Tuesday 3 December 2019

The Silence of the Manns: Lord John Mann and his selective commenting on antisemitism

Lord John Mann is a public servant, hired by the government to be what the Times called the 'Antisemitism Tsar'. Wags have commented that for the press to call this job a 'Tsar' is at the very least mildly offensive to most Ashkenazi Jews in the UK whose presence in the UK mostly derives from persecution by...the Tsars. It would have been kinda nice if Lord John Mann had perhaps acknowledged this gaffe. He didn't.

Lord John Mann has been given a serious and important job: to investigate and report on antisemitism. This is antisemitism everywhere and anywhere. Some might quibble on why create a post to deal with one form of racism? After all, the government who has hired him has serious questions to answer on what the Conservative supporter and former minister Sayeeda Warsi has described as persistent Islamophobia. We are still waiting for the party's enquiry into its Islamophobia, promised by Sajid Javid and Michael Gove. Not much alarm on that from the mass media. Free pass for Tory Islamophobia then.

Meanwhile, lawyers and public figures have pointed out that the Conservative Party's handling of British citizens from the Caribbean (the so-called Windrush scandal) is a form of racist discrimination and persecution. Reminder: we are not talking here about 'slurs' or contested interpretations of history. This is about the livelihoods and very existence of British citizens of colour, persecuted by their own government - still ongoing.

Leaving all this aside, (though we shouldn't!) we might imagine that Lord John Mann would indeed by pursuing his task with relentless non-partisanship, showing to us all that his target was antisemitism and not, say, antisemitism in the Labour Party or antisemitism on the Left.

Over several weeks, I tweeted at Lord John Mann, the accruing examples of antisemitic jibes and slurs emerging from high profile Conservatives. I mentioned to him the persistence of Jacob Rees-Mogg's comments, in addition to those of Suella Braverman, Crispin Blunt, Toby Young and Priti Patel. These have all been commented on by people other than me including by the British Board of Deputies. Even more serious to my mind has been the comments by Dominic Cummings - not a Tory Party member, but a hired adviser by the Prime Minister's office - who has talked of 'the likes of Goldman Sachs' and in a deposition to a House of Commons committee railed against Goldman Sachs having fingers in every pie in the EU for their own benefit in the 'cess pit' of corruption that is the EU. His singling out of Goldman Sachs (founded by a Jewish family) seems irrationally fervid. He also seems part of the trope which proposes a clean, national alternative to what is perceived as the international corruption of Goldman Sachs. If this isn't a classic Hitlerian trope, what is? (To spell it out, Hitler posed a national, Jew-free economy. This is the antisemitic dream - if you remove Jews from your sphere - or the world, the world would be a better place. At times this has been a form of left-wing antisemitism (e.g. in France prior to the Dreyfus case) but it is in the present era a plank of people like Orban in Hungary and there are strains of it running through the alt Right and Steve Bannon.)

The people who have cried the loudest about antisemitism in the Labour Party are people who know about this new Right agenda but are mostly strangely quiet about it. Now, as I am saying here, Cummings is clearly informed by it and, I would argue so is Rees-Mogg when he describes one of his Jewish colleagues as one of the 'illuminati' (secret cabal) and uses the Soros jibe to imply dirty stuff going on in the Remain camp. (Soros is Jewish and a frequent butt for eastern European antisemites.)

So what about Lord John Mann? Surely he would be mightily concerned about this. After all, neither Corbyn nor any of the other alleged left wing antisemites are in power. Whatever threat to Jews that the Antisemitism Tsar has imagined that Corbyn and the Left pose, it surely doesn't come anywhere near what can be wielded by those at the heart of the government - Rees-Mogg, Cummings, Patel and formerly, Braverman.

On October 10 this year, John Mann MP (as he was then) wrote to me on twitter via Direct Message. I treated it as a confidential message, even though Mann hadn't requested that. (I'll explain why I don't think it's confidential any more in a moment.) In this message he wrote:

"As indep advisor I will not be giving a running commentary on Corbyn, Williamson, Rees Mogg or anyone else."

Fair enough. Perhaps. I thought, maybe John was preparing a dossier on these public figures who I and others were telling him about. Then on Nov 15 on John's time line on twitter he did in fact comment on an individual case: that of a Tory candidate he deemed to be antisemitic. (That's why I've gone public on this.) So now we can ask if John was prepared to comment on n individual case like this, why the silence about Rees-Mogg et al?

I'll say that again, why the silence about Rees-Mogg et al?

What's going on?

I have also furnished Lord John Mann with lower profile cases e.g. on Lee Harpin (who appears to be the disgraced Jewish Chronicle 'journalist', who has just been found by the Press watchdog in a long judgement, to have written untruthful things about a Corbyn supporter).

Lee, rather oddly, suddenly accused me a few weeks ago of being a 'cheerleader for Soros'. This is more bizarre than offensive, and yet the phrase is straight out of the alt Right phrase book. Again, Soros is a kind of cipher for the antisemitic idea of the 'rich, international finagler standing in the way of 'economic nationalism''. What Lee - who is Jewish - thinks he is doing playing around with antisemitic tropes like this, is anyone's guess. I don't expect Lee to answer me about that. He has enough troubles on his hands having been so publicly disgraced by the Press watchdog. It's amazing that the Jewish Chronicle, a journal that aspires to respectability and high status, hasn't junked him - if indeed he is the 'journalist' - mentioned over and over again in the watchdog's ruling.

So Lord John Mann has plenty of information to be working on. He is indeed commenting on individual cases but is strangely silent about the ones I've mentioned here. We are in the middle of an election. On 'Newsnight' last night, they showed a woman coming to the door to a Labour canvasser and talking about 'antisemitism in the Labour Party' as if it was a ring-fenced problem for Labour and nowhere else (or indeed that the racisms of other parties was not a problem either). Needless to say, this was repeated by Emily Maitlis in the studio. This ring-fencing only has traction because public figures like Lord John Mann don't put out there the stuff that I'm writing about here. The phrase 'antisemitism in the Tory Party' doesn't even exist. The fact that Boris Johnson edited 'Taki', the ever-so-witty playboy, churning out haha upperclass antisemitic jokes, in the 'Spectator' some years ago, is never mentioned.

I suspect that in the end Lord John Mann will make some public comments about Rees-Mogg et al. Yes, I think he will. Butonly after the election. (I hope I'm wrong about this. If he reads this, perhaps it will move him to change his mind.) In the meantime, I'll say that I think he is part of the process that is ushering in the racist class warriors of a Johnson government.

We are paying Lord John Mann's salary.