Senior Labour Party officials repeatedly lied about antisemitism in the ranks of Kensington Labour Party, generating fear in Jewish communities and defaming the party’s local membership in order to neuter democracy in the constituency. Under the leadership of Sir Keir Starmer and General Secretary David Evans, unelected bureaucrats have been afforded dictatorial powers to subvert rules, supplant local candidates and silence members. In Kensington, they been ruthlessly effective.
In late 2022 we reported on senior Labour Party officials’ interventions in the democratic processes of Kensington Constituency Labour Party (CLP) to prevent local councillors from gaining the nomination to become the party’s candidate to challenge Conservative MP Felicity Buchan at the next general election. The National Executive Committee (NEC) and Greater London Region Labour Party both made decisive interventions to ensure a candidate more aligned with the leadership of Sir Keir Starmer prevailed.
NEC blocked Cllr Emma Dent Coad
In October, Emma Dent Coad, the constituency’s only ever Labour MP, was unilaterally removed from the longlist of candidates by the NEC. Part of a purge by the Starmer regime of left-wing politicians and members, Dent Coad was called to a “due diligence” interview. The three-person interview panel was chaired by a prominent NEC member who was alone able to decide that Dent Coad should be excluded for “bad judgement.” The former MP described the accusations against her as “thoughtcrime”. Read full details and our interview with Emma Dent Coad here.
London Region took out Cllr Kasim Ali
In November, Councillor Kasim Ali led the CLP’s longlist branch votes when London Region suddenly intervened to prevent him from securing his place on the shortlist. The previous month, Pearleen Sangha, Director of London Region Labour Party, had accused two selection committee members of openly supporting a candidate, using the accusation as a pretext to take personal control of every aspect of Kensington’s selection process.
Ali won the first of the three branch selection votes, requiring just one more branch to secure his place on the shortlist, Sangha took over the remaining two branch meetings and votes.
Circumstantial evidence suggests that London Region’s move against Ali was pre-planned. First, Sangha postponed the North West branch (Ali’s home branch) vote, which created time for a way to sabotage Kasim Ali to be concocted. On the day of the North West vote, a dubious-looking email was circulated to CLP members attacking another candidate as a supporter of Israel. The email was immediately picked up by a local blog and Jewish News, with both publications using it to attackAli and his supporters as antisemites, offering no evidence of a connection.
This was the pretext Sangha needed. With no checks and balances against her power, the Regional Director blocked whomever she did not want to admit to the Zoom meetings, including up to 20 British Somali members at the North West Kensington Branch meeting. Sangha kept the nomination results secret and declared the winners without reference to the members’ votes, keeping Kasim Ali off the shortlist.
On the day of the North West vote, following the antisemitism smear against Ali and the local membership, Sangha emailed CLP members to explain her “serious concerns” over apparent antisemitism in Kensington Labour Party. She stated that members had been suspended and that there would be a “serious investigation” into the antisemitism that had forced her to take over of the process.
In December we contacted Sangha to ask about the events that had led to Cllr Ali being denied a place on the shortlist. A press officer replied to confirm Labour “had to” commence a “serious investigation” into antisemitism in Kensington CLP and that local members had been suspended “due to antisemitism”.
Multiple sources have confirmed to us that, to date, there have been no suspensions of party members in Kensington for suspected antisemitism. These sources include people with access to the members’ database.
Our sources also confirm that there has been no investigation of any type, let alone a “serious investigation” into antisemitism locally. Many Kensington Labour members have also separately reported to us that they have heard nothing about any suspensions or investigations.
Nothing to add
We contacted London Region again asking them how many Kensington members had been suspended and if there had been an investigation into antisemitism. A press officer replied that he had “nothing further to add” to the claims made against the CLP membership.
We understand that members have not yet raised any concerns at Kensington CLP meetings regarding the conduct of the NEC; the lies of London Region officials; the treatment of local Jewish communities; the disenfranchisement of a score of British Somalis in a local branch; the subversion of local democratic procedures and the character assassinations of elected local politicians by unelected officials.
Labour’s National Executive Committee torpedoed local party democracy to prevent local candidates from being chosen in the marginal seat of Kensington for the next general election. Here’s what we know about how they did it…
Former MP barred
October 17th: Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) excludes Labour’s only ever Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad from the candidate longlist. Read about it here.
The three-person NEC panel that excludes Dent Coad includes two influential figures committed to Sir Keir Starmer’s purge of socialists: LukeAkehurst, director of the lobbying organisation We Believe in Israel. And Shama Tatler, co-chair of Labour to Win, a right-wing campaigning group.
