At the General Election last year, the Labour Party, under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, secured 40 per cent of the vote. That was a considerable advance on the showing under Ed Miliband in 2015 (30.4 per cent) or under Gordon Brown in 2010 (29 per cent). Or, for that matter, under Tony Blair in 2005 (35.2 per cent). This was a shocking result given the appalling views that Corbyn has expressed on a range of subjects.
It was already apparent that many anti–semites had come to regard the Labour Party as providing them with a “safe space”. Corbyn has described Hamas and Hezbollah as his “friends”. Yet the anti–semitism of these groups is explicit and extreme. The Hamas Charter calls for the murder of Jews, not just in Israel but around the world. It endorses The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious fraudulent text used by those promoting Jewish conspiracy theories.
In recent days we have seen confirmation of the depth of anti-semitism in the modern Labour Party. But it was already pretty well known last year. Despite that 12,878,460 shrugged and voted Labour anyway.
Will anything change? Perhaps. The Jewish Leadership Council protest outside Parliament this week had the slogan “Enough is Enough”. It struck a chord. There comes a point at which a fair minded person with a mild interest in current affairs can no longer give Corbyn and his Party the benefit of the doubt on this issue. Surely there is a limit to how many Facebook groups Corbyn joined without noticing the content, or murals he endorsed without looking at them, or terrorists he can describe as “friends” and then say he is being merely diplomatic? Blaming everything on the Daily Mail is an inadequate response.
It is not just about Corbyn. A YouGov poll of Labour Party members for The Times was published this morning. It asked:
“There has been quite a lot of news coverage recently about antisemitism in the Labour Party. Which of the following statements comes closest to your view?”
Three options were given:
Only 19 percent went for:
“It is a serious and genuine problem that the party leadership needs to take urgent action to address.”
By contrast 47 percent chose:
“It is a genuine problem, but its extent is being deliberately exaggerated to damage Labour and Jeremy Corbyn, or to stifle criticism of Israel.”
There were 30 percent who plumped for:
“It is not a serious problem at all, and is being hyped up to undermine Labour and Jeremy Corbyn, or to stifle legitimate criticism of Israel.”
So even if Corbyn resigned (which he shows no sign of contemplating) that would not mean that anti-semitism would vanish from the Labour Party. But it is certainly hard to see how many in the Jewish community could wish to see Jeremy Corbyn returned as Prime Minister after the General Election. The Jewish population in the UK is relatively small – around 300,000 or about half a percent of the population of the UK. But in a some constituencies the number of Jewish voters is considerable. They include some marginal constituencies. In Finchley and Golders Green, the Conservative MP, Mike Freer, had a majority last year of 1,657. Matthew Offord, also a Conservative MP, has a majority of 1,072 in Hendon. Then there is Harrow East where the Conservative MP, Bob Blackman, has a majority of 1,757. Theresa Villiers, again a Conservative MP, only hung on in Chipping Barnet by 353. All these seats are on the list that Labour needs to gain to put Corbyn into Downing Street.
Seats with large Jewish populations which returned Labour MPs last year include Ilford North and Bury South. I suspect that many Jewish people were content to vote for their Labour candidate on the assumption that there was no risk of a Labour Government. Would they take that chance another time?
Although the local elections should be about local issues it is inevitable that the results for Barnet Council will be taken as a measure of the strength of feeling on this issue. If after all this coverage, Labour still gain control of the Council then the Corbynistas will say there is nothing to worry about.
On the other hand, it should not be assumed that only the Jewish community are affronted by Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on this issue. Another YouGov poll, this time among the general public, has found a significant decline in his personal approval rating. It is possible that he has finally run out of excuses.