So it happened. It actually happened. Two hundred and fifty thousand members of the Labour Party voted for Jeremy Corbyn, giving him a clear win in the first round. A quarter of a million people, and well over half the Labour Party membership, decided that Corbyn’s direct association with a number of rabid anti-Semites (as well as other unsavoury figures) either didn’t matter at all or mattered less than the fact that he’s ‘a man of principle.’
Thankfully for the United Kingdom as a whole, this is as far as he’s going to go. The general British public is not going to elect a man to the office of Prime Minister who, for example, attended a conference in Cairo which urged the people of Iraq to resist coalition forces by any means necessary – de facto support for the killing of British troops.
However, as the Labour Party attempts to come to terms with its new situation, there are a particular group of Labour voters for whom I feel profoundly sorry, and those are the Labour voters in the Jewish community, who do not deserve to be in this situation.
Up until now, as someone who considers themselves a centrist, I hypothetically had a choice come election time – between the Conservative Party and the Labour Party.
As a so-called millennial, I have only been able to vote since 2007. Faced with Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband in 2010 and 2015, I voted for the Conservatives both times; I thought that Labour had made an absolute mess of the economy and seemed to have little idea of how to fix things. But, had Labour had a serious candidate of the calibre of Tony Blair, I could certainly have been persuaded to at least consider voting for them.
Because, let’s be frank, Labour have a point on many issues. The NHS is a wonderful thing – the fact that people can access healthcare regardless of their financial situation is incredible, and we should we doing everything possible to enhance those services rather than paring them down to the bone. Likewise, the whole argument over cutting ‘benefits’. Are there some people who take advantage of benefits? Undoubtedly. But many of the people who are on benefits are not there by choice – they are there because either they or their primary caregiver is suffering from a physical or mental illness. These are just two examples of areas where the Labour Party has some very good points to make; as a society we have a moral duty to care for the most vulnerable amongst us. Can anyone honestly tell me that doesn’t sound like a major tenet of Judaism? It certainly seems like one to me.
The Labour party policies in these areas are not likely to change; unfortunately, something else has. Labour now has a leader who, though he does not appear to be an anti-Semite himself, has shown himself willing time and time again to be associated with anti-Semites.
The choice will no doubt be agonising for Labour members (and even more so for actual Labour MPs who are Jewish, such as Manchester’s Ivan Lewis and Liverpool’s Luciana Berger); do they continue to support a party which many of them have kept faith with throughout their lives and whose policies they have fought tirelessly for – despite the nature of the man who now leads it? Or not?
There are three possible responses;
- Some will state, honestly and openly, that whilst they continue to support many of the values of the Labour party, they cannot in good conscience stand by it or vote for it whilst it is led by Jeremy Corbyn.
- Others will decide that they must continue to support the party, despite the views of the man who leads it. They will say that ‘the party is more than one person’, and ‘there are many differences of opinion within the party’. That is all true, but ignores the fact that the party is being led by someone who freely associates with people who want them dead.
- Finally, some will stand firmly by him. Admittedly, many of these people will be those who only identify as Jewish when they’re signing group letters to protest against Israel, but they are Jewish. They’re the reason that Jeremy Corbyn can say that he has Jewish friends. But who knows? Maybe there are also some well-meaning people out there who truly believe that all of these different things which have come to light are simply ‘Tory smears’, being trumpeted by a ‘Murdoch media’.
In the meantime, though, I and plenty of others will not even consider voting Labour whilst Jeremy Corbyn leads it. We have our own principles – and they include showing no support to a movement headed by a man whose actions we find both deeply suspicious and highly repugnant.