The meaning of Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi
Emma Picken on the latest NEC election
What does this result mean?
Opinion: Emma Picken asks what the election of Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi to the NEC, the Labour party's highest governing body, means for the party.
The meaning of Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi
For political nerds in Labour like me, the results of the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) vote were hotly anticipated. Unusually, their publication was somewhat delayed – perhaps by the Party scrambling to limit the damage done by the news that one of its previously suspended members, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, had been elected to its governing body. After all, this certainly didn't fit with Starmer’s spin of a shiny new Labour Party cleansed of its antisemitism problems.
For those still unfamiliar with Wimborne-Idrissi, she is a co-founder and media officer of Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) – an extreme, antizionist fringe group established to push the Corbyn project through, whose explicit aim was to undermine the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism by the party.
Often vocal in this respect, Wimborne-Idrissi has shown support for Ken Livingstone over his Holocaust inversion, has cheerled for Jackie Walker, and could be seen shouting furiously at Haringey Councillors adopting the IHRA definition alongside the notorious Elleanne Green, founder of the Facebook hate group Palestine Live.
Indeed, Wimborne-Idrissi is so forceful in her indignation over accusations of Labour antisemitism, she stood in front of an antisemitic sign to rail against the 'witchhunt' of Chris Williamson, who was suspended over remarks about antisemitism in 2019.
"Labour Against Antisemitism (LAAS) put in a detailed report of Wimborne-Idrissi in 2020, containing ample material for her expulsion"
Labour Against Antisemitism (LAAS) put in a detailed report of Wimborne-Idrissi in 2020, containing ample material for her expulsion. This should have been a formality in any case, as she attended the proscribed group Labour Against the Witchhunt (LAW)’s 2018 launch event in Birmingham.
Instead, Wimborne-Idrissi will be representing CLPs on Labour’s most senior governing committees. She will be required to sit on disciplinary panels – a fact that should send shudders down the spine of anyone serious about tackling antisemitism in the party – and which will surely leave the party vulnerable to further crippling legal costs.
One has to ask: what does Wimborne-Idrissi’s election to the NEC mean in terms of the EHRC finding that Labour is legally obliged to rid itself of its institutional antisemitism?
What does this result tell us?
One, that there are enough members still in the party that will vote for a member of JVL, despite clear evidence that JVL still has antisemitic members, continues to deny antisemitism was a serious issue under Corbyn even after the EHRC findings, and will work specifically to undo any progress Starmer has made to deal with antisemitism.
"This isn't a few crank outliers but a substantial proportion of the membership"
This isn't a few crank outliers but a substantial proportion of the membership. Too many for complacency.
Those people who dared show upset at Wimborne-Idrissi’s election are once again being subjected to vicious trolling by a newly emboldened hard left, who now have a fresh cause and a person to rally round.
Two, it shows the premature nature of the spin coming out of Starmer’s team that antisemitism has been rooted out. This was always a rather rushed surface attempt rather than a thorough going-through at the structural level, with the first comms coming out that Labour had fixed antisemitism in 2021, less than a year after the EHRC report. Any organisation found to be institutionally antisemitic could not possibly turn things around in that time. The work needed to detoxify Labour has been made harder by rushing towards the end, confidently announcing the problem to be solved only to be proved wrong time and time again.
"It breaks down trust to see something as serious as institutional racism 'spun away'"
It breaks down trust to see something as serious as institutional racism 'spun away' and leaves those of us who, after the EHRC findings, still hoped for better, feeling ever more gaslit, isolated and less motivated to rejoin.
Three, it undermines the hard work of those involved in the organising group 'Labour to Win', who should be rightly proud of what they've achieved. Coming out of the group 'Labour First' led by Luke Akehurst, they have done a phenomenal job of returning Labour’s governing body into something fit for purpose.
In 2019, it felt virtually impossible to regain the NEC from the hard left, but through sheer dogged hard work and organisation, control has been clawed back from the antisemites and their apologists. Thursday’s result was a good improvement on 2 years ago, but was sadly overshadowed by the incompetence or lack of will that meant Wimborne-Idrissi was still a member, who could still get voted in.
What are the prospects now?
The options now are unsatisfactory – either of a higher profile expulsion than would have occurred had Wimborne-Idrissi been expelled earlier, with likely crowdfunding and rallies, handing her a further opportunity to broadcast her poisonous rhetoric – or she remains on the NEC, which frankly, for a party claiming to be free of antisemitism would be laughable if it wasn't so serious.
One thing is for certain, Wimborne-Idrissi is in a far more powerful position to cause problems either way than she was prior to this vote. Her election has exposed the party’s woeful lack of awareness about its institutional antisemitism problem. Its antisemites are committed, obsessed about righting the wrong they believe was done to Corbyn, prepared to organise, and mostly think Israel or some other nefarious Jewish plot is responsible for what happened to Corbyn.
There are few within the politically aware Jewish community and its allies who are unfamiliar with Wimborne-Idrissi and JVL. Wimborne-Idrissi’s election will mean steps backwards for the already fragile relations between the party and the community. While the party may seem unrecognisable from the terrible days of Corbyn, with looming elections, a cost-of-living crisis and a Tory party seemingly in free fall, it remains a serious disgrace that many in the Jewish community won't feel able to vote Labour because of its antisemitism – but with markedly less understanding for their position from the non-Jewish community and Labour moderates.
Rather than being told antisemitism is a lie and a smear by Corbyn’s team, the improvements made by team Starmer often seem to result in the Jewish community being told that Labour antisemitism has been fixed and no longer exists, despite ample evidence to the contrary.
* It would be wrong to say that things are not going in the right direction, but real understanding of the party’s antisemitism problem is sorely needed. The election of Wimborne-Idrissi to the NEC should have alarm bells ringing very loudly indeed.*