CounterPunch / November 4, 2020
The UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report on antisemitism in the Labour party has just been published. It found Labour to have breached the Equality Act of 2010, by virtue of harassment committed by its “agents” and “indirect discrimination”, occurring in the form of political interference in investigative procedures, muddled official responses to charges, and inadequate training of staff dealing with complaints.
The EHRC concluded that the Labour party, then led by Jeremy Corbyn, could have tackled antisemitism more effectively if the leadership had chosen to do so.
Despite the media frenzy in the Tory press (and the pro-Zionist Guardian), the report didn’t uphold the claim by the Jewish Labour Movement, which issued the first complaint, that Labour is “institutionally antisemitic”.
Corbyn’s almost immediate Facebook response to the EHRC report resulted in his suspension by the party’s general secretary, David Evans (actually it is hard to believe that Evans did not consult Starmer before announcing his decision).
Starmer went along with the decision made by Evans. Starmer issued a brief statement, saying this was a day of shame for Labour. He accepted unconditionally all the EHRC findings and said he would implement them fully.
Corbyn, while accepting parts of the EHRC report, countered Starmer by refusing to accept it in full — yes, there is antisemitism in the Labour party, as is the case in society generally, but a party such as Labour would view one antisemite in the party as one too many. At the same time, a party with half-a-million members will invariably contain a few benighted individuals possessing beliefs incompatible with Labour’s founding philosophy of liberty, equality, and solidarity.
Corbyn said he had been trying to deal with the problem, but was hindered by party bureaucracy, then very much in the hands of a Blairite ancien regime scheming to have him lose the 2017 general election to the Tories!
It should be noted that the EHRC, despite saying there were failings in Labour’s procedures for dealing with complaints, nonetheless presented evidence that these procedures were improved during the Corbyn years. Corbyn pointed out correctly in his rejoinder to the EHRC report: “[My] team acted to speed up, not hinder the process”.
Credible evidence for Corbyn’s claims comes from the Labour Party’s 851-page report titled “The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014-2019”, completed in March this year and leaked in early April.
The leaked report, based on a large trove of internal party documents and statistics, shows that Labour’s failure to get to grips with the “crisis” may have been in large part due to the actions of the very people who were attacking Corbyn in public over Labour “antisemitism”.
One of the key protagonists in this attempt to undermine Corbyn, Labour’s then general secretary Iain McNicol, now a member of the House of Lords, in April 2017 referred to Corbyn’s office as “fucking twats” (said the internal report).
The EHRC said it was aware of the internal report, and considered parts of it, but couldn’t take it fully into account because the leaked report was not officially available.
The leaked internal report shows that ill-intentioned individuals compounded Labour’s problems in investigating complaints about antisemitism– one person made 200 complaints of supposed antisemitism that were dealt with by Labour’s Governance and Legal Unit (GLU), which however found that most of these complaints were directed at people who were not party members.
The available evidence supports Corbyn’s view that the “antisemitism” problem has been clearly overstated by the media and his opponents, both in and outside Labour, for their perceived political gain.
Starmer has now said he does not consider Corbyn to be an antisemite.
So he should, because Starmer is caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place.
Parliamentary funding records show he is on the payroll of the UK’s Zionist lobby. At the same time Starmer served in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet and backed him in last December’s general election.
Supporting Corbyn in this way was highly consequential and problematic for Starmer, because he couldn’t now turn round and say he’s always thought Corbyn to be an antisemite, and that the only reason he feigned support for Corbyn in the 2019 election was because he realized Corbyn was heading for a big defeat.
Starmer’s only option therefore is to say that Corbyn is not an antisemite, but that only raises the question of why Corbyn is now the subject of disciplinary measures endorsed by Starmer.
Starmer, clearly, needs desperately to sidestep any seeming complicity on his part for going along with Corbyn until Labour lost the December 2019 general election.
Starmer has an interesting history dealing with Corbyn.
He resigned from Corbyn’s shadow cabinet in 2016, claiming he could no longer support Corbyn because of his colleagues opinions on the party leader.
He wrote to Corbyn:
“I have maintained my support for you notwithstanding my reservations. However, the resignations across the Shadow Cabinet and Shadow Front Bench yesterday materially change this. It is simply untenable now to suggest that we can offer an effective opposition without a change of leader”.
A leadership race between Corbyn and the nonentity Owen Smith took place shortly afterwards, with Starmer saying, “I am 100% behind Owen [Smith]” in summer 2016. Corbyn trounced Smith in the subsequent leadership election, but held no resentment towards Starmer, and even made him shadow secretary of state for exiting the European Union.
Every successful politician in our faux democracies has to self-negotiate moral compromises that dare not speak their name.
Especially given that Starmer lays stake to the moral high ground in his opposition to the Tories.
Starmer did not get to the top of the legal profession without craftiness and evasive skills, and has since proved himself to be a slippery customer.
