Labour: Embrace the chaos and be ready for what comes next

By Nora Mulready

People seem to be leaving Labour in droves at the moment, and who in their moderate-progressive-Labour-hearts can really blame them? Not I. There are lots of posts out there from people saying they can take it no more, the red line has been crossed, they can’t go on being a member of a party whose membership has been so seized by the English Hard Left’s particularly rabid brand of ‘utopianism’. The words, “stay and fight” trigger in many a hollow feeling of, “oh, life’s too short for this nonsense.” Absolutely fair enough. Some are walking away from party politics altogether, some, like Jake Wilde writing on the Gerasites blog, are arguing that the time has come to start a new political party – Labour has been utterly captured and it’s time for moderates and progressives to admit organisational defeat and move on. I have huge sympathy for both impulses, but for me, for now, I’m staying in Labour. It comes down to this: the Hard Left are not the Labour Party, their politics are not Labour politics, the meaning of your Labour membership and mine will not be defined by them but by the history of Labour and the history of Labour governments. In my view, the task for Labour’s moderates and progressives is not to leave and start something new, but to embrace this period of chaos and do the uninhibited intellectual, political and organisational work that means we are ready for whatever comes next.

I can’t deny that when I look at what has become of Labour, particularly the hateful discourse and the glutinous ripping apart the legacy of Labour in government, I feel sad, sometimes angry, sometimes wilfully ambivalent. But what I don’t feel is complicit, because these are not my politics and this is not my Labour Party. Jake is absolutely right when he says, “build a wall” between our politics and theirs. It’s just that I believe this can be done while continuing to be a member of the Labour Party. Draw a giant, flashing, red line between our politics and those of the Hard Left, and keep doing what needs to be done to further the cause of progressive politics in Britain. Think, write, organise, meet, discuss, and develop the Labour policy programme fit for our age. There is almost nothing that needs doing that can’t be done while a Labour member – just don’t compromise your beliefs. Don’t stress about pointless arguments with people whose twain isn’t even on the same planet, don’t try to find common ground – at best it’s not necessary, at worst it undermines the political integrity at the heart of progressive Labour politics.

In a context of what is basically a political farce, Labour people are completely free to approach political ideas free from dogma, free from guilt and with a lot more honesty than in recent years. Let’s ask the questions that need asking. What would an education policy look like in a context where you don’t have to appease the destructive politics of the teacher unions? What does a liberal, left-wing foreign policy look like when you don’t have to indulge the views of those who despise the West? What does an NHS policy look like if your start, middle and end objective is getting the best care, not making an anti-capitalist statement? What does our economy look like? What does welfare look like? What does the future of the centre left look like if you don’t have to worry about offending the champions of perpetual grievance? Right now, there’s no ‘party line’, there’s no discernible policy programme, there’s not even an agreed policy making structure any more. This could be a very liberating time for centre-left politics. The moderate and progressive appeasement of the Hard Left in Labour should be over, let’s make the most of that.

Build The Wall

I have previously asserted two things. Firstly that the election of a particular individual as leader of the Labour Party was irrelevant as the party had been usurped before the ballots were counted and arguably, though unprovable, before last summer’s contest even started. My second assertion was that the May 2016 results mean that the party is now beyond rescue because they were sufficiently tepid to allow the Corbynistas to entrench their position. That view has since been reflected by a poll showing Corbyn would win a leadership contest even more emphatically despite, or maybe because, of those May results.

In this piece I argue that the time has come to accept that the world view of the Corbynista and the world view of the ordinary Labour member/supporter/voter is so fundamentally different that they are incompatible and they can no longer co-exist within the same party. In short, that the principle of the “broad church” is dead.

The Labour Party has always had enemies on its left. It always should have enemies on its left, because the Labour Party is, and always has been, committed, unequivocally, to parliamentary democracy, the rule of law and regulated capitalism. It never has been a revolutionary party, an anti-West party, or a Marxist party. In that sense a number of those who call themselves Corbynistas should never have been Labour Party members at all, let alone those who have joined since Corbyn became leader.

Opinion polls show that the Labour Party no longer recognises that it has moved beyond the boundary between the values the mass of the population expects it, as a party of the left but also of government, to hold and the values that mass would find unacceptably extreme. The UK population have consistently treated the parties of the far left as they deserve to be treated, both in the contempt in which they hold them and the votes they cast for them. But we know that, if the Corbynistas had free rein to decide, then the Labour Party would adopt policies close, if not identical, to the policies those parties have espoused. They may yet do precisely that.

The only hope that the Labour Party would have of retaining any deposits at the 2020 General Election if it were to stand on such a manifesto would be through inherent loyalty to the brand.

This is also the reason why people find it difficult to accept my assertion that the Labour Party is now lost forever to the far left. They are loyal to their party and have faith that it can be saved. There are pockets of resistance, occasional triumphs for the moderates, and regular episodes of disgrace and shame for Corbynistas. Yet there is no evidence that any of that, or consistent poor showing in the polls, both opinion and real life, has weakened the Corbynistas’ stranglehold on the party. If anything the death grip is even tighter.

