In the context of a torrid summer, the timing of the suspension of a black member from the left of the Labour Party has naturally led many to feel this is the final straw. To suspend a black woman with Jewish heritage and a Jewish partner for anti-Semitism straight after conference and Momentum’s The World Transformed, while others have got away with all kinds of attacks, was always going to appear to be to many another targeted smear
Although not one person is free of prejudice, and the Party needs to be welcoming (and to black members especially), leadership requires responsibility. Is her position now untenable? Or where her remarks taken out of context?
As a member, Walker must accept the need for education, but here we get into the difficulty. Owen Smith began his leadership campaign with a homophobic dogwhistle and should have been suspended immediately. Several MPs, “normal” and singular, have failed to act in an exemplary manner, and have not been sanctioned for their conduct. Meanwhile, there are numerous examples of suspensions of members for petty reasons. At the very least The Compliance Unit have been heavy handed and until there is an inquiry into what has been dubbed “The Purge”, unity will be impossible to achieve.
It is very hard to keep one’s head when all around others have demonstrably lost theirs. I called Owen Jones a “stooge” and I am sorry for that. This much is true: As things unravel, naked tensions reveal themselves. A white man commenting on the actions of a black woman becomes ever more problematic.
The Labour Party, if it is to safely negotiate these troubled times, does not have the option the Conservatives can employ: burying these tensions in the pursuit of mutual financial and career advancement. Can the necessary radical self-examinations take place on a personal level so that we can come together politically? Or is an explosive fragmentation inevitable?
Can we apply the rules fairly? What can we accept? What can we accept about ourselves? What is an acceptable human flaw for a member of the Labour Party? How many mistakes can an individual make? How conscious must they be? What will we do about Owen Smith and Jacqueline Walker? And what will the outcome say about The Labour Party?