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Why I will miss Denis MacShane

So, Denis MacShane has stood down as an MP. It’ll be hard for anyone to find good to say about him today after it was revealed he had been effectively writing himself expense cheques.

Nineteen invoices, covering 2004 to 2008, of over £12,000 were put down as covering “research and translation” for the European Policy Institute – whereas in fact the money was being spent on “travel, subsistence, hospitality and the purchase of books” which the committee looking at MacShane’s case have noted as being “far from what would be acceptable in any walk of life”.

No doubt others on the left will be quietly pleased at his exit as MP. After all he ticks the boxes of many of my comrades’ bugbears; pro-war in Iraq, pro-Israel, signed up to Henry Jackson Society principles and so on and so forth.

But I’m going to stick my neck out (slightly).

I’m not going to do what his lawyer Mark Stephens has done and effectively defend MacShane because he has done good work in the past – I’m not going to defend him, but I will say how saddened I am that we will be losing MacShane, who I do now feel has let himself down over this.

If it has always been tricky to pin Denis down, that means he has done his job well. It was believed by some, after MacShane was dropped by the government in 2005, that the reason for his dismissal was to do with him not coming out strongly as either Brownite or Blairite. Indeed his work in parliament was far more important than to engage in such base bullshit.

In that same year he was asked to set up a committee on inquiry into anti-Semitism – a subject on which he dedicated so much time. In his book Globalising Hatred: The New Anti-Semitism he noted that the problem of anti-Semitism was alive and kicking, even in the UK, and not just by the so-called “dinosaur Tory anti-semitics” of parliament.

His work wasn’t given half the attention it deserved. As he says so himself, given that a lot of the Neo-anti-Semitism of today focuses on the Jews’ control of the media, and the largess of the Israeli lobby, it was a surprise that when searching in the New York Times, or the Guardian, or Le Monde, or Der Spiegel for news on the first Inter-Parliamentary Coalition Conference against Anti-Semitism there was nothing to be found.

Similarly, even though his book had been praised by Christopher Hitchens and called one of the best books on its subject by Geoffrey Goodman, it was seldom found in mainstream bookshops. If there is a conspiracy to be found it is that mainstream society is trying to limit the message of anti-Semitism today.

Britain can be proud of its many records, but highest amount of anti-Semitic attacks is not one of them. In 2010 there were more major anti-Semitic attacks in Britain than in any other diaspora country, according to a report by Dr Roni Stauber et al.

In 2011, nearly half of the 586 anti-Semitic crimes reported in the UK were in Greater Manchester – despite seven times more Jews living in London.

Denis MacShane did so much to highlight the continued existence of anti-Semitism in the UK, and his work will continue to be used in efforts to reduce hate crimes in this country.

A pity he will no longer be able to do that as a member of parliament. But if you do break the rules you can expect to face up to the punishment.

3 Comments

  1. Dick Gregory says:

    In 2011, nearly half of the 586 anti-Semitic crimes reported in the UK were in Greater Manchester – despite seven times more Jews living in London.
    Denis MacShane did so much to highlight the continued existence of anti-Semitism in the UK, and his work will continue to be used in efforts to reduce hate crimes in this country.

    How many of these 586 attacks occasioned death or grievous bodily harm? If the answer is none, or next to none, it would be reasonable to conclude that Denis MacShane’s approach to anti-Semitism is as fraudulent as his invoices.
    So, please tell us, since you are using the statistics to support Mr MacShane:

    1.How many Jews died in anti-Semitic attacks in the UK last year?
    2.How many attacks on Jews in the UK last year resulted in them suffering grievous bodily harm?

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      I think there are words of caution which should be expressed about the statistics on antisemitic attacks in the UK but the ones Dick Gregory uses a not the right ones. All racially motivated crimes are important not only the worst ones that result in loss of life or ‘grievous bodily harm‘. However it is right to note that the most likely explanation for Britain having the highest number of such attacks is that it is much better at recording and counting them. There are a number of countries in east and Central Europe where Anitsemitism is a very much more serious matter than it is in the UK.

      As the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights put it in its report, Antisemitism. – Summary overview of the situation in the European Union 2001–2011, Working paper, June 2012:

      Despite the negative effects of antisemitism on Jewish populations in particular and civil society at large, work carried out by the FRA over the years consistently shows that only a few EU Member States operate official data collection mechanisms that record the incidence of antisemitism in any great detail. This continued lack of systematic data collection leads to gross underreporting of the nature and characteristics of antisemitic incidents that occur in the EU.

      There is also an issue about those incidents which are anti-Israeli in nature and whether all of these should be regarded as antisemitic. Although this is an important debate, it is of secondary importance here, and discussion of a sensitive and controversial matter is best left for elsewhere.

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