NEC & London Region usurp local officers
October 20th: Regional Director of Greater London Labour Party Pearleen Sangha dismisses two Kensington Selection Committee members for “openly supporting” a candidate. Sangha speculates about “a blatant attempt to undermine the process” – the two members reject the accusation.
A more right-wing member of the Committee remains in post, despite openly campaigning for candidate Joe Powell, even appearing in his campaign video. Complaints from party members to London Region about the double standard go unanswered.
Local candidate would have been shortlisted
October 27th: Councillor Kasim Ali wins every round in the South Branch vote, meaning he needs to be selected by just one of the remaining two branches to make the shortlist. Afsana Lachaux is also nominated.
Results from the South Branch vote are circulated to members in accordance with Labour’s democratic procedures. Sangha declares that this constitutes a “leak” and runs all subsequent meetings and votes herself, keeping the results secret.
In a statement, senior Kensington Labour officers say: “In all three Kensington branch selection meetings, Sangha overruled local elected role-holders and chaired the Zoom call herself…muting all attendees. She has been unprofessional, hostile, and insulting to local role holders, often making threats and rarely responding to messages”.
Intervention over Black History Month
October 31st: A Constituency Labour Party (CLP) ‘All Members’ meeting with a Black History Month theme is scheduled, but on the day of the meeting, London Region informs the CLP Secretary the meeting cannot take place during the selection process. The CLP Secretary asks if the meeting can go ahead if the discussion is limited to the Black history theme and presented by a local campaigner. London Region agrees but states that no candidates can attend.Continue reading →
In an unashamed assault on party democracy last month, Keir Starmer’s Labour targeted and excluded significant numbers of British Somalis from the shortlisting process for candidates hoping to become Kensington’s next member of parliament. Urban Dandy has been given details of how the party’s bureaucracy was mobilised to guarantee a result favourable to the party’s right wing.
The Kensington Constituency Labour Party (CLP) is made up of three branches: South, North East and North West. Labour members in each branch were to vote to narrow down their choice of candidates from a longlist to a shortlist of three, then to vote for one candidate to take on Conservative incumbent Felicity Buchan at the next general election. Former Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad had already been barred from standing by the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) in a factional right-wing intervention.
Next in the NEC’s sights was Councillor Kasim Ali, a prominent local politician and a British Somali with a history of community activism in North Kensington. From several Kensington Labour insiders we have heard that, with Dent Coad removed, the NEC hoped that one of their preferred candidates would secure the candidacy. But at the South Branch’s 27th October selection vote, Cllr Ali eased to a comfortable victory, winning every round.
With Cllr Ali needing a nomination from just one of the two North Kensington branches to secure a place on the shortlist, the NEC took over, overriding the CLP’s democratic procedures and fixing the result. Here’s how they did it…
North East Branch
The North East vote scheduled for 1st November was postponed on the pretext of the branch not having the correct Zoom license to accommodate the number of members wishing to attend. Local Labour sources told us that a new license was hastily purchased but Labour’s London Region Executive postponed the vote until 9th November, giving the NEC time to create the chaotic circumstances in which they could guarantee victory for one of their preferred candidates.
By the day of the North West selection on 3rd November, a familiar tactic from the Corbyn era had been put in play to prevent Cllr Ali from securing a nomination at his home branch vote. A vitriolic message about one of the candidates, Mete Coban, was sent to all CLP members from an email address named ‘Danger in Kensington.’ Access to the membership mailing list is strictly limited so the email is likely to have been circulated by somebody holding a senior position within Labour at local, regional or NEC level. Two local Labour sources told Urban Dandy that the NEC’s two preferred candidates had also been provided with the membership’s contact data “months before”.
The highly dubious message was unquestioningly amplified in a vicious attack piece on Kasim Ali in a local blog, while Jewish News blamed “a group of activists” in North Kensington. There was no evidence that the councillor or any of his associates had a connection to the message and no explanation was offered as to how they could have circulated it or what their motivation to sabotage the process might have been. Labour bureaucrats seized upon the story to torpedo the CLP’s democracy, taking control of the selection process and barring Cllr Ali from standing.
Senior Kensington Labour members issued a statement that included the line “there is evidence that the racist message was written by a local known not be (sic) a Labour Party member and was initially posted on a Kensington Community Facebook page.”
There will be more on what Cllr Ali describes as a “fake antisemitism” smear in a later article.
North West Branch
On the day of the ‘Danger in Kensington’ email, Labour members in the North West branch were set to vote on who to shortlist. However, a significant number were prevented from doing so. A Labour councillor told Urban Dandy that “14 to 16 members” were blocked. Another councillor informed us that the number was closer to 20. Both told us that all the excluded members had one thing in common, they were British Somali.
