The closely-watched Batley and Spen by-election, which takes place on Thursday, has been rocked with both allegations and evidence of antisemitism.
Much of the campaign has been focused on the ‘Free Palestine’ protests of recent weeks – a focus inflamed by the provocative and controversial politician George Galloway, who is running in the by-election for the Workers Party of Britain. Those protests have been associated with an unprecedented surge in antisemitism.
Newspapers have been full of reportage of concerns by local residents of the Labour Party’s handling of the issues, with one reportedly telling The Observer: “Keir [Starmer] took the time to condemn two idiots for being antisemitic last month but he won’t condemn the Israeli government for killing innocent people.”
Last week, it was alleged in The Mail on Sunday that an unnamed Labour official said that “We’re haemorrhaging votes among Muslim voters and the reason for that is what Keir [Starmer] has been doing on antisemitism. Nobody really wants to talk about it, but that’s the main factor. He challenged [Jeremy] Corbyn on it, and there’s been a backlash among certain sections of the community.”
Labour’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner strenuously dissociated the Party from that comment. Ms Rayner is herself the subject of an outstanding complaint by Campaign Against Antisemitism, and recently appeared on a platform with an antisemite – Jeremy Corbyn – suspended by the Party over antisemitism.
There have also been claims of opposition to Sir Keir Starmer because his wife is Jewish or because, it is alleged, he is a “Zionist”.
Over the past few days, these allegations have apparently come to be supported by further evidence. One volunteer was dropped from Mr Galloway’s campaign after it emerged that he had denied the Holocaust, writing on social media that “I am not antisemitic” but claiming that “the holohoax…commonly referred as the holocaust” was “the big fat Zionist cow that’s been milked for the last 80 years” and describing the Holocaust as “an exaggerated version of events to beg indefinite public sympathy”.
Meanwhile, according to the JC, residents told the newspaper that one of the reasons they would not vote for Labour because its leader, Sir Keir, “follows the Zionist lobby”.
The election takes place on Thursday with candidates from all the major parties and smaller parties, as well as independents, running.