Labour must heed the Forde report’s advice to end infighting | Letters

Prof Tony Booth and Prof Miriam David welcome the report, while Mike Sheaff and Mark Blake say the party’s culture needs to change

The Forde report offers a chance to the Labour party to move beyond factionalism over antisemitism if its advice is heeded (Antisemitism issue used as ‘factional weapon’ in Labour, report finds, 19 July). As professors of education within Jewish Voice for Labour, we welcome the encouragement in the Forde report for a shift towards participatory education about racism and a return to civility within the Labour party and beyond over contentious matters.

The report criticised the party’s antisemitism training for using didactic, non-participatory methods that are not “in accordance with best practice”. Such training sessions failed to provide “a space in which difficult issues, such as attitudes towards Israel, can be safely explored, in a nuanced way”. It called for education that encouraged “deep reflection” and expressed disappointment at the party’s “refusal to engage at all with Jewish Voice for Labour’s proposals for antisemitism education”.

The report refers to concerns that the party’s focus on antisemitism training is not matched by a concern about other forms of racism and discrimination, and so promotes a “hierarchy of racism” and protected characteristics. The commitment to “zero tolerance” and precipitous suspension or expulsion is seen by Forde, and us, as counterproductive, in securing prolonged change in thinking and action.

We look forward to engaging with others about how we can heed the urgings of the report to improve education about antisemitism and all other forms of discrimination.
Prof Tony Booth
Prof Miriam David

• You quote a Labour spokesperson saying: “The Forde report details a party that was out of control. Keir Starmer is now in control.” If Sir Keir’s current supremacy is deemed to make the report of purely historical interest, it will have little impact. Having seen many changes since I joined Labour in 1971, I found that one comment in the report particularly resonated: that “for us, culture represents both the source of, and solution to, many of the problems we have identified”.

Culture is frequently identified as a root cause of organisational failure, across private and public sectors. It can be hard to address, but several of the Forde report’s recommendations suggest possible steps. For example: “Behavioural change will be required at all levels of the Party … There should be a Party-wide consultation to identify shared values and the seeds of a healthy culture.”

This and other recommendations need more time for consideration, something that I hope will be permitted by the Labour party.
Mike Sheaff

• The Forde report, of course, says nothing about what has been going on in the Labour party since Keir Starmer has been leader, but Labour does not now feel like a safe space for somebody with my socialist politics. I left the party because of the Iraq war, rejoined in 2011 and have been a Labour councillor for eight years. I feel dejected at the current state of affairs and what has been going on over the past two years.

The huge question that this report poses but does not answer is: can two factions that are so diametrically opposed exist in the same party? It’s a question that I am constantly asking myself. A tipping point for many similarly disillusioned Labour members on the left will be whether Jeremy Corbyn is allowed to run again for his Islington North seat as a Labour candidate. My hope is that he will run again, regardless of whether he is the Labour candidate.
Mark Blake

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