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Surely things will have to change now? Don’t hold your breath

What will be the outcome of this week’s fevered actions? I am sorry, but you already know the answer.

    Board of Deputies chief executive Gillian Merron and president Jonathan Arkush meet Jeremy Corbyn in February 2016 (Photo: Board of Deputies)
    Board of Deputies chief executive Gillian Merron and president Jonathan Arkush meet Jeremy Corbyn in February 2016 (Photo: Board of Deputies)

    Enough has been written in the past week, let alone the past two and a half years, about the scale of the problem facing Labour over the party leadership’s failure to tackle antisemitism.

    As commendable as the comments and events of Sunday and Monday evening were, and as palpable as the Jewish communal leadership’s anger now is, let me turn your attention to where things might go from here.

    Can the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council build on the momentum of this week? Will moderate Labour MPs vote with their feet by quitting the party, rather than simply continuing to say the right things? Will Jeremy Corbyn do the right thing, the only thing that might help resolve the matter in the short-term, and resign?

    The answer to all those questions is, of course, no.

    Clearly Mr Corbyn is more rattled than in the past. His apologies on Sunday and Monday were the most detailed he has been on the issue, pitiful as Sunday's comments nonetheless were in both the failure to make clear his own culpability and in the apparent attempt to downplay the scale of the problem by referring merely to “pockets” of Labour antisemitism.

    His hollow pledges to meet community representatives “in the coming days, weeks and months” will go nowhere. When the Board last met him in February 2016, Mr Corbyn said he agreed with the organisation’s position on a range of issues, including on a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians, and on supporting Jewish religious practises and schools. 

    But the most telling line was when the Board highlighted that “despite being pressed, he should do more to address profound and real concerns about past meetings with people or organisations with extremist or antisemitic views”.

    What was the outcome of the meeting? Nothing.

    The Labour Party has already held an inquiry into antisemitism in its midst. As farcical as Shami Chakrabarti’s subsequent peerage may have rendered it, the party has been down that route.

    A Commons committee held a long, detailed and impressive inquiry of its own into contemporary antisemitism. What did it find? That the party’s failure to deal with hatred against Jews gave credence to the suggestion Labour was “institutionally antisemitic”. Mr Corbyn did not fully appreciate “the distinct nature of contemporary antisemitism” and the party had demonstrated “incompetence” in the issue.

    What was the outcome of the two inquiries? Nothing.

    Moderate Labour MPs, Jewish and not Jewish, have been more outspoken on this, and have challenged their leader in stronger terms than I can remember from any set of politicians in relation to any other matter in living memory. What has been the outcome? Nothing.

    What would it take to bring an end to all this? Nothing short of Jeremy Corbyn’s departure as leader. But he will not change his lifelong worldview which fuels the problem and he will not — cannot — be talked round from that position. There is little prospect of Labour MPs being able to shift him. How many of them resigning the whip would it take – 25, 50, 100? – to force his removal? That will not happen.

    So what will be the outcome of this week’s fevered actions? I am sorry, but you already know the answer.

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