Minutes ago, voting for the new leader of the Labour Party closed, with three candidates having made it through the three-month election process. The result of the primary is due to be announced on Saturday.
The winner of the contest, who, as head of the largest opposition party, will also take the post of Leader of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition, will become the head of an institutionally antisemitic party that is being investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), following a complaint by Campaign Against Antisemitism.
Previously, Campaign Against Antisemitism analysed the records of the leadership hopefuls in order to inform the public, and to this we now add the stated positions of the candidates with regard to internal Party reforms and addressing the antisemitism crisis. As the result of the vote draws near, it is vital for the Jewish community and the wider public to be aware of the victor’s platform in order to hold him or her to account.
The deepest stain on the records of each of the candidates is the fact that they stood by the Labour Party during the years of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership despite its descent into racism. They were bystanders when several Jewish colleagues were hounded out of the Party, and they stood by too when principled colleagues made the difficult decision to leave the Party because they could not countenance campaigning for the antisemite Jeremy Corbyn to become Prime Minister, which all of the three candidates themselves did at the end of last year. Whether these candidates can ever reclaim any authority to speak out against antisemitism — or indeed any form of prejudice — is therefore doubtful.
The two candidates who served as senior figures in Mr Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet and most actively campaigned to make him Prime Minister, in the face of polls that showed almost half of the Jewish community were considering leaving the country if they were successful in their campaign, are particularly unlikely ever to be able to provide a satisfactory justification for their failure to stand up to Mr Corbyn.
Rebecca Long-Bailey was one of those members of the Shadow Cabinet, serving as Mr Corbyn’s Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. She supported Mr Corbyn’s ideology and leadership — which she recently rated “ten out of ten” — throughout the past several years, to the point of being widely viewed today as the continuity candidate.
Despite representing a constituency — Salford and Eccles — with a Jewish population, Ms Long-Bailey reportedly showed little awareness of issues important to the community in her first few months in office.
This lack of awareness apparently spread to the media as well, as Ms Long-Bailey gave an interview to the controversial far-left website, The Canary, subsequently explaining that she was “not aware of concerns about The Canary at the time” of the interview. Lord Mann, the Government’s independent advisor on antisemitism, has announced that he will be investigating The Canary and other far-left websites in relation to the rise in antisemitism.
When it was revealed that Mr Corbyn had written a gushing foreword to a reissue of J.A. Hobson’s 1902 work, Imperialism: A Study, in which the author cast the blame for great wars on the Rothschilds and their control of the media — Mr Corbyn described the book as “correct and prescient” — Ms Long-Bailey defended him.
Ms Long-Bailey was also said to have opposed the adoption by the Labour Party of the International Definition of Antisemitism, opting instead to back the infamous “code” that was floated by Party insiders as an alternative to the Definition in order to dilute it.
She recently claimed that she spoke out on antisemitism in internal Labour meetings over the past few years and that if she were elected leader she would work “very hard and very robustly” to tackle antisemitism in the Party. She added that “I wasn’t happy with the way our process was being run.” Such comments echo those of her most prominent backer, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, whose persistent references to “process” during the election campaign represented an effort to deflect attention from the reality that the Party was home to legions of antisemites and an antisemitic leadership. In any event, Ms Long-Bailey’s claim to have spoken out on antisemitism behind the scenes has been disputed.
Given this record, it is unsurprising that Ms Long-Bailey has been endorsed by Pete Willsman, a pro-Corbyn member of Labour’s National Executive Committee who has been suspended from the Party twice. It is equally reasonable that she was accused, just a few days ago, by a fellow MP of being “partly responsible for the failure of Labour to stem the tide of antisemitism within its ranks.” The MP went on to say: “How she can now claim to be concerned about an issue that cost us the election — it’s staggering hypocrisy.”
Turning to Ms Long-Bailey’s stated positions during the campaign on internal reform and antisemitism, she intends to resolve outstanding and future antisemitism cases swiftly and under a fixed timetable using an independent disciplinary process. Prominent offenders who have been expelled from Labour would not be permitted to return to the Party and anyone who supported or campaigned for them would be suspended, under her plans. She would implement in full the EHRC’s recommendations, engage with the Jewish community only through reputable representative organisations and conduct antisemitism training via Labour’s Jewish affiliate.
Lisa Nandy has consistently spoken out against anti-Jewish racism in the Labour Party and has acknowledged that a “particular sort of antisemitism has found its home on the far-left throughout history.” She added: “I have been a member of this party for twenty years, and what angers me most is the assertion that a person cannot be left wing and stand up to antisemitism — standing up to antisemitism is a core part of my values.”
