Konversations with Kapil
Labour and Anti-Semitism
The astute reader of international politics would have noted that in the UK the Labour Party (socialist) has been having a torrid time of late. In particular, accusation after accusation has surfaced, both from within the Party membership as well as from those on the outside. So, what say you all are these accusations related to? And the answer in a nutshell, it’s with regard to overt and covert racism against the Jewish community, and the turning of a blind eye to the anti-Semitism that appears to be rife in some corners of the Labour Party.
There has been a long-standing myth that the Labour Party in the UK is on the side of the ethnic minorities. I use the word, ‘myth’, because in my view and experience it has become apparent over the past several decades that maybe this perception that the Labour Party has enjoyed thus far might not be a true representation of its real under belly.
So let’s start with the new leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. He became the unexpected leader of the Labour Party on 12th September 2015. I say unexpected since even his own MP’s did not want him, yet by a quirk of the voting methods used by the Labour Party, the vote bank politics of the Unions and the far-left dominated membership he was brought to power. The victory of Corbyn was almost like a signal to the far-left of the Party to do whatever they wanted to do. To the horror of the centrist Labour MP’s, Corbyn supporters saw this as a green signal and went on a political rampage. Within a short period of time a far-left group calling itself ‘Momentum’ started to take over the Labour Party narrative. It was almost as if the old Labour Party had been hijacked by the far-left, and the Unions who now seemed to have been given unchecked access to do whatever they wanted to do. In effect the Labour far left seemed to be empowered to attack anyone who stood in their way, or in the way of their leader. The pent-up venom over decades of frustration of the far-left was unleashed, and it seemed that their initial targets appeared to be their own MP’s and the centre of the Party membership.
The alarm bells were not just ringing, they were exploding with the news that the old guard of the Labour Party was finished and the new comrades of Corbyn were now in power. Labour MP’s in their last-ditch stand passed a vote of no confidence in Corbyn by 172 votes to 40 following the resignation of around two-thirds of Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet. Now under any other democracy and for any other leader who had any honour and integrity, that would certainly mean walking away. However, Corbyn defied all logic in the knowledge that he had a majority of the membership votes, and the vote bank of the Unions that would keep him in place anyway. Labour MP’s were no longer in any position of influence. Labour had reached a bizarre position where the Parliamentary MP’s overwhelmingly rejected Jeremy Corbyn, yet the Party membership voted him in. The Labour Party as we knew it was finished.
So by now you must be asking the question, where and how does this anti-Semitism issue arise? Well, in 2016 the Labour Party instigated what was called the Chakrabarti Inquiry. It was to investigate allegations of antisemitism and other forms of racism in the Labour Party. At that time comments made by two high-profile Labour figures, Naz Shah and Ken Livingstone had been deemed to have been anti-Semitic in nature were therefore to be investigated. On 30 June 2016 the findings were presented stating that although antisemitism and other types of racism were not endemic within Labour, there was an “occasionally toxic atmosphere”. The report was seen by most independent readers as a white wash. This became even more toxic when the British public discovered months later that the Chair of the same inquiry, Shami Chakrabarti was suddenly made the Labour appointment to the House of Lords. Marie van der Syl, vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, called it a whitewash for peerages scandal. The tone was set, increasingly it became clear to most people that something was not quite right. The Jewish community was outraged to the core. If this was not bad enough for the Labour Party, a cross-party Select Committee on antisemitism described the Chakrabarti Inquiry as “compromised”. It criticised the Labour party’s handling of anti-Semitism, concluding “the failure of the Labour Party consistently to deal with anti-Semitic incidents in recent years risks lending force to allegations that elements of the Labour movement are institutionally anti-Semitic”.
Now to most sane people you would have thought that the writing was on the wall, and it was very clear. However, either the Leader of the Labour Party was deluded, compromised, part of the problem or just plain stupid to grasp the seriousness of the issues emerging. Whatever might the truth be, what was abundantly clear to most independent by-standers was that Labour was in trouble on the anti-Semitism issue and that it was not going to go away.
In early 2018 devastating news broke. It turns out that Jeremy Corbyn (and some other senior members of the Labour Party) were part of several Facebook groups. It also emerged that in some of the discussions taking place in these groups, there seemed to be anti-Semitic views expressed openly. In what became a farce, Corbyn’s defence was that he did not know of these views being expressed in these groups, even though he was a member. In the end the leaders of British Jewry wrote an open letter to the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn stating, ‘enough is enough’. Never in the history of modern day politics has the Jewish community been so outraged, and so abused, that they felt compelled to write in the bluntest fashion that they had, had enough of the rhetoric and platitudes from the Labour leader.
I have of course touched on just the tip of this messy racist iceberg. The Labour Party has hitherto ridden a wave of support from various ethnic minority groups who have seen it as a champion for equality and human rights. However, and increasingly, people are beginning to question whether this is in fact a true representation of the Labour Party now, or whether it has managed to escape close scrutiny by offloading such accusations onto the Conservative Party.
I have done a bit of digging myself and it seems that it is not just the Jewish community that is angry with the Labour Party. I have come across many community leaders from the Hindu, Sikh and Jain communities who have also expressed serious concern and reservations about the Labour Party. When you delve a bit further you come across time and again, community leader after community leader telling you that they now perceive the Labour Party to be anti-India. In fact, they went on and stated that the impression they were getting was that Corbyn was fundamentally anti-Modi with some suggesting that he was also anti-Hindu.
