The Guardian is a moderate left-of-centre quality newspaper, of similar editorial policy to the New York Times, and Le Monde.

What is the significance of today's cartoon by Steve Bell?

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  • 3
    Mr. Bell is claiming that the nine persons caricatured are sanctimonious humbugs.
    – agc
    Sep 5 '18 at 14:13
  • 1
    It's definitely about Labours problem with antisemitism (as the headline suggests), but it's not clear to me what Bell wants to say. At first I interpreted it as a group of people that are labeled with a negative term rejecting the definition of that term so that it doesn't apply to them anymore (instead of doing the right thing, ie not being sanctimonious humbugs / not being antisemitic).
    – tim
    Sep 5 '18 at 15:09
  • 1
    But the timing doesn't really fit (Labour just accepted the definition), and it doesn't really fit in with the history of antisemitic cartoons by the artist as well as his defense of people like Livingstone. So my guess is that Bell wants to criticizes the acceptance of the definition, it's just not clear to me how. This seems like a valid and on-topic question to me.
    – tim
    Sep 5 '18 at 15:09
  • 1
    Can anyone name all nine persons depicted? So far I've got (l to r) Sajid Javid (Home Secretary), Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (Chief Rabbi), Tom Watson (Deputy Leader of the Labour Party), Frank Field (Labour MP, recently resigned the party whip), Gordon Brown (former PM), Tony Blair (former PM, Dame Margaret Hodge (Labour Party politician). Who are the two on the far right?
    – WS2
    Sep 5 '18 at 15:25
  • 4
    @ws2 Neil Kinnock and Roy Hattersley. Although Steve Bell probably considers most of them to be near the far right.
    – Alex
    Sep 5 '18 at 15:58

While the editorial position of the Guardian is "centre-left", Steve Bell normally takes a much more extreme left-wing position.

In the Labour party there is a split between the current leadership (Jeremy Corbyn, a left-winger) and the previous leaders (Neil Kinnock, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown) and others who identify with the centrist tendency within the party (Chuka Umunna, Tom Watson, Frank Fields, Dame Margaret Hodge and Roy Hattersley). They are symbolised by the "pink" (i.e. faded red) background.

The centrists, and the former Chief Rabbi (Jonathan Sacks), have accused the hard left of antisemitism. It appears to be Bell's point that this is "humbug" (i.e. nonsense). His point is that accusations of antisemitism are just a convenient stick with which to attack the current Labour Party leadership.

This is put into the question of whether the Labour party should accept in full the definition of antisemitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which includes examples such as "comparing the government of Israel to the Nazis" as examples of antisemitism. Previously the current leadership had adopted the definition, but omitted the examples. However, the party had fully adopted the IHRA definition at the time of the cartoon.

So Bell's point is that while the Corbyn leadership have adopted a certain definition of antisemitism (and from Bells point of view, thereby shown that they are not antisemites), the critics of the Labour party leadership have not accepted the definition of "sanctimonious humbugs" (and have thereby proved that they are sanctimonious humbugs).

Further context from the Guardian:

  • 2
    +1 for a good analysis. However Steve Bell's cartoon has struck a chord with some I know who are far from being left-wingers.
    – WS2
    Sep 6 '18 at 18:52
  • @WS2 wouldn't surprise me, after all the nature of the accusation would appeal to many on the far-right as well.
    – user19831
    Sep 6 '18 at 19:49
  • 1
    @Orangesandlemons That form of anti-Semitism has no resonance, even with the far-right, in Britain today. Corbyn is not "anti-Semitic". The left-wing of the Labour Party would be the first to defend Jews in Britain if there was discrimination against them. What we are seeing here is a) an attempt by apologists for the state of Israel, for political purposes, to conflate anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism and b) attempts by the Blair wing of the Labour party to discredit Corbyn. And I say that as someone who believes Corbyn is in other respects bad-news for the Labour party's prospects.
    – WS2
    Sep 7 '18 at 6:59
  • I think Sajid Javid's presence is a nod to the ongoing Windrush Scandal.
    – Jontia
    Sep 7 '18 at 15:20
  • 2
    @Jonita, that is Chuka Umunna. Javid doesn't have prominent ears. Also Javid would not be represented in a red tie. Umunna is a notable critic of Corbyn.
    – James K
    Sep 8 '18 at 5:27

September 5th Cartoon

While I think the JamesK answer above is the correct one, the image here provides additional context. This is the cartoon from the day after the one in the question. It makes it more explicit that those depicted are allegedly more interested in ousting Corbyn than the Anti-semitism allegations themselves.

It is worth noting that only Labour politicians appear in this second cartoon, not the full line up from the first image.

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