Gillian Merron

The end of Corbyn is not the end of Labour’s antisemitism problem

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks after winning his seat in the election - but witnessing his party suffering heavy losses. On the right is Jewish Brexit Party candidate, Yosef David. (Photo credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire)
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks after winning his seat in the election - but witnessing his party suffering heavy losses. On the right is Jewish Brexit Party candidate, Yosef David. (Photo credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire)

Many of you may have been watching your screens at 10 o’clock last night, as the exit poll forecast a healthy Conservative majority.

But the moment which best summed up the night for Labour, as well as the attitude of those who have assumed control of the party apparatus in recent years, came not long afterwards.

Jon Lansman, the head of the far-left Momentum pressure group, appeared on the BBC and attempted to defend the Corbyn project.

“It’s all very well saying the policies have been rejected,” he told an incredulous presenter.

“But how do you explain the fact that the poll says in Putney there’s an 85% chance of a Labour victory? The voters in Putney aren’t horrified by the policies.”

As goes Putney, so goes…well, just Putney. The South London seat was the only one in the entire country gained by Labour last night.

While there are a number of faces the Jewish community will not miss on the benches of the Commons, perhaps foremost among them is Chris Williamson, the now former MP from Derby North. The man who said earlier this year that Labour had been “too apologetic” regarding antisemitism in the Labour party ran as an independent candidate. He came in last place, failing to receive enough votes to get back his deposit.

But there are many others whose presence in the Commons will be greatly missed – both MPs who are Jewish, such as Luciana Berger, Ruth Smeeth and Louise Ellman, and those who are long-standing friends of Britain’s Jews, including Ian Austin, Joan Ryan, John Mann and Mike Gapes – and far more besides.

Now, however, the focus will turn to what the Labour party does next. Already, certain MPs have begun to position themselves for an upcoming leadership contest – eagle-eyed watchers may have been able to detect leadership themes last night during some individual constituency victory speeches.

At this point, Mr Corbyn has indicated that he will step down as leader, but has employed characteristic vagueness regarding when. There are two main schools of thought on the issue; one would have him step down now, without any delay, so that the rebuilding process can begin. Others have already suggested that Mr Corbyn remain in place for the time being – at least until the Equality and Human Rights Commission comes back with the results of their investigation into accusations of institutional antisemitism in the party. That way, there is no doubt as to where the ultimate blame for this situation should be placed.

Whenever it comes, this leadership election will be viewed, at least by some, as an opportunity for the Labour party to make a clean break from the last four and a half years, entering a new chapter. But while many within our community will doubtless be happy to see the back of Mr Corbyn, we know that the issues within the party will not simply cease to exist when he departs.

During Jeremy Corbyn’s time as leader, the Board of Deputies, along with other communal organisations, repeatedly made a series of recommendations as to how the party could begin to rid itself of anti-Jewish racism – most of these were ignored. Mr Corbyn’s successor will not be able to properly deal with Labour’s antisemitism problem unless they take a very different attitude to this ongoing problem.

About the Author
Gillian is Chief Executive, Board of Deputies
Related Topics
Related Posts
Comments