While the British Labour Party is analysing where it went wrong and who will lead it into the future, there is one task outgoing leader Jeremy Corbyn’s successor must prioritise: stamping out the anti-Semitism that has festered in the party since he was elected leader in 2015.
By Vic Alhadeff
The Sydney Morning Herald
December 17, 2019
Labour was reduced to 203 seats in the 650-seat Parliament, 59 less than it received under Corbyn’s leadership in 2017. The Conservatives and the Scottish National Party surged in previous Labour strongholds.
Anti-Semitism was a problem in London at the beginning of the campaign. It became a problem for the rest of the country as it became clear that Corbyn’s worldview was underpinned by an inability to distinguish between freedom of expression and giving licence to the spread of pernicious anti-Semitic views.
A 53-page report by the Jewish Labour Movement released during the campaign accused him of permitting several thousand instances of anti-Semitism.
Among the incidents which were allowed to occur on his watch: South Tottenham Labour officials sought to block membership applications from 25 Jews unless they were vetted through home visits. The report alleged: “This was not a requirement for other prospective members and appears to have been direct discrimination against Jewish applicants for membership.”
In addition, this year’s party conference enacted controversial rule changes to its disciplinary procedures on a Saturday – the Jewish Sabbath – precluding Jewish members from participating.
A vote of no-confidence in Jewish MP Louise Ellman was scheduled for the eve of the Day of Atonement – the holiest day on the Jewish calendar – and one of the factors that prompted her to quit the party after 55 years. Labour MP Stella Creasy tweeted that Ellman’s resignation “shames us all”.
The election was marked by the extraordinary intervention of the chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, who urged Britons “to vote with their conscience”, saying, “the soul of our nation is at stake”.
Corbyn permitted a “poison sanctioned from the top” to fester, he charged. Labour’s leadership “never understood that their failure is … failure to see this as a human problem, rather than a political one. It is a failure of leadership”.
The Jewish Leadership Council surveyed 12,147 people who voted Labour in 2017 but were uncertain about doing so this time. Sixteen per cent cited anti-Semitism as a reason for abandoning the party, while 19 per cent cited Brexit; 26 per cent said accusations of anti-Semitism within Labour made them “embarrassed at the state of British politics”; and 17 per cent “worried about increasing racism within the party”.
“The relief among the Jewish community is palpable,” wrote London’s Jewish Chronicle of the result. It’s not only the Jewish community that is relieved; it’s millions of voters who want a party that does not allow anti-Semitism.
The size of the Jewish community is too insignificant to have determined this result. But revulsion of anti-Semitism played a significant part.
Vic Alhadeff is chief executive of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies