Labour’s spineless tactics

Recent initiatives by the government are transparent manoeuvres to gain Muslim votes

By Geoffrey Alderman, April 7, 2009

A year or so from now we shall be experiencing a general election. When polling day comes around, Labour will be defending a majority of 67 seats. On the basis of current trends, this could be wiped out, but it is well known that there is generally a swing back to the governing party (“better the devil you know”) on the actual day of the poll.

So, from Gordon Brown’s point of view, there is still everything to play for. And among the things that are worth playing for is the Muslim vote, which could be a deciding factor in 20 to 25 constituencies. It is not that Labour seeks to win these seats. Most of them are already Labour-held. But Mr Brown cannot afford to lose them.

This simple fact of political life lies at the heart of the explanation a great many of us have been seeking for a series of extraordinary, brazen government initiatives in recent weeks. Let me remind you of some of them:

The Labour government has let it be known that it will not be keeping its promise to legislate to prevent private citizens bringing war crimes charges against Israeli soldiers who happen to set foot on British soil.

This news has been conveyed to the government of Israel in what is laughingly described as an “unofficial” communication. This apparently referred to public opinion in Britain following Israel’s recent action in Gaza, and the fear, seemingly rampant in Downing Street, that it might now be difficult to secure a parliamentary majority for such legislation.

The government has encouraged and is encouraging a de facto boycott of Israeli goods originating from Judea or Samaria. Ostensibly, it claims merely to be facilitating consumer choice, by insisting that such goods are clearly labelled. At the end of last month, it called a meeting at the Cabinet Office in Whitehall of retailers, consumer groups and interested lobbies to discuss the labelling issue.

The meeting considered voluntary guidelines “on the labelling of produce from the Occupied Palestinian territories” prepared by the Department for Food & Rural Affairs and the Food Standards Agency. (Itseems no ministers were present, and it was made clear that there was to be no discussion of a “political” nature.)

Meanwhile, over at the Department for International Development, International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander has been hard at work honing a series of measures designed (he claims) merely to assist in the “diplomatic efforts to secure a lasting and viable peace” in the region.

And what might these measures be? Well, Mr Alexander explains in a glossy brochure that he is helping produce a Palestinian television programme promoting “peaceful resolution of differences” and his department is also financing a project to monitor water pollution.

He is in addition backing a scheme that (and I quote from the brochure) “will highlight Israeli human rights abuses in Gaza” (no mention, you’ll notice, of Arab/Hamas human rights abuses), and he is even going to give legal assistance in Gaza to individuals and institutions “revealing and challenging military policies that violate human rights.”

Oh, and just in case you thought that Mr Alexander was fixated on Gaza, he also assures us that he is supporting the “awareness raising of human rights violations in Hebron” (no prizes for guessing to whose human rights he is referring).

What does all this activity really amount to? Well, to begin with, it amounts to a great deal of British taxpayers’ money going to Palestinian Arabs, and none going to Jews. It also amounts to a nauseating display of political cowardice, at the expense of the Jewish state. A bill to prevent private citizens from bringing war-crimes charges against officials and officers of foreign governments might well attract a certain opprobrium from the Labour back-benches but it could easily pass with a three-line whip and Opposition support.

No one honestly believes that encouraging the labelling of goods from the West Bank is just about consumer choice. If it were, the Cabinet Office meeting would not have been confined to goods and produce from Judea and Samaria.

Mr Alexander’s announcements on British involvement in Gaza were contained in a newsletter entitled “UK Aid to the Occupied Palestinian Territories” signalling that Her Majesty’s Government regards Hamas-controlled Gaza as still occupied by Israel.

Disingenuous, pathetic, deceitful and spineless — but likely to go down a treat among Labour’s Muslim voters.

Last updated: 11:28am, April 7 2009