By this point, the selection meetings, held on Zoom, were being chaired by Labour’s London Region Director, Parleen Sangha. According to a local councillor, Sangha told some of the British Somali members “we can’t hear you” before removing them from the meeting and not readmitting them as they attempted to re-join the meeting for an hour and a half. Others simply saw the image below when they clicked on the meeting link.
We have been informed that an elected Labour councillor for Golborne ward (part of the North West branch and one of the most impoverished wards in Britain) received a text message from a London Region representative as voting commenced telling them ‘I don’t have the correct email for you’ as a justification for cancelling their access to the ballot. The councillor is also British Somali and was using the same email address used when registering as a party member and used to log in to all subsequent meetings and votes.
No results from the North East or North West selection votes were published, and Joe Powell will stand for Labour at the general election having easily defeated the other shortlisted candidates, Mete Coban and Apsana Lachaux on 9th November.
Labour councillors who spoke to Urban Dandy stopped just short of accusing Keir Starmer’s NEC and London Region of racism against British Somalis. They informed us that Labour members in the North East branch, mostly from ethnic minority communities, were also prevented from participating, while former party members with favourable views of Starmer were enabled by London Region to fast-track their re-joining on the day of the vote.
We asked London Region for clarity on why Cllr Ali’s bid for candidacy was undemocratically denied. They responded that they “had to” commence a “serious investigation” into antisemitism in Kensington CLP and that local members had been suspended “due to antisemitism”.
Their reply to Urban Dandy did not mention Kasim Ali or explain the prima facie racial profiling of British Somalis.
On 4th November Kasim Ali was interviewed by the NEC over the ‘Danger in Kensington’ email. They accepted that there was no connection between the councillor or his supporters and the message. However, his right to stand was not reinstated. It is not clear if this meeting was the “serious investigation” referred to by London Region.
A Labour source told Urban Dandy that they had searched the membership database and found that none had been suspended for suspected antisemitism.
Cllr Ali told us that he asked the Labour Party to investigate the circulation of the ‘Danger in Kensington’ email but, to date, the party has not done this.
We also understand that Cllr Ali was blocked from speaking at the CLP’s Black History Month event in October following a concern raised by a rival candidate that this would give Ali an unfair advantage in the constituency selection. London Region issued a ban on longlisted Kensington candidates attending the event. Cllr Ali complained to London Region about his exclusion but has not received a reply.
Under the leadership of Keir Starmer, Labour has purged its left-wing, often expelling or suspending members on spurious grounds, while many others who identify as left-wing have resigned their memberships in protest at Labour’s dramatic shift to the right.
When people rose up to protest racism in Summer 2020, Starmer dismissed the Black Lives Matter movement as “Black Lives Matter moment” while the party has at times positioned itself to theright of Suella Braverman on migration.
The signs are that Labour in government would be pro-war, unreservedly pro-NATO and cement the UK’s role as junior partner and enabler of the United States’ constant war-making. US foreign policy currently includes bombing Somalia, humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen and occupation of a significant proportion of Syria.
To fulfil this agenda, Starmer and his bureaucracy must minimise the number of potentially anti-war politicians in parliament. In Kensington, once the party members had indicated a preference for Kasim Ali, the NEC abandoned any pretence of a commitment to democracy.
It can be claimed that the removal of Cllr Ali and the disenfranchisement of British Somali members was about ensuring a preferred candidate would stand, rather than a case of racism. But would Labour have done this if Ali was not a Black, Muslim, African, working-class British Somali in North Kensington?
Would an antisemitic trope have been weaponised if the targeted candidate and party members came from a different demographic? And if so, would its use have passed without comment or investigation by the party and media?
Generating fear in our Jewish community and disenfranchising our British Somali community appear to be acceptable collateral damage to the fanatical clique that has control of Labour. Starmer’s party is liberal-fascist, uninterested in the cause of labour and intent on using power to advance the class interests of the British establishment and the economic elite.
Just over a decade ago, I was involved in producing an important political pamphlet you have never read. Its title was ‘Unknown Hell’ and it reported on a visit undertaken by several Labour politicians to Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.
The pamphlet’s title was suggested by Sir Gerald Kaufman, the legendary phrase coiner who dubbed Labour’s 1983 manifesto “the longest suicide note in history.” Along with Kaufman and me, the contributors to the pamphlet were the MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Michael Connarty, reflecting a Labour party that was still a broad church. Kaufman was to the right, Connarty to the left, and Corbyn firmly on the left.
Kaufman’s ‘Unknown Hell’ title captured the fact that, despite them being the world’s largest refugee population, most people in the west are ignorant of the displaced Palestinians’ suffering. Ethnically cleansed in the 1940s and trapped in camps around the region ever since, Palestinian refugees have been re-victimised in every host country. Their legal right to return home under UN Resolution 194 has been reaffirmed by virtually the whole world every year since 1949, but the fulfilment of this right has been blocked by the United States and Israel.
