In a long and painful interview (“Luciana Berger interview: Corbyn and Labour’s antisemitism crisis,” Times, 2 March 2019; https://www.thetimes.co.uk/past-six-days/2019-03-02/the-times-magazine/luciana-berger-interview-corbyn-and-labours-antisemitism-crisis-crgdng6w6) with pregnant independent group MP, Luciana Berger by Rachel Sylvester - The Times newspaper’s premier political interviewer - which focused on the former Labour MP’s allegations about anti-semitism in the Labour Party, Ms Sylvester wrote that “She [Berger]was the first MP to demand an explanation from Corbyn of his decision to defend a 2012 mrual depicting Jewish bankers balancing Monopoly board on the backs of the poor.”
I wondered why this had caused such a huge contermporary political furore, and discovered interestingly that the mural’s artist, Mear One, has stated it depicts 6 real people, only 2 of which are Jewish: Morgan, Rockefeller, Rothschild, Warburg, Carnegie & Alistair Crowley.
The articles below give a range of contradictory interpretations and opinions.
Mural in London's One-time Jewish Heart Sparks Debate on anti-Semitism
Is a recent coat of paint applied on a wall in the East End of London a case of censorship of political art or a whitewashing of offensive anti-Semitic graffiti?
Haaretz, Oct 14, 2012 7:03 PM
LONDON - On Friday morning, as I walked through Shoreditch in eastern London, the white paint was still wet. Previous graffiti scrawled over the mural in recent days hadn't been enough to hide the message and someone had done a more thorough job and the main offensive image had been totally covered over in thick paint still congealing. Anti-Semitism or Censorship?
In an ongoing dispute over the limits of artistic expression, an elaborate mural in the old East End of London has been repeatedly vandalized and finally covered over by anonymous hands. The mural was painted over a 5-day period late last month by Kalen Ockerman, who paints under the pseudonym of Mear One, a Los-Angeles based artist has been painting large graffiti-style murals on city walls around the world.
The painting on Hanbury Street depicted six men elderly white men, some with, for lack of a better description, what seemed like noticeable Jewish features. They were playing a game of monopoly using real money, their giant board laid on the naked backs of downtrodden naked human beings of different color. Over them hung an image similar to the Freemasons symbol on the Dollar bill and the Illuminati, much beloved of conspiracy theorists. To bolster the global conspiracy message, Ockerman had painted a man holding up a sign saying – "The New World Order Is The Enemy of Humanity."
Not surprisingly, Ockerman had barely completed his work when local residents and politicians began complaining that the mural was offensive and controversial for the anti-Semitic image of Jewish bankers living off the poor working class and at the heart of a shadowy global cabal. Many residents though had shown enthusiasm for the mural and encouraged Ockerman during the painting and were opposed to its removal. In recent years, Hanbury and other streets around Brick Lane have become a popular venue for street artists and a number of intricate designs, many of them with political themes, adorn the walls around.
A century ago, this was the heart of Jewish London, with tens of thousands of Jewish immigrants pouring in from Eastern Europe and the neighborhood was dotted with synagogues, kosher stores and workshops where Yiddish was the main spoken language. Most of the Jewish families and businesses are gone now, the synagogues nearly all closed down and it has become a largely Muslim area, with immigrants from South Asia opening up dozens of curry restaurants. As cost of living is rising in the city, more young professionals are buying up houses and apartments and the gentrified neighborhood is becoming a trendy place for clubs and restaurants, with the murals lending it an edgy ambience. But did Mear One's message go a bit too far?
Lutfur Rahman, the elected mayor of Tower Hamlets, the London borough in which Hanbury Street resides has past links to Islamist groups and was seen so controversial that the Labour Party decided not to field him as its candidate and he was instead supported by the far-left anti-Israel Respect Party. But even for him, the mural seemed to be a bit too much and in a statement he wrote that "whether intentional or otherwise the images of the bankers perpetuate anti-Semitic propaganda about conspiratorial Jewish domination of financial and political institutions. I am of the view that where freedom of expression runs the risk of inciting racial hatred, as for example when the EDL (English Defense League) attempted to march in Tower Hamlets last year, then it is right that such expression should be curtailed. I have therefore asked my officers to do everything possible to see to it that this mural is removed." But long before the council's officers acted, Marxists slogans were scrawled over the mural and then in blue, someone painted a Star of David and "No to Anti-Semitism." And then came a blanket of white paint.
