So far, Corbynites have been "boiling the frog" to keep moderates on board. Now, it is as if they have picked up the frog and thrown it into the deep-fat fryerby Chaminda Jayanetti / July 28, 2018 / Leave a comment
Labour’s shadow chancellor and strategist-in-chief John McDonnell was touring the airwaves this week offering assurances that Margaret Hodge would not be ‘disciplined’ for her denunciation of Jeremy Corbyn.
Given the fraught relations between Labour’s Corbynite left and its centre, it was less surprising than it should have been that someone had filed a complaint against the Blairite ex-minister for accusing Corbyn of being a “racist and anti-Semite” after the leadership modified the broadly (though not universally) accepted definition of anti-Semitism.
Labour’s internal divisions over the code highlights three broad dynamics within the party.
First, and most obvious, is the split over foreign policy, particularly towards Israel. While most Jewish organisations in the UK back the IHRA code, critics claim it could be used to restrict criticism of Israeli policy—an especially fraught issue for those who, like Corbyn and his press chief Seamus Milne, have been trenchant critics of Israel for decades. Both sides feel strongly about the issue, and the gap appears unbridgeable.
Second is what McDonnell’s intervention revealed—that whatever fierce divides exist between Corbynites and Labour centrists, the former desperately need the latter to stay on board. Barrow MP John Woodcock has already cited his belief that “anti-Semitism is being tolerated” (as well as claiming that he cannot “expect a fear hearing” on recent harassment allegations) in his resignation letter from the Party.
McDonnell knows that were action to be taken against Hodge on such a sensitive issue, it could provoke more centrist MPs to head for the exit. At a time when Blairites are wondering what where their ‘red line’ is, Labour’s anti-Semitism row risks making their decision for them.
There should be no doubt at all just how much Corbynites despise Labour centrists—and vice versa. This is not so much an unhappy marriage as a forced one. Many Corbyn supporters regard Tony Blair as a war criminal and Blairites as Tories with red rosettes.
However, the leadership is desperate to avoid a centrist breakaway that could draw votes away from Labour, potentially handing victory to the Conservatives on a plate, as left-wing journalists have warned.
Labour has already devoured the Green vote, is struggling in Scotland and may have maxed out what support it can get…