they plot to dodge their tax

Our rights, our pay, security axe

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But waking up are the many

Drop drop drop goes the penny

The internet has set us free

As papers die, the truth we see

Your puppets we will be no more

Now we’re showing you the door

As your pay climbs, ours is slashed

As your hopes grow, ours are dashed

On our backs you climb up high

You gobble down all the pie

Then you ply austerity

And blame us for our poverty

You scamming, cunning narcissists

We are DONE with all of this

A leader has now come along

He plays our tune and sings our song

He gets us and we get him too

We know he is a man that’s true

You mock and call him our messiah

Scared of the way he can inspire

But we don’t care about your scorn

For this movement that’s been born

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Blair et al, they kept you sweet

Kept things tidy, kept things neat

Tweaked some things, here and there

Kept at bay our despair

But compromises just won’t do

It’s all or nothing with folks like you

The gains our ancestors fought so hard for

You chip away at, till they’re no more

That’s why we are up for this fight

We won’t go quietly into the night

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By Chelley Ryan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Negotiating Labour’s Antisemitism Minefield

Before I started writing this I wrestled with whether I should write it. I’m not Jewish, I’m not an expert on antisemitism, so what do I know? And then I thought to myself, I’m a Labour member. I have a nose for injustice. I’m being called an antisemite in the street, for sitting in the passenger seat of a car that sports a Labour bumper sticker. Of course not everyone will agree with what I’m about to write but these are my thoughts laid out for those who are interested in reading them. This is me unpicking what ‘Labour’s antisemitism problem’ really means to me, and what we can do about it.
 Has Labour got an antisemitism problem?
Yes, in so much as any degree of antisemitism is a problem.
Less than 0.1% of Labour members have been disciplined for antisemitism over the past three years. This might seem like a relatively low figure, but unreported incidents mean it could be much higher than this, and in a
party that prides itself on being opposed to all forms of discrimination and prejudice, we should be aiming for 0.0000%. Of course this is a tall order but we don’t shy from tall orders on the left, like the eradication of homelessness, so let’s let our much maligned idealism guide us on this too. There is also a tendency by a small minority on the left to buy into conspiracy theories about shadowy, hugely wealthy figures running the world. This is not a giant leap from nazi propaganda about Jews running the world, and therefore needs to be challenged and avoided. We need to see it as a system we are striving to transform, rather than a few all powerful individuals who need to be overthrown. The understandable and passionate anger surrounding the actions of Israel can occasionally cross the line into Jew blaming, though of course it is NOT antisemitic to blame the state of Israel for its actions toward the Palestinians and the two should not be conflated. Those who do conflate it, should be condemned. We can educate ourselves to become more aware of antisemitism, and what constitutes questionable or offensive language, theories etc via organisations like Jewdas.
Does society have an antisemitism problem?
According to the Institute of Jewish Policy Research, over a quarter of all Brits hold antisemitic views to some degree. So yes, it is a huge societal problem. According to hate crime figures in the UK, crimes related to antisemitism are on the rise, with 1382 incidents recorded last year,the highest figure since records began in 1984. Empathy and validation for the understandable fears Jewish people feel about antisemitism on the left and in society as a whole, are essential if we are going to move forward together.
Why is there so much focus on antisemitism on the left when research has proven its far more prevalent on the far right?
 
Because the left are close to power and the far right are not, is the short answer. Under Corbyn we have become a populist party with a strong vein of anti-Israel sentiment running through it. This is enough to trigger anxieties which stem from a collective trauma still recent in historical terms. Of course this fear will be exploited by those who don’t want to live under a Corbyn led government.
How should cases of antisemitism in Labour be dealt with?
As swiftly as possible and via education where possible, rather than expulsion, unless the person is closed off to being educated. Why? Because when antisemitism is not addressed within the party via education, all we are really doing is washing our hands of it, rather than tackling it as the societal issue it is.
Are some MPs, sections of the media etc, exaggerating and therefore exploiting the understandable fears around antisemitism?
Undoubtedly. The same MPs who try to insinuate the membership is made up of Trotskyite thugs, who spend all their days trolling hard working MPs online, are the same MPs who are now labelling the left as being intrinsically antisemitic. This is no coincidence. We are right to be angry about this, and we are right to call it out when we know it’s happening. However we should
not fall into the trap these people are deliberately setting for us where we grow so defensive, we deny there is any antisemitism on the left. I’m not saying that’s easy. As I mentioned earlier, only a week ago a complete stranger marched up to my friend’s car which sported a Labour sticker, and aggressively shouted ‘antisemites’ at us through the open drivers window. That was living proof that Labour is being so successfully stained as an antisemitic party, people assume you must be antisemitic if you are a member. That hurts and makes me angry because it’s wrong. Labour has a proud history of fighting racism and antisemitism and we are continuing that tradition under Corbyn. A small element with antisemitic views does not mean Labour is an antisemitic party, anymore than a few callous doctors means medicine is an uncaring profession. Fighting negative stereotyping is part of our political DNA, so why should we allow ourselves to be unjustly stereotyped? However we must still accept the exploitation of antisemitism and the existence of antisemitism are not either/or issues. Either the issue is being exploited, or there is no issue.
Both can co-exist, albeit uncomfortably alongside each other.
 