But was it intentional? Ockerman himself seems to have an interesting take on the nature of anti-Semitism. In a YouTube clip on his personal website, he says "I came to paint a mural that depicted the elite banking cartel known as the Rothschilds, Rockefellers, Morgans, the ruling class elite few, the wizards of Oz, they would be playing a board-game of monopoly on the backs of the working class." But he strenuously denies that was an anti-Semitic statement saying on his Facebook page that "a group of conservatives do not like my mural and are playing a race card with me. My mural is about class and privilege. The banker group is made up of Jewish and white Anglos. For some reason they are saying I am anti-Semitic. This I am most definitely not... What I am against is class."
Mear One’s mural – bad art and bad politics
Morning Star, Thursday, April 5, 2018
Narratives around the Illuminati, Freemasonry and conspiracies cannot be disentangled from deeply suspect discourses in which alien semitic elites are the controlling forces in our lives, argues NICK WRIGHT
Mear One's mural
LABOUR is weathering a co-ordinated campaign which combines criticism of Jeremy Corbyn’s policies and persona with an intensified drive to brand any criticism of the murderous policies pursued by Israel’s rulers with anti-semitism.
I was once branded an anti-semite. It was the during the Thatcher/Major years and I was editing the newspaper of the trade union for executive civil servants.
Our cartoonist, the brilliant, award-winning Frank Boyle, drew a series of strips which called out the Tories for their dogma-driven privatisation policies.
One depicted the Cabinet as bloodthirsty pirates of a distinctly unsavoury disposition — chief among them a swarthy, hook-nosed, carbuncled cutlass-wielding figure in a striped vest, battered pirate hat.
A flood of letters arrived, a good proportion using strikingly similar phrases, rather obviously co-ordinated and some clearly unfamiliar with the actual cartoon and more generally concerned at the left-wing character of the union’s policies.
To my surprise I was accused of publishing anti-semitic images. In discussion with one or two of the more reasonable of my correspondents we were able to agree that the conflation of stereotypical Cornish pirates with the anti-semitic depiction of Jews was too far-fetched to be taken as evidence of intent.
But it was a useful illustration of how an image can possess an ideological power that transcends both literal meaning and the intent of its creator, the context of its creation and thus have an impact on an audience already sensitised by their own ideological position and their life experiences.
This was a useful experience in my next job working at the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight.
It is in the light of this experience and after several decades of anti-racist and anti-fascist activity that I approach the question of the now-destroyed East End mural that is the pivot on which the latest assault on Corbyn turns.
Lest I am accused of gratuitously circulated anti-semitic images, I can claim that, in four years at art school, two years specialist art teacher training and three years of post-graduate research as an art historian, I encountered many medieval, Renaissance and modern art and design objects imbued with anti-semitic notions.
These artefacts possessed a wide currency in the times in which they were created but nevertheless remain the object of critical scrutiny.
We must bring the same approach to the examination of the mural depicted here. Called Freedom for Humanity, it was painted by the Los Angeles-based graffiti artist Kalen Ockerman, also known also as Mear One.
We can describe the formal features of the mural thus — against an apocalyptic background that includes rather ambiguously crafted elements of industrial production and power generation sit six elderly business-suited men playing what appears to be Monopoly.
The surface on which they are playing rests on the backs of crouching, naked, possibly androgynous figures and includes a pile of currency notes and tokens that signify industrial production, oil extraction, property ownership and, perhaps, in the case of a miniature Statue of Liberty, political values.
To the left foreground a man is carrying a poster placard that proclaims: “The New World Order is the enemy of humanity” while his left arm is raised to a clenched fist. To the right a melancholy mother holds her baby.
Rising above the central group is a pyramid and all-seeing eye, sometimes taken to signify Freemasonry and more universally recognised as an element in the design of US dollar bills.
It is conventional to catalogue the formal features of a work and the processes used. We can see that the artist works in a contemporary medium using commercially available saturated spray colours.
We know from basic research and observation that the artist is proficient in this medium and a high degree of preparatory work and a measure of expert draughtsmanship and technical expertise is evident.
This conclusion is supported by a film, available on social media, which shows the process under way.
So, having described the content how do we analyse its meaning?
