The auguries for tonight’s meeting between Jeremy Corbyn and mainstream representatives of the Jewish community are not great, following what in the political world would have been called a “sherpas” scoping discussion yesterday.
That was a discussion between Seumas Milne, Corbyn’s director of strategy and communications, and officials from the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council, and I am told it did not go well.
When the officials from the Jewish groups stressed the importance of expelling alleged anti-semites from the party there was a lot of talk of the importance of due process by Milne.
This raised fears by the Jewish groups that even after two years no decision is imminent on whether Ken Livingstone, for example, should have his Labour membership card torn up, following his remarks, widely seen as both wrong and offensive, that Hitler collaborated with Zionists.
Several Labour MPs have said to me that the mere act of speeding up the judgement in Livingstone’s case would do a good deal to heal the rift with many Jews.
They also say that Corbyn should pledge to be much more rigorous in banning language usage widely seen as anti-Semitic, such as the appropriation by some anti-semites on the left of Zionist as a term of abuse, rather than simply the description of an ideology about the importance of a Jewish homeland.
However, Milne apparently told the Jewish groups that even Labour’s adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism would only include the the core, non legally binding definition, and not the attached notes that say one manifestation of anti-Semitism would be “the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity”.
In other words, unless Corbyn himself over-rules his most influential aide, tonight’s meeting – which has just started – will not go well.
I am not holding my breath for a statement from the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council that they are now persuaded Labour under Corbyn has properly understood what it takes to cut out the cancer of anti-Semitism.