This year’s Labour Party conference is likely to be quite engrossing, and not entirely for positive reasons. First there will be - perhaps more on the fringe than in the conference hall - a ruckus over the obnoxious claims that the Party is anti-semitic. The right wing media will attend in abundance, microphones and cameras at the ready to capture any remark which can be blown into a front page scandal. So those attending who like to have a drop or two in the bars after a long day discussing our crumbling public services will need to be careful not to say anything which could be taken out of context. Taking things out of context is by definition one of the cardinal rules of the right wing press. It also seems that Jewish Labour MPs will be surrounded by bodyguards if a report in the Daily Telegraph is anything to go by. It seems the anti-Labour ‘Campaign Against Anti-semitism’ has contacted Jewish Labour MPs to advise them on their security at conference. The Telegraph’s headline implied that those MPs had contacted CAAS, but the text of the report suggests it was the other way round – one wonders therefore if the MPs were worried for their safety or not – or merely a tool for CAAS to up the ante. We will never know. A brilliant article by Prof. Norman Finkelstein appears on the Skwawkbox website today, comprehensively trashing the IHRA definition and examples of anti-semitism. Well worth reading.
Of more importance in the great scheme of things will be discussions about whether Labour should support a vote on the Brexit deal. I nearly typed ‘second vote’ but of course that would not be the case – it couldn’t be a rerun of the first Yes/No referendum. I am pleased to see that leaders of the campaign for the vote have said it is not a surreptitious attempt to destabilise or get rid of Corbyn. I happen to think it possible to want a Brexit deal vote without in anyway diminishing Corbyn’s position. I harbour a faint hope that the British public will have absorbed more of the implications of leaving now they have witnessed the appalling hash May’s government is making of it. Of course, for the pedants out there, such a vote would be seen as just another example of the establishment seeking to ‘get the result it wants.’ Bearing in mind the dangers of plebiscitary democracy alluded to in David Runciman’s ‘How Democracy Ends’ it nevertheless seems to me that the 2016 referendum was in any case the second referendum. The first was in 1975. On that occasion remainers defeated outers by two to one, a result which some people never wanted to accept as binding. So the Brexiteers can hardly complain if we have another vote now can they, when the 2016 outcome was so close? Anyway, it remains to be seen if this debate even makes it onto the floor of the conference.