Labour Woes Deepen as Field Quits in Anti-Semitism Storm

Frank Field

Credit: Policy Exchange via Flickr

It’s no wonder that Theresa May is off having a jolly old time in Africa, dancing – use that term loosely – with locals and laying down her vision of future trade agreements between the UK and parts of the continent.

Her main rival for the top job in Downing Street, Jeremy Corbyn, continues to make hard work of what should be an easy run to the prime ministership at the next General Election.

There is a clear appetite for political change in the UK, with opinion polls suggesting that Labour hold a narrow lead should an election be called today.

The Conservatives continue to balls-up Brexit negotiations, and the spectre of a No Deal agreement would have wide-ranging ramifications for the electorate.

But accusations of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party will not go away, and while some of that is likely to be a right wing media hatchet job, Corbyn really does need to make some bold proclamations sooner rather than later if he is to put the issue to bed.

His cause has not been helped this week by the resignation of Frank Field, a prominent Labour MP who has quit due to the ‘appalling culture’ that exists within the party.

No Field Day for Corbyn

Frank Field has occupied a key Merseyside constituency for more than 40 years, and his status as an experienced mainstay of the party confirms his importance to it.

The MP announced his plans to stand as an independent candidate in Birkenhead at the next election – a move explicitly outlawed by Labour. He has to re-take his whip within the fortnight or face expulsion from the party.

Field cited Corbyn’s army as ‘a force for anti-Semitism in British politics’, and pointed the figure of blame squarely at his leader. “Following Jeremy’s election as leader and the growth of party membership, which would in normal circumstances be welcome, we have become a party that displays intolerance, nastiness, and intimidation at all too many levels,” he wrote in the Liverpool Echo.

Critics of Mr Field have claimed that he has quit before being sacked having supported the Tory government’s Brexit plans.

Chris Williamson MP said that Field’s comments were nothing more than ‘grotesque slurs, with no basis in reality.’

“The party has taken the issue of anti-Semitism very seriously; far more seriously than any other political party,” he told Newsnight. “It’s so sad to see someone like Frank Field trashing Labour’s anti-racist record.”

Race Hate Rumours Won’t Go Away

It was back in 2016 that Shami Chakrabarti carried out her investigation into allegations of racism within the Labour movement.

Her conclusions were that while the party wasn’t anti-Semitic as a rule, there was an ‘occasionally toxic atmosphere’ that punctuated the actions and language of Labour members.

Corbyn himself was forced to apologise on behalf of the party to the Jewish community earlier this month, admitting that he and his fellow senior members were slow to discipline those guilty of anti-Semitic behaviour.

And that followed his infamous ‘no sense of English irony’ dig at the community of British Zionists, which caused former chief rabbi Lord Sacks to denounce Corbyn as an anti-Semite whose comments were ‘the most offensive statement’ since Enoch Powell’s divisive Rivers of Blood speech.

Those claims after it had surfaced that the Labour leader had attended a ceremony in Tunisia back in 2014 which honoured the perpetrators of the 1972 Munich terror attack, in which a number of Olympic athletes from Israel were taken hostage and eventually murdered. The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Corbyn warranted ‘unequivocal condemnation’ for laying a wreath on the grave of one of the architects of the attack.

BoJo Makes Presence Felt

All of which has rather ruffled the feathers of Labour’s progress, and they are now even money with the bookmakers – after being odds-on – to win the most seats at the next election, with the Tories also priced at evens.

Mor worrying for Corbyn, and the British public as a whole frankly, is that the favourite in the ‘Next Prime Minister’ betting market is Boris Johnson, who at 11/2 is shorter than the 6/1 offered on Corbyn to take up office at Downing Street.

The early projections for the next election suggest that no party will enjoy an overall majority, with the Conservatives (9/4) just fancied to shade Labour (5/2) with a minority government.