Let’s stop apologising for having done nothing wrong, insists Lindsey German
You would never think that a Tory candidate in Aberdeen was suspended for various racist statements including Holocaust denial. Or that a fellow Tory candidate in Glasgow was suspended for Islamophobia a few days later. Or that the Lib Dem candidate in Birmingham Hodge Hill was also suspended for antisemitism.
Don’t expect this to be raised by any of those who daily demand that Jeremy Corbyn apologise for antisemitism in the Labour Party. It doesn’t fit their narrative which is that this is an exclusively Labour problem.
So yet again we’ve had a major election intervention on the question aimed at stopping Jeremy Corbyn, this time in a leaked document from the Jewish Labour Movement to the EHRC. It raises no new examples of this horrible form of racism.
In this, it is at one with the Chief Rabbi’s intervention last week. Nothing new, just a recycling of claims that are contentious or unfounded. To dare to challenge these interventions is to be accused of condoning racism. Yet these arguments are not about challenging all racism – otherwise they would highlight examples of antisemitism across all parties.
Several former MPs who left Labour citing antisemitism are now calling for Labour supporters to vote Tory. Does anyone seriously take this in good faith? Or could it be that these people have more in common with the Tories than with the left and that part of their motivation is to destroy the left?
I find the whole approach to this question nothing short of astonishing since it is about isolating one group of left politicians as guilty of a particular form of racism while giving a free pass to a deeply racist party which presided over Windrush, the hostile environment and Grenfell and whose leader has a proven track record of racist remarks, as do numbers of its elected representatives.
Meanwhile, the French National Assembly has passed a law equating anti-Zionism with antisemitism. It is wrong to treat racism against Jews as isolated from the wider racism in society, and it is wrong to regard Jews as synonymous with Israel.
Racism is racism in whatever form and should be confronted as such. Criticism of Israel and its repression of the Palestinians is not racist but political. Let’s not confuse the two.
And let’s stop apologising for having done nothing wrong.
If Johnson wins, things can only get worse – so let’s make sure he doesn’t
The last weekend before polling day and everyone is talking about the same question: are we going to win? Labour supporters are working flat out to ensure the answer is yes. I think practically everyone I know is doing something to campaign for a Labour victory. I’ve had neighbours, work colleagues, friends, comrades and even some quite distant acquaintances discuss canvassing and relate their experiences in different constituencies.
The problem is that no one can really tell and that’s a big change from some elections I’ve been involved in. Partly this is the nature of canvassing which is only a very partial view of opinions and may either lull you into a sense of false security or panic you after a series of negative experiences. Partly it is that a very high number of potential voters have not made up their minds, or have said so far that they aren’t going to vote.
So it’s sensible to concentrate on what we do know. Labour appears to be narrowing the gap in opinion polling although the Tories are still well ahead. But they know that if the gap gets any narrower they are in hung parliament territory and that is bad for them. They also know that Jeremy Corbyn’s ratings are rising while those of Johnson and Swinson are falling. This is part of the process which happened in 2017 and saw Labour do much better than most of its critics and even many of its supporters expected.
The main reason for this is that Labour’s policies proved very popular and this helped to raise its support and negate many of the criticisms of Corbyn. This is happening again despite the best attempts of the Tories to rubbish issues like nationalisation.
On the downside, the attacks over antisemitism have done Labour damage – and every time Jeremy or Labour apologises for this, it just reinforces the sense that he has done one thing wrong, whereas there is no evidence to suggest that he is in any way antisemitic. The other major area of damage is over Brexit, where Leave voters are in some places apparently abandoning Labour.
My best hunch is that there will be a hung parliament, that Labour will form a minority government and that the Tories will do less well than is predicted. But the election is still something we can influence. Canvassing isn’t just about knocking on doors but arguing and discussing with everyone you know about what a Johnson government would mean – and what a Corbyn one would.
I think Labour has done itself no favours with all these policy pronouncements which are just denounced as ‘free stuff’ by the right and which lots of supporters find hard to absorb. Instead, the simple message – everything about this country will get worse under a Johnson government and only Labour can stop that. So everything we can do this week matters.
Tremendous strikes and demos in France yesterday against very serious attacks on pension rights. Public sector out in force, as were the gilets jaunes. Macron and his vicious anti-working class government can be defeated, as Juppe was in 1995. I get the feeling this is in some ways part of the worldwide protests we have seen in recent months. I also get the feeling that, whatever the election results, things are going to get much hotter here.
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
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