UK Politics

Shaky truce in anti-Semitism row as Labour look to polls

Jeremy Corbyn Image copyright Reuters

After the shouting, screaming and recriminations of yesterday.

After the "Stair Wars" in which a Labour MP waged running verbal combat with Ken Livingstone, and ignited questions about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, the warring factions have suddenly fallen all but silent.

Peace, though, has not broken out. Anything but.

It's a momentary ceasefire. On both sides, people are keeping their heads down - judging it too dangerous to speak up.

Today, Jeremy Corbyn cancelled his campaigning trip to Wales to avoid unwanted media attention. Media attention is supposed to be the point!

The First Minister of Wales, Carwen Jones, admitted Mr Corbyn isn't a hit with everyone on the doorsteps.

"Yes there are some people saying to me I'm unsure about Jeremy Corbyn. There are others who take the opposite view. What we are finding is that fewer and fewer people are mentioning him on the doorstep."

'Looking dire'

Mr Corbyn's critics - and enemies - are also keeping quiet.

In private their mood is ferocious.

They want Ken Livingstone expelled, and Mr Corbyn to take anti-Semitism in the party more seriously. So why the phoney peace?

Behind the scenes, fear is spreading of what some expect to be poor results for Labour in Thursday's elections in Scotland, Wales, London and English local authorities.

"Outside London, it's looking dire," one told me.

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Media captionLabour MP John Mann confronts Ken Livingstone as tensions rise over anti-Semitic claims.
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Media captionJeremy Corbyn tells John Pienaar: There is no crisis

And now, Mr Corbyn's enemies - who are under constant watch by the leaders' allies - are anxious to avoid being blamed for making things worse by showing disloyalty to their embattled leader.

They expect those accusations to be levelled anyway.

There's mutual suspicion and hostility bordering on hatred between the rival wings and factions of the Labour Party.

It's been a messy, chaotic few days. Acrimonious in public, worse in private.

In-fighting

Some action is coming on Labour's approach to racism and anti-Semitism. Mr Corbyn will speak out. Rule changes explicitly declaring zero tolerance of racism look likely.

But there are fears a good deal of damage has already been done, and the Labour Party will pay a price at the polls.

The election results, when they come, will inevitably be subjected to rival, probably diametrically opposing interpretations within the Labour Party.

But from all I'm hearing from sources in the opposing camps, anything that can be read as a poor night in Thursday's elections will escalate the in-fighting to a new pitch.

A fierce confrontation over Labour's future direction and leadership now looks unavoidable.

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