We can of course, go with our immediate, subjective impressions. This clearly is what many people have done. Judging by the social media discussion, some have even ventured an opinion without actually looking closely at the work. But to understand more fully we need to ask what is the painting about.
One way is to take its title. Freedom for Humanity has a clear and transparent political meaning. In a game of chance and skill six white men dispose of power and wealth while the oppressed and the propertyless support the structures which permit this disparity of means.
But this is not enough. Context is all-important. As it is public art we already know something about the audience, we know it was made in 2012 and destroyed by the local authority. We know who made it. We know from the BBC report at the time that the artist said his artwork was not targeting Jews.
We need to locate the mural in relation to other work, including that of the artist himself, the local and global politics of its production and display and we need to understand how the public discourse around the work was originally constructed and how it has been reconstructed in the present moment.
This takes us to the contested meaning of the painting and the significance of the central group. The Times on March 24 this year reported that Corbyn had been forced to apologise after initially defending his apparent support for “a mural depicting Jewish bankers playing Monopoly on the backs of the poor.”
The day before, The Guardian had said the that mural pictured several “apparently Jewish bankers” playing a game of Monopoly.
The Guardian was on the same wavelength as the Daily Telegraph, which reported that Corbyn had questioned a London council’s decision to destroy an anti-semitic mural “which depicted a group of Jewish bankers counting money on the backs of ethnic minorities.”
A more careful, or perhaps better informed, Jewish Chronicle article told us about the identities of the six. It said the “controversial” artwork depicted a group of businessmen and bankers sitting around a Monopoly-style board and counting money.
At the time, in 2012, there was relatively limited coverage of the mural’s destruction. Reportedly, on Facebook, Corbyn, then a backbencher, had suggested that the artist was in good company.
“Rockefeller destroyed a Diego Rivera mural because it includes a picture of Lenin,” he said. A Labour spokesman at that point claimed Corbyn was standing up for free speech.
It is unclear whether Corbyn, who is fluent in Spanish and very well-informed about Latin American history, politics and culture, was mobilising his pre-existing cultural knowledge or if he knew something of the mural’s content. However, the connection here artistic freedom and Rockefeller, who is one of the (non-Jewish) figures depicted in the East End mural.
In 1933 the Mexican communist painter Rivera was commissioned to paint frescos on the lobby of the Rockefeller building in New York. He titled them The Frontier of Ethical Evolution and The Frontier of Material Development, representing capitalism and socialism.
When the patron Nelson Rockefeller pressed Rivera to remove images of Lenin and a Soviet May Day scene, Rivera refused and the mural was painted over. Rivera recreated the artwork in Mexico as Man, Controller of the Universe.
There is little critical comparison between Rivera’s work and the contemporary mural.
Working in plaster and more translucent media, Rivera deployed a rich and subtle colour palette, complex imagery, a vast cast of characters and drew upon a rich heritage of political understanding which articulated popular and revolutionary currents of thought.
The technical differences in production are clear enough. Both are public art, both have an avowedly political content, both are didactic. However in scope and sophistication the works could not be more dissimilar.
Given the highly politicised context of the present controversy this gives us a handle on the kind of criteria we must apply in evaluating Ockerman’s work
Two immediate issues arise. First, are the bankers and businessmen all or predominantly Jewish? Second, in the light of the answer to this question, is the depiction of the characters anti-semitic?
To quote Ockerman, “I came to paint a mural that depicted the elite banker cartel known as the Rothschilds, Rockefellers, Morgans, the ruling class elite few, the Wizards of Oz. They would be playing a board game of Monopoly on the backs of the working class. The symbol of the Free Mason Pyramid rises behind this group and behind that is a polluted world of coal burning and nuclear reactors. I was creating this piece to inspire critical thought and spark conversation.”
We have to take him at his word. The problem is that the iconography draws on a very restricted set of references and these references are, in themselves, problematic.
Set aside the passivity and subordination with which the oppressed are depicted. Look instead at the central figures who are depicted as distinctive types, painted with a clear reference, if distorted, to real historical protagonists.
Even if only two of these six bourgeois, Warburg and Rothschild, are Jewish, we still need to make a judgement about the character and currency of their depiction.