At the start of last summer’s leadership contest it was possible to argue that the four candidates represented four distinct strands of thought within the spectrum of the party. Andy Burnham for the “soft left”, often the default position adopted by trade unions, Yvette Cooper for the technocratic Brownites, Liz Kendall for the Blairites and Jeremy Corbyn for the self-appointed moral guardians of the flame of socialism. During the course of the campaign, and certainly by the end of it, there were only two camps – the Corbynistas and everyone else. That position has hardened over the last twelve months and while the anti-Corbynistas have not united around a clear platform of what they are for they certainly have a clear opinion of what they are against.

One of the defining characteristics of anti-Corbynistas is the belief that the key to replacing the Conservative Party as the party of government is to convince current Tory voters to change their vote. That this group of people must be reached out to, listened to and persuaded, rather than vilified and shunned. Those who think in this way will have to accept that, so long as the Labour Party remains under the control of the Corbynistas, then this reaching out is not going to happen and thus the Conservatives will remain in power.

At some point the emotional attachment to the name and history of “the Labour Party” must give way to the understanding that work must start on the real task. That isn’t winning the internal battle of a tiny fraction of the electorate but of offering the public at large a credible alternative to endless decades of Tory rule. Leaving the entity that has the name “the Labour Party” but no longer pursues the values that entity was founded upon is not a betrayal. Staying and prolonging Tory rule is the betrayal.

Once outside of the dried up husk of what will then be a fringe far left rabble of electoral no-hopers the anti-Corbynistas will need to defend themselves from the risk of it happening all over again. In the organisation they set up to take the fight to the Conservative Party a wall must be built – a clear statement of what is and what is not acceptable within a party of the centre left.

It is at this point that a genuine debate, in an environment of mutual respect, can take place. Those different strands of thought that always used to exist but have now been forced to coalesce in the face of Corbynism can offer ideas and concepts towards building consensus around that statement. As a Eustonite I have a particular set of views but I do not expect those to be shared in full by others in the anti-Corbynista ranks. However I have no doubt that is that there will be a coherence between our views in a way that does not exist in the binary world of the Labour Party in 2016. The debate itself will be an uplifting experience that will draw the public in and engage them on the issues that matter to them, not a game of far left bingo.

The language used in internal debate in today’s Labour Party is of winning and losing, of victory and defeat. The far left do not believe in consensus. Removing the far left from the equation will allow the centre left the space to broaden debate, thinking and, ultimately, electoral appeal. For too long the centre left has been held to ransom by the far left, compelled to keep the embarrassing uncle around out of a sense of familial loyalty. The events of the past twelve months should be enough to convince everyone that such loyalty is misplaced and will never be reciprocated.

Let the far left shout, scream and march itself back into obscurity. It is time to escape the death grip of Zombie Labour, build The Wall and become a party of government once more.

Labour’s Shibboleth

By Saul Freeman

It’s May 2016 and Ken Livingstone has just been removed from the Corbynite slate for Labour’s upcoming NEC election, due to his long history of Jew baiting finally catching up with him. Ken of course puts his fall down to an alliance of Zionist conspirators and the right leaning bureaucrats of his own party. He’s being replaced on the candidate list by Rhea Wolfson, a young socialist who has stated that “winning 2020 should not be the priority of the Labour Party” and asserts that “to focus only on elections loses sight of other ways of making effective changes in society”.

If Ken & Rhea didn’t exist, some of us would be tempted to invent them as clumsily drawn characters to use in our blog posts where we write about the moral and political collapse of the Left. And then enraged Corbyn supporting folk would pursue us on Twitter, pointing out that our use of such crude stereotyped invented placeholders demonstrates how the Red Tory Blairites are running scared of the truth. They’d almost certainly chuck in a bit of blaming a “Zionist” witch-hunt and point out the injustices endured by the Palestinians.

Now, of course Ken and Rhea are real. This makes them just a little bit more interesting to hang an argument on, though I suspect the same objections will be applied.

The election of Jeremy Corbyn as Leader together with the empowerment of McDonnell, Abbott, Milne etc has led to the worst local election results since the 1980s for Labour (as a party of opposition), a scandal over institutionalised anti-Semitism in the party and the mobilisation at both local and national levels of an aggressive baying-mob of social justice warrior politics which has demanded the heads of the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Antisemitism and BBC political journalist Laura Kuenssberg amongst others. It’s seen a flood of entryism to the ranks of both party membership and £3 supporters from the fringes of the hard-Left and from mischievous Torys and UKIPers. It’s caused many moderate Labour members to tear up their party cards (not easy with the new plastic ones) and Jewish voters have abandoned the party almost completely (the first person to mention Michael Rosen or the 63 or whatever it is “asajew” letter writers wins a subscription to the Guardian). It’s caused ordinary, decent left-leaning folk to find themselves reading Guido’s blog for a sense check.

We’ve witnessed miserable performances at PMQs, political PR/spin own-goals that are crying out for well-informed footballing comparisons (no, I know nothing about football) and polling that suggests the Tories will be in power for the next 327 years. We see the Conservatives profoundly split over the upcoming referendum and getting away with it, along with getting away with pretty much everything else. We’ve also seen Sadiq Khan’s election as mayor of London for Labour after a campaign in which one of his key themes was to put clear (blue) water between himself and the current party leadership. We’ve gawped in disbelief (though we saw it coming) at the election by NUS of a President who flings anti-Semitic tropes around like confetti and announces that we should “await instructions” from the likes of Hamas et al and we’ve listened to generous applause for speakers opposing the marking of Holocaust Memorial Day on campuses.

