Anyone with even a passing interest in the nuts and bolts of democracy will be riveted by this book. The details revealed by Pogrund and Maguire are simply breathtaking, the product of 100 or so testimonies (only 15 of which were on the record). The detail even runs to the menus at key meetings: In August 2017 at Luton Hoo Chris Leslie and Gavin Shuker ate sea bass; at Fair Oak Farm in January 2018 12 Corbynsceptic MPs ate home-made profiteroles; in March 2018 they met again there, this time ‘Gavin Shuker cooked a Nigel Slater recipe of smoked mackerel, panzanella salad and chicken supreme’ followed by cheeseboard and they drank Tesco Finest Argentinian Malbec, gin and prosecco; in May 2018 the ‘Fair Oak Five’ (Shuker, Umunna, Leslie, Smith and Berger) met to plot their split, sustained by Shuker’s barbecue of beefburgers, peri-peri chicken fillets and salads. Keir Starmer always had orange juice and avocado on toast at a café in Kentish Town.
An Army marches on its stomach and so do Corbynsceptic MPs apparently…….
Indeed it’s a shame that Jeremy Corbyn didn’t have Pogrund and Maguire’s attention to detail. Just one of the many revelations is that when the Shadow Cabinet Brexit subcommittee discussed Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement , Corbyn asked “What’s this backstop?” (!)
Of course Brexit and antisemitism are the two major themes running through the book. As someone who campaigned equally passionately against Brexit and against antisemitism in Labour – but who in the end could not vote for an institutionally antisemitic Party in December 2019 (on my birthday), even though it offered a second referendum – this book was totally engrossing. Even having followed every twist and turn and witnessed many of the events in the book, there’s a lot I didn’t know. For example I hadn’t appreciated that the bad blood between LOTO and Southside goes right back to Corbyn’s election as Leader in September 2015. The book spells out the general disappointment of Labour staff at the June 2017 election result when Corbyn did much better than expected. We learn of the complete disarray of Labour in the weeks before the election on 12 December 2019. The book quotes an aide thus: “Nine-tenths of my bloody day was spend communicating on behalf of people who wouldn’t communicate directly with each other”
On 26 November, 16 days before the 2019 election, Chief Rabbi Mirvis published an article in The Times. While it didn’t mention Corbyn by name, there could be no doubt about its message: ‘A new poison – sanctioned from the top – has taken root in the Labour Party.’ Incredibly the book reveals that the Labour Peer Lord Levy had advised Mirvis not to speak out, lest Corbyn won the election and then took revenge. Was there ever a better example of a ‘Jew with trembling knees’? Thank heaven the others advising Mirvis disagreed. Lord Levy threatened to quit Labour several times … but never did.
The book also reveals just how nasty the Corbynites could get. I always suspected there was a crude electoral calculation regarding antisemitism; Pogrund and Maguire spell it out: ‘Corbynites had often consoled themselves with the knowledge that the UK’s Jewish Community was sufficiently small as to be of negligible importance in all but a dozen or so constituencies. Now [during the 2019 election campaign] MPs in seats well outside of the Jewish hubs of London and Manchester reported hearing the allegations repeated to them on the doorstep.’
Another horrific example occurred at the 2019 Labour Party Conference in Brighton. On the Sunday morning a clearly antisemitic poster had been placed at the entrance to the Conference area. At 10.08am a tweet from Corbyn robustly condemned it and the police removed it. The tweet was written and posted by Jack Bond, Corbyn’s social media manager. Incredibly Seamus Milne was angry with Bond for posting the Tweet! He complained (to LOTO colleagues on WhatsApp) that Corbyn had not seen the cartoon and that the Tweet had ‘led to a conflict with pro-Palestinian groups and Mondoweiss [an anti-Israel news website]‘. Cry Me A River! Milne reminded colleagues that he needed to sign off on such messages! In 2009 Milne told a rally “Hamas is not broken and will not be broken because of the spirit of resistance of the Palestinian people.” The idea that he had to sign off on all Labour messaging regarding antisemitism is akin to asking (before he died!) Dr Harold Shipman to sign off on all complaints about cruelty to old people!
And on whom did Corbyn rely for education on antisemitism? On Sue Lukes, a Labour Councillor in his Constituency and a member of Jewish Voice for Labour, an organisation set up to whitewash antisemitism in the Labour Party.
Remember Corbyn’s cringeworthy Rosh Hashana video a year ago? It featured Lukes.
We read in the book: ‘Corbyn would refuse to so much as tweet about anti-Semitism without the green light from Lukes in particular …One person recalled: “Jeremy was scared to say no to her”.’
The same Sue Lukes who approvingly tweeted a piece entitled the “Jewish ‘War against Corbyn’ risks bringing real antisemitism to Britain” and reportedly wrote an article to “honour” former NUS president Malia Bouattia, who described the University of Birmingham as a “Zionist outpost”.
The former Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson comes out reasonably well in the book (despite his support of Carl Beech, the fantasist who fooled the police into investigating the non-existent Westminster paedophile ring). It is to Watson that LOTO staffer and whistleblower Sam Matthews turns with his cache of emails demonstrating Labour’s mishandling of antisemitism claims.
Yet another revelation is that Corbyn’s wife, Laura Alvarez, ‘forged an unlikely friendship’ with Shraga Stern, a Charedi member of the Satmar sect who oppose the existence of Israel‘. Stern is strongly suspected to have orchestrated the mysterious letter from ‘Rabbis’ supporting Corbyn.
These astonishing disclosures just scratch the surface of the book – you won’t be disappointed.
Good as it is, the book isn’t perfect. Why is the font of the Index so tiny? The antisemitic Facebook group Palestine Live (of which Corbyn was a member) is mentioned twice – why is David Collier – the investigative reporter who uncovered the group – not credited? Corbyn’s attendance at the appalling 2018 Jewdas Seder is mentioned – but why no observation that the ‘Seder’ was held on the wrong day? And who on earth told Pogrund and Maguire that ‘the politics and irreverence [on display at the ‘Seder’] were well within the Jewish tradition’? Surely not Reform Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner who is namechecked in the acknowledgements and who attended the event? The Jewdas “Haggadah” (!) said ‘Fuck the Police … Fuck the Armies’…….. Nothing could be further removed from ‘the Jewish tradition’!
The discussion of the IHRA definition of antisemitism fails to make it clear that the examples are part of the definition. Without them it is no more than a discursive statement of generalities with zero operational content.
And there are a number of typographical errors. Adam Langleben’s second name is misspelled. Ditto James Libson’s. ‘Antisemitism’ should be spelled without a hyphen. The BNP was not ‘investigated’ by the EHRC in 2009. There was nothing to investigate. The EHRC took legal action against the BNP for its Constitution that effectively barred non-whites from membership.
But all in all, this book is well-written, painstakingly researched and a fascinating read, especially shortly before the EHRC report is published. Labour thoroughly deserved to be annihilated in December. Not just because of the antisemitism but also because of the indecision on Brexit and the profligate spending proposals with funding that was nothing short of laughable. To see that exit poll at 10pm was the best birthday present I could have had, after 14 hours of campaigning in the pouring rain. It compares only to waking up from a nightmare. Never again must a major political Party in the UK become a refuge for antisemites!
Please consider donating through my Patreon page. Every penny will go toward Israel advocacy and fighting antisemitism.