Who would have imagined that the parliamentary holiday recess would deliver us some of the most spectacularly inept and ill judged political theatre outside of the Brexit farce. I refer, of course, to the ongoing Labour circus over anti-semitism and the Tory attempts at muzzling good old Boris.
The Labour Party - certainly not a political movement that I have much empathy with or sympathy for - is nevertheless having a bit of a do over whether it is anti-semitic or not. The crux of the endless bickering on this matter seems to stem from whether the party adopts all of the definitions of anti-semitism defined by a bizarrely named organisation called the IHRA. Labourites have adopted most of their recommendations but have pointedly not included one which - in reality - allies any criticism of Israel as being a racist endeavour. Now, I am no friend of Jeremy Corbyn or many of his political views, but on this matter I have some sympathy. You are anti-Semitic if you dare to criticise Israel ! How can this be ? If a sovereign state behaves badly or against the general tone of international social and humanitarian standards then why should it be immune from criticism ? Look at the volume of comment and condemnation levied on North Korea, on Russia, on the United States, on the European Union, even on good old Britain. Nobody should be protected from comment or criticism if it does something that is worthy of condemnation by the international community. Yet Israel enjoys this protected status for, by a quirk of ethnicity and religion the state of Israel is both a sovereign nation and a religion all wrapped up in one package. Does this make it special above all other nations ? I would argue it does not, and in this one, singular respect I almost agree with the Labour Party (Heaven forbid that should happen too often). The conflation of statehood and religion is not something we should applaud as citizens of the world. There are undoubtedly issues that that state faces but the rest of the world should not be intimidated by its preparedness to cry foul and use its religious history as some sort of ‘get me out of jail free’ card. The world will make its own judgements but it does Israel no global favours to try and use religion as a political weapon on the world stage.
Now, onto Boris ! Here we have a tale of many parts but the most visible ones are framed in glowingly inept and ill judged behaviour from the prime minister down to certain grass-roots Tories. Charles Moore’s column in the Telegraph describes it as ‘envy’ - that classic reaction of the weak and faceless toward anyone who has style (not sartorial on this occasion), charisma and the down-to-earth savvy of a politician who understands the public mood. Boris has this in spades but it annoys the Tory elite to such an extent that they are prepared to shoot themselves in the foot - possibly both feet - in order to discredit him and displace him from being in a position to speak his mind (that’s never been a trait that traditional Tories have recognised as one of Britain’s fundamental freedoms). If ever there was a political party that was as incompetent as this bunch, I would need to delve far back in history to find it. Not everyone likes Boris, or agrees with him, of course but that is their free choice to make. It is what we are - or should be - a free, liberal and just society where differing opinions can be acknowledged if not agreed with. We don’t have that breadth of freedom in this country nowadays. We are censored, inhibited and curtailed from making our opinions known, we are victims of a new culture that endorses restriction in the name of another’s freedom. It is a mindset that is politically dangerous, however, as the vast swathes of the populace, particularly the electorate will at some point react to this dumbing-down of our rights and freedoms. It is not a far cry to visualise a time in the not distant future when the great unwashed (that’s us) will sweep away the status quo at the ballot box. The great skill, of course, will be in whether we replace that status quo with something better - or not.