He’s now insisting that due process requires an appropriate period of reflection and independent investigation before making a final decision regarding Corbyn’s expulsion from the Labour party— which many Labour party members such as I know is the equivalent of punting the ball into the long grass.
The crucial issue here is that no matter what steps Labour takes to deal with the party’s alleged antisemitism, those eager to eradicate Corbynite social democracy for reasons internal to the party’s politics won’t hold back no matter what Labour does to address “antisemitism” within its membership.
Labour, since the Blairite ascendency, has been split irrevocably over the choice of being a social democratic party (Corbyn’s modest agenda) or a neoliberal party with a repertoire of phony “compassionate” gestures subtended by slick PR based on “optics” and “narrative” (the Blairite approach).
In the midst of this media-stoked brouhaha over Labour “antisemitism”, the role and nature of the EHRC has escaped scrutiny.
The EHRC is, supposedly, an independent body overseeing the promotion and enforcement of equality and non-discrimination laws in England. Its record shows it is anything but, and its impartiality has been questioned in the past.
The EHRC commissioners have interesting bios:
- Caroline Waters (Interim Chair): Private sector directorships
- Susan Johnson (Interim Deputy Chair): Director at Greggs (a nationwide bakery chain)
- Suzanne Baxter: earlier career was spent at Serco and Deloitte (both major beneficiaries of disastrous no-bid Covid contracts from the Tories)
- Pavita Cooper: donor to the Conservative party, with working for Shell, Barclays Bank and Lloyds Banking in her employment history.
- Alasdair Henderson lawyer, member of the Whig Party
- Rebecca Hilsenrath (Chief Executive), on record as being “an active member of the Anglo-Jewish community”. She asked if she should be recused from the Labour antisemitism inquiry, but was told to stay on.
- Helen Mahy: Director of Primary Health Properties PLC, describes itself as “the leading investor in modern [private sector] healthcare properties in the UK”.
- Mark McLane: until the end of 2018 worked for Barclays Bank.
- Lesley Sawers: marketing consultant
At present, there is only one Asian on the EHRC Board (the above mentioned Tory-donor Pavita Cooper), and no blacks.
In July 2020, Newsweek reported that two former commissioners at the EHRC, the peers Meral Hussein-Ece (a Muslim) and Simon Woolley (an Anglo-Caribbean), said they were not reappointed to their positions in November 2012 because they were “too loud and vocal” on the issue of race.
It is clear that, under the Tories, a white banker, or company director, or “management consultant”, has a better chance of being appointed to the EHRC board than distinguished individuals who are Anglo-Caribbean or Muslim.
Incidentally, over 300 complaints have been made to the EHRC over Islamophobia in the Tory party, but no action has been taken. A poll shows that 25% of Tory members believe Muslims are a threat to British society. The prime minister BoJo Johnson has referred to burka-wearing Muslim women as “letterboxes”.
Two innocent Anglo-Caribbean brothers mistakenly suspected by police of drug dealing after they bumped fists in the street, say they were subjected to discrimination by London cops, and are suing the police.
The brothers told The Guardian they have been stopped and searched by police more than 25 times, starting when they were children. They registered a complaint with the EHRC to no avail:
“The brothers say they are left with no option but to sue, with institutions supposed to uphold justice failing. Liam said: “We approached the Equality & Human Rights Commission for help in bringing a case. They refused. We asked the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis to admit discrimination under the Equality Act and they too refused. Having exhausted all other options we have today [Thursday] started civil proceedings at court against the Metropolitan police for discrimination, assault and false imprisonment. It remains our hope that the police and all the systems surrounding them will learn from our experience; change is past due”.
Alas, someone should have notified the victimized brothers that the EHRC was too busy investigating Corbyn and his associates in what was near-enough to being a stitch-up job.
Instead of beating Corbyn over the head with the EHRC report, Starmer should have pointed out the glaring weaknesses and lacunae in it, and accompanied this by combing through the bios of its board members, showing in the process how Labour under Corbyn was never going to get a fair shake from this bunch of Establishment apparatchiks.
But with Starmer– the Zionist and Establishment hack par excellence– hell is going to freeze over before this happens.
Speaking more generally, Starmer’s sole political gambit for the moment is to demonstrate to the electorate that he is not Corbyn.
This ploy has not worked in Labour’s past. Blair’s mentor, Neil Kinnock, sought to differentiate himself from his socialist predecessor Michael Foot, but never won an election.
Blair of course prevailed later, but by then the electorate was exhausted after 18 years of Tory misrule under Thatcher and her grey-suited successor John Major.
Like the “Tory lite” Tony Blair, Starmer seemingly is embarked on a similar “Tory lite” gamble.
Kenneth Surin teaches at Duke University, North Carolina; he lives in Blacksburg, Virginia