In an unexpected development, the right’s favoured candidate in the election for chair of Young Labour, Eluned Anderson, has withdrawn after criticism of a 2019 Facebook comment in which she described Nazi war criminals Adolf Eichmann and Joachim von Ribbentrop as “incredibly good-looking”, writes Roger Benjamin. While not per se antisemitic, and far from the most egregious sin, the comment was extremely tasteless, and far more serious than many of the innocuous remarks which have led to Labour Party members facing disciplinary charges. And Anderson, a “regional ambassador” for the Holocaust Education Trust, should know better than most how offensive such comments are. It’s worth noting that the Young Free Speech Society page, in which Anderson made the comments, was exposed in 2018 by the Daily Mail as “racist and Islamophobic”!
Of more concern than the fate of a thoughtless young party member is the reaction of many of her defenders. Having for years castigated Jeremy Corbyn for failing to condemn an allegedly antisemitic mural in 2012, they now complain that it is excessive to complain about an offensive 2019 comment; having obsessively raked over past Tweets and Facebook comments by Corbyn supporters, they now object to people looking at comments by Corbyn opponents; and having forced the suspension of left NEC candidates Jo Bird and Mehmood Mirza (on still unspecified claims), they now object to interference in the electoral process. And, while the originators of the – mainly false – claims against left party members have remained anonymous, the complainant against Anderson (a young party member of mixed Jewish and Chinese heritage) has made her identity public.
But, while it is satisfying to note the irony of the Jewish Chronicle denouncing this as “over-policing”, we cannot display double standards here. Once again, we see that the charge of antisemitism has been weaponised, and only used against political opponents. Eluned Anderson’s comment was extremely stupid, and her membership of the Young Free Speech Society is concerning, but these are not grounds for her withdrawal from the election any more than were the charges against Jo Bird and Mehmood Mirza. She is not our ally, and we call for a vote against her – but not for disciplinary measures. And we should express nothing but contempt for those who excuse her comments, while denouncing others for far less offensive remarks.