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Yet again, Jeremy Corbyn has embarrassed himself

The great offices of our nation demand more than former backbenchers still clinging to personal grievances.

    If Mr Corbyn wants to be Prime Minister, he needs first to learn how to be a statesman.
    If Mr Corbyn wants to be Prime Minister, he needs first to learn how to be a statesman.

    It was, of course, an open secret among communal leaders that Jeremy Corbyn was unlikely to accept their invitation to next week’s gala Balfour Declaration centenary dinner.

    The Labour leader, with decades of anti-Israel campaigning under his belt, was never going to sit alongside the country’s glitterati — its political, social, religious, diplomatic and charity leaders — for the slap-up meal.

    When the invitations went out, I was told by a senior Jewish Leadership Council figure that no pressure would be put on Mr Corbyn to turn up, nor would a fuss be made if he declined.

    After the past two years of trials and tribulations between the Labour chief and the community, there was no desire to cause embarrassment, or a major row, on either side. 

    As my source predicted, Emily Thornberry will represent Labour, although the Leader of the Opposition’s office failed to live up to the other part of the prophecy and blame a diary clash, offering instead no explanation for his absence.

    So there was a muted response beyond Jonathan Goldstein saying it was “deeply unfortunate” and Hamas welcoming the news.

    Let’s be honest, few friends of Israel will have wanted Mr Corbyn there. But it is the principle that counts.

    Ms Thornberry filling in for Mr Corbyn at a Labour Friends of Israel reception at the party conference last month brought ridicule on them both when she claimed he was preparing for his speech but everyone knew he was out partying.

    For the Labour leader now to avoid this major event sends another clear message, and shames his party. 

    If Mr Corbyn wants to be Prime Minister, he needs first to learn how to be a statesman. The great offices of our nation demand more than former backbenchers still clinging to personal grievances.

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