l cannot forget how Starmer endorsed Corbyn

It’s still too soon to vote Labour until it has a set of fresh faces untainted by that awful era

October 28, 2022 10:22

I tuned into LBC on Sunday morning just in time to hear a Boris supporter explain why the former prime minister had his full support.

“Why are you so forgiving? Why are you so forgiving?” the host, Labour MP David Lammy berated his guest, the bemusement evident in his voice. He apparently could not conceive how anyone could look past the former prime minister’s ethical failings and buffoonish behaviour.

Listening to the exchange, I found myself turning the question back at Lammy.

Here is a man who, during the height of Labour’s antisemitism scandal in August 2019, told an LBC caller complaining about Jeremy Corbyn’s racism: “We’ve had leaders before with prejudices. Margaret Thatcher had prejudices.”

Many of his fellow MPs similarly sat tight during the Corbyn years, watching quietly from the sidelines as the Labour leader unleashed a wave of anti-Jewish prejudice into the public domain. Or worse, they actively campaigned to make him prime minister.

Given the turmoil of the last few weeks, it now seems almost certain that this group will soon be in government. Yet these very same individuals — Sir Keir Starmer included — had a hand in bringing Anglo-Jewry to its lowest point in living memory. Proud British citizens who happened to be Jewish were made to feel like they don’t belong here. Many even contemplated leaving the country.

At the time, it was self-evident that Labour deserved another generation in the electoral wilderness for allowing all this to happen.

So why are we so forgiving? Fewer than two years on, it seems like the slate has been wiped clean for Labour.

Badgering others about Boris’ sins, MPs like Lammy seem to have conveniently forgotten that their party has recent sins of its own, which many feel are much worse ones than those Boris committed.

These days, they’re rarely mentioned. Public references to Labour MPs’ roles in the Corbyn years are few and far between. It seems to be only the right of the Conservative party who occasionally tweet about Starmer et al holding their noses and campaigning for Corbyn. Corbyn’s antisemitism was never personal to the majority, and there are more pressing issues now.

Even within the Jewish community, there are few vocal grudges. Many Labour activists have made amends. While the behaviour of the Labour party under Corbyn was arguably most hurtful and personally painful for them — and their decision at the time to challenge Labour the bravest of the lot — it’s only natural that they want to return to their ideological home. Like Boris’s supporters, they’ll hear what they want to hear and disregard the rest.

Meanwhile, the community leadership has pragmatically decided to mend bridges with the country’s second-largest political party.

What has made all this possible is Keir Starmer’s overt efforts to rid his party of its toxic racist inheritance, kicking out antisemites, delivering training on antisemitism across the party and apologising to the Jewish community for the hurt caused. Most consider him sincere and believe the party is, if not transformed, then on its way.

But for me, the trust has gone. The truth is that no matter how hard Sir Keir tries, I cannot shake off the fact that he was willing to serve in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet. I don’t care if it was a pragmatic decision, I don’t care if he was trying to save his party, I don’t care if he thought he’d moderate from within.

Standing by Corbyn because it was politically expedient — even as he nearly destroyed Anglo-Jewry — showed a cynicism and untrustworthiness which cannot and should not be forgotten simply because the wind is blowing in a different direction now.

Polls show high support for Labour right now, but it’s also shallow. Oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them. Labour would not have soared to such popularity had the Conservatives not fallen into complete disarray.

Still, Labour will likely win the next election. In other circumstances they might have had my vote, but they’ll have to do without it until there is a completely fresh set of faces on its benches, faces entirely untainted by the Corbyn era. For this voter, it’s still too soon.

October 28, 2022 10:22

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