The draughtsmanship clearly exaggerates the distinctive features of all six men. The problem is that exaggerated depictions of Jews are created, disseminated and understood in a historically defined context that includes a powerful, even dominant, discourse that draws upon the long traditions of anti-semitism embedded in the dominant ideology and expressed, over the centuries, in the dominant visual culture, including both traditional art forms, religion, politics, popular culture and mass media.
That these traditions are currently more diffused than hitherto and that today, for example, Islamophobic narratives are more virulent and produce more dramatically dangerous consequences than does contemporary anti-semitism is no justification for a lack of vigilance.
In truth, the subterranean narratives around notions of the Illuminati, Freemasonry and bourgeois conspiracies cannot, in much popular imagination, be disentangled from deeply suspect discourses in which alien, semitic and covert elites are the controlling forces in our lives.
Such notions run exactly counter to the kind of materialist analysis that take the real and existing features of contemporary class society and seek to reveal their workings.
State monopoly capitalism operates at vastly more profound levels and bourgeois hegemony is maintained by vastly greater systems of ideological domination than are illuminated by Ockerman’s mural or accessible through his restricted political imagination.
Inevitably, this mural was going to be understood in the context of existing traditions. If Corbyn had not risen to his present stature, this mural would have been long forgotten.
The truth is that neither its formal construction nor its artistry, neither its political language nor its iconography, is articulated with sufficient levels of complexity and sophistication. It simply collapses without sufficient theoretical or ideological underpinnings into an inversion of its creator’s avowed purpose.
This is bad art and worse politics.
When, five years later, the long-forgotten facts around this painting’s destruction are weaponised in a new coup against Labour’s popular realignment, we can only marvel that the theoretical poverty of these latter-day art critics is matched by their political hypocrisy.
I am reluctant to criticise Corbyn, who is the most transparently honest and principled leader of the Labour Party in decades. It is true that his 2012 defence of artistic freedom might have been expressed with more circumspection and today a more robust defence might counter some of his more unprincipled opponents.
But the unceasing assault on him is so obviously manufactured that I suspect its effect has a limit and that itself has more traction with a metropolitan and political elite than with broader masses of people.
It is possible to discover in the mountains of social media data instances of clear anti-semitic intent. More common are maladroit formulations, poorly constructed arguments, ignorant and lazy conflations of terms that are logically distinct, along with arguments that reflect various levels of conscious and unconscious bias.
The diligent will find examples of trolling that have their origins in the crude public language in some sectors as well as provocations of even more dubious origin.
We can be sure that one agency or another is searching for any clumsy formulation or ill-advised comment that can be weaponised against Labour.
That no such diligence is directed at the Tory Party or the media that serves bourgeois interest is clear enough indication that this is a project with a clear purpose.
The many hundreds of thousands of Labour folk know this. Many millions more sense the artifice entailed in this campaign.
It is instructive that in working-class Britain, which by and large is not deeply involved in this controversy, popular sentiment senses that Corbyn is the target.
How else to account for the reports that crowds at boxing contests and football matches are breaking out in chants of Corbyn’s name.
Already the spurt in Labour (and Momentum) membership is taken by more intransigent zionist opinion as proof itself of a wide currency of anti-semitism.
Similarly, Corbyn’s seder night feast with a group of irreverent young Jews in his constituency itself is weaponised. Associating with the wrong kind of Jews is also anti-semitic it seems.
The association of Blairite MPs with the campaign being waged by the Board of Deputies and the more obviously Conservative-linked Jewish Leadership Council will do them no favours with Labour supporters who know from their own experience just how limited is the purchase of anti-semitic ideas in the party and the broader labour movement. Interestingly, the non-zionist Jewish Voice for Labour is experiencing a new wave of support.
We cannot disentangle the alarm that the zionist establishment feels at the success of the boycott, disinvestment and sanctions movement from this current offensive.
Corbyn is the target because he maintains his principled solidarity with the Palestinian cause and remains opposed to the imperial war plans that pivot on Israel’s strategy towards its neighbouring states.
The real danger is that in conflating, for narrowly sectarian political purpose, what is a fairly widely diffused currency of anti-semitic ideas with the more poisonous political anti-semitism that exists as a conscious ideology this campaign runs a real danger of reinforcing the latter.
It is not enough to point out that the most reactionary trends in zionism act on the basis that the existence of anti-semitism is the principal validation of their political project.
Anti-semitism needs to be confronted at every level — not as a privileged category of political action but as part of a conscious movement to assert the universality of human values.
