It is testament to the current state of the Labour Party that despite the furore around David Cameron’s resignation honours, it was a decision made by the Labour leadership that garnered the most headlines; this being Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to offer former Director of Liberty Shami Chakrabiti a peerage.
Shami Chakrabiti had recently appointed by Jeremy Corbyn to conduct a review into anti-Semitism within the Labour Party. Chakrabiti’s findings were very sensible (if not too dramatic!) and appeared at least temporarily to address this issue. Alas not. The timing of Corbyn’s decision has raised both ethical and political questions and places a big asterix over the findings of the review.
Politically, this was a missed opportunity for Labour. After Theresa May refused to intervene and Conservative donor Ian Turner turned down a knighthood, Labour had a chance to make some political capital. Jeremy Corbyn’s initial promise during the leadership contest last year not to create any new peers was immediately broken and with that the chance to take the political high ground disappeared. It is clear that the damage this would do should have been picked up by the Labour leadership team, who have managed to miss a clear conflict of interests.
The ethical problem for Corbyn arises over when he made this offer. If it was made during or before the inquiry was conducted, was any sort of pressure placed on Chakrabiti to come to the correct conclusion? This hypothesis was given further weight by accusations from former Labour advisor Ned Simons who claimed Chakrabiti ignored explicit warnings about anti-Semitic comments made by Jeremy Corbyn’s staff. The offer of a peerage has also angered The Board of Deputies with vice President Marie van der Zyl calling the decision beyond disappointing in a statement released by the organisation.
On a larger scale, this whole debacle has raised questions about our honours system. An honour should only be awarded to those who have gone above and beyond and not simply to those who have completed their jobs. Cameron’s resignation honours list smacks of cronyism and is exactly the sort of thing which puts people off politics. We need our politics to be pure and beyond reproach. Once again this has not been the case and that should disappoint anyone interested in politics.
Article by Mike Hough
Photograph – Daily Mirror