A poll of 1,857 British Jewish adults by Campaign Against Antisemitism has found that 87% of British Jews believe that the Labour Party is too tolerant of antisemites in its ranks. Most other parties also fared badly, with 35-48% of British Jews believing that they harboured antisemites. It was only the Conservative Party which scored better, with 12% of British Jews criticising the way that the party handles cases of antisemitism.
The polling was conducted as part of CAA’s Antisemitism Barometer study which will be released in full next year.
Respondents were asked: “Do you feel that any political parties are too tolerant of antisemitism among their MPs, members and supporters?” The results were as follows:
Labour Party: 87%
Conservative Party: 12%
Liberal Democrat Party: 35%
UK Independence Party (UKIP): 43%
Green Party: 48%
Scottish National Party (SNP): 39%
None of the above: 2%
Don’t know: 4%
The results constitute a stark warning over the rise of antisemitism in left-wing political parties. The shift is particularly notable because the Labour Party and left-wing parties were once responsible for leading the fight against racism, whereas this polling shows that British Jews now consider them to be the most tolerant of antisemitism.
Whereas each of the parties concerned has strong policies against racism, the figures show that the Jewish community does not believe that those policies are implemented firmly when it comes to antisemitism. This is likely to be due to a series of failures to deal with individual incidents, such as those involving Labour’s Sir Gerald Kaufman, and the Liberal Democrats’ Baroness Tonge.
It is important to note that there is no evidence that parties’ supporters favour a soft approach to antisemitism. The failure to deal robustly with antisemitism is more likely to be a result of a failure to recognise and understand the many guises of modern antisemitism.
The two major right-wing parties fared very differently. UKIP, which has had several high-profile problems with racism, was felt by 43% of British Jews to tolerate antisemitism in its ranks. Of particular note is that UKIP was rated badly by half as many British Jews as Labour, which has strong roots in the anti-racist movement. In contrast, 12% of British Jews — the lowest of any party — found the Conservatives’ treatment of antisemites to be problematic.
In response to the rise of antisemitism in political parties, CAA is launching its manifesto for fighting antisemitism in political parties. It calls on parties to commit to three principles: parties should adopt the ‘international’ definition of antisemitism used by the College of Policing; they should investigate antisemitism swiftly and transparently; and they should treat antisemitism by party members in public office particularly severely.