Calling out the crude conflation of zionism with Jewish identity is the basic building block of any project to combat anti-semitism.
That this necessarily entails a principled criticism of its mirror image in the most virulently reactionary trends in present-day zionism is a powerful demonstration of dialectical truth.
Jeremy Corbyn isn’t alone – everyone in the Labour party should have recognised how offensive that mural was
The Guardian, Wed 28 Mar 2018 15.04 BST Last modified on Sat 16 Feb 2019 19.59 GMT
‘There is more than a visual connection in this mural to antisemitism – the messaging is full-blown Nazi.’ Photograph: Mike Kemp/Corbis via Getty Images
Some forms of antisemitism are self-evident in their manifestation: neo-Nazis wielding swastikas, denial of the Holocaust, vile sentiments known as the “blood libel”, which suggest that Jews harvest the blood of Christians with which to celebrate religious festivals year on year. Most of us would recognise these as bigoted and hateful, an attack on a community that has for centuries experienced prejudice across the world.
In the days that have followed Jeremy Corbyn’s offensive Facebook post coming to public attention, there has been outrage from what appear to be two distinct camps. Some Labour members are deeply troubled by the situation, while others argue ignorantly that the Labour leader has done nothing wrong.
Jeremy Corbyn decries abuse of antisemitism protest MPs
What has become obvious in the past few days, however, is that many simply do not understand the content of this mural and why it is so deeply offensive – this is a more subtle antisemitic sentiment, which takes contextualising to understand.
Considering the Jewish community makes up just 0.5% of the UK’s population, and that for many of us the closest we will have to an education in the history of discrimination faced by Jewish people amounts to a few months of GCSE history and Inglourious Basterds, it’s possible a simple explanation could rectify the confusion once and for all.
First, make sure to actually look at the mural. Don’t take a fleeting glance as you prepare to tweet your outrage, but pause for a moment and take it all in. Sitting around a table is a group of rotund men: one has a full beard, and is counting money. That, in and of itself, is an antisemitic symbol.
It’s not just the big, hookednoses and evil expressions that make this iconography offensive and troubling, these depictions mirror antisemitic propaganda used by Hitler and the Nazis to whip up hatred that led to the massacre of millions of Jews. This extends to the table these figures are sat at, resting on human bodies, as the Nazis also depicted.
Context here is also important. If you haven’t yet, then research The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. An entirely fabricated text printed first in Russia during the early 1900s, it purports to document a meeting of Jewish leaders setting out plans to take over the world by controlling the media and press, and fostering religious conflict to subjugate non-Jews across the globe.
There is more than a visual connection in this mural to antisemitism – the messaging is full-blown Nazi too
During the 1920s and 1930s the Protocols were a key element of the Nazi propaganda programme – at least 23 editions were published by the party in the two decades that preceded the outbreak of the second world war in 1939. The domination of the world by hooknosed men wielding power and money? There is more than a visual connection in this mural to antisemitism – the messaging is full-blown Nazi too.
In other contexts Illuminati conspiracies are light-hearted and funny: it’s not antisemitic to joke that Kanye West and Taylor Swift are part of a secret, triangle-based plot to conquer the world. But the employment of an Eye of Providence symbol (often associated with the Illuminati and Freemasonry) in the offending mural is clearly antisemitic. Racist conspiracy theorists also long claimed that Jews are in control of the Freemason network – think the Rothschilds and George Soros. That is antisemitism too.
If you’re left in any doubt, just read the words of Mear One, the street artist who painted the mural: “Some of the older white Jewish folk in the local community had an issue with me portraying their beloved #Rothschild or #Warburg etc as the demons they are,” he has written.
Of course there are some people – within Labour and outside of it – who are pleased to have any excuse to attack Corbyn. Their motivation might be unpleasant, but the “weaponisation” of antisemitism is somewhat less troubling if it can perceived to be there in the first place.
A small handful of people in Labour’s ranks know only too well the connotations in this mural, yet continue to defend it. There is no space in the Labour party for you. Progressive organisations are better off without you inside.
Labour can’t just pledge to kick the antisemites it finds out of the party: it needs to make a plan for combating bigotry in opposition and for entering government too. The Chakrabarti report from 2016 into antisemitism in Labour must be implemented fully. A party bureaucracy that has slowed the process down cannot be allowed to do so any longer. Labour must pledge to improve the national curriculum – better political education is needed in schools across the country to ensure murals like this are understood for what they are.