The Unknown Hell pamphlet was to be circulated among Labour members to raise awareness about the world’s longest-running refugee crisis, and hopefully influence party policy. But it was blocked by people (none were Palestinian) inside the Labour party who were convinced that the Palestinian cause was better served by policies focused on supporting the corrupted Palestinian Authority. This thinking was in line with US-Israeli diktats to ignore the main problems facing the Palestinians and focus myopically on bureaucracy. A comfortable position for the faction within Labour that thinks efficient obeyance of power will produce a better world. Coincidently, the smooth advancement of their careers is also better served by taking this stance.
The MPs’ reflections on the hideous conditions in the Beirut and Tripoli camps, and their analysis of meetings with all the key players in Lebanon, were silenced. The Labour hostiles were led by Simon Danczuk, who feigned interest in justice and human rights to pick up Muslim votes in Rochdale before consuming himself with fanatical factional hatred of Corbyn.
Ten years on and politicians and officials with this belligerent mentality have full control of Labour under Keir Starmer. Their creed is the goodness of the British state, giving them much in common with security state officials who appear to be influential in deciding who should stand for the party at general elections, candidates who will ensure that Palestinians’ (and Yemenis’, Ukrainians’…) misery is perpetuated by constant war. In this setup, there is no room for those who talk the language of diplomacy and peace.
A purge of grassroots Labour members is in full effect, but, like the suffering of the Palestinians in Lebanon, it is unknown to most people thanks to the media’s determined silence. An assault on the democracy of the party that is likely to form the next government is taking place in plain sight, but you’d never know it.
Those thrown out by Labour suffer their own personal hell, gaslit with infantile explanations after giving years to grassroots causes. Criticism of NATO is proscribed by party whips, further subduing what remains of socialist resistance to war in parliament. In these perverted circumstances, members are being expelled for possessing the qualities that most people find admirable: loyalty, steadfastness, and a willingness to support the most vulnerable.
There is no hierarchy of suffering that prevents the pain of these ousted Labour members from being discussed alongside the suffering of the 9.5 million Palestinian refugees or Britain’s many other victims. These are not discrete issues, and Keir Starmer’s purge of campaigners for peace and justice means that the UK cannot elect a progressive government at the next election. This has echoes in the refugee camps of Lebanon, and the unknown hell will continue thanks to the pro-war right’s grip on Labour.
Emma Dent Coad, the only Labour politician to win Kensington in its true blue history, spoke to Urban Dandy about the Labour party’s decision to bar her from standing at the next general election.
Architectural historian, author, activist, and local resident Emma Dent Coad was elected to Kensington and Chelsea council in 2006. She campaigned on the full range of issues impacting residents in the most inequitable local authority in Britain including housing rights, poverty, and air quality. Dent Coad’s background in housing made her an ideal choice to be Labour’s 2017 parliamentary candidate in a constituency home to oligarchs and royals yet has seen a dramatic life expectancy decline in the borough’s poorest wards once austerity economics was imposed in 2010.
The councillor’s 2014 report, updated after the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, The Most Unequal Borough in Britain, used incontestable data to lay bare the shocking inequity of the borough where at one end 51% of children live in poverty vs at the other only 6% suffer this indignity. Dent Coad’s 2022 book, One Kensington, cemented her reputation as an expert on the impact of neoliberal economics in the borough.
On Friday, June 11th the final seat in the 2017 general election was declared and Dent Coad was elected MP for Kensington: a first-time Labour gain. Winning by 20 votes, Dent Coad joined the activist Labour MPs’ Socialist Campaign Group in parliament. The role of socialists diminished under New Labour, but backbenchers like Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, and Diane Abbott kept community-based democratic, internationalist socialist politics alive in parliament. Labour’s left-right, democrat-technocrat schism had widened under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, yet New Labour was confident enough in its political project to co-exist with anti-war backbenchers and their frequent rebellions.
Three days after the Kensington constituency victory, the fire at Grenfell Tower brought the local issues that Emma Dent Coad had campaigned on to national prominence, crystalizing her parliamentary priority: justice for Grenfell.
Party leader Corbyn and other Campaign Group members were supportive of North Kensington; but Labour’s bureaucracy was dominated by factional enemies, intent on sabotaging the leadership, and as came to be revealed, actively worked to deny Labour an election victory. The harassment of Diane Abbott, the diversion of funds from left-wing candidates in marginal seats to right-wingers in safe seats and smear campaigns were among the methods deployed by this group, which included Iain McNicol, Labour’s then General Secretary. In 2017, Labour finished just 2227 votes short of being able to form a government.
