YOUR front page headline “Labour to investigate ‘vile’ Islamophobia” alarmed me (The Yorkshire Post, June 21), and not just because of the coming by-election in Batley and Spen. But then I read your report, and realised the situation may be different from what the headline suggests.
You report a Mail on Sunday story quoting a senior Labour official as saying “We’re haemorrhaging votes among Muslim voters. And the reason for that is what Keir has been doing on anti-Semitism”. That partial quote is all that some papers gave their readers, so it’s wholly understandable that the Labour Muslim Network (LMN) has called it a “patently vile, Islamophobic briefing”.
But your paper’s report with greater honesty continued the quote: “Nobody really wants to talk about it, but that’s the main factor. He [Keir] challenged Corbyn on it, and there’s been a backlash among certain sections of the community.”
The quote is terse and telescoped, and the crucial question it raises is: what is meant by “what Keir has been doing on anti-Semitism”? Your paper takes it as meaning Keir Starmer’s efforts to combat anti-Semitism. But there’s another view that sees Sir Keir as too quick to accept all complaints of anti-Semitism, too slow to acknowledge Muslim complaints, and too ready to punish those, notably Jeremy Corbyn, who believe Labour anti-Semitism has been overstated.
This is apparently the view taken by the unnamed official, who says that “Keir challenged Corbyn on it [anti-Semitism] and there’s been a backlash among certain sections of the community” – evidently meaning a backlash against Keir’s challenge to Jeremy Corbyn, not against his efforts to combat anti-Semitism. And indeed an anti-Starmer backlash is indicated by a Guardian report from Batley, quoting a typical Muslim Labour voter asking “why should I support a Labour leader that has never spoken for me or my community until he wants the vote?” So perhaps the Labour Muslim Network should be less dismayed by what the nameless official said, and perhaps Sir Keir should start to listen seriously to Muslims.
From: Peter Rickaby, West Park, Selby.
SIR Keir Starmer should welcome John Bercow’s defection – it reunites two peas from the same pod. Both zealous Europhiles, detested Brexit, long time members of Whitehall’s “we know best” club.
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