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Barnet sends a message that could change politics

The Barnet result means moderates must act to change the political centre, says Stephen Pollard

    Conservatives in Barnet after the local election results (Photo: Twitter)
    Conservatives in Barnet after the local election results (Photo: Twitter)

    Of all the responses to Labour’s failure to take control of Barnet, this by defeated councillor Adam Langleben is perhaps the most poignant: “Jeremy Corbyn was supposed to come here tomorrow for a victory speech. We want him to come to Barnet anyway, to apologise to Jewish Labour activists, to Barnet Labour and to the Jewish community here so we can start the healing process.”

    In normal circumstances, Labour would have walked to victory in Barnet. The Conservative council is unpopular; there was a swing to Labour in last year’s election; and the party fielded a strong set of moderate candidates.

    But these aren’t normal circumstances.

    Labour is run by a cadre which has allowed antisemitism to grow and grow, and done next to nothing to deal with it – despite fine words.

    You can say you are a “militant opponent" of  antisemitism and an ally any number of times but it means precisely nothing when your actions show the opposite. And when your response to serious and sensible suggestions from the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council is to shrug your shoulders, your real intentions are crystal clear.

    Some election results have a wider significance beyond just the number of votes cast. Barnet, 2018, is surely one of those. I live in Barnet. It’s no exaggeration to say I am proud of my fellow Barnet residents. They put aside what they might ordinarily want to have done – give the council a kicking – in order to send a bigger, more important message. They simply would not accept Labour’s toleration of Jew hate.

    Yes, Barnet has the highest proportion of Jewish voters of any borough in the country. But that 15 per cent are not enough on their own to have sent that message. Crucially, many non-Jews joined the protest to Labour.

    The turnout in some areas – seventy per cent in Golders Green – is extraordinary. This was the very definition of a mass protest – a protest delivered via the ballot box.

    One sidenote: today’s result in Barnet destroys Jewish Voice for Labour's attempt to sow division and pretend that Jews aren't worried by Labour antisemitism. It shows that the Board of Deputies and JLC were absolutely right to claim they spoke for mainstream Jewish community, and were right to call a demonstration in March in Parliament Square. Because Barnet voters – Jew and non-Jew alike – have also now said Enough is Enough.

    For Corbyn and his allies, however, the only response is one of wilful deafness. Antisemitism has only ever been a political crisis to be neutralised, not a serious issue to be examined. That’s why he shrugs his shoulders when asked to act. That’s why we will never see genuine action rather than words – because he is literally incapable of acting. To do so would require Mr Corbyn to challenge the very hard left mindset that has been with him since he first began to think about politics. He cannot do that, just as he cannot challenge his closest allies.

    As Barnet shows, the real tragedy of the Corbynite takeover of Labour is that so many decent people who would normally vote Labour are now effectively disenfranchised.

    Given that we know the Corbynites cannot change their own DNA, the onus is now on the Labour moderates. They may have been destroyed within the Labour Party, but they are far from powerless outside it. The future of centre-left politics is in their hands. Now they must use that power to reshape the centre.

     

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