I was a little miffed at Angela Epstein’s article entitled "Should you vote for the man or for the party?" It seemed somewhat ironic that she began with such plaudits for a man whom she then went on to implore readers to sack. What’s more, praising Ivan Lewis’s record on social welfare, but going on to endorse a Conservative government that has cut welfare for the disabled, disqualified 18-21 year olds from claiming housing benefit and introduced the bedroom tax, is a paradox.
Onto the actual issue that was discussed. There’s no doubt that antisemitism has come to an ugly head within the Labour party. Indeed, Mr Lewis himself has been active in accepting the problem and confronted Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on the very issue.
Clearly, what was said was not enough to convince Corbyn to take a zero-tolerance stand, as his failure to intervene with the Livingstone saga, coupled with his past dodgy ties to Hamas and Hezbollah, is quite rightly raising more than a few eyebrows in our community. In defence of the Labour leader he, rather naïvely, was adamant in retaining the democratic process in his party by accepting the independently, but perhaps questionably, selected NCC’s ruling to suspend but not expel the former London mayor. This was a weak and incoherent excuse, if you ask me.
In order to combat this properly, we need as many strong voices as possible to oppose antisemitism within the Labour party. Many non-Jewish high profile Labour politicians, including Tom Watson, Chuka Umunna, Yvette Cooper, and of course our beloved John Mann (just to name a few), have come out vehemently in opposing the way the Labour party has failed the Jewish community. And it is up to great Jewish Labour MPs like Ivan, Luciana Berger and Ruth Smeeth to spearhead the battle in rooting out antisemitism within the Labour party.
A party’s leadership is never more accountable to its MPs than when in government; if Mr Corbyn is to win the election, he will need to unite the Labour party by tackling big issues like antisemitism once and for all.
His party is a broad cohort, and so he will need all of his MPs onside to govern with the competence that so many think he does not possess. I thoroughly believe that the British left-wing on the whole is not antisemitic – let’s remember who fought alongside us against Mosley and co on Cable Street all those years ago. Therefore, it is more important than ever that we have strong Jewish voices who will stand up for our community and for our Zionism, in order to preserve the very existence of a Labour party whose record in fighting racism and discrimination is one to be proud of.
Having come out with overwhelming support for the progressive politics of Andy Burnham in the recent mayoral election, it is clear where Bury South stands. With British politics the most polarised it has been for well over 35 years, we face a choice. By re-electing Ivan Lewis, the people of Bury South will be voting for a grounded centre-left-wing of British politics, a centre-left that stands for the equality and tolerance that their MP has fought for in his 20 years in Westminster. By sacking him, they would be failing to confront the very problem that they, and many others, find so frightening.
Sam Benjamin is studying for A-levels in Geography, Maths and Physics at The King David High School in Manchester.