On 17 July, Labour sacked its shadow Brexit minister Dianne Hayter. The peer compared Jeremy Corbyn and his “inner group” – which includes Jewish people – to the “the last days of Hitler”.
While obviously offensive, that hasn’t stopped some people defending her comments. Among them is a prominent anti-Corbyn MP who has previously called for a “moratorium on invoking Hitler in political debate”.
A gross over-reaction to what @HayteratLords actually said – but does reinforce what she did describe, which was a bunker mentality at the top. This epitomises it. Nice to know that swift action is taken to protect @jeremycorbyn’s feelings, but shame we can’t act against racists. https://t.co/u76MqRbjLn
— Wes Streeting MP (@wesstreeting) July 17, 2019
As reported by HuffPost UK, Hayter said:
Those of you who haven’t [read the book] will have seen the film ‘Bunker’, about the last days of Hitler, where you stop receiving any information into the inner group which suggests that things are not going the way you want…
That seems to be where we are at the moment: having the leadership in a bunker so they are not hearing in those views, that evidence, that is in conflict with what they are trying to do, to the extent that even undermines what they are trying to do.
A Labour spokesperson told HuffPost UK:
Diane Hayter has been sacked from the frontbench position with immediate effect for her deeply offensive remarks about Jeremy Corbyn and his office.
To compare the Labour leader and the Labour Party staff working to elect a Labour government to the Nazi regime is truly contemptible, and grossly insensitive to Jewish staff in particular.
A gross over-reaction to what [Hayter] actually said – but does reinforce what she did describe, which was a bunker mentality at the top. This epitomises it.
Streeting has previously said this:
Criticism of the defence
Some predicted a Streeting-style response before it even came:
Wes, obviously pic.twitter.com/VA2KNpTQ1P
— Michael Walker (@michaeljswalker) July 17, 2019
Some clarified why things panned out the way they did:
There are entirely different standards for holding a front bench spokesperson role, where one is expected to share collective responsibility & present a loyal, united front. Your question would only make sense if Hayter had been summarily expelled from the party. She hasn't.
— Ally Fogg (@AllyFogg) July 18, 2019
Aaron Bastani of Novara Media speculated that what Hayter and Streeting said violates the IHRA definition of antisemitism:
There are Jewish people among Corbyn’s staff, and inner circle. Hayter’s comments, according to the IHRA, are anti-Semitic.
Which means Hayter should be suspended. And if Streeting thinks her behaviour is acceptable so should he. pic.twitter.com/Gnz8duGh9o
— Aaron Bastani (@AaronBastani) July 17, 2019
It’s not clear if this would be the case, though.
You could argue that Hayter’s comments about Corbyn’s “inner group” either:
- Compares people around Corbyn – some of whom are Jewish – to Nazis.
- Denies the Jewishness of anyone close to Corbyn.
Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis [is antisemitic].
So comparing just any Jewish person to the Nazis would not clearly fall foul of the IHRA definition. But looking at this example:
Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust) [is antisemitic].
You could argue that comparing Corbyn to Hitler does diminish the “scope” of Hitler’s crimes. You may not convince everyone, but the IHRA definitions are open to interpretation and abuse, as the man who defined them said himself.
It’s difficult to take Hayter and Streeting seriously when they compare Labour Party staff to Nazis. Or it is for many, anyway. A lot of journalists seem perfectly capable of overlooking this stuff.
Featured image via gilhody/YouTube
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