Why I remain in the Labour Party

Original copy of YJAR’s anti-racist newspaper from 1979, which Michael edited  (Jewish News)
Original copy of YJAR’s anti-racist newspaper from 1979, which Michael edited (Jewish News)
The Jewish community has shown commendable backbone fighting a resurgence of antisemitism, particularly on social media.
Things that might have been thought of fleetingly are often now tweeted or placed on Facebook, so-called bar room philosophers do not need to be near a bar to spout their bile, 28% of Jewish students have received some sort of antisemitic message on the internet.

Of course, there are degrees, a sort of Richter scale, the very worst being terrorist attacks in Pittsburgh, Paris and Brussels but ALL antisemitism is wrong, as is racism of any sort, Islamophobia, homophobia and all other forms of hatred and discrimination.

The Labour Party were slow to act, but have now introduced more effective measures to deal with it and adopted the IHRA definition in full.

True, whistle-blowers deserved more support, but the Party has grasped the nettle and needs to adopt a policy of zero tolerance. Having been in the Labour Party for 45 years, I’ve been saddened by many friends, supporters and former members leaving; everyone has to decide for themselves, but the obsessive hatred thrown at the Party by some is counter-productive and out of order.

My father was at the Battle of Cable Street on 4th October 1936, things were a great deal more dangerous then. Just as he did, the Jewish Community has to stand up and be counted.

In the late 1970’s I worked at the Board of Deputies with Dr Jacob Gewirtz, fighting antisemitism from whichever direction it came from – usually, at that time, from John Tyndall, Martin Webster and their cronies in the National Front.

We did not ignore antisemitism from the Left, usually spouted by extreme factions through limited-edition newspapers, hardly read by anyone outside their own tiny group. I founded Young Jews Against Racism and worked with other communities to fight against all forms of bigotry and hatred.

Original copy of YJAR’s anti-racist newspaper from 1979, which Michael edited (Jewish News)

I stood in Faversham and Mid Kent for Labour in the last election and supported Rosie Duffield’s successful campaign next door in Canterbury; she won the seat and has been a wonderful, brave supporter of the Jewish community ever since, despite being trolled and abused on Twitter. The previous Labour candidate in Canterbury was Hugh Lanning – who has a very different attitude towards Israel than me, although rightly, supports Palestinian rights.

We have a callous, right-wing cabal pushing the country towards a Brexit abyss – and as we know to our cost, economic turmoil leads to hatred and scapegoating.

Remaining in the Labour Party gives activists an opportunity to make a difference,  or to use that frequently misquoted toilet metaphor, be inside the tent performing ablutions outside, rather than vice versa.

If Tottenham were to move a few miles to the Emirates, begin wearing red and white and start calling themselves Arsenal, no doubt my lifelong support for them would cease. Things do change.

But for the majority of left of centre Jews, with an election in the offing, the Labour Party is still the place for them to be, warts and all.

About the Author
Michael went to school in Colindale and Edgware, before moving to Clapton, Hackney, he is the second longest serving councillor on Hackney Council, was civic Mayor in 2013/14 and stood in the 2015 and 2017 General Elections for Labour in Faversham and Mid Kent.
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