Mostly, what we see is the entrenchment and growing self-confidence of a particular strand of Leftism and the cementing in place at the heart of the institutions of the Left of a world view that is probably shared as a coherent ideology by at most a few hundred thousand people across the UK electorate, though many others across key demographics may take on elements of this narrative.

This anti-imperialist, anti-West, anti-American, anti-“Zionist”, anti-capitalist set of core beliefs is most aggressively mobilised by those at the leadership of the Stop the War Coalition. Corbyn himself was of course a long-standing part of the STWC leadership until he was forced to reluctantly hand over the Chair on appointment as Labour leader and has spent a lifetime immersed in these particular radical Leftist holy waters, as has been widely documented at Harrys Place.

It’s the kind of political thinking that has in recent days led Shadow Cabinet member Diane Abbott to both dismiss claims of institutionalised anti-Semitism on the Left as a “conspiracy” and to also draw a financial, governance and moral equivalence between the governments of the UK, Nigeria and Afghanistan over the issue of political corruption.

It’s the kind of thinking that calls for the forced dismantling of the world’s only Jewish state, defends Putin’s gangster capitalist Russia, attacks Ukrainian European aspirations and makes allegiance with the forces of Islamist politics in the shape of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah and other proxies of Iran and Shia militancy.
Now, the fact that those views are expressed is all good and proper. I’m all for the existence of a dedicated – if morally and politically flawed/disgraced – hard Left. That’s what you get if you adhere to the concept of political pluralism – and I do. I welcome the fact that STWC are part of our political landscape.

But I can’t welcome the fact that Labour has not only tolerated those views but has in recent decades actively embraced them as part of its much celebrated “broad church”. Apart from anything, it demonstrates a staggering complacency and a short term memory problem that would have most of us nervously making an appointment with our GP. Were the Labour MPs who nominated Corbyn as part of an effort to “widen debate” unaware of the 1980s struggles against Militant and other entryists? Had they heard of Healey’s battles with the Bennite Left (including a young Jeremy Corbyn) for the soul and the viability of the Party?

Fundamentally, how irresponsible do you have to be to hand over the keys of a political organisation to those who make it their business to operate the rule book and process in order that a minority group exerts power beyond its base?
These are the people who will push through a BDS motion at the NEC – against all published party policy – when half the meeting has nipped out for a crafty vape or whatever it was they were doing that evening.

In recent days, decent Labour MPs and others in the party have called on Jews to remain in the party and to fight for it in order to vanquish the scourge of anti-Semitism from Labour. But I have to ask those well-meaning people: “come again? You want what? Seriously?”
Let’s be clear. The Labour party defends the principle of a broad church but it is that very broad church that inevitably means that some within its ranks will express views/concepts and narratives that are anti-Semitic. And anti-West and anti-American and anti-capitalist etc. You can’t have a broad church on the Left any more without this stuff – it’s coded into the DNA of the STWC Hard-Left and it’s going to be around in one form or another long after I’m alive to get cross about it on Twitter. Sure, you can suspend or expel those who are so obsessed or stupid that they can’t moderate their behaviour in public. But that’s not the point of a political party, is it?

A party is supposed to stand for something and to stand against other somethings. That’s why a party bothers to get up in the morning. Or at least it used to be.

A broad church party that welcomes those who hold the views of the STWC Left doesn’t deserve the vote of Jews. That doesn’t mean no Jews will vote for it – of course some will. Again, that’s pluralism. But it sure as hell doesn’t deserve those votes. And the inherent logic of that plea that “Jews must stay to root out their tormentors” with the unspoken addendum “if you Jews don’t then frankly, almost no one else will” speaks for itself.

And beyond the particularised voting intentions of that tiny ethnic minority, why should anyone who embraces and celebrates their highly fortunate status/identity as a citizen of a liberal, European parliamentary social democracy vote for a party that empowers political extremists who see those credentials as badges of shame?
A broad church party that includes those seeking election to its NEC who sneer at the dull incrementalism of parliamentary social democracy doesn’t get my vote. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer to empower those willing to graft away at the boring detail of politics and policy implementation and prepared to be held accountable for it at elections and by a free press. I don’t want my political structures to be replaced by the social justice warriors of social media seeking a narcissism-enhancing rush of excitement from the latest 38 Degrees petition. I can look to myself for that, thanks.

So I say to Labour as a voter: “you sort out your dysfunctional family/broad church and then maybe you get the votes”. Because we vote on what we see before us.

As an activist (though in truth I’m not really much of an activist and never have been) I could say: “I will stay and fight to dismantle the broad church that has brought shame on the party and which will keep it from office.” Only I don’t see any evidence that anyone in the Labour Party actually wants to do this. The broad church has become a shibboleth of the party, a reflexive instinct of denial about both the history and the future of the party. No one is talking about proscribing STWC and others on the mad/bad end of the Left are they? I don’t hear the voice of a Healey or a Kinnock bellowing out that a line in the sand must be drawn and that a battle for the very soul of the party is underway. If I did, I might have more to think about.

