Code+ back on track – reaction of Corbyn’s opponents underlines that and more

The full statement protecting free speech delivered by Labour leader Jeremy to the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) today was not, ultimately, voted on by Labour’s ruling body today. Instead, ultimately, it was parcelled up with other items in the ongoing consultation agreed at the last NEC meeting and will be voted on either at the full NEC meeting on 18 September, or at the first meeting after Conference, with new NEC members in place.

Either way, Labour’s leadership expects to win the vote.

The statement

The full statement is an exemplar of sound political language, offering full support to Jewish people against antisemitism, but also full of commitment to the rights of Palestinians.

In fact, so strong is it that there is nothing in it for any reasonable person whose primary concern is to protect Jewish people in this country to object to:

corbyn drft1corbyn drft2

“Take whatever action necessary”; “full IHRA working definition and examples”; “eradicating the social cancer of antisemitism” – these are firm commitments, backed by the full set of IHRA examples. Antisemitism and its proponents have no place in the Labour Party.

The vote

The statement emerged from discussions with Jewish and Palestinian people – and along with any other recommendations from the current consultation it will be voted on by the NEC once the consultation ends – either in two weeks’ time or in October.

In two weeks, the leadership is confident that there will be enough support to pass the package – which was not the case today, because of the absence of at least one NEC member and the possibility of a small group of members abstaining because of their objection to the adoption of the examples at all.

Those members have now committed themselves to supporting it – and a handful of the NEC’s more right-leaning members who appreciate the importance of protecting free speech and Palestinian rights will also support it.

This means that the vote can carry, even if Jon Lansman, Rhea Wolfson, Eddie Izzard and Ann Black vote against – as they indicated they would today.

If the vote does not take place until after Conference, Wolfson, Izzard and Black will no longer be on the NEC, making the voting arithmetic even clearer.

Lansman, newly re-elected to the NEC and the only one of the four who will still be a member after Conference, has damaged his credibility among Labour activists, perhaps fatally after his bid for the general secretary position and his part in withdrawing Momentum support from Peter Willsman’s candidacy in the latest NEC election, which had already been condemned widely by local Momentum groups.

The reaction

In the first hours after today’s NEC meeting, the Labour leadership’s internal and external opponents were delirious at the supposed defeat they had inflicted. But then the public comments changed, reflecting the newly-lit landscape ahead – and turned to outraged comments about the supposed neutering of the IHRA examples:

Margaret Hodge was so stunned she performed backflips. In late July, she argued that if anyone had issues, they could add extra comments to the IHRA ‘definition’:

hodge july.png

But today she claimed to be mystified that anyone might do so:

hodge sep

Progress’ Richard Angell was fairly beside himself, tweeting a stream of criticism of which a few examples are shown below:


The issue

Others followed similar lines. But it was perhaps the right-wing Jewish Leadership Council’s hyperbolic response that was most telling:

jlc reverse1

According to the JLC, the ‘free speech caveat’ – which is specifically and exclusively about free speech on the subject of Israel and Palestine and the rights of Palestinians,

undermines the entire IHRA definione [and] drives a coach and horses through the IHRA definition.

Protection from Jewish people against hate speech: check. Solidarity with all Jewish people and a commitment to eradicate the cancer of antisemitism: check. Adoption of all the IHRA examples: check.

But according to the JLC, protecting the rights of Palestinians and their supporters to express themselves about the oppression of the Palestinians and to discuss the circumstances of the foundation of modern Israel and differentiating between anti-zionism and antisemitism “undermine the entire thing.  The ‘free speech caveat’ doesn’t do anything else.

SKWAWKBOX comment:

The visceral reaction of Corbyn’s critics to his statement – and the rapid u-turn from the triumphalism that immediately followed today’s NEC meeting – strongly suggest two things.

First, that the recognition quickly became general that Corbyn has the numbers, support and circumstances to pass his full statement when it comes up for a vote.

Second, that the real issue in the IHRA definition is indeed a desire to clamp down on free speech about Israel and about the history, current plight and rights of Palestinians. Supporters of the full set of IHRA examples have often claimed that they do not prevent free speech about Israel.

But free speech about Israel is the only thing that Corbyn’s statement vouchsafes apart from protection for Jewish people.

Code Plus – Labour’s existing Code of Conduct, strengthened to accommodate the full IHRA examples without compromising the rights of Palestinians or of free speech on the issue – is back on track.

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  1. The Blairites will go ballistic if this passes! Hopefully Hodge, Berger, Austen, Mann etc. will join Field in resigning before which their CLPs should chuck them out if mandatory reselection passes.

    1. Their CLP’s should vote no confidence in them before they resign, if they already haven’t by the time mandatory reselection is brought in – in which case loads of them that chose to stay’ll be democratically booted out anyway.

      Either day can’t come quickly enough. They’re the ONLY two ways to settle the issue now.

    1. Antony Lerman’s update on his viewpoint should be read by all. It’s long and later sections tend to expand on much that he has said previously. It lends detailed support and argument to the work already undertaken by Finkelstein and others. However, the section entitled ‘A Barrage of Criticism” is particularly useful, at least for me.

      At intervals, I have been pleading on the SB (sometimes at great length), for some specific engagement with the existing NEC code. Lerman does deal with it – very specifically. I think I am being fair in saying that whilst he rightly argues that any IHRA derivation will be flawed, he is implying that we could probably have lived with the amended NEC code, the one that preceded the putative Code plus.

      My concern is that whilst many, including myself, are wholly opposed to what appears to be coming – unamended definitions and examples that are at odds with the accompanying disclaimer – there has to be a viable alternative for members to get behind. I cannot understand why the NEC didn’t get more forcefully behind the existing code. To her credit, Formby did initially. There was/is a big groundswell of support for it, particularly amongst the pro-Corbyn Jewish community.

  2. Back to needing a very large bucket of popcorn for conference. Mandatory reselection, of course, and hopefully we see the RW death throes played out on the big stage. Plus the promise of a frosty silence for our dear deputy leader.

    Bring on the bodyguards too, but for Corbyn not the attention seekers.

  3. The statement seems even handed and fair to both sides. And for this reason I can see why the most fanatical anti-Corbyn right wingers and Zionists would be angry with it.

    What I don’t yet understand is the reason why the four NEC members (Lansman, Black, Izzard, Wolfson) would oppose it. You don’t make that clear Skwawk.

    The article also mentions a (different?) group of NEC members who ‘abstain[ed] because of their objection to the adoption of the examples at all.’ Can you confirm that was a different group to Lansman et al? Who were they?

  4. What I don’t yet understand is the reason why the four NEC members (Lansman, Black, Izzard, Wolfson) would oppose it. You don’t make that clear Skwawk.”

    Unless of course they opposed it because they think the statement made too many concessions to safeguarding free speech? They think the IHRA examples should be adopted without any caveats and commitment to defend free speech? Hmmm.

  5. John Mann just interviewed about the NEC result on the BBC… “Gordon Brown gave a BRILLIANT speech on this… a LEADER’S speech.

    Gordon Brown ffs.

  6. There just needs to be some antisemitism from the Tories or Lib Dems (or anyone else) to be exposed and reported.

  7. Labour need a clear policy on Palestinian Human Rights and it should become a disciplinary offence NOT to support them, punishable by expulsion. Zionists in the Labour must be responsible for their beliefs when they impinge on others welfare!

  8. I think the next step for activists and journalists is to seriously investigate whether there are financial links between the most vocal critics of Corbyn on antisemitism, whether groups or individuals, and the state of Israel or NGOs close to Israeli leading politicians. My view is that those critics have been given what they asked for, but keep shifting the goal post.

    There was criticism antisemitism has been allowed to fester and go unchallenged (and I’ve read anecdotal evidence of such instances). As soon as Formby was appointed, the huge backlog of complaints the old blairite guard sat on has been dealt with promptly and a actual clear code dealing with antisemitism was adopted. Critics should have been satisfied. I think this code was fine: the IHRA’s definition was adopted IN FULL, but the examples used to illustrate antisemitism were tweaked to take into account the potential use of it to stifle free speech and deflect justified criticism of Israel, while at the same time protecting Jewish people, as the authors of the definition recognised themselves. But it seems it wasn’t enough.

    So, now all the examples are accepted in full. Just as those critics asked. With protection to allow criticism of Israel and allow Palestinians to express their views, since those critics argued it wasn’t about stifling debate. They’re still not happy. We can safely assume they are acting in bad faith and, as Hodge said herself, it is all about removing Jeremy Corbyn.

    I have met many people acting in bad faith in my life. They are generally idiots who are not able to complete basic study courses, let alone keep a job, or who have no instinct of self preservation. Margaret Hodge doesn’t seems to be an idiot. My assumption is that either such people reached the highest levels of arrogance because they think they can act with complete impunity, or that they are paid to act like idiots to such level and in such a self destructive way.

    If the latter, Would be a good thing to know.

    1. I particularly welcome your second paragraph Ben – at least that’s two us who agree!

  9. Well said Tom M.

    I’m sorry, but compare the latest draft statement with the imperfect, but relatively careful and engaged stance of the code that preceded it. I know it’s only a draft statement, but it looks pretty shoddy to me.

    So, after months of careful discussion, the current NEC offers a disclaimer; which expresses the extraordinarily contentious, by now defunct, opinion that “the adoption of the full IHRA with all examples does not undermine freedom of expression …” as in: the 11 examples do undermine, but we promise not to take any notice of them – heard that one before? They really have listened; they really are on the money aren’t they?

    Sorry SkwawkB, but much as I would like to see this issue put to bed and even if I stretch myself to look constructively at a Code plus scenario, even if I were to grit my teeth and accept all 11 examples, the statement above begs too many questions about how those examples are to be presented, particularly if it means the ones that refer to Israel won’t be individually caveated, (as they were in the code that preceded). If they’re not, then neither the code, nor its disclaimer, will have any congruency, cogency, or useful purpose.

    I could also object to the use of the words “Israeli – Palestinian conflict”; Perhaps it’s not quite as bad as “clashes” – does the NEC work for the Guardian news desk? I’ll let it pass.

    Looks to me that the “plus” is going to simply mean plus 4 more examples – What a disappointment – Code plus indeed!

    It’s good that there has been an effort to move ratification to September/October. Nevertheless, to me, the future looks like chaos.

  10. This just reinforces my point that the grassroots left need to elect the JC9 left slate next time.

  11. So retreating on this has not worked. The antisemitism scam continues.

    1. …. but if do, they will have to ‘expose’ their real intentions? The newly-constituted NEC will, no doubt, be put to the test in the very near future. If they adopt the malicious complaints element that has been mooted, this may help reduce the ‘non-complaints’ about AS that have been rife recently.

  12. The correct response to the smears by Margaret Hodge, Jonathan Sacks and others would have been to ditch the IHRA definition/examples in its entirety and look around for a better worded definition.
    The real mistake was allowing the party to have the poorly worded IHRA definition foisted on it in the first place, and that mistake should have been corrected when the calls for all the examples to be adopted started. The IHRA definition was bad enough on its own, and the examples just make it even worse.

    1. This. Absolutely this. What I have been saying all along. We need an all-encompassing anti-racist statute, legally words, and leave it all at that. No special dispensations for AS, which after all, is AS in of itself.

    2. I would be pretty happy with the JS one proposed by Dave G – as an alternative to the existing NEC code. Failing that the existing code – either for me.

    3. Here’s some advice for the NEC – then I’ll shut the F up.

      If by Set/Oct you really, really have to include the 11 examples:

      1) Cut and paste the existing code with its tuned and amended 7 examples

      2) Add the four remaining examples

      3) RETAIN the comments from the existing code that deal with these 4.

      4) Tell Margaret and the world that your work is done and includes all 11
      examples – just don’t go out of the way to show her the text

      5) Adopt the brace position

  13. Lansman was behind the original Code (along with Chakrabarthi), so why did he vote to adopt the remaining IHRA examples and reject Code plus? Did JLM put something in his drink last Sunday?

  14. Skwawkbox – this article suggests that Corbyn’s caveat may yet be agreed at the next NEC meeting on the 18th Sept or the one following Conference (23-26th Sept).
    However, the caveat makes no attempt to challenge Israel’s claim to be a democratic state.
    Also, the 205 Labour MPs who passed the full IHRA without caveats on the 5th Sept (there are only 257 in all, and only 8 voted against) will not accept Corbyn’s caveat without a fight.
    I the spirit of pouring oil on the fire, and with the words of “I Spartacus” ringning in my brain, I have set up this petition and I urge Labour members to sign it https://www.change.org/p/to-chair-of-labour-s-nec-andy-kerr-labour-members-declaring-israel-is-a-racist-endeavour-call-on-nec-to-abandon-full-ihra

  15. Who decides who is a reasonable person? I’m a reasonable person (sometimes), but I get a bad feeling that the s…. will soon hit the fan!

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