Labour’s amendment on antisemitism should reassure Jewish supporters | Keith Kahn-Harris | The Guardian

One of the better commentaries that I have seen but welcome comments from those closer to UK politics:

In responding to this morning’s debate on party rule changes, Jim Kennedy, the Labour national executive committee (NEC) member who moved them, shook his head in wonder: “The rules used to be the most mundane part of the conference.” He was correct to reflect that the passionate attention paid to rule changes is a sign of the newly vibrant nature of the party’s internal democracy.

One of those rule changes looks like it should have been uncontroversial in a party where anti-racism is a central value:

“No member of the party shall engage in conduct which in the opinion of the NEC is prejudicial, or in any act which in the opinion of the NEC is grossly detrimental to the party. The NEC shall take account of any codes of conduct currently in force and shall regard any incident which in their view might reasonably be seen to demonstrate hostility or prejudice based on age; disability; gender reassignment or identity; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; or sexual orientation as prejudicial to the party; these shall include but not be limited to incidents involving racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia or otherwise racist language, sentiments, stereotypes or actions, sexual harassment, bullying or any form of intimidation towards another person on the basis of a protected characteristic as determined by the NEC, wherever it occurs, as conduct prejudicial to the party.”

To the untrained eye, the manner in which the amendment was proposed looks like a welcome example of the party coming together after a fractious series of widely publicised controversies over antisemitism. It was proposed by the Jewish Labour Movement – which represents those Jews in the party who are Zionists – but it was also endorsed by Jeremy Corbyn himself, whose relationship with Zionism is sceptical to say the least, together with Momentum, some of whose activists have been accused in the past of antisemitism.

But such is the ability of antisemitism to spark conflict in the Labour party, that the amendment has not gone unchallenged, despite the apparent consensus. Labour Party Marxists already told its members: “This is supported by the Jewish Labour Movement, which already tells you that you should probably oppose without even having to read it.” There have been calls to expel the JLM for its support for Israel, including by delegate Sara Callaway during the debate.

Leah Levane, a Jewish delegate from Hastings and Rye, whose constituency had initially put forward a different wording, reluctantly withdrew her amendment in favour of the NEC one but not without a sharply worded declaration that the Jewish Labour Movement did not speak for her. Then, in the response to the debate, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi castigated the JLM for “running to the Daily Mail and the Telegraph with stories” before objecting to the reference in Levane’s amendment to “holding” beliefs since: “That’s thought crime, comrades, and we can’t be having it.” Wimborne-Idrissi also lauded the launch the previous evening of Jewish Voice for Labour, a group that aims to push back at what it sees as attempts to “widen” the definition of antisemitism.

The controversy over antisemitism in Labour is therefore unlikely to go away any time soon. However much the party’s rules might condemn antisemitism and enable disciplinary action against those accused of it, there is no getting around the fact that there are competing definitions of what antisemitism consists of. That Jews themselves disagree only complicates matters further.

Nonetheless, the fact that the JLM, the NEC, Corbyn and Momentum were able to cooperate in this matter does suggest a desire to come together for the good of the party. Indeed, the JLM’s Twitter account proclaimed “help Jeremy Corbyn fight antisemitism”, a striking refutation of the accusation that the group is seeking to undermine his leadership. As Mike Katz from the JLM and Philip Cohen, a Jewish councillor from Finchley, both argued from the platform, the amendment might help to rally Jews back to Labour in some constituencies. The desire to achieve power can be a way of concentrating minds of Corbynites and Labour Zionists alike.

The amendment is another example of the tension between enabling free debate within Labour and ensuring it is a disciplined party that can win elections (the lack of Brexit debate is another). If Polly Toynbee is right and Corbyn has been transformed into a politically savvy pragmatist, then his backing of the amendment is a manifestation of this. What remains to be seen is whether those who spoke against the amendment will accept the inevitable restraint that this implies.

Source: Labour’s amendment on antisemitism should reassure Jewish supporters | Keith Kahn-Harris | Opinion | The Guardian

If you don’t think multiculturalism is working, look at your street corner

A more encouraging take at the daily interaction level on multiculturalism in the UK:

Think of all those tiny interactions between different ethnic groups on an average British city street: the newsagent, the corner shop, the delivery driver, the postman, friends laughing, children playing, a pair of lovers. This is what generates passive tolerance. You don’t have to be part of the interaction yourself; just witnessing it is enough to have a significant impact – comparable to the effect passive smoking has on your health, hence the term passive tolerance.

This is the finding of seven studies carried out over 10 years in the United States, Europe and South Africa, led by a team of social psychologists at the University of Oxford and published in the journal of the United States National Academy of Sciences. They were careful to rule out the most obvious explanation for their finding, social psychologists Miles Hewstone and Katharina Schmid explain – namely, that the higher levels of tolerance in more diverse neighbourhoods are a result of more tolerant people choosing to live there. Two of the studies were conducted over several years and tracked the same individuals, showing how attitudes changed. Even prejudiced people showed a greater degree of tolerance over time if they lived in a mixed neighbourhood.

The study’s positive message is reinforced by the finding of a separate study led by the same Oxford team – the biggest to date in England on diversity and trust. White British people were asked whether they felt ethnic minorities threatened their way of life, increased crime levels, or took their jobs; ethnic minority participants were asked the same questions. Both groups were then asked about how they interact with other groups in everyday situations, such as corner shops, and then about how much they trusted people from their own and other ethnic groups in their neighbourhood. What the study found was that distrust does rise in diverse communities, but day to day, direct contact cancels it out.

It may be a bit over optimistic, given the rise of UKIP and anti-immigration sentiment, but worth reading and reflecting upon; Putman’s thesis of the negative impact of diversity on trust may be overstated or incorrect.

If you don’t think multiculturalism is working, look at your street corner | Madeleine Bunting | Comment is free | The Guardian.

BBC NEWS | UK | UK Politics | Tory warning on multiculturalism

More UK debates, within the Conservative Party, on multiculturalism:

Asked about Mr Grieve’s comments on BBC One’s Andrew Marr show, Conservative leader David Cameron said he agreed that “state multiculturalism” had been the wrong approach.

Mr Cameron said: “What he said was that state multiculturalism – the idea that as welcoming people into our country and keep them all in silos, and treat British Muslims as Muslims, rather than as British citizens, treat British Jews as Jews rather than as British citizens – that is wrong.

“I think trying to integrate more, trying to bring people together more, trying to build a strong British identity for the future, I think that’s absolutely right.”

European multiculturalism had a more communitarian basis than in Canada, where integration and equity were always at its base, and it was never intended to be “deep” multiculturalism, divorced from overall Canadian society, laws and values.

BBC NEWS | UK | UK Politics | Tory warning on multiculturalism.