Corbyn and anti-Semitism: the whole of Labour is to blame, including 'moderates'

I must say I have found it a little strange seeing so many 'moderate' Labour MPs and activists getting angry about anti-Semitism in the party under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership.

Where was this anger and upset during two leadership elections which re-elected Corbyn in 2015 and 2016?

This sort of stuff is not new. It was well known and covered widely on blogs such as Harry's Place and Rob Marchant's Centre-Left blog in 2015. I also wrote about it on this blog. The right-wing press covered it extensively. Even the Guardian published a piece by James Bloodworth setting out the charge sheet against Corbyn and his many known associations with anti-Semites.

But in both elections, as I recall, none of the leadership candidates dared to raise it as a reason not to elect Corbyn as leader. Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham in 2015 and Owen Smith in 2016 instead fought dull, dry campaigns trying to tell the membership what they wanted to hear while talking intermittently about their high principles and 'values', of which anti-racism is always right up there.

When it came down to it, none of them had the spine to make a stand when it really mattered. And the rest of the Labour Party, except for a few honourable exceptions, just let it pass, allowing Corbyn supporters to dismiss it all as a right-wing conspiracy and letting him get elected, twice, without serious contest.

They are all to blame for this. Virtually the whole party is to blame. I see Liz Kendall was at the protest yesterday, as was Chuka Umunna, another leadership candidate in 2015, for a brief time before he bowed out. Stella Creasy was also there. She was a candidate for deputy leader in 2015. Did she speak up then? I certainly don't remember it.

Part of the problem for the liberal-left on anti-Semitism is that its favoured identity groups in what I am calling 'the system of diversity' do not include Jews. Favoured groups include women, gay people, non-white people and, associated with the latter group, Muslims. Jews do not qualify. Claims of structural disadvantage do not stick so easily to them (though some Jewish groups have been making strenuous efforts for Jews to be accepted on the same basis as a favoured group).

Instead, Jews generally appear in the white-skinned group, so as part of an unfavoured identity group. Partly as a result, anti-Semitism doesn't fit comfortably into the forms of discrimination and prejudice that the left fights against on a daily basis. This has opened up a space for anti-Semitism to gain a foothold among some groups, notably on the farther reaches of the left that have affiliated most readily with anti-Israeli and Islamist movements. This is something I look at in my upcoming book, 'The Tribe: the liberal-left and the system of diversity' - now available for pre-order via Amazon (sorry, no alternative retailers).


  1. Spot on Ben! This problem is not restricted to the Corbynite wing of the party, so called moderates aren't immune either.In 2014 around the time a pro Israel group was protesting Ed Milliband's stance on Palestinian statehood,Bradshaw put out a tweet-criticizing them-that had Nethanayu and racist policies in the same sentence as well as appearing at a PSC event not long after.So if anything I'm sure you would agree that the whole party has a lot of soul searching to do on this issue?

  2. Had not to snort with derision.

    I have to say though that I was surprised that Jews were not included in the system of diversity.

    I regularly ask my Labour MP to do a 'race audit' of the rough sleepers in Manchester. Strangely, it's a 'structural disadvantage' that she wants to take on.


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