What makes you so sure it’s being exploited?
Apart from the fact it’s the same MPs who have denigrated Corbyn and his supporters from day one of his leadership and before, who are suggesting the party is a hotbed of antisemitism, they do often out themselves as exploiters through timing (ramping up the outrage just before key elections, and then falling relatively quiet after), or by inadvertent comments through which their agenda slips. For example, Thangam Debbonaire, an MP on Labour’s right, stated on Daily Politics that antisemitism in the Tory party is not her problem. As a Labour MP her concern was only with antisemitism in the Labour Party. Why would you only care about antisemitism in your own party? Doesn’t antisemitism within government ranks affect your constituents just as much, if not more than antisemitism in the Labour Party? Or is it the case that antisemitism in the Tory party is of no interest to you because you are not interested in damaging them electorally? The same goes for the right wing media. I tallied up 42 Labour/antisemitism based articles in the month preceding the local elections and only 3 since. If antisemitism is a huge problem in the Labour Party, why does it cease to be a huge problem the day after elections?
 There are many left Jews who are angry at antisemitism being exploited  in this way, and they are right to be, and deserve our support. There are also left Jews who are growing increasingly frustrated at the way the issue is slammed as merely a smear or a non issue. We need to ensure we call out the exploiters without denying antisemitism exists.
 
Why doesn’t antisemitism and racism in the Tory Party get a fraction of the exposure Labour are getting over antisemism?
 
 
Because they are Tories, and no one in the establishment or on the Labour right wants to give them a hard time.
 
But aren’t we falling into their trap if we say the left have a problem with antisemitism, when statistics show we are not rife with it?
No. Falling into their trap is denying we have any problem with antisemitism at all, because firstly, that’s not true. How could we be spared a problem so prevalent in society? And secondly, denial of its very existence feeds into the fears of Jewish people who need reassurance that we do take it seriously. I actually think Jeremy Corbyn has it right when he cites the actual statistics whilst acknowledging the problem exists. That way we are not denying the issue, but we are putting it into context.

Let’s Get Our Parents And Grandparents Onto Social Media, And Extract The Last Few Of Murdoch’s Teeth

 

25 years separate these two Sun headlines. Both are designed to scaremonger, ridicule and shame the Labour leader of the time, but only one is believed to have contributed to an election defeat. The other had little discernible effect on the 2017 General Election result.
What does this mean for today’s politics? It means the decline in newspaper readership in concert with the rapid rise of social media, is rendering the Tory print media ever more toothless, which means old style smears and scaremongering are failing to have the impact they once had. An extra three million votes for Labour in the General Election, is proof of that.
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That doesn’t stop them trying to gum Corbyn, and his socialist project to death, in an ever increasing panic driven frenzy, but it does greatly weaken their influence on the voting public, with one notable exception, older voters.
Newspapers are kept afloat by their older readers, and so by default are the Tory Party, as demonstrated by
the clear correlation between older voters’ pattern of newspaper readership and their higher than average support for the Tory party.

 

Before my older readers grow irate at my sweeping generalisations, trust me, I know I’m generalising. I myself fall into an age group more likely to vote Tory than Labour, but know I’d rather run naked down my local high street than do so myself. Many of my most ardent Corbyn supporting friends are over sixty. My 76 year old mum has been bought back to political life by the political defibrillator that is Corbyn’s leadership. But it’s important to put our own stories and beliefs aside and
acknowledge these incontrovertible facts in order to figure out how we can change them.
The majority of older voters are not just voting against their own interests, they’re voting against the interests of their children and grandchildren and that has to change.
And I have an idea how to do that. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it will be effective. Rather than brow beat our older relatives to vote Labour [though gentle persuasion is of course fine] or give up on the newspaper they have read their whole life in some cases, let’s have a drive to get older voters signed up to social media, because currently it’s still the domain of the young.
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Local Labour branches could open their halls for Tea, cake and Twitter sessions. Middle aged children and grandchildren could devote a day (or several days) to teaching their older parents and grandparents how to use Facebook and Twitter. We could debunk the idea it’s complicated or something only the young can enjoy. My husband, nudging 50, had it in his head that Twitter was a complex beast. An hour instruction later, he’s never off it. Social media could bring a whole new world of political thought into older voter’s living rooms up and down this land. Some will still choose to buy The Mail for its ‘TV supplement’, or The Sun for ‘its sports pages’, but they might end up looking up the #CorbynSmears hashtag in the afternoon, and see the most recent nasty smear story in a whole new light. Doubts will be cast. Political seeds will be sown.
So let’s get our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbours onto social media, and extract the last few of Murdoch’s teeth.

Online Hate Exists On The political Right – If The Media Cared To Look

I’ve been a member of numerous Corbyn supporting Facebook groups for several years. In all that time I have not seen one threatening, anti-semitic or racist remark. So how have I missed all the virulent, vile abuse making the headlines at the moment? I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, and I condemn it where it does, but it’s definitely no where near as prevalent as is being implied by a media hell bent on beating Corbyn with any sticks they can lay their hands on, even if the stick is really just a twig. The reason their anti-Corbyn agenda is never called into question is because they all share it. Even the so called left wing papers are no fans of Corbyn. But as a Corbyn supporter it’s  transparent. Why else do they shine a whopping great spotlight on left wing abuse whilst turning a completely blind eye to any abuse that stems from the right of politics, even when it stems ftom Conservative Party supporters? To help prize open their squeezed shut eyes,  I have compiled a selection of online hate for them, most of which I gathered in less than an hour by searching Conservative affiliated pages, and putting out a call on twitter. I’m no investigative journalist, but I didn’t need to be for this piece. The online  hate, ranging between Islamophobia, anti-semitism, misogyny, racism, transphobia, homophobia and sheer hatred toward Corbyn, was very easy to find. And it would be easy for the media to find too, if they cared to look. But sadly they don’t.

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