Labour must face up to what went wrong
The report on Labour’s response to accusations of anti-Semitism within the party was released to the public last week. And it was damning. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) who undertook the investigation and report, said its analysis pointed ‘to a culture within the party which, at best, did not do enough to prevent anti-Semitism and, at worst, could be seen to accept it.’ The interim chair of the EHRC also released a statement alongside the report saying the investigation had ‘highlighted multiple areas’ where they found the party’s ‘approach and leadership to tackling anti-Semitism was insufficient.’ They also said the approach appeared to be due to a lack of willingness to tackle anti-Semitism rather than an inability to do so.
To make matters worse for both the current and previous Labour leaderships, the EHRC found the party responsible for three breaches of the Equality Law; Political interference in anti-Semitism claims, failure to provide adequate training for those handling anti-Semitism complaints and harassment, including use of anti-Semitic smears and suggestion that the complaints were fake or smears. Jeremy Corbyn has already doubled down on his own stance, claiming that the numbers of claims were exaggerated by the media and opponents inside and outside of the party. That speaks of the problem for me. That is part of the problem and why he was subsequently suspended from the party and the whip was removed. His comments speak of a man who simply will not admit that this went on under his tenure as leader. It should be noted that Corbyn and many of his allies and supporters are pro-Palestinian and often far more critical of the Israeli government than most . That is absolutely not say that that automatically makes them anti-Semites. But it is also true that after Corbyn first took the leadership, the new influx of members that came into the Labour Party were vocal critics of the Israeli government. Throughout Corbyn’s leadership, they were high-profile suspensions for comments made about Israel and Jewish people. But there was also a constant stream of accusations from Jewish groups and even his own MPs that Corbyn and his inner circle were not taking the issue seriously enough. Several Labour MPs left the party over the abuse they received.
Everything that has come to light in this report shows that both Corbyn’s views and actions as relates to Israel and the Middle East allowed an environment to grow where anti-Semitic views within the party could flourish. From there, members who tried to blow the whistle found those in the leader’s office interfering in the complaints process, meant to be separate from any of the party’s bodies including the leader’s office. Corbyn may have said the right things, saying that anti-Semitism had no place in the party but the actions were never taken to truly work to eradicate it from the party. Kier Starmer must put the recommendations into practice if he hopes to rebuild Jewish trust in the Labour Party.
To me, this was totally inevitable. I could see this coming from the moment cases starting rising and the R number started to rise. The tier system was never going to be enough, Chris Witty said as much when it was announced. This was driven by many factors. The first being that the government eased lockdown restrictions too soon. The numbers needed to going in the right direction for far longer before they even contemplated lifting the restrictions. Another was the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme. That was a nonsense idea, that has been identified as one major reason why there has been a second wave of cases. While wanting to stimulate the economy, particularly an area that had taken a huge hit during the first lockdown, was very honourable, it wasn’t very sensible. The Chancellor was encouraging people to go into areas where everything was geared toward increased spread of the virus. Social distancing would be a major problem at many restaurants and pubs. No matter how much they did to limit numbers allowed in and marking out designated seats etc, it was always going to be a struggle. What’s more, you can’t wear a face covering while eating or drinking. One of the simplest things you can do to protect yourself and those around you has to be removed while you eat your meal and quaff your drink whatever it may be.
The situation also wasn’t helped by people deciding they were going to go on holiday, often to countries where COVID cases were rising. People insisting that they needed their two weeks in the sun, while the world is facing a pandemic against a disease that has no current vaccination. That demonstrated to me that many people had not taken on board how serious the situation was and wanted to carry on as normal. Again, there’s nothing wrong with the desire to want things to go back to how they were before lockdown, before we knew what a furlough scheme was. But some people lacked the self-control and sense of community and of collective responsibility to realise that was not possible in the current situation and that their actions would impact far more people than just themselves and their families. It would affect thousands.
The message from the government was so scatter brained and nonsensical at times that you could almost forgive people for not following guidelines and regulations because they were changing and altering them so often. The tier system was another folly. That system is surely better suited for when case numbers are falling and you can release regions from lockdown measures in stages as their case numbers fall. Trying to do that for escalating numbers always seemed to be me to be a bit mad.
And for all those saying that we shouldn’t be in lockdown because of the damage it will do to the economy, yes, shutting businesses down will badly affect them. But in this time of needing to prioritise, the country now needs to prioritise not having the NHS overwhelmed by a situation it was not in a position to effectively combat from the outset. We’ve successive Tory governments slashing funding for nearly every public service, so is it any wonder that they weren’t prepared for such an enormous public health crisis? This new nationwide lockdown is going to be a struggle for many reasons. It’s in the middle of winter, so you can’t even sit in your garden most days. Also, just because some may have been calling for a new lockdown, doesn’t mean they like being under lockdown any more than you do. No matter what you think about the government’s response to COVID, it doesn’t change the fact that lockdowns are really boring for everyone.
But on the flip side, I have made cracking progress on Football Manager.