Recent developments in Labour’s leadership primary provide some insight into how candidates might approach the Party’s antisemitism crisis.
Rebecca Long-Bailey’s candidacy has polarised her colleagues, with some defenders of Jeremy Corbyn’s record, such as John McDonnell and Ian Lavery, endorsing her, while others are concerned at the prospect of her assuming the Party’s top job. One backbencher, Neil Coyle, has now suggested that such an outcome would mean that “Antisemitism will continue” and predicted further walkouts by MPs over the issue. Another MP predicted a split in the Party.
In a recent debate between the candidates, there was a suggestion that Ms Long-Bailey had not raised the issue of antisemitism in Shadow Cabinet meetings, but she denied this.
Lisa Nandy has published a document titled “Tackling Antisemitism: An action plan for our party”, in which she describes Labour antisemitism as “a crisis in the soul of our Party”. In the document, she pledges to implement the conclusions of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s full statutory investigation into antisemitism in the Party, which was launched on 28th May 2019 following a formal referral and detailed legal representations from Campaign Against Antisemitism, which is the complainant.
She also wishes to reduce the threshold for suspensions from the Party; adopt a “new, independent” complaints process and personally introduce any necessary rule changes; ensure that there is “full transparency” in the disputes process; improve training for Party officials and members; and introduce a “zero-tolerance environment for those who hold antisemitic views, or deny the experience of the victims of antisemitism.”
Sir Keir Starmer recently secured the endorsement of the Labour peer, Lord Dubs, a Holocaust escapee and passionate advocate for child refugees. However, Lord Dubs brought his judgement into question and severely damaged his reputation when he attacked the Chief Rabbi for calling out Mr Corbyn’s antisemitism and defended the Labour leader in late 2019.
Sir Keir has also published his 10 pledges, the tenth of which makes reference to “Robust action to eradicate the scourge of antisemitism”, but without further detail and only in the context of mounting an “Effective opposition to the Tories” rather than, as apparently with the other pledges, because it is a worthy ambition in itself that is befitting to a once fiercely anti-racist party.
Emily Thornberry, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, travelled to Penzance to drum up support from the local constituency parties that she needs to nominate her. Despite her insistence that tackling antisemitism is the “most urgent and immediate priority,” however, she was happy to meet with Alana Bates, the former local Labour candidate who described claims of antisemitism in Labour as “manipulative smears” and recorded a song with her band that called for the destruction of the Jewish state.
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 by parliamentary candidates.
Campaign Against Antisemitism’s Antisemitism Barometer 2019 showed that antisemitism on the far-left of British politics has surpassed that of the far-right.
Campaign Against Antisemitism advocates for zero tolerance of antisemitism in public life, To that end we monitor all political parties and strive to ensure that any cases of concern are properly addressed.