The resignation of two more Labour MPs this week are designed to pile further pressure on Jeremy Corbyn.
Ian Austin and Joan Ryan both announced their resignations this week—Austin on Friday morning and Ryan on Tuesday evening.
They followed Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Ann Coffey, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Mike Gapes and Gavin Shuker, who left on Monday to form the Independent Group.
Both Austin and Ryan blamed alleged antisemitism inside Labour for their split.
Austin—who was once told by senior Labour figures he “sounded like the BNP” for his views on immigration—said that under Corbyn “a culture of extremism, antisemitism and intolerance is driving out good MPs and decent people”.
And Ryan claimed that “The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn has become infected with the scourge of anti-Jewish racism”.
Both have shown they consider legitimate criticism of Israel—such as branding it in apartheid state or discussing the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians—to be antisemitic.
In a resignation statement, Ryan linked antisemitism to opposition to Israel.
“I cannot remain a member of the Labour Party while this requires me to suggest that I believe Jeremy Corbyn—a man who has presided over the culture of anti-Jewish racism and hatred for Israel which now afflicts my former party—is fit to be prime minister of this country,” she said.
She also complained that Corbyn had tried to “preserve the right of antisemites to label Israel a ‘racist endeavour’”.
And at a fringe meeting at Labour Party conference last year, Austin branded people who “call the establishment of Israel a racist, colonial project” a “poison that’s been brought into the party.”
He was later implicated in the victimisation of Paul Jonson, a Dudley council worker, last November.
Paul was accused of antisemitism—then cleared and reinstated—for calling Israel a “racist endeavour” on Facebook. Austin had confronted Paul on a protest shortly before his suspension—and demanded an explanation from the council when he got his job back.
The best response to the slew of claims about antisemitism is to stand firm on the insistence that it is not antisemitic to call Israel racist—and to go on the offensive over Palestine.
Bring Palestinians back to the foreground of the argument. Talk about Israel’s racism and defy the right to call you antisemitic for it.
Talk about how the state of Israel was founded and ask its supporters to justify why the systematic expulsion of nearly a million Palestinians shouldn’t be described as ethnic cleansing.
Make them explain how Israel still won’t allow Palestinian refugees to return because it views their very presence as a threat to its own existence.
Demand to know why—even as Israel has enshrined racism into its constitution—they’re so desperate to defend the racist state.
Many Labour members were glad to see the backs of Ryan and Austin. But several right wing MPs have used the resignations to demand more concessions to the right from Corbyn.
Deputy leader Tom Watson said that Corbyn had to “address the reasons why good colleagues might want to leave.” Other MPs followed suit.
There will be a pressure, which must be resisted, to concede to the right and stop talk of reselection of MPs.
The Independent Group faces problems. It will at some point have to develop policies on austerity, taxation, privatisation, tuition fees and many other issues.
It combines MPs who enthusiastically backed Tory austerity and those who, at least in words, opposed it.
However, the group could pose a danger to Labour’s hopes of winning the next election by siphoning off votes that would otherwise have been for Corbyn.
But it is also a menace to the Tories. Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen left the Conservatives for the independents on Wednesday.
Effectively the government and the DUP together now have a majority of eight in parliament. This is after you remove the abstentionist Sinn Fein MPs, the vacant seat, and the MPs who don’t traditionally vote such as the speaker.
So if just a few more Tories move to the Independent Group, May could lose her majority. She had to hastily arrange meetings this week with Justine Greening and Philip Lee in an effort to stop them leaving.
However, the independents are so right wing that they may refuse to back a motion of no confidence in the government—they don’t want to open the door to a Corbyn win and they fear for their own skins.
Their strength lies entirely inside the House of Commons—manoeuvring, plotting and dealing.
May faces next week Brexit’s votes in a very weak position. There are reports that more than 30 Tory MPs are ready to rebel against May by backing a proposal aimed at preventing a no-deal Brexit.
And on Friday cabinet ministers were said to be demanding that May must step down after the local elections in May.
In addition Philip Hammond is part of a group of pro-EU cabinet ministers including justice secretary David Gauke who have strongly suggested they would resign rather than help to oversee a no-deal withdrawal from the EU.
Hammond refused on Thursday to rule out that he would resign in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
With the Tories on the rocks it's time to step up struggles in the streets and the workplaces, not be drawn into focusing on parliamentary manoeuvres.