Offering training to Labour members who are unrepentant about having been antisemitic does nothing to solve the problem in the party, argues Richard Angell
One of the reoccurring parts of this antisemitism debate is the role of ‘training’ for those caught perpetrating racism towards Jews and Holocaust denial. It is treated by some as a panacea.
In Christine Shawcroft’s resignation as chair of the Disputes Panel – she later resigned the whole National Executive Committee – she wrote about the Holocaust denier she defended saying: ‘I had not seen the appalling and abhorrent post … As soon as I saw it I told the member she should have antisemitism training.’ Presumably if he went on the aforementioned training he would avoid further chastisement and expulsion from the party. Shameful really. I hear this has come up in Disputes Panel meetings before. The guy who said Tony Blair’s government was ‘controlled by Jewish bankers’ was offered training to stay in the party. Treating anti-racism training like it is a speed awareness course to avoid three points or a driving ban is appalling. It is far from best practice.
Let us be clear – training on antisemitism is for those who show remorse and want to change not for those who double down and think they have done no wrong. For Naz Shah not Ken Livingstone, if you will.
Those who are not remorseful firstly do not deserve the training – it is not like they will be open to changing their mind. It is just two hours they will have to endure. They most likely come out the other side angry, not reformed.
More importantly, training about racism towards Jews should be run by Jews and it is not fair to expect Jewish people to have to train people who refused to acknowledge that six million of their ancestors died in the world most industrialised genocide. The Nazis knew how to keep records – we know almost exactly what they intended, how it was executed and how many were affected.
Training of course does have its role, for those who want to genuinely mend their ways. My starter for 10 recommends training for those who have to deal with complaints, especially the NEC and National Constitutional Committee who consider them, and Owen Jones has rightly suggested improved political education across the board. But these are very different to punishment training and are not enough on their own.
This is about racism and it being taken seriously should be a first order issue for an anti-racist party.
Richard Angell is director of Progress. He tweets @RichardAngell
Progressive centre-ground Labour politics does not come for free.
Our work depends on you.