Photo: the Times
The reason I had a jacket and tie at the Labour Party NEC demo on 4 September was because I was booked to do a debate with Jenny Manson (JVL Chair) for BBC World News at 1.30. BBC World News is arms-length from the BBC. Its output cannot be viewed in the UK and is not on BBC I-Player. It is commercially funded. The BBC has strict rules about licensing clips for publication so I cannot publish the clip. But I can publish the transcript:
Geeta Guru-Murthy: Well, to discuss this I’m joined by Jenny Manson of Jewish Voice for Labour and Jonathan Hoffman who’s a consultant to the Labour Against Antisemitism group. Thank you both for joining us. There is a crucial meeting going on right now with some protests outside. Jonathan, do you have confidence that the Labour Party leadership can satisfy your concerns and those of others now?
Jonathan Hoffman: Absolutely not. We hear that the Labour Party is going to adopt the additional four examples but with a qualification about free speech. The IHRA definition does not need a qualification about free speech. It says that criticism of Israel, the same as any other country, is not antisemitic. We also hear that Labour is going to give an absolution to the 1200 people who need to go before the disciplinary committee for antisemitism and they’re going to absolve that. That is absolutely NOT satisfactory and the issues between the Jewish community and between Labour Against Antisemitism – which I represent – and the Labour Party will go on after today.
GG-M: Jenny Manson, there’s been a lot of criticism of Jeremy Corbyn, Seamus Milne, those at the very top of the Labour Party. Jeremy Corbyn is standing to be the next Prime Minister ……
Jenny Manson: Well I’d like to dispute four things that have been said so far very quickly. I think Jeremy Corbyn has been accused cruelly and viciously. He is not an antisemite. That particular example you gave [in the lead-in]. His staff has checked. There were no – erm – terrorists linked to the – er – the ….. Munich – er – em – er – killings. He had actually been there to – er – commiserate with the blowing up of – er – er – the HQ in 1985.
JH: That’s not correct.
JM: But let’s not go into that. Other points. The four examples were not ‘left out’ of the IHRA definition in the Code of Conduct. They were rewritten to protect free speech. Now we get onto the question of free speech. It is needed. The example that Jonathan has just given comes from the preamble which says ‘it is not antisemitic to criticise Israel similar to other countries’. There are no equivalents in international criticism. If I was to criticise Saudi Arabia somebody could say why haven’t you said that China’s done the same thing? This is what we meet the whole time. And has IHRA stopped freedom? It has. There’s already been meetings closed down because of IHRA. But can I go back to Jeremy Corbyn…
GG-M: Isn’t the main point that Parliament is resuming, we’re facing Brexit, the biggest political question of our time in recent years and yet the Labour Party is bogged down in this internal dispute?
JM: That’s exactly what I wanted to talk about today …
JH: That is horrific. The Labour Party’s bogged down with this antisemitism. We have one of the biggest issues in our lifetime – Brexit – we have no proper Opposition because the Labour Party is split about this antisemitism, it is antisemitism which is going to cause the Labour Party to split, we’ve already seen Frank Field – who I’ve worked with, who’s a very honourable man – has resigned the Labour Whip. I think we’re going to see other MPs as well, Louise Ellman …
GG-M: Do you have good information on that, do you think other MPs will leave now?
JH: I think they probably will. People like Ian Austin, Luciana Berger, Louise Ellman – the Labour Party is going to split over antisemitism and we will not have a proper Opposition.
GG-M: Even if – as John McDonnell indicated yesterday – the Shadow Chancellor – that this full definition should be adopted? Isn’t that the leadership of the Labour Party saying “We are now going to accept your demand”?
JH: Look – there was a story this morning that a previous policeman in charge of hate crimes at the Met has found out that 17 cases of antisemitism in the Labour Party should have been referred as hate crimes. This is absolutely unacceptable, it crosses every red line and it must stop and the campaign will continue after today.
JM: 1200 cases by the way .. that was a complete….. OK … This is not about antisemitism in the Labour Party. There is antisemitism everywhere. All the evidence shows that there’s antisemitism in every political party.
JH: Not true
JM: Jonathan …. I ….
JH: The Campaign Against Antisemitism says that antisemitism in the Labour Party is eight times that in the next biggest party … eight times!
JM: The CAA is not neutral information …. But can I just say that this whole …
JH: Of course it’s neutral. It’s a Charity. It has to be neutral.
JM: Can I just say that the opposition to Jeremy Corbyn is very well typified today. It will not listen to facts, it will not listen to arguments and they refuse to cooperate in this latest consultation.
JH: You said …
GG-M: Jenny the point is that there have been numerous examples where Jeremy Corbyn has been felt to behave inappropriately and insult Jewish people. How can he stand as a future Prime Minister if he doesn’t have support?
JM: I want to defend Jeremy Corbyn totally. Can I just say that this personal attack on Jeremy Corbyn over the last two years has been ………. I’ve been in politics for 50 years, I joined the Labour Party at the University of Oxford. I have not ever seen a personal campaign like this on Jeremy Corbyn before. Now Frank Field has a very chequered history. I don’t attack him, unlike Jonathan and unlike some of his colleagues, I don’t attack people personally. But Frank Field became very unjust in my view to people on welfare.
GG-M: He was the MP who has just resigned from the Labour Party.
JH: I have worked with Frank Field. I was a Special Adviser to his Social Security Select Committee. Frank Field is a deeply caring man … a deeply caring man. Do not lambast Frank Field.
GG-M: If the Labour Party come out with support for the definition today – they’re meeting now – would you support Jeremy Corbyn’s continued Leadership of the Labour Party?
JH: Absolutely not. There is too much history there. They’re going to put in something which is called a ‘free speech clause’ which is unnecessary. They’re going to absolve all of the 1200 cases which need to be considered. They’re going to absolve them. Absolutely not. Jeremy Corbyn must go and go today.
GG-M: Just very quickly … if the Labour Party splits over this?
JM: I’m afraid .. I’m a bit .. sorry … Long term, there’s going to be no long term ….em .. no long term … There’s going to be no long ..No long term ….No long term bad effects on the Labour Party. The Labour Party’s very strong still. Most members …
GG-M: Even a little bit?
JH: It’s splitting
JM: The split will not help the people who leave. The Labour Party membership is enormous. If you look at the voting numbers, they’ve not changed. There is great love for Jeremy Corbyn ..
JH: (laughs) …Oh come on ……..
JM: … he’s been attacked viciously. And I wasn’t attacking Frank Field, what I was trying to say was, we shouldn’t personalise ……….
GG-M: OK alright. Jenny Manson and Jonathan Hoffman …
JH: The Labour Party is leaving Frank Field, Frank Field is not leaving the Labour Party.
GG-M: Jonathan Hoffman, Jenny Manson, thank you both very much indeed. Obviously views very strong on this question.