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JLM must rely on experience to weather storm

When the news of the allegations against Mr Newmark broke last week, it came as a genuine surprise to many leading JLM figures.

    Jeremy Newmark (centre) campaigning with JLM supporters including Ella Rose (third left) and Peter Mason (fifth left)
    Jeremy Newmark (centre) campaigning with JLM supporters including Ella Rose (third left) and Peter Mason (fifth left)

    No prizes for guessing the number one topic of conversation everywhere I’ve been this week. 

    In shul, fellow congregants were rushing to reveal themselves as ex-school friends of Jeremy Newmark. At dinner, friends recounted travelling to foreign conferences with the former Jewish Leadership Council chief executive. And on the phone, well, messages have flooded in from almost every senior — and junior — figure I’ve ever met in British Jewry. 

    But, after admitting their shock at the details revealed in last week’s JC, almost everyone has gone on to highlight a different way in which the affair has a knock-on effect for some group or other in the community.

    Politically, many have mentioned the potential damage done to the Jewish Labour Movement, from which Mr Newmark’s resignation was announced minutes after Shabbat commenced last Friday evening.

    When the news of the allegations against Mr Newmark broke last week, it came as a genuine surprise to many leading JLM figures. One senior individual in the group was almost in tears 24 hours after the first story was published. 

    Many of the younger activists saw Mr Newmark as the community’s leading political strategist of his generation on the left, and as a mentor who gave dozens of them their breaks in Westminster and the Labour Party.

    Good people like Peter Mason, JLM secretary, and Ella Rose, the group’s director — who, I understand remained completely unaware of the allegations against Mr Newmark even as he sat next to her on a train last Wednesday while fielding calls from my colleague regarding the claims — deserved far better.

    They could hardly have been expected to know about the rumours surrounding Mr Newmark in years gone by, especially when, as we know, the details were kept from the public for so long.

    Understandably, given the shellshock, the JLM executive is not yet in a position to appoint a new chair. But it was business as usual this week. Ms Rose and a colleague were in Ilford on Tuesday leading training sessions on how to tackle antisemitism in politics.

    And the team is now preparing for a series of party disciplinary hearings to take place, finally, looking at the actions of Labour members suspended for alleged antisemitism. One such case — that of anti-Zionist campaigner Tony Greenstein — is due to begin in Brighton on Sunday. 

    There are already signs that the JLM will come through this fiasco stronger. The group benefits from the experience of some of the most impressive Jewish voices in the House of Commons, including Luciana Berger, Louise Ellman and Alex Sobel, all of whom were adamant Mr Newmark had to go when they learned the contents of the JLC internal audit. 

    Sensible and calming heads are what will be needed now. Given the crucial work the JLM volunteers and staff have undertaken to tackle antisemitism in their party in the past two years, we should all hope they succeed.

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