The future ain’t what it used to be

Corbyn exits, head in hands, stage left. (Press Association)
Corbyn exits, head in hands, stage left. (Press Association)

Car workers in Birmingham, shopkeepers in Sedgefield, market traders in Norwich, steelworkers in Sheffield, greengrocers in Great Yarmouth, fishmongers in Falmouth, bus drivers in Bolsover, waitresses in Workington.

In the end, after all the fear and doubt, the message rang  far and wide and loud and clear, from the cities to the shires, to every nook and cranny of our salt-of-the-earth nation: Jeremy Corbyn is a dangerous lightweight with obscene associations. An extremist in sheep’s clothing, whose apathy to anti-Jewish racism is incompatible with the British values we hold dear. So the good people of Britain held their noses, crossed their fingers, adopted the brace position and voted… for anyone but Corbyn.

Singing socialist Billy Bragg said it best in his 80s anthem Between The Wars: “Sweet moderation, heart of this nation.” 

Dear old Blighty, we should never have doubted you. 

Yet who was to know the result would be so emphatic? As the clock lurched towards 10 pm stomachs knotted, palms sweated, brows furrowed. Surely even a semi-functioning opposition could eke out a hung Parliament against these unpopular three-term Tories. Surely?

In those edgy moments before the exit poll, the blunt question asked across Shabbat dinner tables for the last four years was asked one last time: does Britain really care about antisemitism?

It certainly turned voters off in the Bagel Belt of Hendon, Chipping Barnet and Finchley and Golders Green, where the Conservatives secured an unlikely clean sweep. Elsewhere, it played a leading role. But above all, this red-letter election required two democratic duties of voters: reject extreme socialism and respect Brexit.

It could have been so different. Had Corbyn not sat on the fence over Brexit and sat on his hands over Jew hate, he would have sneaked a hung Parliament and cobbled a coalition. Instead he exits, head in hands, stage left.

The future, thank goodness, ain’t what it used to be.

The Jewish community and Labour Party share a long and storied history. Now it’s time to repair that proud partnership. Indeed, there are already red shoots of recovery with the Jewish Labour Movement reporting hundreds of former members have returned since last Thursday.

With relief comes caution. Corbyn is history but Corbynism remains, with a new Labour leader likely cast in the mould of the old. Far-left Jennie Formby remains general secretary of the party while Momentum waters the grassroots.

It seems unlikely, but by the time the Equality and Human Rights Commission publishes its inquiry into Labour antisemitism next year, the party needs to have a leader on the right side of history – able to take decisive action against racism the moment it rears its sneaky head. Fail and Labour is doomed to remain outside the political mainstream for years to come.

Meanwhile, the community has lost some of its most eloquent voices in Parliament. Luciana Berger, Ian Austin, John Mann, Louise Ellman, Joan Ryan and Ruth Smeeth all lost their seats or moved on. Their absence will be sharply felt by all who hold the British Jewry and Israel dear.

About the Author
Richard Ferrer has become a leading voice on Jewish communal issues since becoming editor of the Jewish News in 2009, writing about contemporary Jewish life for a national audience. He edited the Boston Jewish Advocate, America's oldest Jewish newspaper and created the Channel 4 series Jewish Mum of the Year.
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