Ms Nandy also criticised the handling of the revelations of historic antisemitic statements by Naz Shah in 2016 and opposed the readmission of the disgraced then-MP, Chris Williamson, in 2019, observing that “we have no right to pick and choose the type of racism we confront.” Although she sat in Mr Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet in its first few months, she, along with numerous colleagues, quit, helping to prompt the 2016 leadership contest.
Ms Nandy participated in an event at the Labour Party conference in 2019 that featured Omar Barghouti (appearing via video link), who rejects Israel as a Jewish State and is a prominent figure in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, the tactics of which an overwhelming majority of Jews find intimidating. However, Ms Nandy left the room before Mr Barghouti spoke. More recently, Ms Nandy endorsed a troubling platform of policies issued by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which we have found to be riddled with bigotry.
Like her colleagues, Ms Nandy too is guilty of having stood by Labour even as it degenerated into an institutionally antisemitic party and campaigned for a government that would have been led by Jeremy Corbyn, despite the unprecedented fears of the Jewish community.
Ms Nandy has promised to implement the same policies as Ms Long-Bailey, including resolving cases swiftly and under a fixed timetable through an independent disciplinary process; prevent the readmission of prominent offenders and suspend those who supported or campaigned for them; implement the EHRCs recommendations in full; relate to the Jewish community only through genuine representative organisations; and engage Labour’s Jewish affiliate to provide antisemitism training.
In addition, Ms Nandy has made fighting antisemitism in Labour a central plank of her campaign and has pledged to take “personal responsibility” for doing so, including by introducing antisemitism training for members and staff and lowering the threshold for suspension over allegations of racism.
Sir Keir Starmer
Sir Keir Starmer has served on Mr Corbyn’s frontbench in the influential position of Shadow Brexit Secretary and has been a vocal advocate of Mr Corbyn’s leadership. A former Director of Public Prosecutions, he has insisted, contrary to all the evidence, that Labour is not institutionally antisemitic (in an interview, incidentally, in which he conceded that denying Labour antisemitism was itself part of the problem). He has also claimed that Mr Corbyn is not particularly to blame for the antisemitism crisis that has engulfed their Party, but rather that there is collective responsibility, thus by his own admission implicating himself.
When Mr Corbyn’s defence of the antisemitic mural in East London came to light, Sir Keir declined to condemn the Labour leader, advising instead that Mr Corbyn “had given his explanation”. In case there was any doubt as to Sir Keir’s commitment to Mr Corbyn’s leadership of Labour and his effort to become Prime Minister, during the election campaign, Sir Keir reiterated that he was “100% behind Jeremy Corbyn”.
Having now lost the election and apparently recognising the political advantage of disassociating himself from Mr Corbyn’s leadership, Sir Keir has announced that “the handling of antisemitism [in Labour] has been completely unacceptable. It has caused deep distress for the Jewish community, which we must all accept responsibility for and apologise.” Sir Keir is hardly the first politician to offer cheap words; one suspects that there would have been little in the way of apology or responsibility had his ambitions of government been realised.
Sir Keir has insisted, like Lisa Nandy, that he would take “personal responsibility” for addressing Labour’s antisemitism crisis, and has proposed a similar agenda to the other candidates, including resolving cases swiftly and under a fixed timetable through an independent disciplinary process; prevent the readmission of prominent offenders and suspend those who supported or campaigned for them; implement the EHRCs recommendations in full; relate to the Jewish community only through genuine representative organisations; and engage Labour’s Jewish affiliate to provide antisemitism training.
Additionally, Sir Keir has proposed scrapping Labour’s National Constitutional Committee – the Party’s main disciplinary body – in favour of the new independent disciplinary process. He has also called for an end to the imposition of parliamentary candidates by Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee, a process that was blamed for numerous worrying candidacies at the previous General Election.
On 28th May 2019, the Equality and Human Rights Commission launched a full statutory investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party following a formal referral and detailed legal representations from Campaign Against Antisemitism, which is the complainant.
In the first release of its Antisemitism in Political Parties research, Campaign Against Antisemitism showed that Labour Party candidates for Parliament in the 2019 general election accounted for 82 percent of all incidents of antisemitic discourse.
Campaign Against Antisemitism’s Antisemitism Barometer 2019 showed that antisemitism on the far-left of British politics has surpassed that of the far-right.