Labour’s leadership election is finally drawing to a close and many in the Jewish community will be hoping that its result will mark a watershed moment.
Almost five years of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has seen the darkest period in its history, leading to it being investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission for institutional anti-Jewish hate, longstanding Jewish MPs Luciana Berger and Louse Ellman leaving what should be their political home and electoral support for the Party being reduced to a tiny percentage amongst Jewish voters.
Changing course will be no easy task for the new leader. It will take a monumental effort from the new leader and their team in Parliament and Labour’s HQ to rebuild trust between the Jewish community and the Labour Party. None of this will happen overnight. There are significant obstacles in the way of a new leader that they will need to navigate, including the balance of power on Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee.
The Jewish Labour Movement has long called for an independent disciplinary process. Only when minority communities have confidence that those engaging in hate will be appropriately disciplined, on the basis of what they’ve done, not who they are or what political faction they belong to, will the Labour Party demonstrate that it can be a home for them. Instances of political manipulation have consistently plagued the Labour Party’s complaints system and shown just how badly we need an independent process. Tied very closely to the need for an independent disciplinary process is ensuring that the staff who took part in a corrupt complaints system no longer hold their posts.
We’ll have a new leader on 4 April, but not a new membership. Changing the culture of the Party is one of the key hurdles that the new leader will have to face. By taking responsibility for the problem and tackling it as a moral issue that is rotting the soul of the Labour Party, a new leader can approach the task of changing the culture of antisemitism with the right attitude to change the culture of the Party.
Part of that change must come from education. There are some Labour members who deliberately engage in actively antisemitic discourse. Many members act out of ignorance or feed the culture of denial that is often pervasive at a grassroots level. Labour lacks good practice within local and regional parties to challenge this. A program of education that restores the Jewish Labour Movement’s role within it is necessary to change the Party’s culture. Changing the culture will take months and years, not days and weeks, but it’s something that can only take place within the context of zero tolerance at all levels of the Party – from its leadership to its members.
The EHRC is due to report back on their investigation into Labour’s antisemitism in the summer. Despite calls from the Jewish Labour Movement, the Jewish community and many Labour MPs, the Labour Party has still not released its submission to the EHRC. The new leader should make this a priority. How they respond to the EHRC’s findings will mark a key moment early on in the new leader’s tenure where they will need to face up to the scale of the problem. Time will tell whether they succeed.