This post first appeared on Progress
Yesterday’s verdict on was a slap on the wrist for Ken Livingstone and a slap in the face for Jewish Labour members and supporters – indeed, thousands of Labour Party members of all faiths and none who wanted the Party to take a firms stand against the former Mayor.
Let’s be clear about one thing: yesterday, the National Constitutional Committee found Livingstone guilty on all three charges of bringing the Party into disrepute. He had a case to answer and was found wanting.
Frankly, the range of opinion across the Jewish community that said his remarks were grissly insensitive and tantamount to Holocaust revisionism made it clear the reputational damage her had done to Labour. The independent Holocaust Educational Trust accused him of sprinkling the Holocaust around like political confetti. The Chief Rabbi and leaders of the Reform and Liberal Jewish movement condemned his remarks.
This surely should put pay to his lie that this case was some sectarian battle, played out by those wishing to damage Jeremy Corbyn. The visceral reaction to his ongoing outburst show that this goes far beyond internal party politics.
Given this, it is beyond comprehension that he is suspended from holding office and representing the Party for two years (and what’s more he’s already served half this paltry sentence). You can get thrown out of the party for standing against a Labour Party candidate, or even supporting someone else doing so (and rightly so).
Yet someone with the political reputation and celebrity of Ken Livingstone, who has form on making comments which are offensive to Jewish people, can get away with the punishment of not being able to stand as his branch membership secretary. Big deal.
It basically creates the impression of a revolving door policy – offend, sit quiet, drag the process out and it will be like nothing has happened.
This is completely askance with the calls for zero tolerance against antisemitism which have come so strongly from our Leader and Deputy Leader.
Indeed, the Chakrabarti Report, commissioned by Jeremy Corbyn, warned against members playing fast and loose with language referring to the Holocaust. One of her key recommendations was that “Labour members should resist the use of Hitler, Nazi and Holocaust metaphors, distortions and comparisons in debates about Israel-Palestine in particular.”
But, according to our NCC, even if you are found guilty of using such language to drag the reputation of the Labour Party through the mud, you shouldn’t be too concerned.
This cannot stand.
So JLM is calling on Jeremy Corbyn to ask the NEC to review this NCC decision.
We’re asking members who think what happened yesterday is a travesty of the values on which Labour was founded to join JLM, and lobby their local Labour representatives stand in solidarity with us too.
We at JLM have been overwhelmed by the messages of solidarity from across the party. But we’ve been equally saddened by the many Jewish members for whom this was a red line, and who now question whether they have a home in the party.
To all of them we say: remember the lesson of Cable Street. We stay. We stand. We fight.