Now I appreciate that Rhea isn’t too concerned about this aspect, but how could I vote for Labour in 2020 anyway? It wouldn’t be the safe or responsible thing to do. I mean – and I know this is stretching the argument – what if Labour actually achieved power? Is anyone seriously suggesting that we vote to empower those that hold the STWC world view, in whole or in part? How might history judge us?

Yes, I know my position is hard on the many decent, honourable Labour folk both in Parliament and beyond who share almost none of the elements of the STWC world view. The party is full of those who are, like me, social democrats and not radical socialists, historical fact-mangling revolutionary polemicists or virtue-signalling social justice warriors.
But I say to them – tear down the broad church. It’s time – it’s the moment to cast aside that shibboleth of yours.

Extremism on campus: Islamist narratives are going unchallenged

By Layo

This a cross-post from Layo’s Medium account, kindly reproduced with permission.

In the “deepest circle of hell”, ISIS have entered. Last month ISIS seized the refugee camp of Yarmouk outside of Damascus. Public executions, shootings and beheadings have followed. 5,000 people have tried to flee their homes since ISIS stormed the camp, but have no place to go. There are fears that 18,000 inside the besieged camp could be massacred. When you stare down the barrel of a Jihadist’s gun, your refugee status counts for nothing. Any Christians, Shia, Homosexuals, Atheists, all that is Kafir, risk being murdered or enslaved in Yarmouk.

After four years of the Syrian Civil War we have become accustomed to the barbarism and horrors committed by ISIS. Their horrors have been broadcast on our TV screens and brought to our nearby shores. Yet ISIS do not stand alone. They are one face, one faction, of a violent totalitarian movement; from Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines, to Boko Haram in Nigeria via the Taliban in Afghanistan; the rise of ISIS must be seen within the context of a jihad insurgency that is now global.

World leaders denounce these terrorists and decry their ‘death cults’. We send war planes and drones to bomb them as we send Special Forces to take out their hierarchy. But as thousands leave Europe to join these groups, little seems to have changed. Islamism, the ideology that drives these terror groups cannot be bombed out of existence. This ideology, its ideas, and how they’re promoted, must too be challenged.

As Maajid Nawaz argues: ‘Recognizing this as an insurgency affects entirely how we react to it…. counter-insurgency rests on the assumption that the enemy has significant enough levels of support within the communities it aims to survive among’. And we must understand and challenge why this is the case. Why, for example, have more British Muslims joined ISIS than the British Army Reserves? We must understand the deeply rooted issues that make individuals vulnerable to extremism — social exclusion, institutionalized racism and a feeling of disconnect from British society. But if we do this, while ignoring the ideology that drives extremism, we are bound to fail.

ISIS’s 100,000 foot soldiers were not born evil, nor was their radicalisation ever inevitable. The experience of racial or religious harassment and discrimination isolates communities and individuals, and makes them susceptible to extremism. However there still needs the purveyors of an ideology to manipulates these genuine grievances, and indoctrinate the vulnerable. It is the ideology, that pushes an angry, alienated kid, to embrace violent extremes — be this neo-Nazism or Islamism. Disenfranchisement doesn’t inevitably lead to extremism; that simplistic argument would be absurd. But a disenfranchised individual makes ripe pickings for a charismatic recruiter to the cause. They can channel and feed their grievances, and give the disaffected a new identity through ideology.

In 2011, a review of the Prevent strategy by the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism identified higher education as one of primary sectors that is vulnerable to radicalisation. In a damning report, it found that there has been a ‘culture conducive to the promotion of non-violent extremism has developed on a number of UK university campuses’.

The report went on to say: “there is unambiguous evidence to indicate that some extremist organisations … target specific universities and colleges … with the objective of radicalising and recruiting students”. Moreover, “[that] extremist preachers from this country and from overseas […] have also sought to repeatedly reach out to selected universities and to Muslim students”.

To combat this, the NUS currently ‘No-platforms’ six extremist organisations. These organisations are banned from attending or speaking at any NUS function or conference, and for standing for election to any NUS position. These 6 include three far-right groups; British National Party, English Defence League, National Action, and three Islamist organisation, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, Muslim Public Affairs Committee and Al-Muhajiroun.

The report by the Home Affairs Select Committee stated that those who ‘distrust Parliament and who see a conflict between being British and their own cultural identity’ are susceptible to radicalisation. It is clear that there are speakers appearing that our University who are promoting the divisive narrative that Islam is incompatible with Western secular democracy, and facing little challenge or counter-narratives.

Despite the new legal duty facing universities, too many institutions are still allowing events featuring extreme or intolerant speakers to go ahead without ensuring adequate challenge. Between the start of 2012 and the end of 2014, there were 400 incidents of extremist speakers at our universities.

Hamza Tzortzis is a senior member of Islamic Education and Research Academy (ISRA) and is a regular speaker at British universities. He has close links to banned Hizb ut-Tahrir. He has said:

“We as Muslims reject the idea of freedom of speech, and even the idea of freedom. We see under the Khilafa (caliphate), when people used to engage in a positive way, this idea of freedom was redundant, it was unnecessary, because the society understood under the education system of the Khilafa state, and under the political framework of Islam, that people must engage with each other in a positive and productive way to produce results, as the Qur’an says, to get to know one another”

Our universities are meant to be a ‘safe space’ according to the NUS. This ideas of ‘safe spaces’ has facilitated a culture of censorship that has embedded itself within our student unions. Many universities now have an outright ban on ‘transphobic material’, as well as having vague restrictions on ‘offensive’ dress and conduct. Human rights campaigners and secularists have been banned for offending religious sensitivities. Feminists have face black-listing for daring to say that trans-sexual woman are not ‘real women’.

