Cor­byn’s day of disas­ter

Daily Mail - - News - An­drew Pierce

OH, the bit­ter irony in the choice of venue for the gath­er­ing where the true ex­tent of the ugly face of anti-Semitism in Labour was first ex­posed at the party con­fer­ence.

The fringe meet­ing on Free Speech on Is­rael was held at the Friends’ Meet­ing House in Brighton. Home of the Quak­ers, who live by prin­ci­ples of ‘truth, peace, sim­plic­ity and equal­ity’. The Meet­ing House of­fers it­self as ‘ a place of wel­come, en­counter and spir­i­tual ex­plo­ration’.

Friend­ship and wel­come were the last thing on the minds of a suc­ces­sion of speak­ers as they de­liv­ered vile and poi­sonous di­a­tribes about Is­rael at the 60-minute meet­ing on Mon­day.

What is per­haps most ex­tra­or­di­nary about that hate-filled meet­ing — of­fi­cially billed in the con­fer­ence sched­ule — is that none of the par­tic­i­pants fore­saw the rolling thun­der of dis­gust they would un­leash.

Or that it would dom­i­nate the air­waves to such an ex­tent that lit­tle more than 24 hours later, a mis­er­able Jeremy Cor­byn would be ac­cused by Chan­nel 4 News’s John ‘F*** The Tories’ Snow of run­ning a ‘ nasty party’ — ex­actly as Labour had been billed on the front page of yes­ter­day’s Daily Mail.

The furore took hold when one pan­el­list in the hour-long meet­ing, au­thor Miko Peled, com­pared Zion­ists — those who believe in the right of Is­rael to ex­ist — to the Nazis, and said that Labour should re­spect peo­ple’s right to ques­tion if the Holo­caust ever hap­pened.

Shock­ingly, these were his words: ‘This is about free speech, the free­dom to crit­i­cise and to dis­cuss ev­ery is­sue, whether it’s the Holo­caust, yes or no, Pales­tine, the lib­er­a­tion, the whole spec­trum. There should be no lim­its on the dis­cus­sion.

‘It’s about the lim­its of tol­er­ance: we don’t in­vite the Nazis and give them an hour to ex­plain why they are right; we do not in­vite apartheid South Africa racists to ex­plain why apartheid was good for the blacks; and in the same way we do not in­vite Zion­ists — it’s a very sim­i­lar kind of thing.’

As­ton­ish­ingly, he re­ceived huge ap­plause. And even louder cheers came when some of the del­e­gates de­manded that the Jewish Labour Move­ment should be ex­pelled from the party for sup­port­ing the state of Is­rael.

There were no dis­sent­ing voices ei­ther to the lu­di­crous claim by an­other speaker that the charge of anti- semitism in the Labour Party was part of a plot by the pro-Is­rael lobby to stop Jeremy Cor­byn from be­com­ing PM.

By yes­ter­day morn­ing, the meet­ing and its overtly anti- Semitic tone were dom­i­nat­ing the me­dia to the ev­i­dent frus­tra­tion of se­nior Labour fig­ures.

Tom Wat­son, Labour’s deputy leader, was forced to con­front the party’s anti-Semitism on Good Morn­ing Bri­tain by the pre­sen­ters Piers Mor­gan and Su­sanna reid.

Wat­son wanted to talk about plans to re­na­tion­alise the rail­ways. Mor­gan had other ideas. He said: ‘The Holo­caust ed­u­ca­tion Trust sug­gested in the two years since Jeremy Cor­byn was elected leader there was — their words — a fer­tile ground for peo­ple like this to ex­press such views,’ he said.

‘Has Jeremy Cor­byn sim­ply been too le­nient?’

A rat­tled Wat­son was forced to con­cede there was a prob­lem in the Labour Party. ‘Well, I wish we could drive out any anti-Semite from pol­i­tics,’ he blus­tered. ‘ But it’s al­ways been there on the fringes; if it ends up in­vad­ing the Labour Party Con­fer­ence space [and] the dis­cus­sions I’m hav­ing with you on na­tional TV, then that’s ob­vi­ously a bad thing.’

