Yesterday’s meeting of Labour’s NEC was subject to a baffling barrage of leaks and spin as Corbyn attempted to thrash out a position on the internationally-recognised IHRA definition of antisemitism.
Here we make sense of the conflicting reports and what they mean for Labour’s antisemitism crisis.
Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘IHRA+’ proposal was rejected
Corbyn’s draft statement on antisemitism committed to “the full IHRA working definition and examples”, but added “nor should it be regarded as antisemitic to describe Israel, its policies or the circumstances around its foundation as racist”. This addition proved contentious, with a number of NEC members arguing that it could undermine the IHRA definition’s prohibition of “claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavour”. This forced Corbyn to withdraw his statement as it became clear he did not have an NEC majority in favour of it.
The NEC committed only to IHRA and its examples instead
The final statement released by the NEC was much shorter, endorsing the IHRA definition and all of its examples, with just one additional commitment that the definition “will not in any way undermine freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of Palestinians”. It also attempted to smooth over the rejection of Corbyn’s own proposal, saying that the NEC had “welcomed” it “as an important contribution”.
But there wasn’t a vote on the issue
Neither Corbyn’s original proposal nor the final statement came to a vote, with the final statement reached “by consensus”. In fact, the NEC is reported to have said “we re-invite organisations to engage in consultation on the Code of Conduct”, so for now Labour has still failed to vote on its antisemitism Code of Conduct even if it has made some commitments on its eventual content.
Instead there will be a vote after conference
A number of Corbyn’s outriders were quick to reassure the party’s far-left that the issue would be revisited with a vote to take place after conference, “when newly-elected NEC members take their seat” and Corbyn is all but guaranteed a majority for his proposals.
That means Labour will miss its September deadline on antisemitism cases
With Labour conference finishing on 26 September, it looks like Labour won’t hold an NEC vote on the Code of Conduct until October. That means the party will miss its latest September deadline for dealing with hundreds of outstanding antisemitism cases against members, after missing its first “end of July” deadline.
The focus will now be on what Labour adds to IHRA
By adopting IHRA but vowing to revisit Corbyn’s “IHRA+”, the party has all but guaranteed that its post-conference NEC meeting will focus on the “+” of Corbyn’s proposals. Those additions have already hugely controversial and will be harder to push through now that Corbyn has conceded the adoption of IHRA and all of its examples without caveats.
Four NEC members were instrumental in pushing for full IHRA
Alt-left blog Skwawkbox is widely regarded to have a direct line to the leader’s office, and has named four NEC members as being instrumental in rejecting Corbyn’s proposals yesterday: Jon Lansman and Rhea Wolfson from the far-left slate, and independent NEC members Eddie Izzard and Ann Black. Only Lansman will remain on the NEC after conference when members the newly-elected far-left slate take up their seats.
And Jon Lansman was accused of “betrayal” by the far-left
Far-left figures were quick to accuse NEC members of “betrayal” over yesterday’s decisions, with Jon Lansman singled out for particular criticism, ironically using an antisemitic trope to attack Jewish NEC members Jon Lansman and Rhea Wolfson. This is particularly troubling for Lansman, who is increasingly viewed with suspicion by the far-left since he dropped Peter Willsman from Momentum’s slate after he was taped ranting about the Jewish community at July’s NEC meeting.