“Code+” is likely outcome of NEC vote on IHRA examples – and puts right in a quandary

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  • NEC has been reviewing and consulting on its recently-launched Code of Conduct
  • NEC arithmetic means IHRA ‘working definition’ examples will be adopted in full, in spite of free speech issues
  • same arithmetic means that the Code’s existing caveats will be at least retained and probably strengthened to protect free speech
  • Labour members of good will should support this and invest their energy into campaigning for the right protective caveats

Some weeks ago, Labour’s National Executive Committee agreed to look further at the new Code of Conduct it had agreed on the party’s approach to the issue of antisemitism – a code that Momentum founder and NEC member Jon Lansman described as the ‘gold standard’ of political documents on the issue and certainly light-years ahead of anything put in place by other parties.

The agreement to revisit was made to accommodate the concerns expressed by some Jewish groups – and opportunistic Labour right-wingers – that the Code did not include, verbatim, all eleven examples of antisemitism that are attached to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA)  ‘working definition’ of antisemitism.

In fact, Labour’s Code includes reference to all the examples but clarifies a handful to reduce the risk of them being abused – as has already happened in Barnet – to suppress free speech on the issue of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and the Palestinians’ right to discuss their oppression in meaningful terms.

Since the decision to review, many Labour activists have campaigned hard for the Code of Conduct to remain unchanged for the protection of the rights of Palestinians – and BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) groups have also said that they would regard any weakening of the Code’s protections as a failure to defend the rights of all minorities equally.

Last week, the SKWAWKBOX exclusively spoke to Jon Lansman, who said that he envisaged – and would support – a revision to the Code of Conduct in which all eleven examples would be incorporated verbatim but, crucially, in which the existing Code’s clarifications regarding the examples around discussion of Israel would be retained as well, for the protection of free speech and Palestinian rights.

This blog’s discussions this week with key figures suggest that it is almost certain that the outcome Lansman foresees will be the result of the NEC vote on 4 September – and that the party’s leadership would back it.

The voting arithmetic on the NEC, with unions Unison and GMB swinging behind the adoption of the examples will combine with the intentions of enough of Labour’s member representatives on the committee to make it essentially impossible that the remaining IHRA examples will not be adopted – but similarly likely that the protective clarifications will be retained, or even strengthened as they need to be.

This shows that the party is taking seriously the concerns of those among the UK’s Jewish population genuinely worried by the fact that some examples were not included in full, while respecting and protecting the rights of Palestinians and other minority or oppressed groups.

But it also presents the Labour right and its allies with a quandary.

Do right-wingers crow at their ‘victory’ in seeing all the examples adopted in full? Or do they complain at the fact that the retention of the clarifications neuters their hope to use the examples for a mass assault on supporters of Palestinian rights among the membership (though of course it would not be expressed in quite those terms!)?

‘Code Plus’ or ‘Code Max’ looks inevitable. But it also looks like the right and intelligent response – and one that any with a genuine interest in defeating antisemitism and upholding the rights of oppressed Palestinians should support.

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