No quick fixes or easy answers for this election campaign

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (Via Jewish News)
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (Via Jewish News)

Most Labour members would’ve celebrated when the general election was called this week. It’s a chance to put into practice our values and sell our policies on the doorstep in the hope of changing this country for the better. Under normal circumstances, I would be one of those Labour members. But these are not normal political times.

I want more than anything to be able to advocate for a Labour government without my moral consciousness reminding me of my own experience in the Labour Party.

Since Jeremy Corbyn was elected as Labour leader, I have experienced antisemitism in my local party and watched with despair as the leadership has taken barely any action to root out this hatred.

I’ve faced antisemitism in my own branch from members acting in Jeremy Corbyn’s name.

Complaints that I’ve submitted about antisemitism have never been dealt with, months after I’ve raised them, even when they’ve been clear-cut cases.

It has been devastating to see two inspirational Jewish women, Luciana Berger and Louise Ellman, hounded out of the Labour Party.

With four years’ worth of negative experiences in the Labour Party, I don’t know how I can set these aside during the general election.

Like many young people, I’m a staunch Remainer. During the 2016 EU referendum I spent many evenings campaigning for remain and was devastated by the result. A Tory government will no doubt pursue a Brexit that is the most harmful for the British economy and continue the hostile environment towards immigrants and refugees. This general election will see a lot of young left-wing Jews struggle with this immensely.

How do we try to reconcile that we are overwhelmingly pro-Remain, with the fact the Jeremy Corbyn represents intolerance and hostility towards our community? Survation found in a recent poll that although 2 in 3 Jews voted remain in 2016, 78% would prefer a no deal Brexit over Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister.

It’s clear that there is a real fear in the Jewish community based on legitimate concerns about Jeremy Corbyn’s record on antisemitism and this cannot be ignored.

The ‘quick fix’ of voting for the Liberal Democrats will never appeal to me. I am not a Liberal Democrat and I do not share their values. My politics is about creating a society where every person has equality of opportunity and where social justice is at the heart of policy making that looks critically at structural inequalities and how we break them down. The Liberal Democrats stood beside the Conservatives in coalition as they introduced austerity policies that have gutted many communities across the UK.

Jeremy Corbyn’s record on antisemitism is damning, but so too is Boris Johnson’s record on racism and Islamophobia. Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party have done nothing to tackle Islamophobia in their ranks, as well as feeding into and creating a racist culture of hostility towards Muslims, migrants and BAME people through their policies and rhetoric. We’ve reached a point where both main political parties represent fear for minority communities.

There will be those on each side of the debate on who Jews should vote for who will make demands either way. Those who argue that Jews should drop their concerns about the culture of antisemitism they’ve experienced and advocate as strongly as possible for Jeremy Corbyn to become Prime Minister; and those who will say that to even consider voting or campaigning for Labour is to sell out their entire community.

It’s unfair to demand that a minority community shrug off its legitimate concerns, so too is it wrong to bully those who choose, I’m sure after much internal debate, to vote and campaign for the Labour Party. I know I’ll be campaigning in Stoke-on-Trent North for Ruth Smeeth, the Jewish Labour Movement’s Parliamentary Chair. Am I selling out my community by campaigning for a fearless anti-racist? Absolutely not.

There are no right answers in this general election. Many of my friends don’t feel confident in their Labour candidate and the question of ‘what are we supposed to do’ will be discussed amongst many of them.

They’ll be weighing up a lot during the general election campaign, possibly even resulting in not voting at all.

All that’s guaranteed, is that the next few weeks will be tortuous.

About the Author
Rebecca is the National Organiser for the Jewish Labour Movement
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