The pres­sure only in­ten­si­fied on Labour when, mid-morn­ing, a new report by the Cam­paign Against Anti- Semitism emerged. The group an­a­lysed al­le­ga­tions of an­tiSemitism among MPs, peers, coun­cil­lors and can­di­dates for public of­fice of all par­ties.

Their damn­ing find­ings? That Labour Party of­fice hold­ers ac­count for 61 per cent of all the cases of al­leged anti-Semitism.

Labour’s dif­fi­cul­ties deep­ened still fur­ther when re­becca Hilsen­rath, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the equal­ity and Hu­man rights Com­mis­sion, tore into the party: ‘An­tiSemitism is racism and the Labour Party needs to do more to es­tab­lish that it is not a racist party. A zero-tol­er­ance ap­proach to an­tiSemitism should mean just that.’

Labour tried to limit the dam­age by send­ing out speak­ers to TV and ra­dio stu­dios to talk about their plans to end the pol­icy of Pri­vate Fi­nance Ini­tia­tive (PFI). The tac­tic back­fired. As shadow health sec­re­tary John Ash­worth ap­peared on Sky News, for ex­am­ple, he was chal­lenged about the race row, and com­mented: ‘Mem­bers who make dis­gust­ing anti-Semitic com­ments [should] be ex­pelled.’

Mean­while Jeremy New­mark, the chair­man of the Jewish Labour Move­ment (JLM) which bore the brunt of much of the abuse at the fringe meet­ing, toured the stu­dios to crit­i­cise the fact the meet­ing had been ad­ver­tised in the con­fer­ence guide — thus be­ing given an of­fi­cial stamp of ap­proval — and was chaired by a mem­ber who had ad­dressed the con­fer­ence.

New­mark told Sky News: ‘They al­lowed their meet­ing to be­come an arena for what ef­fec­tively amounts to a call for Jews and Jewish groups to be purged from the party. I think Mr Cor­byn must be acutely em­bar­rassed …’

The row then spilled on to the main con­fer­ence floor yes­ter­day when an un­re­pen­tant Naomi Wim­borne-Idrissi, a Labour mem­ber from Ching­ford and Wood­ford Green who chaired the Free Speech on Is­rael meet­ing, brazenly mocked the Jewish Labour Move­ment.

She told the con­fer­ence it would have a ‘bit more cred­i­bil­ity if it did not spend so much of its time run­ning to the Daily Mail and Daily Tele­graph with sto­ries’. The re­sponse? rap­tur­ous ap­plause.

By now panic- stricken at the tidal wave of crit­i­cism, Labour high-com­mand tried to calm mat­ters in the af­ter­noon by back­ing a rule change which will strengthen the party’s stance to­wards mem­bers who are anti-Semitic, racist, Is­lam­o­pho­bic, sex­ist or ho­mo­pho­bic — only for Wim­borne-Idrissi to hit back, ac­cus­ing the party of polic­ing ‘thought crime’.

AND as if all that wasn’t enough, Labour also came un­der fire from its own women Labour MPs over the hate­ful abuse di­rected at the BBC po­lit­i­cal ed­i­tor Laura Kuenss­berg, who is ac­com­pa­nied at the con­fer­ence by a male body­guard for the first time. Har­riet Har­man, the for­mer deputy Labour leader, was among the MPs who de­manded that Jeremy Cor­byn con­demn the bul­lies who have tar­geted Ms Kuenss­berg.

Then, just as it seemed the day couldn’t get any worse for Cor­byn, he had a se­ries of TV and ra­dio in­ter­views. On Chan­nel 4 News he was forced to deny that Labour was the ‘new nasty party’.

He said: ‘This is not a nasty party. No­body should be abused, who­ever they are ... any­one us­ing anti- Semitic lan­guage, any­one us­ing any form of racist lan­guage, is com­pletely at odds with the be­liefs of this party.’

Asked about the threats made to Kuenss­berg, Cor­byn replied: ‘I don’t wish any­one to have to be ac­com­pa­nied by a body­guard any­where in our so­ci­ety, and cer­tainly not in our con­fer­ence.’

Cor­byn can hardly have been sur­prised. Last sum­mer when Kuenss­berg was called to ask a ques­tion at a speech by Jeremy Cor­byn on the EU, boos and hisses greeted her name.

The Labour Leader smirked be­fore si­lenc­ing the abuse with a wave of his hand.

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