How would you push away a problem you did not want to deal with? The best way, as any addict could tell you, is to pretend that you have dealt with it. The drug-addict pretends to have given up drugs. The alcoholic pretends to have cut down on drink. And the British Labour party pretends to have dealt with its anti-Semitism problem.
Since the start of this year, stories of routine anti-Semitism have emerged from the most junior levels of the Labour party (the Oxford University Labour Club) to the highest levels (a member of Parliament and a member of the party's National Executive Committee). No one who had followed the career and hobby-horses of the current Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, could have been surprised by this. Anti-Semitism is a swamp he has spent his political life swimming in. But today, this has become not just a problem for him. In recent decades, Jeremy Corbyn's activities had been of interest only to the small number of people who had hoped to keep the Labour stable clean of anti-Semitism. Today, as the leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, he has the opportunity either to tackle anti-Semitism or mainstream it into the UK body politic.
The evidence that he has any interest in doing the former are not good. Last month, after online media released anti-Semitic tropes shared and composed by the Labour MP Naz Shah, she was suspended from the party, pending an investigation. The former Mayor of London and Labour grandee Ken Livingstone then spent a week trying to defend Shah by (among other things) explaining which of Hitler's early policies were not that objectionable. Every day for more than a week, the national newspapers were running headlines about Labour's anti-Semitism problem. Finally, even this Labour leader realized that something had to be done. And of course the best way to do "something" is to announce an inquiry that will do nothing. This Corbyn soon did, announcing an inquiry that would be led by Shami Chakrabarti, a left-wing human rights advocate, with no expertise in anti-Semitism and a tendency to think well of Islamist extremists. Oddly enough, Chakrabarti -- who has made a virtue of her non-party affiliation throughout her career -- joined the Labour party on the day that the inquiry was announced.
From the outset, she showed that she was willing to do the precise bidding of her party leader. Not least in ensuring that the point of any inquiry was entirely missed. For immediately upon being announced as the leader of the party's inquiry into anti-Semitism, Chakrabarti announced that it would make no sense "only" to look into anti-Semitism, and that the inquiry must instead also look into "other forms of racism, including Islamophobia." In a subsequent interview, she went on to question why the Conservative party had not set up an inquiry into what she alleged was its "Islamophobia." Of course, this is a side-step that Jeremy Corbyn has very much made his own.
In the run-up to his election as Labour party leader, Corbyn was often asked about his tendency to hang around with Holocaust deniers, anti-Semitic hate-preachers and others of a similar ilk. Apart from not quite owning up to his connections to such people, the other technique he employed at this time was to put on a look of extreme affront and say that he had spent his entire life "fighting racism." Whenever the specific question of anti-Semitism was raised, he would say how opposed he was to all forms of racism "including Islamophobia." It has apparently proven impossible for Corbyn to realize the specific nature of anti-Semitism; whenever it has come up, he has used the opportunity to talk not about racial hatred against Jews but what he believes to be an epidemic of hatred towards Muslims.
Leaving aside the obvious fact that Muslims are not a race, there is in any case no evidence whatsoever to support the allegation of Corbyn and others that there is an epidemic of "Islamophobia" in the UK, and specifically no evidence of such an issue in the Conservative party. But this attempt to turn around the narrative was pushed by certain Labour apparatchiks to complain that any and all questioning of the newly elected London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, for his past affiliations with Islamist extremists was not a legitimate line of questioning of the judgement of anyone running for elected office, but instead an "Islamophobic" attack purely motivated by "racism." Even now, Corbyn supporters are trying to distract attention from their own party's very evident problem and turn racism allegations around on the Conservative party. None of which suggests any serious desire to get on top of their problem.
We can already predict what the conclusions of the Chakrabarti Inquiry will be, from the manner in which she has started it. Will she able to explain that the main originator of anti-Semitism in the Labour party today comes from its growing Muslim base? If she does identify that, will she then need to have an inquiry into herself for such flagrant "Islamophobia"? More likely she will find the party entirely blameless. Just a few dozen bad apples, and so on. And even then, we now have a nice demonstration of what will happen if any unpleasant findings do accidentally slip through.
The Labour party has another inquiry: into allegations, reported earlier this month, of anti-Semitism at its Oxford University club. Amazingly enough, while that inquiry (led by Baroness Royall) found "difficulties," it claimed to find no "institutional anti-Semitism." These careful headline facts having been released, the rest of the report was then swiftly supressed on the orders of the Labour party. Only a bland executive summary and some recommendations were made public, evidently leaving even the author of the inquiry "frustrated." So there is the state of the British Labour party in 2016. A party evidently riddled with anti-Semitism from top to bottom, and led by people who want to divert attention from the fact or cover it over entirely. The Labour party has a serious problem, and it is in institutional denial. Things can only get worse.
Douglas Murray is a writer, journalist and commentator based in the United Kingdom.