A glimpse of the future at the JLM conference

Ruth Smeeth, Keir Starmer, Peter Mandelson and Margaret Hodge speaking at the JLM One Day virtual conference (Screenshots via JLM)
Ruth Smeeth, Keir Starmer, Peter Mandelson and Margaret Hodge speaking at the JLM One Day virtual conference (Screenshots via JLM)

Last weekend’s Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) Conference will be seen many years in the future as a critical and historic event.  Never in the 100 year history of JLM have so many of the Labour party’s leadership, past and present, come together in such numbers.  If it had been live in person it would have been broadcast worldwide, but then it would never have happened.

Zoom, with all its disadvantages, allows us to do things that in person could never happen. 

To create a 12 hour event with over 40 sessions in less than a month attended by over 1000 people. 

To have Lord Peter Mandelson telling us “Bedtime Horror Stories” at 9pm interviewed in conversation with Sunday Times’ Gabriel Pogrund who had just finished a session on his book with Patrick Maguire, “Left Out” immediately before

To be able to listen and watch former foreign secretary, David Miliband from New York in conversation with Guardian journalist, Jonathan Freedland.  To have members of the Knesset in conversation with MPs, and a former member of the Knesset in conversation also with someone in New York.

To have 7 members of the shadow cabinet including the Leader (Keir Starmer), Deputy Leader (Angela Rayner), Shadow Chancellor (Anneliese Dodds) and Shadow Foreign Secretary (Lisa Nandy), and in total 17 members of the Labour Party Front Bench, not forgetting the Mayor of Manchester (Andy Burnham) on panels, in conversation, many at the same times as each others, all with large audiences

That might make it newsworthy, but critical and historic?  I believe we showed the Jewish Community and the Labour Party a glimpse of the future.  If Sir Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner continue to implement the EHRC in full and if ,as Angela Rayner said, they expel thousands and thousands of members and if they do accept this, we can then look forward and make this future happen. 

The Labour Party, with JLM support, can focus on winning elections in London, Manchester, Scotland and Metropolitan Centres in 2021. The Labour Party, with JLM support, can focus on winning councils in 2022.  The Labour Party, with JLM support, can focus on winning the next election.  The Labour Party, with JLM support, can get past Brexit and the emergency. The Labour Party, with JLM support can focus on the recovery from the Pandemic and move away from fake news.  

This conference gave a snapshot of what the Labour Party could be if and when it eradicates the perpetrators and enablers of Anti-Semitism.  Angela Rayner is right.  They will have to expel thousands.  Keir Starmer is right they will have to work on new rules for those who left because of anti-semitism but may now be prepared to rejoin.

I hope the taster, JLM gave Keir, Angela and the other front benchers fortifies them for action as that is what it will need.  There is no way back for Jeremy Corbyn.  If John McDonnell has a problem with what Angela Rayner said, he may need to go too. 

It is not going to be easy.  There is an incredible amount of work to be done.  There will be days of bad news as members or staff do the wrong thing, but we need to be there nationally and locally to stand up and shape this different Labour Party.    I urge the readers of the paper to think hard, and if you share any of these beliefs then join or rejoin the labour party now, for now we can change the future and make sure it was not just a glimpse of the future but the future itself.  Removing anti-semites and those who have enabled anti-semitism is a task we should never leave to others.

Curating the event was also the opportunity to bring together a resurgent Labour Friends of Israel, to re-establish the relationship with Habonim-Dror and gave us the opportunity to focus on so many issues of the day.  It all happened with an incredible group of volunteers mainly young adults.  They will get to live that future and when they have their 1997, they will remember this conference as a key building bloc.

  •  Andrew Gilbert was Chair of the JLM One Day Conference


About the Author
Andrew Gilbert is a London Jewish Forum Trustee
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