Media must get front row seat to Corbyn showdown

Now the excitement of Pesach is over, we are back to business as usual. Or are we? I sense a fraying at the edges, and an indecision as to what to do next.

The problem is, of course, our fractured relationship with the Labour Party. After the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) had what amounted to a full-frontal lobotomy – by actually doing something, as they are mandated to do by the community – a new kind of malaise has struck.

Under the entirely reasonable banner of “enough is enough”, the two main representative organisations challenged Jeremy Corbyn and his inner circle, right where they live. Their letter to Labour was the antithesis of a billet-doux, but spelt out, in clear, unambiguous terms, what he would have to do next to mend much-needed fences with the Jewish community.

And at that point, with an unprecedented demonstration – the like of which had never been seen before against an Opposition leader – the Board and the JLC had made an important point and put the ball firmly in Labour’s court.

But in the nature of things, events have moved on. We have now had Corbyn’s notorious appearance at the Jewdas Third Seder, a calculated insult, if ever there were one,
by Corbyn and his advisers.

None of us can now fail to be aware of the significance of a slice of beetroot.

And we have also had, what in my view is a misjudged demonstration, outside Labour Party headquarters and staged by the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA).

The CAA has claimed that many people outside London were unable to attend the hastily-called Board and JLC demo held just before Pesach.

But surely even the most purblind of Labour’s inner circle could not fail to be aware of the strength of feeling within the Jewish community. It diminishes the message by having a second demo – the
clear inference is that the point was not well-made in the first place.

Meanwhile, the Board, wrong-footed by the Jewdas event, rather unfortunately sought to depict that organisation as a cesspit of anti-Semitism.

I can only imagine the glee with which such a characterisation was greeted inside Geoffrey Cohen headquarters – for everybody in the collective of Jewdas is known as Geoffrey Cohen.

And even more depressingly, the Board and the JLC, in their apparent anxiety to hold a meeting with Corbyn, have rowed back from the conditions that they wanted in place before talks began.

Corbyn, who, after demo number one was more anxious to meet the Jews than the Jews were to meet him, has now offered a meeting with no preconditions.

And the Board and the JLC, for reasons I do not know, have agreed.

For all I know, such an encounter may already have taken place by the time this column is published. But if it has not, I implore our leadership to insist that members of the press are present. As has been lamentably demonstrated in the past weeks, the spin machine inside Labour will seek to present every different kind of interpretation of events and commitments.

The one thing that we all, to the left and right of the community, can agree on is that Corbyn must be held to account.

No post-meeting weasel statements, please. Enough, as they say, is more than enough…

About the Author
Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist.
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