Although a keen amateur scholar of British history, it had never previously occurred to me that Edward I was into Zionism. Think about, though – he issued the notorious Edict of Expulsion in 1290, a royal decree that expelled all Jews from England. It wasn’t revoked until one of Edward’s successors four-hundred years later lost his head; it took a commoner to take control of the country before Jews were permitted to return to these shores – yes, Oliver Cromwell. He wasn’t all bad, see. Mind you, neither was Hitler, of course; he built the autobahns, didn’t he? And, according to the latest historical revelations courtesy of Ken Livingstone, old Adolf was keen on the Zionist thing himself, due to the fact that he wanted the Jews of Germany to relocate en masse to the Holy Land. He hadn’t hatched the Final Solution at this point, so he was still clearly a reasonable and rational man.
It was interesting that all was quiet on the Corbyn Army front yesterday. For a moment, I was wondering if we were seeing the return of the old far-left wall of silence when confronted by an uncomfortable truth – y’know, the same state of denial that had been a convenient patch of sand for burying heads in when news of Stalin’s purges exposed the realities of Soviet Communism to the western left in the 30s. Time was evidently required to come up with an explanation, and it’s been tweeted today. Ken claims it’s all a smear campaign generated by a Tory press who’ve always had it in for him. Yes, Ken; you can’t possibly be held responsible for what you said. Oh, get real. This is the same Mr Livingstone, I presume, who compared a Jewish ‘Evening Standard’ reporter to an officer of the SS a few years back.
Ken Livingstone had supposedly leapt to the defence of under-fire Labour MP Naz Shah, whose ill-advised online comments about Israel from a couple of years ago – aired before she was elected to Westminster – resurfaced and forced her into issuing an apology in the Commons. Ms Shah had denied she was anti-Semitic in her apology and appeared to have adhered to every rule of parliamentary penance in the process. She didn’t really need Ken weighing in with his limited grasp of history, and his clumsy intervention has now resulted in his own suspension from the party, pending an internal investigation.
It is true that Tory sections of the press dislike Ken Livingstone; he embodies so much of precisely what they hate in the left. Mind you, he’s hardly universally beloved in the Labour Party, many believing he represents everything that will keep them out of office. The problem is that the party in now in the hands of those who think along Ken lines; his old backbench buddy Jezza is the bloody leader, for God’s sake, and bringing Ken into the fold was bound to cause ructions at some point. He does have a history of putting his foot in it.
Zac Goldsmith, the clueless Hooray Henry that the Tories have chosen to run for London Mayor, has been equally dim with some of the moves he’s made in his campaign, but Goldsmith doesn’t masquerade as a man of the people, so it’s really no great surprise. Ken Livingstone, along with the shower that have seized the Labour frontbench, does pose as ‘an ordinary bloke’, but the wing of the party he belongs to is essentially the yang to David Cameron’s yin. Iain Duncan Smith in his resignation letter claimed the Conservative Cabinet have no interest in those who don’t vote Tory; Ken Livingstone and his ilk have no interest in those who don’t belong to a perceived ‘persecuted minority’.
Naturally, any mini-crisis that engulfs one political party will be exploited by another for political gain, though it would be unwise for Tories to adopt a holier-than-thou attitude to this. It was only last year that Dave referred to Syrian asylum-seekers as a ‘swarm’ – before the body of a little boy was photographed washed-up on a beach, of course; and the pro-Rhodesia/Apartheid South Africa policy of the old Monday Club would be an unpleasant skeleton in any party’s closet. However, the problem of anti-Semitism within Labour is especially acute in that much of it emanates from the ‘grass roots’ level, that of student bodies and the Momentum group, i.e. the very people that propelled the incumbent Labour leadership to power. Amusing it may have been, but Labour MP John Mann’s theatrical confrontation with Ken before TV cameras yesterday was a mere sideshow to the real problem, much of which stems from Labour’s enthusiastic embrace of Islam and fear of offending its less palatable prejudices.
The need to be viewed as inclusive and eager to recruit from the largest immigrant communities within the UK is a hallmark of modern Labour principles, yet one that turns a blind eye to some attitudes and opinions that, were they to emanate from white lips, would be instantly condemned. The introduction of Blair’s faith-schools in the late 90s served to foster separatism and suspicion and put the brakes on integration for a generation that has come of age with an Us and Them philosophy; by ghettoising a community, Labour has created a climate that can foster anti-Semitism at best and radicalisation at worst. Not that any of Corbyn’s crowd would acknowledge this.
To hear that loathsome bully boy Tom Watson describing Ken Livingstone’s comments as though they were most despicable remarks ever to have been uttered by a member of his own party is rich when one recalls his own rumour-mongering tirade against the dying Leon Brittan a couple of years ago. But perhaps Corbyn’s blinkered team have belatedly realised this unedifying scenario is something that threatens to expose their sham opposition and are desperate to minimise the damage while they can.
If being anti-Zionist does not equate with anti-Semitism, then criticising Corbyn and Ken does not equate with a deep desire to suck Cameron’s toes. I just wish there were separate pots for them all to piss in, for it often seems Westminster provides just the one.
© The Editor