Back in 2018, a writer in Solidarity described Corbyn’s response to allegations of antisemitism in Labour under his leadership:
“Corbyn agrees there is a problem. He responds under pressure, moves in the direction his critics are pointing to, but it is as if he cannot understand what the fuss is about ... everything is low-energy, insufficient, ineffectual, can be seen or portrayed as evasive, as lacking conviction ...”
That description sprang to mind when reading Corbyn’s response to the EHRC report: instead of an apology for what happened (and didn’t happen) on his watch, there was the claim that “the scale of the problem was ... dramatically overstated” by “opponents inside and outside the party” and the bizarre statement that while he did not “accept all of [the report’s] findings” he nevertheless hoped the recommendations would be “swiftly implemented.”
A large part of the explanation has to be the politics of the paper which Corbyn has long publicly endorsed and for which he used to write: the Morning Star.
This publication (like the Communist Party of Britain, which controls it) has consistently claimed that allegations of antisemitism within Labour have been overwhelmingly “manifestly untrue and malicious” and the work of “not only British and Israeli state actors but an unscrupulous assembly of reactionary forces of all kinds” (quotes from Morning Star writer Nick Wright, 22 October).
That approach continues:
• Editorial (30 October): “The ostensible reason for Corbyn’s suspension rests on a sleight of hand by which anyone who dares to query contentious allegations is deemed guilty of the claims under dispute. So for making the widely shared observation that ‘the scale of the problem [of anti-semitism in the Labour Party] was dramatically overstated for political reasons,’ Corbyn is labelled ‘part of the problem.’”
• Morning Star editor Ben Chacko (31 October-1 November): “An honest response to the EHRC report would include an acceptance that many party members [ie those accused of antisemitism] have been treated appallingly ... on the basis of vague or anonymous accusations ... There are certainly grounds to see [the EHRC report] as disproportionate ...”
• Adam Lewinski (2 November): “Most disturbingly, the EHRC has established case law against what has been called the ‘Livingstone Formulation’ ... that unlawful harassment of Jewish people extends to ‘suggesting that complaints of anti-semitism are fake or smears’”
• Nick Wright (5 November): “Starmer’s declaration of war is grounded in a transparently nonsensical claim that Labour’s anti-Semitism issue was not exaggerated ... it only became apparent when the party elected a man committed to Palestinian national rights...”
• Editorial (18 November — after Corbyn’s suspension was lifted): “Once a false impression has taken root, too little is done to counter it, so the tedious but necessary task of maintaining an accurate record falls to the left. Corbyn’s clarification falls into this category. He never minimised the seriousness of anti-semitism.”
• Editorial (19 November — after Starmer withheld the whip): “Starmer’s attempt to excuse his behaviour with references to the supposed feelings of ‘the Jewish community’ should not go unchallenged: he has consistently ignored the many Jewish voices raised in solidarity with Corbyn...” [“Many Jewish voices” mainly being the unrepresentative Jewish Voice For Labour]
The 2018 Solidarity article concluded that “Corbyn really does not ‘get it’, or ‘get’ enough of it ... he has lived in a world in which what other people defined as antisemitism was commonplace among much of the ostensible left. Labour Party antisemitism is in large part an infection from the ostensible left. Corbyn and the people around him and much of the left have been desensitised to antisemitism because it has long been the norm on the ostensible left.”
And the poisonous mouthpiece of that “ostensible left” is the Morning Star.