There must also, starting now, be better investment in educating Labour’s 550,000-strong party membership. A party that prides itself on its commitment to equality can and must do better.
It’s somewhat understandable that some people jumping to Corbyn’s defence now do so as a kneejerk reaction, as years of smears have made members defensive. This, however, is no such nonsense.
Corbyn is no antisemite, but he displayed a lack of judgment and awareness that he – and it appears some members – need to address. Time must be taken for reflection and education, or it will prove impossible to ensure the left is never blind to this issue again.
• Michael Segalov is the news editor of Huck magazine
28 Mar 2018 15:50
Corbyn's probably got the best anti-racism credentials in the UK parliament. Meanwhile Theresa May and virtually every other prominent Tory joined that party when it viewed apartheid South Africa as an ally and regarded Nelson Mandela as a terrorist.
28 Mar 2018 15:52
This is the new Orwellian Britain where the Tories are presented as the anti-racist party.
Labour anti-Semitism row: Hodge claims Corbyn 'misled' her
BBC on line, 4 March 2019
bbc ON LINE, 4 March 2019
Image Image caption Margaret Hodge has written to Jerembout the party's approach to anti-Semitism
Jewish Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge has expressed fresh concerns about how her party is handling accusations of anti-Semitism.
In a letter to Jeremy Corbyn, she claims she has been misled over assurances that his office was not involved in any disciplinary process.
"Either you have intentionally misled me or your staff have been misleading you," she complained.
Labour has dismissed her suggestion as "categorically untrue".
Dame Margaret's letter refers to a report by the Observer claiming that internal documents showed senior Labour figures last year opposed recommendations to suspend several party activists accused of anti-Semitism.
A guide to Labour anti-Semitism claims
Hodge stands by anti-Semitism attack on Corbyn
How Labour anti-Semitism saga unfolded
The Barking MP wrote that she had been left "bewildered" by the account in the newspaper which "contradicts what you told me to my face last week".
Skip Twitter post by @margarethodge
End of Twitter post by @margarethodge
Referring to a discussion she had with Mr Corbyn, she said: "I distinctly remember it being said that it would be appalling if staff in the Leader's Office intervened or had a role in complaints.
"I was given categorical assurances that this does not happen and has never happened.
"However, it is clear from the whistleblower's account [in the Observer] that your staff did intervene and have had a direct role in complaints."
Dame Margaret also says she is disappointed that Labour peer Lord Falconer is being considered to lead an investigation into anti-Semitism in the party.
Image copyright AFP/Getty Image caption Luciana Berger left Labour, claiming the party was institutionally anti-Semitic
Dame Margaret told BBC Radio 4's Today that Mr Corbyn had given her "absolute, copper-bottomed undertakings that there was no interference in the complaints process by his inner circle, by his top team".
However, she claimed "a whole number of his top team, not just one person, lots of them" were involved in decisions about individual complaints, adding: "They interfere and they lower the sanctions. People aren't suspended, they're just given a warning letter.
"What is so awful about this is that Jeremy always proclaims zero tolerance of anti-Semitism. When it comes to the actual cases, if they're his mates he doesn't demonstrate zero tolerance."
She added she had seen "so much evidence" of political interference, adding: "Trust in him is gone."
Dame Margaret also questioned whether Lord Falconer was the appropriate person to conduct an inquiry into the party's handling of anti-Semitism allegations.
The former Lord Chancellor is considering whether to take on the role and wants reassurances from the party that he will be given the resources he says he needs.
Image caption Labour is seeking to appoint Lord Falconer to carry out an inquiry
He has said he wants to examine claims Labour is institutionally anti-Semitic and how to restore faith in the party's disciplinary procedures.
He told BBC Radio 5's Pienaar's Politics many Labour members believed the treatment of cases depended on "who your friends are".
But Dame Margaret said she did not think Lord Falconer was independent enough.
She claimed his inquiry could be a repeat of the one carried out by Labour peer Baroness Chakrabarti in 2016, which found that the party was 'not overrun by anti-Semitism'.
Anti-Semitism row MP suspension 'unfair'
Labour peer in talks over anti-Semitism role
"We need somebody totally outside the Labour Party otherwise this becomes another Chakrabarti fiasco," said Dame Margaret.
