Following a disheartening month, the election of Sadiq Khan as mayor of London is a relief for those who place community relations at the heart of their politics. His victory marks a triumph for those who demand that our politics works for the common good, rather than pitting individual groups against each other. Now is the time to act decisively to ensure the spirit of Sadiq’s victory is here to stay. It is clear that both the Conservatives and Labour have key decisions to take in the weeks ahead.
Sadiq’s campaign was victorious as it spoke to the long-term challenges facing Londoners. His personal drive and work ethic was clear throughout, particularly in contrast to the lethargic and pitiful Goldsmith. But this election was about more than Tube fares and pollution levels, vital though they are. Goldsmith’s incessant attempts to portray Sadiq as an ‘extremist by association’ ensured that the vote effectively became a referendum on London’s diversity.
It is a matter of personal pride that London’s riposte to Goldsmith’s dog-whistle racism was a resounding victory for Sadiq. That said, it is not good enough for senior Tories to now denounce the campaign through mealy-mouthed words to the media. With a few notable exceptions, not least former chairman Baroness Warsi, they were largely silent as he defamed Sadiq’s character in pursuit of victory. If the public is to believe that the Conservatives accept responsibility for Goldsmith’s tactics, action must follow. I look forward to seeing how that takes shape in the weeks ahead.
As for my own party, I can only repeat Sadiq’s words with sorrow when he says ongoing cases of anti-Semitism are a badge of shame.
For almost 20 years, I have lived alongside the Jewish community in Hampstead. Visiting friends’ houses for Shabbat and the occasional seder formed a routine part of my teenage years. The pride I feel in representing this community knows no bounds.
Following the recent birth of my daughter, the well wishes I have received from the synagogues in the constituency have been remarkably similar in their wording to those I have received from my family. When I walk around the block, my Jewish neighbours are giving me the same stern, health-related advice that I hear from my mother. However, recently, they have also told me of their despair over the spate of anti-Semitic incidents within Labour. This is not something they should have to tolerate.
Labour must be unequivocal in its opposition to anti-Semitism. We must take swift and decisive action where individuals or groups have been found to advocate anti-Semitic ideals, or indeed, have taken to the airwaves to deny anti-Semitism is a problem.
Anti-Semitism is a problem and Labour must lead the fight against it, not cower in fear of self-inflicted wounds.
My general lack of sleep has been a welcome challenge in the first few weeks of bonding with my daughter. Listening to Ken Livingstone’s disgraceful rants over this period has been considerably less welcome. I called for his suspension almost immediately after hearing his remarks, and do not hesitate to say there should be absolutely no way back for him following his perverse reimagining of the Holocaust’s narrative.
The terms of reference and the respective outcomes of the Royall and Chakrabarti inquiries will be crucial in restoring the Jewish community’s confidence in Labour Party. It is a credit to organisations such as the Jewish Labour Movement and the Board of Deputies that they have shown a willingness to engage, and Labour must deliver the action that will create a future of certainty in the fight against anti-Semitism.
The past month in British politics has been trying at best. Both parties must do more to stamp out two distinct but equally deplorable prejudices that have no place in our society. Sadiq Khan’s victory is a seminal moment, but the spirit of his victory must be utilised across the political divide, in order to deliver the positive future that we all desperately require.