Leaders: Labour row can only mean more trouble ahead

Former mayor of London Ken Livingstone, centre, is surrounded by media outside Millbank in Westminster. Picture: AP
Former mayor of London Ken Livingstone, centre, is surrounded by media outside Millbank in Westminster. Picture: AP
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JEREMY Corbyn’s leadership will be judged on his delay in tackling this week’s anti-semitism spat

The term reductio ad Hitlerum emerged a few years after the Second World War, as a name for the stage of any argument where one side accuses the other of holding ideas which would have been shared with Adolf Hitler or the Nazi 
party. Generally, invoking this comparison serves as a distraction from the main argument, which has been lost already, and those who reach that level of debate are instead trying to inflame an opponent.

Ken Livingstone has always been a contrary individual, so we shouldn’t have been surprised yesterday when he made reference to Hitler as a way of attempting to defuse a row over anti-semitism. He would have had to try hard to do much worse.

It would be tempting to say you couldn’t make it up, but the difficulty for the Labour Party is that yesterday’s spectacular implosion was all too believable. An MP is accused of anti-semitism over Facebook posts, and is suspended; a former MP rides to her rescue by citing one of the most hated men in history, and is suspended; and another MP aggressively accuses this senior party colleague live on television of being a “Nazi apologist”, and is upbraided by the party’s chief whip for “completely inappropriate” behaviour.

A political opponent might venture that the Labour Party is out of control. Under Jeremy Corbyn, it is exactly that.

Yesterday, the Labour leader was distinctly avoiding showing any form of leadership as the situation deteriorated. Kezia Dugdale, a woman facing an uphill struggle in the Scottish Holyrood elections will not be thanking Mr Corbyn for adding – perhaps tangentially- to her woes.

The length of time taken by the leadership this week to deal with the row over Naz Shah’s posts about Israel on Facebook have allowed this matter to turn into a crisis for Labour, and Mr Corbyn’s leadership must be judged on this failure. He has also been exposed as hopelessly compromised by his friendship with Mr Livingstone, who he should have been able to pull into line or at least request not to get involved. The leader has no-one to blame but himself, after bringing the former mayor of London back into a position of influence within the party.

Instead, Mr Corbyn has claimed that anti-semitism will not be tolerated within his party, at the same time as others within his ranks are admitting that the issue is a real problem. He also dismissed the suggestion that his party is in crisis. “I suspect most of the criticism comes from those who are nervous about the strength of the party at local level,” he said. No, Mr Corbyn, most of the criticism comes from those who find abhorrent the Facebook posts of Ms Shah and the subsequent defence put up by Mr Livingstone.

There is no suggestion that Mr Corbyn holds anti-semitic views, or tolerates such opinions, but his inability to bring under control a party that is in open warfare over the most sensitive of issues is a desperate situation for Labour to be in, as we approach the EU referendum. More trouble lies ahead for a leadership that surely cannot last.

Hat’s off to sculpture park

Scotland’s leading museums and galleries have long competed at the very highest level. Art collections held in Edinburgh and Glasgow, in particular, are of international renown and – thanks to long-standing admission policies – can largely be enjoyed free of charge.

That has helped key attractions like Kelvingrove, the National Museum of Scotland and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery secure places high up in the UK league table of visitor attractions year after year.

All of the above have undergone radical transformations over the past decade, and in that time a host of other new attractions, like the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, The Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel, and Glasgow’s Riverside Museum have been unveiled. Another new arrival, the Jupiter Artland sculpture park near Edinburgh Airport, has gone largely unheralded since opening in 2009.

An attraction created by Robert and Nicky Wilson at their 100-acre estate, it is home to an astonishing array of work by some of the UK’s leading artists. Rising stars of the art world are given the chance to show work there each summer, when the grounds are opened to the public, while more than 10,000 children attend workshops each year.

Although it had 80,000 visitors last year, it is unlikely to be on the radar of many of the tourists flying into Edinburgh. That could soon change, though, after it was named one of Britain’s best museums. Its shortlisting for the Art Fund Prize may raise some eyebrows but the accolade is a fitting reward for the bold creative vision of the Wilsons and we wish them the best of luck when the winner is chosen in July.