She claimed Lord Falconer had "bombarded" her with phone calls last summer, when she was facing disciplinary action - later dropped - over an angry confrontation with Mr Corbyn, to try to "force me to give an apology".
In response, Lord Falconer said: "I am shocked she thought I was trying to pressurise her into apologising for calling Jeremy Corbyn and anti-Semite. I was just trying to urge the party to drop their complaint against her."
He told BBC Politics Live presenter Jo Coburn he would be independent of the leadership and investigate any complaints of anti-Semitism in the strongest possible way, but he had not yet accepted the job.
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A Labour Party spokesman said: "Any suggestion that staff in the Leaders' Office overturned recommendations on individual cases is categorically untrue."
He added: "Since becoming general secretary, Jennie Formby has made procedures for dealing with complaints about anti-Semitism more robust.
"Staff who work on disciplinary matters have always led on investigations and recommendations on individual cases."
Ms Formby - a former Unite union official - is the most senior employee of the Labour Party and is in charge of its 400 or so backroom staff.
The party's leadership has been accused of tolerating a culture of anti-Semitism by a number of MPs who have quit the party, including Luciana Berger and Joan Ryan.
Ms Berger said she had come to the "sickening conclusion" that the party had become institutionally anti-Semitic and that she was "embarrassed and ashamed" to stay.
'Loss of trust'
Mr Corbyn has insisted he is "committed to eliminating anti-Semitism wherever it exists".
"Prejudice and hatred of Jewish people has no place whatsoever in the Labour Party," he said earlier this year.
Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson has spoken of a "complete loss of trust" in the party's processes and has asked MPs to forward anti-Semitism complaints to him as well as the party.
That call prompted Ms Formby to accuse Mr Watson of "unacceptable" behaviour and claim he was trying to undermine her work.
Revealed: Corbyn’s policy director defends member suspended for anti-Semitism
Spectator Blog, 5 March 2019
A fresh war broke out this week between Labour MPs and the party leadership over how impartial Labour has been when dealing with anti-Semitism disciplinary cases. The fighting began after the Observer reported this weekend that Corbyn advisor Andrew Murray had personally lobbied for the party to be more lenient toward a member accused of defending an anti-Semitic mural.
Labour HQ has since hit back and insisted that ‘Any suggestion that staff in the leader’s office overturned recommendations on individual cases is categorically untrue.’
But Mr Steerpike wonders if Labour MPs are right to be worried about meddling, when Corbyn’s top advisors have shown themselves willing to defend their friends and allies who have been accused of anti-Semitism.
Mr S can reveal that Jeremy Corbyn’s executive director of policy, Andrew Fisher has certainly been unable to keep out of disciplinary cases. While Fisher is not directly involved in the Labour disciplinary process, in 2016 he did lobby on the behalf of a Labour party member who had been suspended for defending Ken Livingston’s comments on Hitler and Zionism.
Fisher made the comments one year after becoming Corbyn’s chief policy advisor:
The Labour member, David White, had been suspended after he suggested in a tweet that Ken Livingstone’s description of Hitler as a Zionist was ‘largely accurate.’ He has since been readmitted back into the party.
Mr S wonders if it helps though, having friends in high places…
Antisemitism row: Corbyn staffer said member should not be suspended
Labour supporter who praised antisemitic artwork should instead be questioned over views, said Laura Murray
Heather Stewart and Matthew Weaver
Tue 5 March 2019 15.05 GMT
Jeremy Corbyn had admitted that the mural used antisemitic tropes. Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images
Senior staff in Jeremy Corbyn’s office advised against suspending a Labour member who had defended an antisemitic mural, leaked emails reveal.
Laura Murray, one of two Labour staffers seconded this week from Corbyn’s office to provide administrative support to the party’s complaints team, suggested the member be questioned further about her views, rather than suspended immediately, the private email exchange suggests.
The correspondence will further inflame the row within Labour about the handling of antisemitism cases – and Corbyn’s personal responsibility.
Veteran Labour MP Margaret Hodge wrote to Corbyn on Monday, saying she believed she had been misled about the role of his staff in the handling of cases, after the Observer revealed the involvement of senior members of Corbyn’s team.
The latest emails concern a Labour member who described a controversial mural showing hook-nosed bankers as “great”. Corbyn himself had himself admitted the work used antisemitic tropes.
