Wednesday 29 August 2018

Kvetchers or gerekhtfartikt protestors ?

This is the third BelperStuff blog concerning antisemitism and the Labour Party (click here for the first one  and if you are up for more click here for the second post in April 2018). A lot has happened in the last 4 months, essentially more of the same, more attacks on the Labour Party fueled by a fount of incidents recorded on social media followed by an insistence that Labour is institutionally antisemitic. Elements of the press are very active in unearthing any hint of antisemitism in the party and it seems a lifetime ago since Ed Milliband's father was attacked by the Daily Mail as a Jewish Marxist who hated Britain. Now, that same newspaper features stories attacking Jeremy Corbyn as an antisemitic with devastating frequency.

It has to be said that some of these reports are disturbing and need to be explained and it would be a welcome move for the party to look seriously at each claim as it emerges. We have a disciplinary process that is being used against those who make racist comments and as a democratic party this should apply to all. It is to be hoped that satisfactory answers will be forthcoming but unless that process is followed then the slur will remain.

Kvetchers or gerekhtfartikt protestors

It is appropriate to use the Yiddish word kvetcher because I read that it has been adopted into the English language. A perfect word to ........... well the Jewish Chronicle puts it best:

Jewish Chronicle definition of the Yiddish word, "kvetch" published in 2009

 ".............. or, he managed to kvetch antisemitic implications from a perfectly harmless statement."

and the gerekhtfartikt element means "justified".

Thinking about the obvious escalation of protest aimed at the Labour Party I am most disquieted by the claim that antisemitism is now institutionalised within its sinews. As of May 2018 there are 552,000 Labour members and we are being accused of complicity in an organisation that finds antisemitism to be acceptable. That makes me feel very uncomfortable but is it true? The following video gives me some hope:

Labour Party video about the IHRA definition of antisemitism

As with all complex issues it is wise to separate out the constituent parts of the problem and deal with each in turn. To that end ......... there seem to be three elements:

  1. Not adopting the IHRA working definition of antisemitism and the resultant NEC Code of Conduct ...... the Labour definition.
  2. The complexities of Zionism and the right of people to self determination.
  3. Statements made by Labour MP's, councillors and other members that are antisemitic.
This would become a very long post if I tackled all three so in this post I'll start with the first one.

Not adopting the IHRA working definition of antisemitism and all that follows

The IHRA definition has been adopted by Labour but not with all of the subsequent examples that complete the package. It has to be said that the IHRA definition has not gained universal approval and there are many Jewish organisations and individuals who have doubts about it. Amongst those who voice their doubts is Moran Mandelbaum of Keele University who states, 

"Drawing on the IHRA definition without the problematic examples, the new code of conduct adopted by the Labour party is a step in the right direction." Why does he write this?

".............. focusing on anti-Semitism in an open society is an odd choice since the fight ought to be against racism in all shapes and forms rather than particular manifestations of hate/racism. Emphasising anti-Semitism might give the impression that there is a hierarchy of hatreds in which hate towards Jews supersedes all others. Are racist and violent acts towards BME in the UK and Europe, more broadly, less important?! There is no doubt room to define anti-Semitism and its uniqueness in historical, sociological and political analyses (see, for example, the work of Professor David Feldman). But defining anti-Semitism for legal purposes as a unique form of hatred is a dangerous path to take and may end up essentialising the figure of the Jew rather than dislodging it."

This brings me to something else that is troubling; the IHRA definition has no legal standing. It is not enshrined in British law as it is only advisory. The adoption of the IHRA definition can only be used within an organisation (such as the Labour Party or even the UK Government) in an advisory capacity. British Law regarding hate and racist crime is already very explicit as is evidenced by the  Police Hate Crime Operational Guidance.pdf  specifically from page 35 to page 38 where antisemitism is addressed: I will defer to those who are legally trained to say if this is adequate but this definition of antisemitism is the law of the land.

The Labour Party Code of Conduct - Antisemitism

I do wonder how many of us have read this: Labour code of conduct - antiseminism

The Guardian lined up a few unfortunates to review Labour's code of conduct  and it makes interesting reading. Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner had me thinking when she commented,

Stating, for example, that the right to Jewish self-determination is fundamentally a racist endeavour is not legitimate criticism, but a denial to Jews of the same rights given to all other peoples – which I also want for Palestinians".

Turning to the Labour code of conduct to understand where she was coming from I found this:

12.     Article 1(2) of the 1948 UN Charter refers to respect for the principle of equal rights and self- determination of peoples”.  The Party is clear that the Jewish people have the same right to self-determination as any other people.  To deny that right is to treat the Jewish people unequally and is therefore a form of antisemitism.  That does not, of course, preclude considered debate and discourse about the nature or content of the right of peoples to self- determination.

