The Board of British Deputies has opened up a wonderful opportunity for Labour. Its ten pledges can reconnect Labour with Jewish people, reassert its anti-bigotry credentials, and expose bigotry in other parties.
Any Labour leadership or deputy leadership candidate who doesn’t grasp that, has lost sight of vital wider motivations – to fight for equality, and to win elections.
The Board will face some mistrust by targeting Labour specifically, given that its leadership supported the Conservatives at the general election. But there are pledges here that no rational argument can be made against.
1. Resolve outstanding cases swiftly
4. Prevent expelled members rejoining
6. Adopt international definition of antisemitism
9. Condemn antisemite individuals and behaviours
10. Show leadership
While some definition may need to be added (what is “swiftly” for example?) these are straightforward easy wins.
More Complex Implementation
Other pledges are well-founded too, but would involve some complexity in regards to implementation. So they may take time.
2. Independent disciplinary process
This requires robust agreement on what is independent, because any “lost” case will see claims made that it is not by whoever lost.
3. Ensure transparency
This will require work on who can share case details with who. Not legally insurmountable, it just needs time to work out.
5. Provide no platform for antisemites
It is the job of elected officials to engage in all manner of debates and events. So “platform” needs definition.
Two Pledges Feel Misplaced
Only two of pledges feel misplaced. This may be down to poor choice of wording, but it is only fair to recognise the issues.
7. Deliver anti-racism education to members
If racists are expelled, the exact target of this becomes a little hazy, especially as only the British state has the ability to get 500,000 pupils to attend a classroom.
Worse still, it risks becoming “how to criticise Israeli policy without accidental racism” – hardly likely to rebuild trust. So this will need time and thought to avoid implementing badly.
8. Engage via main representative groups
This reflects concerns that Labour may prefer to talk to uncritical groups. It does, however, include “and not through fringe organisations or specific individuals”.
I presume this is just poorly worded, and the Board really means not “just” via fringe groups. Because it must know that silencing opinion and refusing representation is not ok.
Electoral Advantage For Anti-Bigotry
Complexity aside, adopting the ten pledges would offer a big electoral advantage. Along with reconnecting with Jewish communities, it would empower Labour to go further.
Apply the same pledges to the LGBTQ+ community, Muslim communities, black Britons, and so on – and Labour becomes the stand-out Anti-bigotry party. This is something it once felt like anyway and it would empower Labour to tackle social bigotry again, amid concerns of rising hate crime.
For many, that would be motivation enough. But this is party politics too and taking that action would also set a clear position in relation to other parties. If any party did not adopt these same measures for antisemitism, islamophobia, homophobia, and so on – they could only appear to be bigots relative to Labour.