Neither side appears ready give way
It is now more than four months since Labour’s anti-semitism row hit the headlines following publication of a 2012 tweet from Mr Corbyn in which he seemed to be referring approvingly to what was clearly an anti-semitic mural.
That provoked the widely publicised demonstration of MPs opposed to the leadership’s handling of the situation, outside the Palace of Westminster.
Since then the divide has got deeper and deeper with the NEC wanting to narrow the definition of anti-semitism which provoked the main Jewish newspapers in the country to print a joint editorial attacking Labour. It was said that “A Corbyn government would be a threat to Jewish life”.
The situation has been exacerbated by the the confrontation between long-standing Labour MP, Dame Margaret Hodge, and Corbyn for which former is now facing disciplinary proceedings.
His party’s MPs are seeking to take a different stance on the definition from the leadership and this is set to come to a head in September.
What makes this so problematical for LAB is that fighting anything linked to Israel goes to the very heart of Corbyn’s politics over many decades because it is seen as a creation of the hated United States.
So while there are human rights abuses in many parts of the world the one that disproportionately gets singled out is Israel and many on the left want the freedom to attack it.
So at a time when LAB should be able to exploit the huge splits within the Conservative Party on Brexit it finds itself having to deal with this one which is taking all the focus away.
Currently a number of leading figures around Corbyn appear to be seeking to get him to take a softer line. John McDonnell is in that camp as is the shadow minister Rebecca Long-Bailey but Corbyn and Seumus Milne are holding firm.
I thought this comment from ydoethur on a thread yesterday summed things up right.
“Whether Labour are just being incredibly careless and complacent or whether Corbyn really is a closet Nazi, it is quite clear that this goes way, way beyond Livingstone making stupid remarks on Zionism or a shadow equalities minister calling for ethnic cleansing. This is now a systemic issue that implicates the entire Labour movement.
And unfortunately for Labour it has come (1) at the moment people are fed up with Brexit and (2) at the start of the silly season when the papers are looking for stuff to fill column inches.
I’ve been told before that there are not many Jews in this country. That is of course true. But if people get it in their heads that Labour are racist (and potentially criminals in light of other events) it’s going to hurt them badly.
Lawyers are now getting involved and it is hard to see the Hodge faction giving ground. The question is whether Corbyn/Milne are ready to give ground. If they don’t the consequences could be real for not just the party but for the whole of British politics.