I ended up having a very pleasant exchange of emails with her but I still cannot see what it is in
the code of conduct that treats Jewish people differently or makes any claim that this is a racist
endeavour. Am I missing something here. One thing I did gain from contacting her was a link to 
an interesting organisation - Reform Judaism. Following that link takes you to a page reporting on
an article by Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain in the Independent British Jews, please do not abandon 

In conclusion

We could have avoided all of this if we had just followed the example of the Tories .......... just say that you are adopting the IHRA definition (Teresa May in 2016) then produce a rule book that makes no mention of it nor once mention the word"antisemitism". .

I urge you to explore theories being put forward as to why the IHRA definition is being promoted, most noticeably by alternative Jewish news sources but first read this: Poland - Israel accord on holocaust law. Read that article and then imagine that it is Corbyn and not Netanyahu who has entered into an agreement that many have dubbed holocaust denial. 

Labour's code of conduct on antisemitism was drawn up under the direction of NEC member Jennie Fornby. An appreciation of this work can be found here: An article by Brian Klug on the Open Democracy UK website. I liked this quote:

"Ironically, it is the drafters of the Labour party’s NEC Code, not their critics, who have grasped the meaning of ‘working definition".

This post has been written a few hours after the ex chief Rabbi stated in an interview:

“The recently disclosed remarks by Jeremy Corbyn are the most offensive statement made by a senior British politician since Enoch Powell’s 1968 ‘rivers of blood’ speech.” 

We should give him time to reconsider that remark .......... perhaps after he has had a chance to read Peter Walker's response in the Guardian

Sunday 5 August 2018

Why are there no trains in Derby this summer?

Belper train passengers will already be aware of the engineering works in Derby Station this summer and the bad news is that it will be getting worse before it gets any better. London trains reduced to one an hour (then none for seven days), No trains to Chesterfield or Sheffield, No Cross Country trains to north or south, the Matlock train only runs to Derby (later, no service at all for over a month). For detailed information about dates and bus replacements go to

Travel in 1850 (Old Station at Derby, North Midland Railway)

Cuthbert Hamilton Ellis (1909–1987)

National Railway Museum

So why is this happening?

Derby Station was opened in 1839 as the southern terminus of the North Midland Railway linking Leeds, Rotherham, Chesterfield and Derby (Sheffield was added soon after). Since that time railway routes and services have developed to a degree that would be unrecognisable to the early railway pioneers; Derby station growing to accommodate the extra traffic with additional platforms and tracks. Unfortunately, all this growth created a bottleneck to the south of the station, a two track section through which all passenger and many freight trains had to run (marked on the diagram below with a black circle). It is the elimination of this bottleneck and the installation of modern signalling that is being undertaken this summer.

To understand this bottleneck I have marked the 3 distinctive routes and services as:

  • Red = Cross Country services running southwest to northeast.
  • Brown = Services that run between Nottingham and Birmingham (reversing in Derby)
  • Green = East Midlands trains serving London, Chesterfield and Sheffield.
  • The Matlock <> Newark and the Derby <> Crewe trains have been omitted  to aid clarity.

If all goes to plan the work will be completed by 7th October with all trains running normally from the following day. The new layout separates the three principal routes at the southern end of the station which will have a major, beneficial effect on timekeeping and capacity. Passengers will find that their trains may well be routed through different platforms:

  • Red: Cross Country trains will now use platforms 1 and 2.
  • Brown: Nottingham <> Birmingham trains will use platforms 3 and 4
  • Green: East Midlands London <> Sheffield trains using platforms 5 and 6 but it should be noted that what has become platform 5 was formally platform 6. Platform 6 is now located on the newly built island platform. (The old platform 5 was a south facing bay platform that has now been taken out of use). 
  • Matlock train: There seems to be no reason why the arrival in Derby should not be on the new platform 6 but the train to Matlock may well be moved from platform 2b to 3, 4 or 5 Time will tell.
  • Freights will no doubt continue to be threaded through the station using the most favourable route at that time but we will no longer see freights from the north destined for the Birmingham route being looped on the Pride Park side of the station.

A wasted opportunity to electrify the route

The original intention was to electrify the East Midlands route through Derby during this blockade, in time for the St.Pancras to Sheffield services to change to electric trains by Autumn 2019. The governments cancellation of this scheme is particularly galling. The blockade would have been an ideal time to electrify the route up to Ambergate but now this will not happen.

I have heard it said that heritage problems such as the bridges at Belper were a deciding factor in the cancellation but this was not so (previous BelperStuff post on why the East Midlands electrification was cancelled). There are many ways in which the railway could have been electrified through Belper and Ambergate with no undo expenditure or adverse effect on heritage assets. What a wasted opportunity.


Don't forget:

  • No direct trains to London between 13th and 19th August (bus to East Midlands Parkway from Derby station) otherwise it's one train per hour up to October 7th.
  • Matlock train does not run to Nottingham and worse, does not run at all from 25th August to October 7th (again a substitute bus service)
  • No rail services between Derby and Nottingham, Crewe, Birmingham, Sheffield until 2nd September (yup you've guessed it - replacement buses)
Hopefully I've made no mistakes and all the above information is accurate but don't forget that reliable updates on travel ca be gleaned from East Midlands Trains here or go to National Rail Enquiries.