Internal Labour documents leaked in 2020 showed senior party bureaucrats favouring cronyism over Corbynism. They preferred Tory rule with all the misery that brings to their own party’s kinder, more equitable, leadership. As the leaks became public (albeit not reported in the mainstream news) Dent Coad revealed her campaign had received little support from Labour HQ even when it became clear that an historic win in Kensington was on the cards.
Dent Coad explained: “When the atrocity of the Grenfell Tower fire ripped through my neighbourhood, I was finally sent help from McNicol’s office. However, it quickly became clear that this was not the help requested; I needed assistance with my casework team, who were struggling to help those impacted by the fire, but instead the general secretary sent someone to police me.Continue reading →
Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to use fear and suffering to achieve political ends marks him out as a very different calibre politician to those currently seeking to eliminate him and his principles from mainstream British life. While others use Jewish fears for political gain with zeal, Corbyn remains a true friend of Britain’s Jewish community.
In April this year, a leaked report from within the Labour party revealed that senior officials deliberately sabotaged the party’s 2017 general election campaign to prevent Jeremy Corbyn from becoming prime minister and implementing modest socialist reforms in the United Kingdom. That year, Labour won its biggest share of the popular vote since 1997 and were just 2,227 votes short of being able to form a government. The leak also revealed that the same saboteurs deliberately slowed down the party’s investigations of antisemitism complaints made against members to create the impression that Corbyn was indifferent to Jewish suffering. Their duplicity, ignored by the entire mainstream media as an inconvenient truth, directly contradicts years of condemnation of Corbyn for being a deplorable antisemite or, at best, a man tolerant of antisemitism.
The truth is that he is neither, unlike many of his critics in the media and Westminster.
There is “no reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour Party than any other political party” according to a 2016 report by the Home Affairs Select Committee.
Since 2017, according to official Labour party statistics released this year, a total of 2,178 Labour members had been accused of antisemitism. In a party membership of half a million people, this is 0.4 %. Almost all 0.4% were not genuine cases of antisemitism. A total of 56 Labour members had been expelled for alleged antisemitism at the time of the statistics being published, 0.01% of party members.
This 0.01% is what is known as Labour’s antisemitism crisis. As a “crisis,” it does not stand up to scrutiny, and that is why it receives neither any objective scrutiny nor even a factual mention, from mainstream politicians or journalists.
These statistics, elaborated elsewhere alongside much objective evidence, help demonstrate that the antisemitism accusation levelled at Corbyn is a hoax designed to stop Labour winning a general election with a socialist leader and stifle any possibility of the UK fully applying international law and taking steps to end the occupation of Palestine by Israel. See the work of Asa Winstanley, Jonathan Cook and Jewish Voice for Labour debunking the hoax.
A danger of the proliferation of the fake news “antisemitism crisis” is that many people in Britain, including in Muslim communities, see it as the ultimate expression of white privilege, Jewish fears being treated with far more seriousness at the highest, most respectable levels of UK society than incidents of racist and Islamophobic violence and hatred. The country has an openly racist, Islamophobic prime minister and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, who vow to “protect people against discriminatory treatment and hold organisations, such as businesses and government, to account for what they do,” investigated antisemitism with Labour’s ranks but refused to investigate rampant Islamophobia in the Conservative party.
Both the country’s major political parties favour Israel’s occupation of Palestine, with its subjugation and humiliation of Muslims and Christians and the longest-running refugee crisis (there are seven million Palestinian refugees) in the world.
It is unfortunate but predictable that such a situation taps into popular conspiracies about Jews controlling politics, the media and financial institutions.
The reality is that Britain’s Jewish population do not enjoy privileged treatment, they and their history are being used by right-wing politicians (including Keir Starmer) and the pro-Israel lobby (which is largely made up of anti-Arab Zionists, Christian fundamentalists and others who favour arms sales – death – to peace) to foment hatred against Jeremy Corbyn, the symbol of socialism in Britain today.
Britain’s Jewish people have been the target of an epic fear-mongering campaign by this Faustian coalition. Not content with Labour’s crushing 2019 election defeat, this juggernaut now seeks to eliminate socialism and socialists from mainstream political life in the UK.
With no hard evidence of a Labour antisemitism crisis, the electorate is left confused. A surveyrevealed that, on average, the public believed that third of Labour party members had been reported for antisemitism, a direct reflection of the rhetoric used by the nation’s media and political elites.
But as with all gaslighters, the accusation they are making is the very thing they are guilty of themselves: indifference to Jewish suffering and a willingness to use it for personal or ideological gain.
Although none of it is mainstream in terms of its reach, there are left-wing media outlets and journalists in the UK. We also have easy access to North American alternative media.
