If you care about the future of Jews in Labour, don’t sit this fight out

Peter Mason addressing the JLM Extraordinary General Meeting (JLM on Twitter)
Peter Mason addressing the JLM Extraordinary General Meeting (JLM on Twitter)

The Labour Party will not be led by Jeremy Corbyn after 4 April. But the departure of the beleaguered leader, who has decided to remain in post despite the worse election result since 1935, may not mark the end of the party’s antisemitism crisis.

As the party now turns to select a new leadership team, legitimate questions will undoubtedly be raised with each of the candidates over how they intend combatting the culture of antisemitism, bullying and harassment that became one of the distressing, disappointing and avoidable hallmarks of Corbynism. 

The ongoing investigation by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission into unlawful discrimination against Jews inside the party will be one of the first major events, alongside local elections in May, that the new leader will be forced to contend with. 

Their response will likely set the tone for the coming years, and their willingness to take the kind of decisive radical action a pivotal moment in British politics. 

In order to get the top job, MPs who throw their names into consideration will need to secure the support of Labour Party members as well as affiliated supporters; people who are involved in their trade unions and organisations tied to the party like the Jewish Labour Movement.

Herein lies their dilemma. While the majority of Labour members are good and decent people, it seems denial and diminishing the experience of Jewish members has been mainstreamed within the culture of the party. 

Many of those accused of disgraceful behaviour, as revealed during the election remain as members, having been handed warnings or let off the hook altogether. 

With the leadership election now underway the briefest post-election period of reflection has given way to some doubling down on the status quo. 

Just in the last few days, both senior officials and leadership candidates have attempted to paint Corbyn as the true victim of Labour antisemitism, of grand conspiracy of media smears and not the calamitous chain of events and inaction each of them have played their part in presiding over. 

Rather than remorse, the reaction is one of vindictiveness with threats of mass sackings of staff as retribution for whistleblowing. The demands for loyalty and unity once again seem to drown out calls for solidarity. 

Courageous leadership candidates with a shot at winning may well set out their agenda on tackling anti-Jewish racism. 

The risk is that anyone who may dare to do so will dampen their chances of success amongst a membership radicalised against hearing and accepting some hard truths about the state of our party. 

For Jews on the left, once the overwhelming majority of our community over the last century, this could present yet another three months of disempowering glumness that came to define many an experience of the general election, and deepen a growing schism. 

It doesn’t have to be that way. In the past few days, nearly 1,000 new members have joined the ranks of the Jewish Labour Movement. For our community this is an expression of mass defiance and hope in one. Hope that a new leadership will have the confidence take the action required and defiance against those who haven’t and won’t. 

A small window still exists. Anyone who joins JLM by 20 January, and registers as an affiliated supporter with Labour will get a vote in the leadership election.

If the past few years of dealing with antisemitism in Labour and on the left has taught us anything, whether inside the party or in Parliament Square, it is that action only ever happens when we force it. 

If you care about the future of Labour, the community and our country, don’t sit this fight out. 

It’s too important.

About the Author
Peter Mason is the National Secretary of the Jewish Labour Movement
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