I am reminded of the first visit by PM Modi to the UK. It was under the stewardship of the then PM, David Cameron who welcomed the Indian PM with incredible hospitality. I remember the huge event that took place at Wembley Stadium when PM Cameron and PM Modi were on stage together as good friends. During that visit it was remarkable how the senior figures from the Labour Party were absent at most of events taking place. It was almost as if they had gone into hiding, trying their best to avoid coming into contact with PM Modi. The people noticed this open undermining of the Indian PM by the Labour Party. It was only towards the end of the visit that a hastily arranged meeting between the Labour leader and PM Modi took place – which I am told was a face-saving exercise for Corbyn. I am told, PM Modi gave him a few minutes only. A clear sign to the labour leadership that they cannot disrespect the biggest democracy on the planet and hope to get away with it so easily.
I asked many community leaders as to why the leader of the Labour Party had behaved in such a disgraceful fashion. Their answer was enlightening. As far as they were concerned the Labour Party was now a Party that was intertwined with the Pakistani community. Labour needed the Sunni and Kashmiri vote and could not do anything to alienate that community. In effect it seems the Labour Party had decided that harvesting the Sunni vote was more productive to them than trying to keep the votes of the other minorities. Again, one was left a bit perplexed. Surely such a strategy would be disastrous. And once again the very same leaders came back to me and said, not quite. It seems that the Labour Party had rightly concluded that the Hindu, Sikh and Jain vote was in the bag anyway, and given that these communities are not as well united and organised like the Pakistani community, they would not be able to damage their overall votes. There is a lot of truth in that view. History showed us there is still a sizeable Hindu, Sikh and Jain vote that always goes to the labour Party. This blind allegiance means that the Labour Party can get away with disrespecting their faith, their culture and their country of origin, knowing that they groups are too brainwashed to vote for anyone else. The Jewish vote for Labour on the other hand has gone down dramatically – they know how to show their displeasure.
When you investigate the matter further it transpires that most of the EDM (Early Day Motions in Parliament) that are negative to Israel and India tend to be led by Labour MP’s. No surprise there I suppose. In fact the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn supported an EDM seeking a Visa ban for Shri Narendra Modi. Yes, you read that correctly. Even more startling, he wanted to ban PM Modi from the entering the UK. So readers in India, think about this seriously. You now have the leader of the Labour Party in the UK, who could potentially become the next PM of UK, who has openly sought to ban PM Modi from the UK. Add to that the fact that you still have some Indians in the UK who will blindly vote for Corbyn and Labour. I am informed that some of these very same Indians are also key advisors to PM Modi. Now how mad is that? It’s almost as if the Indian PM is being advised by, and is listening to, the very people who want to undermine him and India. Folks you cannot make this up if you tried. This is ground reality and I would hope that someone in PM Modi’s camp might see enlightenment and act accordingly, and quickly. If they want to know more, then I am always available to share my thoughts.
So let us move back to how the under belly of the Labour started to get exposed. The Jewish lobby is very powerful in the UK (as it is anywhere else in the world). I salute the Jewish community since they have learnt the lessons of history and have concluded, never again will they allow the racist from the far left, or the far right, to dictate the agenda and leave them in a precarious position. As soon as they raised their voice and took proactive action, we saw the fear in the Labour Party spreading. Jeremy Corbyn was forced to accept that his ideological positioning was not compatible with British society. Every media channel, including the pro-Labour media, ran the story to the end with remarkable editorials that more or less showed that Jeremy Corbyn was unfit to be a leader. We had endless apologies from him as well his senior MP’s in the Shadow Cabinet. Do I think the public believed a word of it? Simple answer, it seems most of the British public don’t believe a word he utters on this subject. It has become toxic to such an extent that even his own Jewish MP’s like Luciana Berger stated in Parliament that anti-Semitism within the party has become “commonplace, conspicuous and corrosive”. In May of this year, in many parts of the UK we had our Local Elections to elect Councillors and Councils. The Labour Party had been stating for months that this would be a total wipe out for the Conservative Party. The reality has now hit them hard. As the results were announced, the vast majority of Labour supporters were left devastated. Their prediction of winning everything in sight was way off the mark. In the end, the Conservative Party after 8 years in Government held on to most of the Councils and the wipe out that was predicted, never materialised. The reason, the anti-Semitism row took its toll. The Jewish community showed that not only can they affect and impact elections where they are in large numbers, but their reach goes much wider and affected results across the country.
India is the emerging giant. India under PM Modi has garnered huge respect around the world. However, it has yet to take people to task when India or Indians are undermined or disrespected. PM Modi needs all the support he can get from the nation. However with that support he, and his Government, must also deliver on some of the core issues emerging. India stands at the gateway of a glorious future. The dreams of Bharat Varsh can be achieved where each and every Indian will be respected, valued and will find a place in the nation to fulfil their aspirations. This is not a time to blink, it’s time to stare your destiny in the eye and secure it.
In the words of Swami Vivekananda ji: “Arise awake and stop not until the goal is achieved.”
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