“I think it’s a great mural. No way should it be painted over, it should be preserved,” the member said.
In the exchange from March last year, first obtained by the Times but also seen by the Guardian, Labour’s head of disputes suggests imposing an “administrative suspension” on the individual, saying it is “in the immediate interests of the Labour party” to do so.
But Murray replies that the post suggests ignorance, rather than antisemitism – and suggests that instead she is sent a list of questions asking, “why she doesn’t realise that the mural is antisemitic, if she is disregarding the views of Jewish people who find the mural to be antisemitic etc.”
She continues: “Obviously if her answers show an unwillingness to be educated about these tropes then decide how best to proceed re: a suspension from there onwards.”
The Guardian understands that in other cases, Laura Murray recommended that tougher sanctions be applied than party staff were suggesting.
Murray’s father, Andrew, who is chief of staff at the Unite trade union, and seconded to advise Corbyn part-time, is copied in to the email.
Corbyn’s director of strategy, Seumas Milne, his chief of staff, Karie Murphy, and Labour’s general secretary, Jennie Formby, as well as several other officials are also copied into the correspondence.
Andrew Murray told the Observer at the weekend that he had been asked to “give advice on 13 individual cases relating to alleged antisemitism, to assist in getting through the backlog”.
A Labour spokesperson said: “Selecting a handful of cases from nearly a year ago, under defunct processes, is seriously misleading. This is a deeply unfair attack on staff working in good faith to apply the party rule book to individual cases and get through the backlog of unresolved complaints Jennie Formby inherited.”
Earlier, Charlie Falconer, the former lord chancellor examining Labour’s record on antisemitism, warned that it was “beyond mad,” for staff to be seconded directly from Corbyn’s office to the party’s complaints unit.
Labour insisted the staff would only be providing administrative support. But Falconer told the Guardian: “It would strike me as beyond mad, where the allegation is that the leader’s office interferes with cases, to send someone from the leader’s office in – not to impugn the individuals concerned.”
Labour has said the direct involvement of members of the leader’s office in handling complaints was, “a hangover from the previous process, which Formby overhauled when she took up her post”.
A Labour spokesperson said: “Since becoming general secretary, Jennie Formby has made procedures for dealing with complaints about antisemitism more robust. Staff who work on disciplinary matters have always led on investigations and recommendations on individual cases. Any suggestion that staff in the leader’s office overturned recommendations on individual cases is categorically untrue.”
Formby has clashed with Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, over the issue, criticising his call for Labour MPs to copy him in when they report cases as potentially breaching data protection laws.
But Andrew Murray is copied in to the email exchange about the mural using his union email address, which would also appear to raise concerns about the sharing of personal data.
Falconer told the Guardian he still intended to take on the role of “surveillance commissioner” for antisemitism cases, and hoped to ensure the process was “bathed in light”.
He said he planned to produce a report for the next meeting of Labour’s ruling national executive committee in May – but then to remain in place and provide ongoing scrutiny.
“People feel that the leadership may interfere in cases. Unless you have got someone there all the time, you don’t get confidence,” he said.
And Falconer rejected claims by Hodge that he had “bombarded” her with calls last summer urging her to apologise after she accused Corbyn of antisemitism and racism.
Hodge wrote to Corbyn, accusing him of misleading her about tackling antisemitism, or being misled himself, in a further escalation of party infighting on the issue, following the revelations in the Observer.
The MP for Barking and Dagenham wrote that the story contradicted assurances Corbyn gave to “my face last week”.
Falconer’s appointment, to scrutinise the party’s complaints process, was meant to help build confidence about the handling of past complaints, and ensure the process is robust.
But Hodge said: “Last summer when action was being taken by the Labour party against me, I was absolutely bombarded by telephone calls from Charlie Falconer. They were not about the rights and the wrongs of the case. They were all about trying to force me to give an apology. He’s not independent.”
She said a review by Falconer risked a repeat of what many regard as an ineffectual report on the issue by Corbyn loyalist Shami Chakrabarti.
Falconer said he made “five or six” calls to Hodge over a series of five or six days, and was trying to act as an honest broker between the veteran MP, the leadership and party whips, over drafting an apology.
“I was very keen to resolve it,” he said. “I thought we had friendly conversations about that at that time – but I obviously urged her too hard, and I’m sorry about that.”