Voters are waking up to Labour racism

A recent JC poll shows the party's growing association with antisemitism matters — and is changing the way people vote

June 03, 2019 12:07

It has not just been confusion over the Labour party’s Brexit policy that has kept supporters from voting Labour in the local and European elections, but Jeremy Corbyn himself. 

Polling has consistently showed this to be the case with the antisemitism row playing a crucial role in dragging down his personal ratings. 

Sadly, antisemitism is not an issue that matters to most people outside the community. Many people in this country have never met a Jew. Focus groups show that even when people do care, they usually care more about things that affect their everyday lives.

But for a large number of people, Labour’s growing association with racism has mattered — and is changing their vote. 

Three major polls have been carried out since last September into public attitudes to Labour and antisemitism, especially among Labour voters. The most surprising thing is the level to which it has cut through to the public. 

In the latest survey, commissioned last month by the JC, 80 per cent out of a nationally-representative sample of more than 5,000 British voters said they had seen either a little or a lot of news coverage on the issue. As one seasoned pollster said: “You can set a bomb off in a village and you won’t get that kind of awareness.”

If you add up the figures  from the May poll, then Labour could lose almost a million votes from those who said they might vote Labour but the antisemitism issue was leading to doubts about the party’s fitness for power. 

That is enough to put a substantial dent in Labour’s chances of success in dozens of tight constituencies. It also comes on top of the millions of centrist and moderate voters driven away from the party by issues including antisemitism over the last 12 months.

In the same poll, more voters who had chosen in Labour in 2017 said Mr Corbyn had proved himself to be dishonest rather than honest (41 per cent versus 37 per cent) in the way he had handled antisemitism. And more Labour 2017 voters said they thought he was “not competent” rather than competent (50 per cent versus 32 per cent).

Since a similar poll carried out in February — just before the issue again exploded with Luciana Berger and other MPs leaving Labour — the number of the general population saying Labour has a problem with antisemitism has gone up from 43 per cent to 50 per cent. And there has been a significant drop in those saying the party does not have a problem with antisemitism, down from 23 per cent to 18 per cent over the same period.

For the first time in decades, over a century maybe, British Jews have had to ask ourselves: “Are we safe here?” It has taken a major effort by Jews and our non-Jewish allies to keep this issue in the public mind as much as possible. But we have also had the courage and organisational muscle to stand up, say “Enough” and heed the calls to be #BeLouder when we confront hate.

The likelihood is that the EHRC investigation announced last week will turn up still more embedded racism — and not just among the rank and file, but also at the top of Labour. In doing so, it will only increase the view that things cannot get better for the Labour Party under Mr Corbyn’s leadership. Things can only get worse.

Claudia Mendoza is Director of Policy and Public Affairs, Jewish Leadership Council

June 03, 2019 12:07

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive