Labour’s ‘institutional’ problem isn’t racism – it’s right-wing, authoritarian MPs

This is deliberate needling by Chuka Umunna. He’s trying to provoke an aggressive reaction from among the membership of the Labour Party – as he was with his dehumanising tactic of calling us all “dogs”.

Well, every dog has its day, and ours is coming.

Here’s Mr Umunna’s latest outrageous claim:

Notice that Sophy Ridge asked a leading question, allowing Mr Umunna to wax lyrical on this theme. He immediately goes off-course and crashes. He claims that the Labour Party has met the Macpherson report’s definition of “institutional racism” – but fails to elaborate on what it is.

Allow me to fill in the blanks. According to the report by Sir William Macpherson to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, “institutional racism” is “the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin”. And it does not apply to the Labour Party at all.

Labour, as an organisation, has always provided an appropriate and professional service. Where party members have been found to have been exhibiting racist behaviour, it has not been in their capacity as members or officers of the party – it did not reflect Labour’s policies or procedures. And we know that the vast majority of accusations that have been levelled at Labour members have been false. Right?

Mr Umunna, a supporter of Labour Friends of Israel – an organisation that has now been proven to have been supporting the interests of the Israeli government in UK Parliamentary affairs (right?) – went on to say that Labour had failed to address “the racism known as anti-Semitism”. But Labour has been addressing it since 2016; it is the intervention of MPs like Mr Umunna (whose questioning of Ken Livingstone over anti-Semitism that year clearly showed he had already decided on the senior Labour member’s guilt) that induces the public wrongly to believe otherwise.

He demands that Labour should have adopted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, rather than its own code of conduct, failing to mention the fact that the IHRA document is vague, allows critics of the Israeli government to be falsely labelled anti-Semitic (because he’s involved with Labour Friends of Israel?), and was intended to be a tool to help investigations – not as evidence, or indeed proof, of claims against any party member his gang would like to accuse.

The dishonesty in his next comment is staggering. He claims that, if Labour had adopted the IHRA working definition, the party could have moved on to discuss the big political issues of the moment. This is not true. He knows – and we know (right?) that the accusations of anti-Semitism will not stop while Jeremy Corbyn is leader of the Labour Party. The Israeli government does not want a supporter of peace between its country and Palestine in line to be the next Prime Minister of a country as influential as the UK still remains, and that is why these claims continue. One was made the very morning after Labour adopted the IHRA definition, if I recall correctly.

His claim that there are still outstanding complaints is false, as you can see from this tweet by NEC member Claudia Webbe:

That being said, This Writer has been facing action under Labour’s disputes procedure since May 2017 and at the time of writing I am yet to be given details of the date and location of the first hearing at which I will be allowed to give evidence, which indicates that the process up to now has indeed left much to be desired – especially as I am utterly innocent of the charge against me, including all its particulars.

I am currently crowdfunding to carry out legal action against all my accusers and you should be able to find information on how you can help me, at the end of this article.

I cannot discuss the claim that Labour has not told MPs about threats of violence to them. I do know of a claim that a supporter of Joan Ryan MP threatened to kill a youth member who intervened when he tried to pressure a female vote-counter and then tried to assault the same young man on a second occasion. The Metropolitan Police has said it was ‘assessing’ the complaint.

Labour organisations, MPs and officers have made their opposition to Mr Umunna’s claims clear:

The mention of Trevor Phillips refers to a former chair of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission who has claimed that Labour “is led by anti-Semites and racists, who basically want to essentially eliminate anyone who disagrees with them” – in a staggering reversal of the facts. It is right-wingers like Mr Umunna (and, one must conclude, Mr Phillips) who want to eliminate anyone who disagrees with them. I make no comment about whether they are racist in any way.

This is true. Many have questioned why Labour right-wingers seem able to come out with any old claptrap and go unpunished for it, while rank-and-file members such as myself can be suspended – and indeed expelled, as happened to Marc Wadsworth – on the basis of similar claptrap, sometimes uttered by other Labour MPs (Ruth Smeeth in the case of Mr Wadsworth).

So, what can we say about this? Let’s start with Clive Lewis’s excellent comments to BBC News:

He makes a strong point: Labour members have exercised their democratic right to express their dissatisfaction with the behaviour of the right-wing MPs (like Joan Ryan, in the case under discussion) and to demand better.

