We need to talk about the Tories’ antisemitism problem

Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivering his speech at the Manchester Convention Centre. (Photo credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire via Jewish News)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivering his speech at the Manchester Convention Centre. (Photo credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire via Jewish News)

As the Equality and Human Rights Commission enquiry into the Labour Party continues, antisemitism has been a topic at the forefront of British politics for a number of years.

But there’s something our conversations are missing. Why have a number of Conservative MPs made antisemitic comments over the past few months?

In March, Suella Braverman made a speech in which she talked about the threat of ‘cultural Marxism.’

This seemingly banal criticism of her political opponents, is, in fact, an early twentieth-century conspiracy about Jewish people being a threat to society.

It was rhetoric used by the Nazis and more recently by Anders Breivik.

Earlier this week, Home Secretary Priti Patel used her Party Conference speech to slam what she referred to as ‘North London, metropolitan, liberal elite’ attitudes to immigration.

Those defending Patel have argued she was referring to the North London constituencies of Labour frontbenchers but it speaks to something deeper.

Patel was using her speech to criticise those not listening to the attitudes of ‘real people’ but instead invents an imagined metropolitan, liberal conspiracy to undermine societal norms.

Priti Patel speaking at Tory Conference (Jewish News)

That this was rooted in North London, home to the country’s largest Jewish community, makes it even more troubling.

It was the language of the far-right and whilst people will use the cloak of it being legitimate political debate, Patel’s comments are a worrying descent into dog-whistle antisemitic discourse.

As if Patel’s comments were not enough for one week, the Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg today referred to George Soros as ‘the remonaer funder in chief.’

Soros, a Hungarian philanthropist, has been a hate figure for the extreme right for a number years.

Jacob Rees-Mogg (Jewish News)

For a government frontbencher to perpetuate this conspiracy at the despatch box should bring a shiver down the spine of any reasonable, open-minded person. And this is by no means an isolated incident, with Rees-Mogg a few weeks ago describing his Jewish colleague Oliver Letwin of being part of an ‘Illuminati’ for supporting legislation to delay a No Deal Brexit.

It is not not a coincidence that a number of high profile Tory MPs have engaged in antisemitic rhetoric. Rather, it is symptomatic of the Conservative party’s decision to embrace a politics that is hostile to outsiders, toxic and deeply nationalistic.

The scapegoating of others. The identification of enemies. The conspiracy theories. That’s the kind of rhetoric that Jews will be all to familiar with.

It’s time for this to stop.

About the Author
Nathan Boroda is a History student at the University of Warwick
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