Hunt v Johnson: Battle for the grubbiest corner in the moral basement

I’m not that interested in the Tory leadership race in itself. Two wealthy, over-privileged, servants of the ruling class, both educated well beyond their intelligence, battling each other over who can offer more tax breaks to their friends.
 
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10045527Though, until yesterday, I would have said that Jeremy Hunt would be hard pushed to make a statement as cynical, as inhuman, and as abusive of the experiences of ethnic minorities as anything Boris Johnson has managed.
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Obviously I underestimated him. This is what Hunt told the Jewish News in an interview:
 
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“When I went to Auschwitz I rather complacently said to myself, ‘thank goodness we don’t have to worry about that kind of thing happening in the UK’ and now I find myself faced with the leader of the Labour Party who has opened the door to antisemitism in a way that is truly frightening.”
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What kind of a person could requisition and abuse the memory of the million + women, men and children gassed to death then reduced to ash in furnaces in Auschwitz Birkenau to score the very cheapest and grubbiest of political points?
 
I suppose one answer might be: a representative of a government that is allied with someScreen Shot  at 12.29.42 of the most antisemitic, Islamophobic, homophobic and anti-refugee governments in the world; a government that created its own scandalous hostile environment, complete with “Go-Home” vans, that had such a devastating impact, especially on the Caribbean community in Britain, and continues to blight the lives of migrants.
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I happen to know that Jeremy Corbyn visited Auschwitz before he became Labour leader (and has visited Theresienstadt since becoming leader). He did so to bear witness, to learn, to absorb its lessons for humanity; lessons that he has used in his continuing, decades-long, campaigns against all racism and injustice.
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What a contrast.
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Once those elections were done, the accusations magically started to fade. Newspapers who apparently had no trouble finding several “antisemitism” stories a week to generate screaming front page headlines in the run up to those elections, were running out of material by June and were just recycling tired, old accusations. Labour were lulled into thinking they were over the worst for the moment.

Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Slip-on Floral Size 7.5 NEWshutterstock_1086217508to Labour or Corbyn fans (often without proof), the Windrush scandal which surfaced in early April, and claimed Amber Rudd’s scalp, was all but drowned out. This scandal was so much bigger than loose or OTT language in a tweet that could be labelled as “antisemitism”. Windrush reflected cruel government policies over several years, the Hostile Environment, centrally implicating Theresa May, which had devastating and dehumanising real life impacts especially on Britain’s longstanding Caribbean community.

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Labour needs to be confident about quickly identifying and dealing with real antisemitic incidents (there are some), while also being confident about condemning the cynical way that its opponents are trivialising it by using it as a factional political weapon.

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Labour has to speak loudly and directly about the problems directly facing young people ZeroHoursImage– knife crime, zero-hours contracts, student fees, housing problems, and tap into the militancy they are showing especially around climate change. Labour’s positive statements towards the school students striking over the climate emergency, and their determination to lead a green industrial revolution have shown the way to go.

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But, if Johnson wins, it also creates new dynamics around the Labour strategy re Brexit. We are in the endgame now, faced with an opponent who is actively seeking a “No-Deal Brexit” that will inflict enormous damage on ordinary people’s livelihoods. Labour has to champion those people. Its challenge is to do so in a way that enthuses, energises and draws in enough support across the Remain/Leave divide, while sidelining the purists, the “ultras”, on either side who stereotype their opponents but offer no solutions. And it must fully

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utilise the most powerful emerging talents such as Rebecca Long -Bailey, Laura Pidcock, Richard Burgon and Dan Carden, alongside stalwarts such as Dianne Abbott and John McDonnell in doing so.

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