April 13th saw the subject of an initiative designed to tackle the issue of antisemitism in the British Labour party feature quite prominently on BBC platforms. The BBC’s political correspondent Ross Hawkins reported the story on that day’s edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme (from 01:13:16 here) and the ‘UK politics’ section of the BBC News website’s UK page included an article by Hawkins titled “Labour activists seek rule change to ban anti-Semitic members“.
Ross Hawkins also produced a second article that day which appeared in the same ‘UK politics’ section under the headline “Labour’s problem with anti-Semitism” and portrayed the issue as being in essence a conflict between those who support the party leader Jeremy Corbyn and those who do not.
“That is highly unlikely to be the end of this story, though, because it goes to the heart of a poisonous atmosphere in parts of the Labour movement.
Jeremy Corbyn’s critics – who are many and vociferous – put the blame at his door. […]
On the other side, his supporters remind us of those condemnations of anti-Semitism and the decision to launch an inquiry, and point out this is not a new problem.”
Readers are then told:
“Lost in the fury about a member suspended then readmitted after anti-Semitic comments only to become vice-chair of her local party, was the fact those decisions were made not under Mr Corbyn, but his predecessor Ed Miliband.”
BBC audiences have heard that claim made before but while Vicki Kirby may indeed have been brought back into the fold before Corbyn was elected leader, her elevation to the post of branch vice-chair does appear to have taken place on his watch.
Towards the end of his article, Hawkins tells readers that:
“For some fighting Mr Corbyn’s corner, this issue is serious and real, but is also being used as a stick to beat him by his internal political enemies.
There are those who have long seen allegations of anti-Semitism as attempts to silence legitimate criticism of Israel – on which different wings of the Labour movement take passionately opposing views.” [emphasis added]
Only a few weeks earlier the BBC’s Radio 4 audiences had heard a similar – unchallenged – promotion of the Livingstone Formulation from an interviewee on one of its programmes. The fact that we now we find none other than the BBC’s politics correspondent unquestioningly amplifying a device used by anti-Israel activists obviously raises concerns regarding the BBC’s ability to report this story accurately and impartially.