So when our student community recoil in disgust at the government’s plans to ban “non-violent” Islamist extremists from speaking on campuses, we must feel uneasy. These students and academics, so happy to censor everything from offensive pop songs to ‘page three’ — will fight tooth and nail for the rights of religious reactionaries to preach unopposed their prejudices about women, Jews, homosexuals, and apostates. In the 6 month period from September 2015 and January 2016 we have had speakers on campuses who have promoted sectarian violence, hatred of gays and hatred of Jews.

While many of the Islamist speakers who are appearing on our campuses may not directly argue for Jihad, they do routinely offer apologia for terrorism and violence. A prominent example is CAGE, an advocacy group who work closely with high-profile figures within the NUS. Qureshi an executive director of CAGE, was recorded in 2006 as saying: “When we see the examples of our brothers and sisters, fighting in Chechnya, Iraq, Palestine, Kashmir, Afghanistan, then we know where the example lies … We know that it is incumbent upon all of us to support the jihad of our brothers and sisters in these countries when they are facing the oppression of the West”. Last year Qureshi described the now deceased executioner and propagandist ‘Jihadi John’ as a ‘beautiful young man’.

According to an article on CAGE‘s website the Bring Back Our Girls campaign is a “colonial trope” and criticism of Boko Haram is about “demonising Islam”.Proud feminists and NUS members regularly sit alongside CAGE to denounce the government’s anti-extremism programme.

The ideas promoted by CAGE — that Muslims generally (rather than individuals holding extreme views) are under attack; that the authorities are untrustworthy; and that the threats of extremism and terrorism from non-Muslims are greater than the threats from Islamist extremism and terrorism; these ideas have a lot of currency among sections of the Left. Once these Leftists are able to turn a blind eye to CAGE and their allies’ views on women’s rights, homosexuality and Jews; sharing a platform with them comes quite naturally.

When a CAGE spokesperson says to Muslim audience members: “each and every one of us is a terror suspect, it may not be now, it may have been yesterday, but we certainly will be tomorrow, the way things are heading” — We must question whether this rhetoric is divisive or constructive? Does it feed into the picture, used by Islamists, to promote a grievance narrative that the West is at war with Islam?

When the student Left align themselves with Islamists and offer them an unchallenged platform; they are betraying the very principles that they claim to uphold. When extremists are presented as ‘mainstream’ and ‘moderate’ voices of Islam, we betray liberal reformist Muslims; feminist Muslims; gay Muslims; dissenting Muslims; and minority sects that suffer more from religious fundamentalism than we can ever imagine. They are minority within minority, persecuted within theocracy, white-washed by us.

Just a few months ago, the University of Kingston held an event entitled “The Rise of Islamophobia’” One of speakers on the panel, Bashir Ibrahim, claimed the government was seeking to engineer a ‘Government sanctioned Islam” and that the security services’ “modus operandi” was harassing Muslims, using Mohammed Emwazi (Jihadi John) and Michael Adebolajo (Lee Rigby’s murderer) as examples. These tropes are commonplace. In December, Muhammad Dilwar Hussain visited University College London and claimed that there is “a full on ideological/cultural war is being waged on Islam and Muslims” and described reformist critics as “drunken liberal garbage”.

This narrative, that ‘’Islam is under attack and we must defend it” is central to radicalisation, extremism and terrorism. In terrorism, it is used to promote violence; in extremism is it used to promote values that are antithetical to human rights norms; in radicalisation, it is used exploit vulnerable people and recruit them to the cause.

Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee Charles Farr has stated that the government are deeply concerned about people “who are speaking regularly against core UK values and whose ideology incidentally is also shared by terrorist organisations”. There little doubt that CAGE fall into this group. The Preventing Prevent lobby, seeks to undermine counter-extremism work by fitting it to the broader Islamist narrative has gained traction within the student movement.

As a report from the Quilliam anti-extremist think-tank point out. ‘The Islamist narrative has been normalised in the United Kingdom, and other European countries, over the last two decades due to the influence of non-violent Islamist organisations’.

The normalisation of these narrative show no sign of abating. The controversial new President of the NUS Malia Bouattia won on part by campaigning on a ‘Preventing Prevent’ ticket and unsurprisingly has been endorsed by CAGE. In a written response to critics who have questioned her over alleged anti-Semitism, she publicly attacked the organisations who have been investigating radicalisation and extremism on campuses. When challenged, she has accused her critics of being driven by nothing more than anti-Muslim bigotry.

Those who speak out against Islamism in our universities often face false accusation of racism, anti-Muslim prejudice and ‘neo-colonialism’. Human rights campaigns such as Peter Tatchell and Maryam Namazie have faced McCarthyite smears. While anti-fascist organisations like Hope not Hate have been attacked by the Left, for speaking out against Islamism and Islamic sectarianism.

We find ourselves in a situation where the Left is caught in ‘double bind’; on one hand speaking out against prejudice towards Muslims and the excesses of the state in the ‘war on terror’, and the need to oppose the ideas, beliefs and actions of religious reactionaries, Islamists and jihadi apologist. We can do both and we must do both.

