Nominations for the position of leader of the Labour Party have closed, with five candidates securing sufficient support from fellow MPs to qualify for the race, which is expected to last three months.
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.
Campaign Against Antisemitism has analysed the records of the five leadership hopefuls in order to inform the public, which can determine whether any of the candidates are fit to lead.
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 five candidates themselves did last month. Whether these candidates can ever reclaim any authority to speak out against antisemitism — or indeed any form of prejudice — is therefore doubtful.
The three 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 collaboration.
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.”
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.
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.
Jess Phillips, like Ms Nandy, has a far cleaner record than those candidates who served on Mr Corbyn’s front bench, albeit that she too campaigned to put Mr Corbyn into Downing Street notwithstanding that “Jewish people were afraid of us governing,” as she recently acknowledged.
It is notable that Ms Phillips raged in Parliament over the expulsion and deselection of Conservative MPs by their leader over Brexit, but when it came to the hounding of Jewish colleagues from her own Party — not over political differences but due to abject racism (combined, in several cases, with appalling misogyny) — she was not only less vocal but, like her peers, did nothing about it.
Ms Phillips is understood to have quit the Labour Party during the Blair years over the Iraq War, but chose not to do so in recent years when the Party became a cesspit of antisemitism, though she was only a student at the time and not a sitting MP. That being said, she recently revealed that she had been “quite tempted” to quit the Party over antisemitism, particularly after last year’s broadcast of the Panorama documentary into anti-Jewish hatred in the Party and the naked interference by Mr Corbyn’s office and allies in the disciplinary process. She said that it was after watching the programme that she “wobbled the most” in regard to her Labour membership. However, she apparently steadied herself with the solace that, given she “would have just been replaced by somebody who might not have spoken up” on the issue of antisemitism, it was better that she stayed. But Ms Phillips has yet to demonstrate what her speaking up actually achieved; it appears that she, like her colleagues, attained only the ignominy of having been an MP representing the first political party since the BNP to be investigated by the EHRC for racism.
Ms Phillips has vowed to “implement fully every single recommendation” made by the EHRC when it issues its report on the Labour Party.
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 Labour under 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 to make Labour the party of government been realised.
Emily Thornberry appears to have scraped through the nominations process thanks, not reassuringly, to the support of those who had previously backed the abortive candidacy of the pro-Corbyn MP, Clive Lewis. Ms Thornberry served as Mr Corbyn’s Shadow Foreign Secretary and was at the forefront of the campaign to make him Prime Minister and bring their institutionally antisemitic party into government.
Ms Thornberry has claimed that she has made interventions in shadow cabinet meetings and other forums on the issue of antisemitism — and she supported the adoption of the International Definition of Antisemitism by the Labour Party while some of her colleagues did not — but evidently she was never sufficiently moved to take more concrete and public action, such as resigning from the front bench or the Party.
She has also previously defended Mr Corbyn’s own record, insisting that “there isn’t a racist or antisemitic bone in Jeremy’s body”, ludicrously opining that the reason that he was failing to act on antisemitism was because he was so upset at being called an antisemite himself, and claiming that the Chief Rabbi was “wrong” to suggest that Mr Corbyn is an antisemite.
Although Ms Thornberry now describes tackling antisemitism in her Party as the “most urgent and immediate priority,” it apparently was not accorded such a lofty status when it was less politically convenient.
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.