THE splits at the very top of Labour over anti-Semitism were self-evident when Jeremy Corbyn’s deputy, Tom Watson, went on national radio to respond to allegations on Panorama that complaints from Jewish activists had been downplayed and, potentially, ignored.
The interview could only begin after Mr Watson was asked if he was speaking in an official – or personal – capacity and whether he had informed Mr Corbyn that he would be accusing Labour of not doing enough to confront “anti-Jewish racist language” used by some members.
Yet, given the seriousness of the misgivings that continue to be expressed by Mr Watson, and many others, some will be surprised that the deputy leader has not resigned in disgust at the double standards which undermine the Labour movement’s long-held, and very principled, stance against racism.
And this is the quandary. Mr Watson knows his resignation would become even more disruptive at a time when Labour could find itself on the brink of power later this year if Theresa May’s successor – likely to be Boris Johnson – is forced to call a general election.
This is not good enough. It offers no consolation to the many victims of anti-Semitism who expected Labour to take their allegations seriously – and without any interference whatsoever from acolytes of Mr Corbyn who have been accused of interfering with allegations.
That former officials tasked with presiding over internal inquiries felt it necessary to break non-disclosure agreements to express their misgivings speaks volumes about the scale of the scandal – and why Mr Corbyn needs to take action now to help reassure all those who feel let down by his mealy-mouthed approach.
Rather than indulging the intolerance of MPs like Chris Williamson because they’re loyal to the leadership, this means embracing the rule-change demanded by Mr Watson, and former leader Gordon Brown who want the party to “auto-exclude” party members who have a “prima facie case to answer of using anti-Semitic behaviours and language”. If not, voters will have even more reason – in spite of the Tory turmoil – to think twice about voting for Labour in future.