The current Labour leadership understands that this is democracy – but the MPs under the spotlight – including Mr Umunna – don’t. The reason for this is explored very thoroughly in a Twitter thread by Ben Goren:

So these people – Mr Umunna, Ms Ryan, Mr Phillips, Ms Smeeth, and the others not mentioned above – believe that Labour should be ruled from the centre, with the wider membership only allowed to service the needs of the privileged few in the PLP, NEC and other positions of power. That is why they believe Jeremy Corbyn can “call off the dogs”, as Mr Umunna unappealingly (indeed, unacceptably) described it.

But Mr Corbyn cannot. He did not set these “dogs” loose. And the right-wingers only have themselves to blame for their current predicament.

Indeed, their accusations may be considered victim-blaming of the lowest kind. Consider:

What next? Well…

Yes it does. But we cannot descend to their level because we know that they have an advantage – a set of privileges – that the rest of us do not: They can say what they want with impunity but if we put one word out of line, they’ll use it as a stick and beat us with it. Like dogs.

This is a debate that requires the ultimate in restraint from those of us who are in the right. We must be polite. We must be accurate. We must be forensic.

And when the other side changes its tactics, we must adapt. For instance:

Back in 2016, during the so-called “Chicken Coup” that led to the second leadership election that Jeremy Corbyn won, Ms Eagle accused supporters of the Labour leader of vandalising the window of her constituency office. This was a lie. The broken window led to a staircase and not the office, and a police investigation showed no evidence that supporters of Mr Corbyn were responsible.

Now she is adopting a conciliatory tone. But note that she is trying to take the lead. We can unite to take on the Tories – if we follow her lead and that of her group within the Labour Party.

No, thank you, Angela. You had your chance and you attacked us.

If you hear someone attacking Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership, using accusations of anti-Semitism against him and the membership at large, or claiming that the members are somehow traitors for using the party’s own mechanisms to stop them… these are the people to oppose.


But firmly.

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6 thoughts on “Labour’s ‘institutional’ problem isn’t racism – it’s right-wing, authoritarian MPs

  1. Vanda Bubear

    Something does need to be done about the Blairite right-wing MPs. They seem immune to disciplinary action.

    Members will never forget the disgraceful actions of the chicken coup and the NEC under Mcnicol – democracy left the party completely in 2016. I saw and heard loyal Labour members – people who had been members for longer than Umunna has lived on this earth – reduced to tears by the actions of the party and these MPs. It was a complete and utter disgrace and will not be forgotten – the underhand and downright disgusting ways they employed, in order to harass and interrogate ordinary, decent folk. Trawling through their social media in order to find anything they could to sling at them, so that they could then disqualify their votes. These people were meant to be ‘on the same side’ as us!

    These MPs, together with the right-wing rags they often run to with their op-eds against the party, are STILL managing to subject Corbyn to such abusive and bullying behaviour – yet again trawling through his social media for years back, to try to find any juicy tidbit they can throw back at him. They call us dogs, or trots, stalinists and communists. Or else they call us ‘Corbynistas’ or ‘cult’. Every single one a term of abuse, chucked at us by so-called Labour MPs.

    And yet still we are leading in the polls. Certainly our lead would be in double figures if they actually toed the party line, and fought with us against the tories, but it shows how desperately people want to get this government out, that they refuse to cower to the right wing rags and believe all the crap.

    They have gotten away with bullying, harassing and verbally assaulting grassroots members for far too long. Something needs to be done to discipline them, from within the party. I am so heartened to see CLPs finally taking the onus on themselves, and saying to their MPs (as Clive Smith so eloquently put it) that ‘enough is enough. Get behind the leader, and behind the party, and behind the members, and start fighting the tories’. Something we always advocated they do when they were so busy slurring and smearing the leader for years.

    Let them try to form another party, and I eagerly await seeing how far it gets them. We’ve had enough of them spilling their vitriol all over us, the members, just so that they can continue to lap up the spoils on the gravy train. That’s why none of these spineless right-wingers will actually resign – because they don’t want to lose the salary, and the perks, the expenses claims, the jollies, everything which comes with being a Labour MP.

  2. rotzeichen

    If Chukka is so concerned about racism, why isn’t he leading a campaign against the Tories in favour of the Windrush victims that have been so vilely treated.

    The answer of course is obvious, he isn’t concerned about racism at all.

    We really do need to take action against these right wing MPs that are deliberately bringing the party into disrepute, and will not stop until they achieve their real agenda.

Comments are closed.