There are clear failings with the Government’s Prevent agenda and British Muslims are increasingly marginalised and alienated. But when we take these extremists as the legitimate voice of Muslim opinion, as we do on so many university campuses, we’re doing great harm. We legitimise their corrosive narrative that there is an unbridgeable divide between the ideas of Islam and Western liberalism.

What stands before us is far-right political movement based on a fundamentalist and reactionary interpretation of Islamic doctrine. What groups like Cage sustain and apologise for, is a totalitarian ideology. The ideology cannot be separated from its violent interpretation. The ideas peddled on our campus are not separate from the atrocities committed abroad in the name of Jihad.

Islamic State’s outlined in their own magazine Dabiq, their aim to eliminate what it calls the “grey zone,” the middle ground between Islamist theocrats and anti-Muslim bigots, so that everyone is forced to pick sides. In this way, Islamic State hopes to turn non-Muslims against Muslims. We cannot let the likes of CAGE drive this narrative. Let’s fight for this ‘middle ground’ where liberalism lives and thrives.

No wonder the Taliban rallied around the cry, “Throw reason to the dogs” — rational debate, reason, these the enemies of tyranny. The values of the Enlightenment are theocracy’s greatest fear. We must combat Islamism’s politicised manipulation of the Islamic faith through rational enquiry and critique. The least we can do is open up their platforms to critical voices and challenge their ideas. Combating Islamism on campus should go hand in hand with fighting for free speech on campus.

We won’t defeat the ideologies of fascism and Islamism through blanket censorship. We defeat these ideas by exposing their fallacies and undermining their arguments through open debate and criticisms. Islamists and their fellow-travellers on the far-Left will attempt to shut down this discussion, but we cannot let this happen. Let’s promote progressive voices and open up debate on our universities. Let’s work with, and reform, the Prevent agenda — let’s change the narrative.

Featured image from East London Lines article “Students NOT Suspects campaign visits Goldsmiths”

Zombie Labour

By Jake Wilde

Ian Dunt’s swift analysis of the 5 May elections is excellent. His description of the Labour Party as “the walking dead, aimlessly trundling on, a parody of political life” is as accurate as it is brutal. Like all good writing, it got me thinking. Firstly about the counterfactual: what if it had been a wipeout, a disaster, a game-changer? And secondly where does this zombie Labour Party stagger off to next.

(How counterfactual the counterfactual is does depend where you live. If that happens to be Scotland then, as a Labour Party member or supporter, you may now aspire to be the undead as opposed to being the actual dead. Third place. In Scotland. I am not going to attempt an in depth analysis here but the most obvious conclusion is that there’s only one question that matters in Scotland – the SNP answer it unequivocally one way, the Tories unequivocally the other way and Labour, well Labour don’t.)

To return to the unfulfilled worst case scenario Ian Dunt suggests that:

“A catastrophic result might – just might – have got some Corbyn supporters to think again. Maybe not enough for a leadership challenge in which he’d lose the internal vote, but enough to precipitate that happening the next time there was evidence of how badly he was doing. It could have been the beginning of the end.”

Could Labour under these circumstances, as Ian suggests, have been brought back from the dead? The people behind Corbyn, the hard-core activist layer who may or may not do very much work for the actual Labour Party, would be untroubled by an apocalyptic outcome. They would find “reasons” to explain it as they have with every opinion poll that tells them what the rest of the population already know. Eventually the finger of blame would be firmly pointed to others in the Party – as it was being ahead of and even on polling day – and in the direction of the media.

The so-called “ordinary” members of the Labour Party who some think abandoned reason and decided to vote for Corbyn last year do not, I think, exist. But if they ever did exist then their numbers are insufficient, at least now, to change the outcome of a fresh leadership election. The people keeping Corbyn in the leadership position are those who would view any attempt to move towards the electorate as a betrayal. They firmly believe that it is for the electorate to realise that the policies, the slogans and the general attitude and positioning they are being offered by Corbyn’s Labour Party are objectively correct. This is why there has been no attempt to gauge the views of the electorate during the run-up to 5 May. Indeed the only polling that has been undertaken is blowing the whole £300,000 budget on asking questions of non-voters.

Peter Mandelson and others were right when they talked of tens of thousands of members having left; they have and have simply not been counted yet because of the six month grace period. The party profile changed under Ed Miliband, as Conor Pope identified in his analysis of the 2014 NEC elections. Conor pointed to the fact that 40% of the membership was from London and that this figure was rising, and the effect this was having on distorting the perceived priorities of the party, not least over the threat of UKIP.

Labour’s new members have arrived at the expense of the Greens and the assorted Judean People’s Front parties of the far left. Those new members are still fighting their #1 enemy, the “Blairites”, some of whom have decided, for various reasons, that enough is enough and have left. But a catastrophic defeat for Corbyn might have tempted them back, even only as £3ers, if a leadership contest was being talked of with sufficient conviction. Corbyn’s dereliction of duty over the EU referendum might even have proved decisive.

