Labour can’t listen to Jim Murphy – he’s a law unto himself
Monday 6th June 2016
Rightwingers’ false claims of anti-semitism just hurt Jews and bring the party into disrepute, argues CHARLEY ALLAN
BRITAIN’S relationship to Europe is far too complex to reduce to a single binary question — and however we vote on June 23, our political landscape is set to transform radically.
Boris Johnson and the Tory Outers increasingly act and look like a government in waiting, ready to claim a mandate from their party’s members, no matter the referendum result.
The possibility of a snap general election is one of many good reasons for Labour to differentiate itself from the Tories during the current campaign.
Jeremy Corbyn is quite right to refuse a platform with David Cameron. After all, they have completely different views about the kind of Europe they want to live in.
And as John McDonnell said of the Tories on Tuesday: “Sharing a platform with them discredits us. It demotivates the very people we are trying to mobilise.”
This wouldn’t apply to a traditional single-issue campaign such as opposing Heathrow expansion, for example.
Johnson’s support was welcomed last May when he promised McDonnell to “lie down with you in front of those bulldozers and stop the building, stop the construction of that third runway.”
As London mayor, Sadiq Khan can get away with campaigning alongside the PM, though this probably only serves to boost Brexit outside London if the immediate “Establishment stitch-up” social media memes are anything to go by.
Khan at least seemed statesmanlike — and Cameron further eroded his pitiful credibility by standing shoulder to shoulder with someone he denounced a month ago as being in bed with extremists.
But Corbyn should ignore the advice of has-beens such as David Miliband and wannabes like Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips to “dig deep” and cosy up to Cameron, if only to avoid a repeat of Labour’s dramatic collapse in Scotland.
The architect of that popularity apocalypse was Jim Murphy, an arch-Blairite and leading member of the militarist Henry Jackson Society.
As figurehead of the party’s indy referendum campaign in 2014, he was more interested in teaming up with top Tories than making the case for a socialist Britain.
Sneering at pro-independence Labour supporters simply served to destroy the party’s base north of the border — and by leaving the political space left of Scottish Labour wide open after becoming its leader, Murphy allowed the SNP to park its tanks on Labour’s lawn.
Scottish Labour’s chickens came home to roost when it was wiped out at the general election, losing all but one of its MPs — including Murphy in Glasgow’s suburban Eastwood constituency.
The lesson to learn couldn’t be more obvious. Just as Tory MPs and members have free rein to support either side of the EU debate, so Labour must respect its own Lexiteers — not just because the party is a broad church but because it doesn’t want to drive millions of voters into Ukip’s arms.
In short, Labour must reject Murphy’s united-front strategy [with the Conservatives] and put the interests of the party ahead of those of its Euro-extremists.
Murphy himself was back in the news last week after leading a successful attempt to block a candidate for Labour’s powerful National Executive Committee (NEC).
Rhea Wolfson is a rising star on the party’s left wing — women’s officer for Scottish Young Labour, co-chair of the Young Socialists, former Jewish Society chair — and is standing for one of the six NEC seats representing local constituency Labour Parties (CLPs).
Wolfson replaced Ken Livingstone on the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance (CLGA) slate after his recent suspension and has been nominated by over 30 CLPs so far, but according to the party’s arcane constitution, all candidates must secure the support of their own local branch — which for her is Eastwood CLP.
Eastwood members met on Tuesday night and decided to hold a straight vote for or against Wolfson’s nomination.
After she made her case and answered questions from the floor, she was asked to leave the room.
Once she was out the door, Murphy — in his first CLP appearance for months, according to an eye-witness report — allegedly spoke strongly against Wolfson’s nomination, claiming that Momentum, the Corbynista group which backs the CLGA slate, has a problem with anti-semitism.
Members then voted not to nominate Wolfson, before inviting her back into the room and informing her of their decision.
Now, there are so many things wrong with this it’s hard to know where to start.
First of all, there is no anti-semitism problem in Momentum. The group’s chair, Jon Lansman, is Jewish — and in fact joined in the condemnation of Livingstone’s remarks about Hitler and zionism.
Murphy might have been referring to its vice-chair Jackie Walker, who was suspended from Labour last month for suspected anti-semitism after writing that “many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade.”
Disgracefully the Jewish Chronicle was informed of her suspension, according to Walker, before she was — an example of the party witch-hunters’ fondness for publicly humiliating outspoken left-wing Jewish members, as they did by leaking Tony Greenstein’s suspension to the Daily Telegraph back in March.
But the lifelong anti-racist fought her corner and was readmitted within a couple of weeks.
“The fear in my CLP is palpable,” Walker warned afterwards, adding: “McCarthyism lives and with the same purpose — the destruction of the left.”
The baseless accusation that Wolfson accepted the support of known anti-semites is deeply offensive.
But worse is that she was given no opportunity to challenge this smear, a clear breach of natural justice.
And by not allowing her to vote on her CLP’s nominations, Wolfson was unfairly disenfranchised.
It’s ironic that Murphy dishonestly raised the spectre of anti-semitism to block the only Jewish candidate for NEC — yet another example of non-Jews on Labour’s right wing cynically exploiting Jewish suffering to attack Jews and others on the party’s left.
As well as bringing the Labour Party into disrepute, deliberately false claims of anti-semitism for personal political gain are themselves anti-semitic.
They intentionally hurt Jews because they undermine the credibility of all accusations of anti-semitism, thereby emboldening other anti-semites.
The NEC needs to intervene and declare Eastwood’s decision unconstitutional as quickly as possible, otherwise the factional infighting will get worse as the right becomes more desperate and the left is forced to stoop to the same level just to defend itself.
On Saturday nameless Labour MPs accused Corbyn of “sabotaging” the EU referendum campaign, claiming to the Mirror that an Out vote would trigger a coup attempt — meaning leadership contests in both major parties this summer.
This “Bitterite” blackmail is pure bluff, of course, but non-stop sniping still undermines the leadership and brings the party into disrepute.
The NEC should name, shame and suspend the true saboteurs before their poison spreads throughout the whole party. After all, public humiliation is the only language these people understand.
Chat to Charley on Twitter: @charleyallan and sign the petition for Rhea Wolfson: mstar.link/Wolfson_petition.