There are a number of lessons to be learned from the election of Sir Keir Starmer as Labour leader earlier this month.
One is that the party now has a serious figure in charge. With Covid-19 upending almost everything, that is welcome.
Another, however, is that for a large number of Labour MPs and members, their determination to have a factional fight over their right to harbour antisemites outweighs the importance of dealing with a global pandemic.
You might think that a form of derangement. You would be right. You might also think that the presence of such members and MPs – some on the front bench, even after Sir Keir’s reshuffle – is yet more proof that Labour is no more fit for power, or even to be taken seriously as a mainstream party, than the BNP. You would again be right.
On Sunday, Sky News revealed the existence of an internal Labour report, ‘The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014-19’.
The broadcaster’s story centred on the fact that Labour’s own lawyers had advised it not to submit the 850 page document to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which is currently investigating the party over allegations of institutional antisemitism. The document, the lawyers told the party, undermines its defence against the allegation.
That’s one way of putting it.
Since the Sky News story, the report has been widely shared on social media (we will come to the implications of this in a moment). The report has only one purpose. It has been drawn up by Corbynites in their last weeks in control of the party in order to blame their own antisemitism and their own refusal to deal with others’ antisemitism on dastardly plotters against the sainted Jeremy. Indeed there is barely a mention of antisemitism in the first 170 pages, which reads more like a Life Of Brian parody of the fringe left.
The report says it is based on 10,000 emails and private WhatsApp messages between Labour staff. It uses this claim to attempt to undermine the sworn testimony of Labour staff who have given evidence to the EHRC, such as those who broke cover to appear on the BBC Panorama which exposed some of the Corbynites’ behaviour. The report demands that the EHRC should “question the validity of the personal testimonies” of these former members of staff and “focus instead on the documentary, primary-source evidence that the Party has made available”.
The report argues that there was “no evidence” that complaints of antisemitism by party members were treated differently to other complaints and says that some Labour staff members' factional hostility towards the blessed leader contributed to a “litany of mistakes” that hindered the handling of the issue.
Of course it does. Imagine a group of Corbynites, devastated that they not only could not win power in an election, they couldn’t even hold on to power in the Labour Party, deciding to look into the mirror and conclude that perhaps they were the problem. Go on, try. You can’t, can you.
That’s because they have only one modus operandi – which is to blame others for their own failures. In this case, that takes the form – shockingly, even for this bunch of assorted racists, Stalinists and quasi-fascists – of blaming Jews who complained about Labour antisemitism for Labour’s antisemitism. Because, despite the report being the Corbynites' attempt to blame everyone else for Labour’s antisemitism, it actually confirms the existence of institutional antisemitism within the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn. But it blames it on factional plotters.
Geniuses that they are, the report’s authors do not appear to have twigged that their argument that the problems were all because of these internal Labour processes and a factional culture is as clear as definition of institutional racism as one could want. Saying, "He did it, that horrid bloke - not me, I’m really woke" is entirely irrelevant.
Since the leak, the report has been seized on by Corbynites who – bless – seem to think it vindicates them. Paul Mason tweeted: “A senior group of Labour staffers actively conspired for the party to lose the 2017 election. That's the headline allegation from the leaked Labour HQ report ... this is a Watergate moment, not just for Labour but for British politics.”
Rather wonderfully, Daniel Finkelstein pointed out that: “This would be what Watergate would have been like if Woodstein had followed the money and discovered the Democrats had employed operatives to break into their own headquarters.”
But this is about more than the idiocy of the hard left, who cannot even see that by leaking this tawdry piece of fiction they have made even clearer their malignancy. Because it may well be criminal. The report has been shared by many social media accounts.
It is a massive, deeply worrying data breach. Alongside the names of the members investigated for antisemitism are the names and details of those who made the complaint. The report is a goldmine for antisemites, who have been handed details of those people most willing to take them on.
Among those who have shared the report is the newly appointed Shadow Minister for Natural Environment & Air Quality, Lloyd Russell-Moyle. Posting to Brighton & Hove Labour Party’s Facebook group, not only does he post his delight at the document, describing it as revenge "best served cold" – he posts a link to it.
Mr Russell-Moyle initially doubled down, suggesting that complaining about abuse of data privacy was “missing the point”. He has presumably been told that is in fact the entire point and has deleted the link.
Not that he is alone. The Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs yesterday released a statement demanding the report is officially published “in full” by Labour, clearly unbothered by the fact that by naming and providing details of the victims and reporters of racist abuse they are placing them in potentially severe danger from racists.
The Information Commissioner’s Office has now confirmed it is investigating enforcement action against those who have potentially committed a criminal offence in posting it. And many of those who lodged complaints about examples of Labour antisemitism and have now had their details leaked are being represented by the lawyer Mark Lewis, who won fame by securing victories for the victims of phone hacking.
Sir Keir Starmer has now ordered an independent inquiry into all of this. But there is no need for an inquiry to find out how some of his members and MPs have behaved since the report was leaked. It is surely inconceivable that Mr Russell-Moyle can remain on the front bench.
Indeed, in a normal party the likes of Mr Russell-Moyle would be suspended, at the very least. But Labour, as we spent the past four and a half years finding out, is not a normal party.