There is a far bigger pool of potential £3 voters in the centre ground than there ever was or will be on the far left. The momentum that could have been generated by a heavy defeat for Corbyn on 5 May might then have translated into a crippling blow to his leadership, if not outright defeat. (It would certainly be ironic if the very measure – a vote for the leader of the party in exchange for a paltry £3 – that most moderates feared would hand the party to Corbyn then proved to be his undoing.)

But no heavy defeat occurred, simply the worst performance of any opposition party for three decades. Once the far left have control of something there is only one outcome – that thing dies. Whether it is a country or a city council, a newspaper or a political party, death is inevitable. It’s not always the put-it-in-a-box-and-bury-it-in-the-ground kind of dead though; sometimes it is Ian Dunt’s walking dead. So even before 5 May the Labour Party was already dead but, like so many zombies, it doesn’t know it yet.

So the zombie awkwardly stumbles along the road towards 2020, unblinking in the face of three main problems that will befall it on this grim journey.

First of all there will certainly be further antisemitism revelations. Guido Fawkes has invested in research that seems beyond either local or national Labour parties and this has proved successful in altering perceptions of the party. It is clear that the Naz Shah revelation was timed to coincide with the election, with small fry councillors and activists being used as a mechanism for keeping up the drip-drip effect. Ken’s interventions have simply been a bonus, depending upon your perspective.

The reason there will be more revelations is because the existing  ones have been about those who joined the party before Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader. One might think that it could not get any worse than discovering an MP has made antisemitic comments but Shah had no direct link to the leader. Very few of the culprits so far have. But in the case of Labour Party members who have joined or re-joined since Corbyn’s election then the link is clearer and there will be antisemites amongst them. Some may even have been elected on 5 May.

Next up is the small matter of the actual policies the Labour Party is proposing. Thus far, and this has escaped most people’s attention, Labour has still been largely espousing the same policies as it did in the General Election last year, with the exception of those economic policies within the gift of John McDonnell. Labour still has, for example, the debate over Trident and wider foreign policy to come, the latter review of course having been being conducted by Ken Livingstone prior to his suspension.

And third is the game of musical chairs that will be played as a result of the boundary changes in 2018. This, as much as any other event, has the potential to lay bare the binary split in the party and members in CLPs will be forced into making correspondingly binary choices. How genuinely democratic that process will be will depend entirely on how genuinely democratic the Labour Party is by that stage. The verdicts on Ken Livingstone, Trident, antisemitism in the party and the persistent failure to get close to the Tories in the polls will have decided that long before then.

Jeremy Corbyn said of 5 May, “We hung on”. Most thought he meant the Labour Party. He probably thought he meant the Labour Party. But the results on 5 May mean that the Corbynistas were the ones who hung on and the Labour Party is now past the point of resurrection.

 

Springtime for Jeremy

By Saul Freeman

It’s been a foul week. Another week when UK Jews (and our real friends/comrades) have to endure the spectacle of the lid being lifted on a broiling mess of hate that of course we have been aware of for some time.

Now of course in one sense, Jews and our allies who stand for progressive, democratic values may welcome the lid being lifted. “We told you there was a real problem and it now appears that some of you seem to have been listening. It’s taken a while, but hey you’ve finally begun to get it”. Andrew Marr seems to have been listening (worth watching him staring incredulously at Diane Abbott whilst she dissembled wildly) and how could that not feel reassuring? “It’s on the BBC. Andrew Marr pointing out the historical roots of the Left’s anti-Semitism. We’re not out there on our own anymore.”

Perhaps a few others and I could ease off on feeling that this is a burden we have to carry. Perhaps we could claim a little bit of our lives back from the obligation to expose the moral corruption of significant parts of the Left.

That can only be good.

But in many ways this has also been the worst week. The sight of Left wingers with their hands in the filth of Nazi history trying to find a nugget of gold that will justify what they and Ken believe to be the “facts” about the Jews, Zionism and Hitler has been truly nauseating. When challenged, the defenders of Ken turn around, with their hands and faces dripping with the slurry of revisionist and extreme Trotskyist anti-Zionist historical tracts, and howl in outrage at any suggestion that they are on the wrong end of history. I was (laughably) threatened with a libel action by a 1980s pop star for pointing out that his defence of Ken by referring to the work of Lenni Brenner besmirched the legacy of his influential (and politically focused) electro-pop act.

A Corbynista tweeted angrily at John Mann MP asking him if he thought he was “some kind of authority on anti-Semitism”. That’ll be the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on anti-Semitism revealed as an ingénue on the subject then. And of course, thousands of Leftists have identified the burning issue uncovered by this week’s events and have been petitioning for John Mann to be suspended, and have taken the opportunity to subject him (and those who defend him) to a torrent of abuse on social media. And of course a stomach churning proportion of those who are attacking Mann on social media have the rankest anti-Semitism all over their timelines.

In the attacks on John Mann we see the anti-Semitic Left, fellow travellers and a rag-bag of ignorant dupes turning their hate and aggression on a man who has devoted a good chunk of his political career to documenting and countering anti-Semitic hatred.  You couldn’t write this as fiction and expect to be taken seriously as a novelist. And has the Labour Party drawn a protective circle of wagons around John Mann and declared, “You who attack John are attacking the very foundations of why we even bother to exist as a progressive political grouping”? Has it hell. The leadership has flirted with throwing him to the wolves and the rest of the party looks the other way and worries nervously about re-selection (the usual tiny group of up-standing Labour MPs excepted of course).

