Panorama: Labour’s antisemitism shame

10 07 19

Nick Lowles reacts to Panorama: “Too many people have confused loyalty to a project and a person with loyalty to enduring values.”

Tonight’s Panorama programme was depressing and gut-wrenching. It showed interference in what is supposed to be an independent process. It showed the downplaying of serious allegations. It showed that an appalling lack of understanding of the hurt, and fear, felt by Jewish party members and the wider Jewish community. Individual party members and staff have been left badly affected by the repeated failure to deal with this growing crisis.

I watched the programme with a mix of anger and sadness. Too many people have confused loyalty to a project and a person with loyalty to enduring values.

It seems incredible that only 15 people have been expelled in the three years this crisis has swirled around the Labour Party. The party has not been ruthless in finding and expelling members who have been racist against Jewish people.

While the Labour Party will allege that the issues raised were old and internal changes have improved the process since, the cases of Pete Willsman, a member of the party’s ruling executive, and Chris Williamson MP, shows that the antisemitism problem continues. The coordinated attempts to dismiss the programme as a hatchet job even before the programme had been aired by the party leadership shows that systemic problems exist.

As has happened so often through this process, there is a failure of empathy tonight. It’s a failure to see fear amongst Jewish members and react with horror and contrition, and instead react with talking points and innuendo.

Labour’s antisemitism crisis is of its own making. By failing to fix the problem by rooting out and expelling the racists in their midst, the party is now subject to an investigation by the EHRC. We welcomed that investigation and we look forward to the recommendations – which the party is likely to be legally obliged to implement – so that the wrongs that have exposed tonight and over many, many months, can be righted.

However, the party should not wait for the EHRC findings to take further action, but it must act now to restore trust in the process and more importantly support those are being attacked and vilified. It could start by establishing a truly independent complaints procedure for claims of antisemitism. But this is more than an issue of process, there are political and cultural changes that need to happen within the party.

I also want to renew my call to anyone who is a Labour voter, a Labour supporter: please consider joining the Jewish Labour Movement, your solidarity and support can help those people who spoke out tonight and others like them.


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