Resigning the Labour Party whip yesterday, MP Frank Field said, “We must be seen when we go into the next election that we’re not racist.”
A good thing, then, that he's gone.
Even when Labour was taking its nastiest anti-immigration turns, Field was an out-rider.
Once praised by the right wing Daily Mail newspaper as “the only politician with the guts to speak out about immigration,” Field has hammered migrants.
His big political hero is Enoch Powell—the Tory MP who threatened in his infamous “Rivers of Blood” speech that immigration meant “the black man will have the whip hand over the white man.”
In a fawning article for the Spectator magazine in 2012, Field said the speech was Powell’s “only major political error”. That wasn’t because of its foul message—but because the backlash made it harder to attack migrants.
“At a stroke he made the subject of immigration a no-go area for elected politicians,” wrote Field.
“I only felt safe in trespassing onto this territory once the mass of immigration from eastern European countries reached our shores, when the issue was no longer one of colour.”
Though given the overtly racist anti-immigration garbage Field has peddled over the years, you wonder what he’s been holding back.
He’s used the sort of inflammatory rhetoric that fuels racist and fascist street movements today.
“There is a risk of civil unrest. We have to turn off the immigration tap,” he once told the Mail.
The truth is that Field’s is the kind of racism that some Labour MPs are okay with. In their minds bashing migrants is about getting the support of white working class people.
That’s why MP Wes Streeting—who’s made much of pretending to speak out against racism in recent weeks—defended Field from “character assassinations”.
In an article on the Guardian website today, Streeting said Field was “outside of the Labour mainstream,” and “something of a maverick”. But not a racist.
The right have spent months flinging accusations of antisemitism at their own members, and deriding Corbyn supporters as thugs or a cult. Now they have the audacity to decry bullying and “the toxic political culture” in Labour.
Streeting said Labour was enduring a “self-inflicted crisis over antisemitism” because of its refusal to adopt a definition of antisemitism that rules out calling Israel a racist state.
Next Tuesday, Labour’s ruling national executive committee will likely adopt that definition. Once they’ve done that, the right will be able to attack all solidarity with Palestine.
The Jewish Leadership Council and Community Security Trust—two bodies often uncritically quoted as representatives of “mainstream” Jews—wrote a letter to Corbyn yesterday. It explicitly characterised anti-Zionism—criticism of Israel’s founding ideology—as a form of antisemitism.
“Israel and Zionism are both inextricably Jewish,” it said. “The more hatred they are subjected to, the more antisemitism there will be.”
It called for a “cultural change” in Labour to essentially make anti-Zionism unacceptable.
There’s a battle to defend the right to stand in solidarity with Palestinians and call Israel what it is—a racist state. For all their posturing, hypocrites such as Field and Streeting are delighted because they know they’re winning.
Don’t let them.