Pete Firmin

Defending Ken is defending Jeremy

Pete Firmin

Ken Livingstone hardly has a spotless record as a lefty. Personally I think he left that behind many years ago. As mayor, he called on tube workers to cross picket lines and cosied up to the City of London far too much for my liking

Ken also has a long record of shouting his mouth off. Like many MPs, he loves the attention. As someone who had him as my MP before he became Mayor, I know this only too well, and we would often have preferred him to shut. 

But none of that is directly relevant to this situation. If we are to refuse to work with or support someone on one issue because of the wrong position they take on something else, we would rarely have allies on anything.

The issue at hand is whether Livingstone has made anti-Semitic remarks and whether he has "brought the party into disrepute" (that wonderful catch-all). But he was not charged with making anti-Semitic remarks! The party has effectively conceded that he didn't. What he said on the Nazis and Zionism is far from wholly accurate (that's Ken for you), but nor is it totally wrong. The balance of views from historians on the issue seems to be that the core of what he said (not the detail) is correct.

So instead, the Party has accused him of being offensive. Last time I checked, being offensive to people is not a crime, even if it shouldn't be done gratuitously. The party is extremely selective on this – so Ken is offensive, but Jess Phillips, John Mann, Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair (to name a few) aren't.

So why are they going for Ken? It seems to have passed some comrades by that there is a concerted campaign, headed in the Party by the Jewish Labour Movement, backed up by the Board of Deputies, to denounce Jeremy for his long-standing support for the Palestinians and for his criticism of Israel. This has been latched onto by the right of the Party and the Establishment, whether or not they care about the issue itself, as a stick to beat or undermine Jeremy with. If not to chase him out of office, then at the very least to remove the issue of Israel/Palestine from his armoury. This has been clear from the point at which Jeremy became a serious contender for the leadership and has continued ever since. When they can't attack Jeremy personally or directly on the issue, then they go for proxies, of which there have been many.

Evidence has come to light via the Al Jazeera programme, ‘The Lobby', that this campaign is assisted by the Israeli Embassy. This shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. Israel has long operated an international propaganda campaign against its critics. But the programmes showed evidence that the Embassy is not only interfering in British politics in general, but within the Labour Party in particular. Unfortunately, the establishment has got away with brushing this under the carpet, and although the Labour Party leadership called for an enquiry into their interference into politics in general, they have rejected the idea of an enquiry into their effect inside the LP.

Against this background, the government, and now the Labour Party, have accepted the definition and ‘examples' of anti-Semitism pushed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), something rejected by Jewish Socialists and those critical of Israel and the subject of legal opinion, blasting it as an infringement of free speech, particularly as one of the “examples” of anti-Semitism given is “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour”.

http://freespeechonisrael. holes-pro-israel-definition- antisemitism/

But the IHRA definition has been sent to all local authorities and universities in Britain by friends of Israel saying they are obliged to adopt it. They are not, but that has not stopped the Greater London Authority and some others doing so, nor several universities cancelling meetings which would be critical of Israel. Word is that the Labour Party is going to propose that members have to accept this definition.

In my CLP, the chair ruled a motion out of order which called on the Party to have an enquiry into the influence of the Embassy in the Party, using the IHRA definition as part of his ruling. Elsewhere, other bits of the party have been told by region that they cannot discuss resolutions around aspects of the ‘anti-Semitism' debate.

While we can, and should, say much about how justice doesn't work in the Labour Party, that is not the most significant part of the Livingstone story. The JLM, and others, wanted his head on a plate as an example to others (and Jeremy), and went apeshit when they didn't get it from the NCC, immediately putting out a model resolution attempting to change that decision and have him expelled.

That Ken repeated his remarks is hardly the point. The JLM were calling for his expulsion before he did that!

Although I don't think Ken should have been suspended, either in the first place, or after the NCC hearing, the National Constitutional Committee’s decision not to expel him should be recognized as a victory against the forces of reaction. That's why they went apeshit.

The demand for Ken’s case to be referred back to the NEC is, effectively, a demand for the decision of the National Constitutional Committee to be overturned because those making the call don’t like its decision.

It is time we recognised how false accusations of anti-Semitism are being used against the Left in general, and time we stepped up and defended those under attack.


CWU and Hampstead & Kilburn CLP