Right-wing Labour MP Chuka Umunna was criticised earlier last week by Unite boss Len McCluskey, who attacked Umunna’s “paucity of evidence” for the “institutional antisemitism” Umunna had alleged in an article for the Independent. Umunna wrote:
The Macpherson Report defined institutional racism as “the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin”. It said this “can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people”. Based on its actions (or failure to act), it is beyond doubt that Labour, as an institution, meets these criteria insofar as the Jewish community is concerned – something which should shame every member of our party
Umunna responded on Twitter to McCluskey’s criticism of his lack of evidence – not by providing evidence, but by the apparent right-wing default response of saying he wouldn’t be “bullied into silence”.
The SKWAWKBOX asked Mr Umunna’s office several days ago:
McCluskey commented that Chuka hasn’t provided any evidence, not that he should be silent if he has any. The tweets seem essentially non-responsive to Len McCluskey’s actual criticism. Is he planning on providing any evidence?
No response has been received.
Mr Umunna’s reluctance to respond to the challenge to provide any evidence for his claim may be caused by him not having any.
In October 2016 – just after the release of Commons Home Affairs Committee report (CHAC) in which he participated said that there was no evidence for what has been called a ‘Labour antisemitism problem’ – Mr Umunna put out a Facebook post saying:
Labour National Executive Committee (NEC) member Peter Willsman was roundly attacked for similar comments during a recent NEC meeting, in which he asked other members who had seen antisemitism, because he hadn’t.
Umunna held similar views less than two years ago – yet now claims that institutional antisemitism, the very kind he said he refuted because he hadn’t seen a single antisemitic incident in the party in twenty years, is ‘beyond doubt’.
That’s a very short time for something to become institutionalised.
But Chuka Umunna seems to have a conflicted relationship with the idea of antisemitism in the Labour Party. In July 2016 – three months before his comment that he had not seen a single incident of antisemitism in the party, Umunna had to be scolded by the Chair of the CHAC for an obsession with what Umunna claimed was ‘party within a party’ Momentum and its alleged antisemitism:
It’s interesting to note that the aspect of the antisemitism issue Umunna found most offensive was a perceived insult to him and his fellow ‘centrists’.
But most noteworthy of all is the fact that within Labour – a ‘party within a party’ is most certainly ‘within the party’, Umunna had no problem identifying antisemitism in July 2016.
And Umunna clearly did not associate antisemitism with his party’s leader – because he suggested to Corbyn that the supposedly-antisemitic Momentum should be wound up so the ‘good’ people in Momentum could just serve the movement “in a Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn“.
But by October 2016, three months later, Umunna had never ‘seen one incident of antisemitism in almost 20 years of activism‘.
The SKWAWKBOX contacted Mr Umunna’s office for comment about the video, its contrast with his current position and its relevance to his failure now to respond to McCluskey’s challenge to provide evidence for Labour antisemitism.
No response was received to that request either.
When Momentum was the immediate target, Umunna found antisemitism galore – but just three months later, just after the issuing of the report that resulted from the above hearing and others, he hadn’t seen any.
Now antisemitism seems to have migrated from Momentum to the Labour leader that Umunna wanted to see Momentum members devote themselves to exclusively in July 2016.
Umunna’s changing – not to say flip-flopping – position on Labour antisemitism and his varying application of it have drawn attention on social media, with one observer commenting:
What does Umunna’s ‘flexible’ attribution of antisemitism say about him – and about the wider group of right-wingers who suddenly believe antisemitism in Labour is ‘beyond doubt’ when at least some of them previously and demonstrably thought differently?
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