Jeremy Newmark
Jeremy Newmark

The election changes nothing: Labour must still take urgent steps to tackle anti-Semitism

Unsurprisingly, the candidacies of Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) members including myself, Mike Katz and Alex Sobel in seats such as Finchley, Hendon & Leeds NW provoked communal debate.

For JLM this was welcome. Debate around the relationship between the community and the Labour Party helps us deliver change from the inside. Most opposition to our candidacies came from tribal Tories.

They said Jews shouldn’t challenge pro-Israel MPs. Oddly enough that didn’t apply when it came to former UJIA Executive Lee Scott challenging Wes Streeting in Ilford.

The notion that Jews should always defer to non-Jewish pro-Israel MPs smacks of a by-gone era when we relied upon others to make our case and kept our heads below the parapet.

They said we “koshered” anti-Semitism in Labour. Completely ignoring the way we used our platform to rally against it without fear or favour. Our candidacies were emancipating.

They enabled Jewish voters to put communal concerns to one side, knowing that whatever the outcome their MP would support Israel and oppose anti-Semitism.

They could decide based on wider issues such as Brexit and education. Or they could put Jewish ‘interests’ to one side and vote on Jewish ‘values’ like supporting refugees, the NHS and social care.

The results showed that many Jewish people did just that.

It seems that in the so-called bagel belt ‘shy Jewish Labour voters’ confounded both the real pollsters and communal “experts” who thought Tory majorities in the Barnet seats would rise into the stratosphere rather than be pared down to the bone.

Clearly most Jewish votes went elsewhere. It appears that more Jews voted Labour than the 13% cited in a pre-election poll. The Labour vote could not have grown in these seats by the margins of the result unless without increased Labour votes from Jews.

Turnout amongst young Jews increased as did the Labour vote in highly concentrated Jewish polling districts.

As I wearily discarded my rosette at 6am on Friday, the political landscape had changed.

For many, Jeremy Corbyn is now a Prime Minister in waiting.

Cleavages in the Labour Party are healing.

However, many things remain unchanged. Most of our community’s friends retained their seats. However, we still need to turn a corner regarding anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

JLM will continue to lead from the front, without being deterred in the slightest by this new landscape. We have already re-engaged on these issues.

The immediate agenda is clear.

Ken Livingstone must be re-investigated and expelled.

Outstanding cases such as Jackie Walker must be swiftly pursued to appropriate outcomes.

We need immediate implementation of the Royall and Chakrabarti recommendations.

Those recommendations that fell short of expectations must be revisited.

JLM’s rule change proposals must be tabled at Party Conference as an NEC recommendation.

Critically, JLM will redouble our efforts to massively expand our training and education programme at all levels across the Party.

Ultimately that is what will deliver meaningful change.

About the Author
Political Consultant. Leader of Labour and Opposition Group, Hertsmere Borough Council, UK. Member of Labour Party Eastern Regional Board. Advises Governments, NGOs, Corporates and Individuals. Formerly Chief Executive of the UK's Jewish Leadership Council - the umbrella body for the major institutions of the UK Jewish community. Also formerly Spokesperson for previous UK Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks & Chair of The Jewish Labour Movement (UK)
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