Left-wing Americans have fared better on the issue of Corbyn and antisemitism than their counterparts here. The most prolific and revered left-wing pundits in Britain, Novara Media and Owen Jones, have played along with the hoax, choosing to offer an intricate left-wing perspective, rather than simply debunking it. Their most recent coverage, of Corbyn’s suspension and whip-removal, is incoherent as they work overtime discussing internal Labour procedures to avoid pointing out the most pertinent fact: there never was a “crisis”.
Full-spectrum propaganda only works when the left participates. The logic is that if even Owen Jones, the mainstream’s designated voice of the left, isn’t denying it, it must be true.
In repeating and amplifying the lie, and ignoring the role of the Israel lobby, prominent left-wing journalists in the UK have boxed themselves into a corner. If the crisis was real, then surely the leader of the party has rightly faced disciplinary action. Had there been a real antisemitism crisis on Jeremy Corbyn’s watch, then any right-minded, peace-campaigning, anti-imperialist would want him out. The fact is, there was no crisis. So, the media’s left-wingers are playing both sides, calling for Corbyn’s return to the Labour benches but refusing to explain to their followers that it was all part of a political game. They have retained their status as representatives of the left on Sky and BBC News by abandoning their journalistic duty, to tell the truth at all costs.
Some quality journalists on the left have projected their own frustration onto Jeremy Corbyn for his perceived lack of fight against the fanatics who have attacked him using the antisemitism smear. Asa Winstanley, Max Blumenthal and Glenn Greenwald are among them. They argued that Corbyn should have pushed back, and when he failed to do this as strongly as they believed necessary, they lamented him for being weak.
Yet these voices never identify exactly what he could have done. Corbyn probably predicted an unhinged response to any pushback that involved him pointing out that the idea of a “crisis” was absurd. The media would have ignored anything positive or conciliatory he said and pounced upon any hint of him not being adequately yielding. In this, he would have again stood alone against the entirety of the British establishment. More internal Labour divisions and more media focus on fiction instead of the urgent issues of the day were the inevitable result of an assertive push back.
‘So what?’ you might say, things surely couldn’t get much worse anyway, but there were two other factors. The first is 2017 when Labour almost won despite the smear campaign against the leadership. It wasn’t unreasonable to think that policy, over personality, could prove decisive in 2019. This turned out to be true, but it was the Tories, with a more coherent Brexit policy, who had the stronger hand.
The second, and I think most decisive, factor is Corbyn’s relationship with the Jewish people of Britain. Reviewing his career. Peace, justice, unity, and love are the qualities that transcend all politics for him. He is a player in the political game, but there are certain tactics he will not use, the ones that result in pain for others. Unlike those railing against him, Corbyn is sensitive to human frailties and fears. Judging that aggressive pushback would be used by some to further instil existential fear in Britain’s Jews and by others to foment hateful conspiracies, he chose to be guided by his own principles. He did not do or say anything that could have rebounded back on a minority population already being used in the most wretched way by those claiming to speak up for them.
The alternative option, preferred by some prominent left-wingers, was that Corbyn lay out all the facts of the smear campaign, call out the liars and be a warrior for absolute truth. This approach is one that ignores the realities of power in Britain. Exposing the truth has little positive impact unless it happens to match the establishment’s interests.
By choosing not to join in a sordid game, Jeremy Corbyn remains true to his values and his vision of an equitable society lives on. He has done nothing to frighten or endanger a single Jewish, or other minority, person in Britain. The same cannot be said of many other prominent political and media figures.
By Tom Charles @tomhcharles
Thanks to Jennifer Cavanagh for the invaluable suggestions & edits
With a civilian death toll that is likely to outdo even the Nazis’ air bombardment during world war two (70,000) we experience the full impact of the policies of the right. What of the parliamentary left? Labour wound up its foregone conclusion of a leadership contest a month ago. Sir Keir Starmer won, but who is he, politically? A smart move by the Labour electorate? Starmer steers as close to the middle of the road as possible. History will soon demand he chooses which side he’s on.
Starmer is seeking a clear break from Jeremy Corbyn while not entirely abandoning the popular policies of his predecessor. Even Corbyn’s staunchest supporters were worn down by four years of relentless, puerile attacks and the choice of Starmer was surely a relief, even for members who voted for the more leftist candidate, Rebecca Long-Bailey. Starmer is a politician whose style is approved of by the full spectrum of media commentators and the Labour backstabbers who loathed Corbyn.
The contrasting attitudes towards the two men reflects the narrow parameters of thought in British public life. Corbyn was deemed ‘unelectable’ by most Labour MPs and harassed with media absurdities (claims that he was a Czech spy, a fabricated antisemitism crisis etc) that compromised his public image. From the right-wing (inc. Murdoch) media, this was expected. For the centrist liberal media (there is no major left-wing media in the UK) Corbyn’s unforgivable crime was that he didn’t play their game and never would. He treated journalists with respect. But he treated everybody that way, no matter their status. Never distracted by sycophancy, Corbyn wanted to change society. Keir Starmer is more malleable.