But perhaps the one strand that has for me summed up the nadir that the Left has reached has been the persecution of Ian Austin MP. Ian – as you’ll know – made a joke on Twitter about Ken and Hitler. Owen Jones (yes, him again) and Len McCLuskey lit the flaming torches and sharpened the tines of the pitch-forks and marshalled a baying mob that are demanding that Ian Austin pays the price for his crime.

How dare Ian Austin belittle the Holocaust and undermine the Labour Party leadership? He must suffer the consequences for this double crime.”

Social media hums with the outrage of the Corbynistas as they circle around Ian Austin. So let’s consider 2 aspects of this.

Firstly, Ian Austin is of course the adoptive son of a Czech Jew who escaped the Shoah whilst the rest of his extended family was murdered, largely in Treblinka. Which might help explain Ian’s tireless work on the subject of Holocaust education.

Secondly, spend 15 minutes examining the timelines of those who are attacking Ian and screaming their OUTRAGE over his joke and you’ll find something very obvious. Most of these people have stuff in their social media profiles/timelines that is simply anti-Semitic; Jews controlling the media, Israel as the nation of money & blood lust (generally related to oil fields under Gaza), Israel creating ISIS, Mossad doing 9/11 etc etc.

Now, young Owen of course has his own history with one common theme of this stuff – notably his revising of the Wikipedia entry on Israel to argue that Ashkenazi Jews actually have no genetic link with the Middle East and that Zionist Israel was therefore founded on a lie.  I’ve written about this before and as far as I’m aware, Owen has not taken the opportunity to rip apart his former views in order to avoid others being taken in by this Leftist anti-Semitic discourse. I hope he will.

But we now have the spectacle of someone whose own father suffered the most appalling fate at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators across Europe being told what he can and can’t say about it. And this by those who are either Jew haters, fellow travellers or virtue-signallers too ignorant to identify anti-Semitism when it slaps them around the face with a pickled cucumber and pelts them with stale gefilte fish balls.

Now, see what I did there? I made a light-hearted comment about an existentially threatening issue. I guess it’s a Jewish joke. By that, I mean the sort of joke often told by Jews – as opposed to the Jewish jokes told about Jews.

Hugo Rifkind made a similar type of “joke” in his hilarious “Ken’s Diary” piece recounting Ken’s descent into compulsive behaviour. My family spent Saturday morning walking our (risen from the near-dead) epileptic dog and discussing the week’s events. My wife and I consider it important that our Jewish son both understands the nature of the existential threat to him and all UK Jews that we face from some on the Left (as well as from others) but to also have a sense of proportion around this. And one of the ways that we both provide a context and sound a self-confident tone is by laughing. Like drains. Hugo’s piece kept us cackling on and off for most of that walk. And we laughed about Ian’s tweet too.

It’s a coping strategy that Jews are familiar with, as are many other minority groups.

Now, if Owen Jones, Len McCluskey and the social justice warriors want to start telling other minorities, besides Jews, what they can and cannot laugh about from their own history or that of their tormentors – well, good luck with that. But somehow I think it unlikely that they will. That seems to be another special treat reserved for UK Jews by the Left. Owen & Len are not out there telling British Asians, Sikhs, Muslims or others where the boundaries of acceptable satire lie are they? Nor should they be.

This foul week has seen the political spotlight fall on the fate of or reaction to a minority group that makes up around 0.3% of the UK population. Imagine if you can – being part of that minority. Are we celebrating the week’s events? Are we pleased that we can sit around at an extended family dinner and realize that not one of us will be voting Labour next week despite the fact that we are all lifetime Labour voters over 3 generations? Do we sit back comfortably and say to the youngest at the table “don’t worry son, there’s a bucket of hate coming your way and it comes from those who you might well have assumed would have your back, given that you’re part of an ethnic minority group. Relax already!”

Or do we react with anxiety? That the thing we want to happen (Labour freeing itself from the grip of a toxic and regressive extremist coup) has to happen with our name all over the headlines? I ask myself why the Jews have to carry this burden? Why not someone else? Why can’t Labour finally break with the Broad Church concept by mobilizing around one of the other many examples of the hard Left’s regressive and undemocratic politics that have no place in a modern social democratic party of government? Why anti-Semitism? Why us? Again.

I don’t want to be out on point for the Left. Why? Because it’s not reasonable for a tiny minority to have to carry the weight. Because it’s not safe. I fear the “blowback”. I am nervous in anticipating what “whirlwinds” UK Jews may have to “reap”.  If Corbyn et al fall over this, I am concerned for the safety of my fellow Jews. We quietly put up with needing police or security guards outside schools and synagogues already. And street abuse & violence is on the up. But largely, UK Jews keep their heads down, try not to scare the horses and just get on with being engaged citizens. And largely, that works as a strategy to survive and thrive. As it does for many other ethnic minorities. Is being stuck in the middle of the political meltdown of Labour part of the plan for safety? Not where I’m sitting.

So Owen, Len and all you Social Justice Warriors out there: let us laugh, if that’s quite all right with you. Go police your own reactions and positions instead and use your time and energies to examine your own responsibility for this catastrophe. Because whilst we’re out here taking the heat for the moral, political and ethical degeneracy of elements of your Left, us Jews need a joke every once in a while.