Jeremy Corbyn has been clear in his opposition to racism of all forms – including antisemitism – since becoming leader of the Labour Party in 2015.
He has won praise from Jewish groups for commissioning the Chakrabarti review, and for adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism. But his good work risks being undone, first by figures from Momentum and Labour’s NEC softening the Party’s stance on members who are guilty of antisemitism in the past week.
Now his own staff are further undermining Corbyn’s credentials as both an anti-racist and a straight-talker.
When shadow International Development Secretary, Kate Osamor, tweeted her support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) in December, Corbyn’s spokesperson quickly issued a statement to clarify the Labour leader’s opposition to BDS. The spokesperson went further in telling the press that Corbyn would happily buy products from Israel himself.
But comments from the spokesperson given to the blog The Electronic Intifada, which spreads conspiracy theories about the ‘Israeli lobby’, appear to contradict that statement.
The Labour leader gave an interview to the site during his first leadership campaign, in which he signalled his support for BDS, specifically for goods and universities involved in arms research. Since winning the leadership election Corbyn dropped his support, and no BDS policies were included in the Labour’s General Election manifesto.
On Wednesday 13 December, the unnamed spokesperson for Corbyn told the site that he stood by his 2015 quote, saying “the quote stands”, which contradicts what was said to other media outlets on the same day. A month previously the spokesperson had told the blog the same thing.
The mixed messages from Corbyn’s staff risks dragging the Labour leader back into a row which is damaging the Party’s reputation.