The leadership election result also signalled the narrowing vision of western Europe’s largest political party, Labour. It is worth considering the figures that have elected the party’s leaders. In 2015, Corbyn won a stunning victory with 59.5% of the vote in a four-horse race that included ‘electable’ opponents Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham. In 2016 he was forced by the right of the parliamentary party to face Owen Smith in another contest, with Corbyn securing victory with 61.8%. That contest is noteworthy only in that Smith received 38.2% of votes; a miserable defeat, but 193,229 of the Labour electorate backed him and presumably form the basis of Starmer’s support.
The switch from leftist Corbyn to ‘centrist’ Starmer suggests that a lot of Corbyn supporters, socialists, voted for Sir Keir. Labour members have tacitly agreed to a centre-right consensus in British politics: nothing too radical, with the debate framed by a media which spans the centre-left to the far right. The boundaries of what is possible have been reined in.
It is worth taking a moment to consider what might happen if members of leftish political parties just voted for their own interests rather than playing political pundit. In the UK, as in the US, people now vote for the leader they think other people might vote for, rather than for policies. Presumably, the decisive thought here is that the masses have not yet reached the level of enlightenment required to grasp what is being offered to them by straight-talking politicians like Corbyn or Bernie Sanders (who surely would have walked it in November against an incumbent president who advises the population to inject bleach into their veins).
Keir Starmer is the man for this political moment on the left. But by considering just a few of his stances to date, we see trouble brewing for the new Labour leader. He will have to concentrate to maintain his balance.
“The leader of the organisation carries the can, stands up for what goes wrong and takes responsibility” said Starmer during a hustings. He was criticising Jeremy Corbyn’s regime for “turning on its staff” during the so-called antisemitism crisis. This is Sir Keir taking the middle ground, making what he judges to be a politically safe criticism of his predecessor – not of his policies, but of his leadership. The problem is that we now have all the evidence we need that the crisis in the party was a fabrication, one entangled in a marriage of convenience with the Blairites obsessed with overthrowing Corbyn.
A leaked report from within the party since Starmer’s victory reveals the depth of the internal campaign to sabotage Labour’s chances of gaining power under Corbyn. The document shows that senior officials including the then Secretary, Iain McNicol, diverted money to right-wing candidates in safe seats rather than to left-wing candidates in marginals in 2017. This probably extended to Kensington where Emma Dent Coad won a historic victory for Labour in June 2017. When the Grenfell Tower fire atrocity took place days later, McNicol refused to send the help the new MP had requested, presumably for ideological right-left reasons.
The report also reveals the withholding of information from the leader’s office; officials boasting about not working professionally during the campaign; racism; sexism and more. Starmer and deputy leader Angela Rayner have ordered an investigation into the leaks, but the greatest scandal in the party’s history will need to be dealt with properly if the leadership is to retain credibility within the base – crucial if they are to keep the momentum of grassroots campaigning.
Some of the disgraced officials featured in the report had been tasked with investigating cases of alleged antisemitism. The report shows that these officials deliberately slowed down the process to create the impression that Corbyn was indifferent to Jewish suffering. It worked, and a lifelong anti-racism campaigner was politically assassinated as an anti-Semite.
At root, the concocted crisis was always about Palestine, which Corbyn would have recognised as a state on day one of a Labour government. British Jews were deliberately and cynically scare mongered for political purposes, surely one of the basest tactics employed in our political history.
Starmer cannot be entirely ignorant of the reality of the antisemitism debacle. He must know that the Home Affairs Select Committee found “no reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour Party than any other political party.” And that official Labour party statistics released in January showed that a total of 2,178 Labour members had been accused of antisemitism since 2017, just 0.4 % of the overall membership. Almost all the 0.4% were not genuine cases of antisemitism. A total 56 Labour members had been expelled for alleged antisemitism at the time of the statistics being published, 0.01% of party members. “A third of all cases in 2019 have the same single individual as the main complainant,” states the 2020 document.
Starmer knows that the ‘crisis’ had a major impact on Labour’s public image but he did not miss a beat in declaring his collusion with the illusion in his victory speech: “Antisemitism has been a stain on our party. On behalf of the Labour Party, I am sorry” and “I support Zionism without qualification.” A strategic move, or perhaps an indication of his willingness to ingratiate himself to power. He had previously made more neutral statements about Zionism, but in victory sought to establish his credentials, sending an apologetic letter to the Board of Deputies of British Jews, promising to “root out” Labour’s “antisemitism”.
