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Politics: Labour on Trial

News earlier this week that the Labour party is to face a formal inquiry into whether or not it has victimised members of the Jewish faith is highly disturbing.

I have little idea of the truth behind this, as firstly I am not a member of the party (or for that matter any other) and secondly I do not have access to any evidence that it has. I have the same as almost everybody else; what I read and hear via news outlets. However, the fact that such an investigation is taking place is what I find so disquieting. The Labour party whether one agrees with its basic reason for being or not, is one of the UK’s great political movements. The same applies to the Conservatives. In the past, devout and loyal members of Labour have stood proud as UK citizens; many have fought and died for their country. Again in times gone by, Labour governments have done great things of huge benefit for everybody in the UK while in office. So have the Conservatives. Of course both parties have done things that were – are – not so good as well. Nobody is perfect so one has to take the rough with the smooth in the political sense; whichever party one supports and votes for, there will always be things that only the entirely one-eyed will rabidly support regardless.

And it is this aspect that seems to have become so disturbing. Has Labour, under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, become anti-Semitic?

There is public evidence of this sad state of affairs. Corbyn himself however has, on a number of occasions, condemned it. I’ve heard him say so myself. Nevertheless, there have been, in recent times, far too many suggestions that discrimination against Jewish people is increasing within the Labour party.

This is something that is new to me. In many ways, I have been fortunate in growing up in an environment that saw me surrounded by people of different backgrounds, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, whatever. It has never occurred to me to feel (or act) in a way that is discriminatory. One of my favourite tales from my (very) early childhood came from my Father, when we lived in West London. I have only my Dad’s word for this but it is a story that he told me more than once so I think he was really quite pleased about my response.

Apparently I came home one day after playing outside with my friends – I was about seven years old at the time – looking, and sounding, a little disturbed, so dad asked me what was wrong? I replied, ‘I didn’t know [my best friend] was black.’

It seemed that somebody passing by had said something inappropriate about my mate, but to me, my friend was my friend. That his skin colour was not the same as mine mattered not. My mate stayed my mate since neither of us was concerned about our background and I’m also quite pleased that my dad supported us both.

Not too long after this, dad was posted to Cyprus (he was a broadcaster with the British Services Broadcasting Service) and we lived alongside and were friends with Cypriots of both Greek and Turkish origin. We all got along just fine – only the so-called leaders of the two sides didn’t.

This is where things seem to go awry – with those who lead. I have lived and worked in different countries, having been fortunate enough to visit several more, including both Christian and Islamic countries. On top of that, being directly related to people (via birth and marriage) from five different countries and three religions, although I have seen little of the world compared to many others, I have seen enough to know that it is all the things that make us different that make us, well…us. The human race would be incredibly boring if everybody looked the same, talked the same and had the same ways of doing things.

That is why the probe into Labour is so disturbing. It would be anyway but in my lifetime, one thing that could never be said of the Labour party is that it was discriminatory, in any way. But it is leadership that counts – as I said above, in Cyprus, ordinary people got along quite well, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots and those British people that lived there. Only those who purported to be in charge seemed not to.

It is the same with Labour now. And it is a sad fact that since Jeremy Corbyn became leader, and John McDonnell Shadow Chancellor, the accusations of anti-Semitism have grown. I also have to point out that similar accusations of Islamaphobia are increasing as well against the Conservatives.

So my question to the leaders of both parties is a simple one: what are you going to do about it? Not only do I expect an answer but I demand one and one that is satisfactory, one that drives out bigotry. It is not acceptable in the UK to be discriminatory and it is not acceptable to me.

© Kevan James 2019.

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