Shadow Minister Chris Williamson has tweeted a blog article entitled “Revealed: The Labour Party activists behind the ‘antisemitism’ smears”, which he commended as “really interesting”. Despite its grand use of terms such as “raw data” and “the power of weak links”, the article does little more than to insinuate – on the flimsiest of evidence – that a small number of social media users constitute a “network of hate” and to accuse Councillor Warren Morgan – the leader of Brighton and Hove City Council whose brave stand against antisemitism we applauded in September – of lying, bringing the Labour Party into disrepute, and “regurgitating second-hand fabrications about alleged antisemitism”. It was written by internet millionaire and former Daily Mail journalist Greg Hadfield, whose membership of the Labour Party is currently suspended.
Although one might find it extraordinary that a member of the Shadow Cabinet should take to social media to promote a suspended party member’s attack on one of his own party’s elected representatives, it should be remembered that Mr Williamson has a track record when it comes to the dismissal of complaints of antisemitism as malicious smears (a track record that he shares with Scott Nelson, an expelled former Labour Party member whom he frequently retweets).
In the UK, it is accepted that an incident perceived as racist should be investigated as such. The idea that one particular ethnic group — and one particular ethnic group alone — cannot be trusted to recognise racism when directed against itself is incompatible with the Macpherson principle that underpins the British approach to racism. It would be regrettable indeed if the endorsement of Mr Hadfield’s article by such a senior politician as Mr Williamson were to have the effect of intimidating party members from coming forward with or responding to complaints about antisemitism. The Labour Party’s new rules on hate speech, adopted by near-unanimous vote after a highly controversial conference debate, cannot begin to have an impact on the Party’s undeniable antisemitism problem unless whistleblowers are able to speak out without fear of reprisals.