Starmer is also declared supporter of Palestinian rights, opposes President Trump’s “Deal of the Century” and has appointed Lisa Nandy, a long-term supporter of the Palestinians, as shadow foreign secretary. For justice in the Middle East, Labour is required to back Palestine’s self-determination and the right of return of seven million Palestinian refugees. Both positions contradict Zionism’s basic premise, an exclusively Jewish state in historic Palestine. When Israel annexes more land, or bombs the Gaza Strip again, Starmer will have to back the oppressor or the oppressed. He will shamefully bow to the Israel lobby while innocents die, or he will take a brave stand for peace and justice. No middle way exists.
The new Labour leader opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003, but once an MP (he was first elected to the Commons in 2015) he voted against a parliamentary investigation into Tony Blair’s misleading MPs Iraq. While giving Blair a pass, Starmer has been determined to see a journalist who exposed the war crimes prosecuted. In 2010, as Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) he played a key role in the persecution of Julian Assange, editor of Wikileaks, who had just published evidence of a litany of western war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the Collateral Murder video.
As DPP, Keir Starmer fast-tracked the extradition of Assange to Sweden (from where he could be easily extradited to the US) for questioning over the most dubious allegations of rape. Starmer advised Swedish lawyers to reject Assange’s offer to be questioned in London, presumably understanding that the Swedes would have no option but to drop their investigation (the case had already been dropped then resuscitated by a right-wing magistrate). This set off a chain of events that have seen this one journalist harassed, imprisoned and effectively tortured and made ill by the British state on behalf of the Americans.
Emails from August 2012 show a sickening betrayal of Assange by the UK. Responding to a suggestion that Sweden might drop their phoney rape investigation, Keir Starmer’s office sent the following message to their Scandinavian counterparts: “Don’t you dare get cold feet!!!”.
Julian Assange remains in squalid solitary confinement at Belmarsh, the prison reserved for the UK’s most violent and dangerous criminals. Despite his sentence (for skipping bail) having expired months ago, he is forced to stay in this maximum-security prison and wait for a judge to decide on his extradition to the US on surreal charges under the Espionage Act. A dangerous precedent will be set if Assange is sent to the dangerous president, never to be seen again. Who will dare inform the world about war crimes then?
Assange, who has a chronic lung condition, could die in Belmarsh. Perhaps this is what the British state wants, to save them the embarrassment of extraditing him. Parliament is quiet on Assange, but as leader of the opposition, Starmer is obliged to call for his release.
With Wikileaks, the middle ground is untenable. Starmer either supports freedom of speech and the rule of law (a person cannot be extradited from the UK on political charges), or he does not.
With the government’s disastrous handling of the coronavirus, the Labour leader has aimed straight down the middle. He is withholding many obvious criticisms of the Johnson government, presumably until the lockdown phase is over and the public is more receptive to apportioning blame. In PMQs this week, the Labour leader challenged government claims of British “success” when the official figures, which are an underestimate, show 30,000 people have died. But by being eager to offer praise where he can, Starmer fell into the trap of repeatedly saying “hospital deaths are falling”. They aren’t falling, they rise every time somebody dies. It was a strange and possibly revealing use of language on his part.
The pandemic will end with a political divergence. A choice, austerity or socialism, will decide the future of the NHS. That Starmer abstained in 2015 on the Tories’ destructive Health and Social Care bill doesn’t auger well for us.
Jeremy Corbyn was unlucky in the sense that two national disasters – Grenfell and COVID – fell the wrong side of the 2017 and 2019 general elections. Starmer has some media support and a chaotic government that proudly declared a decline in shoplifting on a day that saw 813 people die in agony. He has Exercise Cygnus; Dominic Cummings; PPE; the list is long and growing. With these weapons at his disposal, there will be no need to abstain.
A radical change is needed – will Sir Keir seize the moment? To do so, he must break away from the deadening obsession with respectability and electability that gnaws away at the parliamentary Labour party. The middle way, centrism, is an abstraction. It has no meaning in the real world. Under a so-called centrist Labour government, the sale of parts of the NHS to the private sector was accelerated. Starmer cannot retain his pristine establishment image while delivering a revival of our health service.
Like all of us, Keir Starmer is a contradictory person, but unlike most of us, he now holds immense power. In all the scenarios above, he faces a choice: justice or injustice; oppressed or oppressor; freedom of speech or tyranny; truth or illusion.
Soon, he must decide whether he stands for life or for death. If that seems shrill, look at the world around you and the impact of indifference.
A slogan for Keir Starmer’s new Labour? For the many, not the few For the many and the few? Not for the many, not for the few? For the few not the many? For some people, but who?