On Len McLuskey and mood music
The trade union leader and all round charmer Len recently gave an interview to Newsnight in which he dismissed talk of antisemitism in the Labour Party. Last year’s numerous outrages were, he stated, mere “mood music” played by those who wanted to remove Jeremy Corbyn from the leadership. A false and destabilising song they played to get their ideological enemy gone.
There’s something interesting about the reaction. There has been some mockery of Len’s claims, some anger at them. And yet…
And yet, here’s the thing. To a certain degree, old Lenny, the Lenmeister, El Lenerino, well, he has a bit of a point.
Now, I’m being very precise here. Yes, he’s wrong to suggest there isn’t a problem with antisemitism on the left. Entirely wrong. I’ve encountered it for the best part of 2 decades in some form or other. I’ve frequently attempted to challenge or chronicle it precisely because – aside from anything else – it is antithetical to the stated values and aims of the left. We are meant to be the anti-racist, turning a blind eye to it is….well, dubious to say the least (I’ll also point out here that the similar problem with race on the right is often antithetical to the stated values of the right – if your belief system is about individualism, as the right often claims, I don’t actually see how you can square that with not calling out broad racial stereotyping or prejudice. Well, I do, in that all humans are flawed and none of us are perfect ideological vessels, but still, it’s a big lacuna in your worldview).
However, to my point. If, last year, like Len, like many another Corbyn supporter I encountered, you saw all this as a conspiracy, a set of lies, y’know, you were wrong. It’s there. The issue is real. Whether your wilful blindness is motivated by laziness, ignorance or malice, I can’t actually decide. I’ll take it case by case.
If, last year, you made a noise on this subject and this year, you know what? You still are? Again, well done. You – like Len – are at least consistent here. Well done. Stuck to your guns. Good on yer.
But there’s that third category, isn’t there? If, when Labour languished in the polls, you made that noise, you talked the talk, there was no place in your party for this then come this year, an election happened and Labour did better than you presumed, you now sing the song, you now have learned to love Big Corbyn, you don’t mention that subject at all? Well…
Len is (unintentionally) talking about you. You may not know it. You may shrug it off. But look at yourself – politician, pundit or prole; activist, supporter or spectator. Did you do that? Did you weaponise and then drop the issue when it became inconvenient?
And for me, that is the real problem. Not “how could any Jewish person support, be a member, be an activist for a party which contains antisemites?”. But how could they be a member of a party with people for whom their abuse means so little that it’s merely something to pick up when it’s convenient, and drop when it isn’t?
I’m still waiting for the answer.