Mike Katz

Our Labour values have not changed but we can't support a leader who has so utterly failed on antisemitism

It is the failure of the Leader and his supporters to live Labour's values which led us to take not campaign, writes JLM chair Mike Katz

November 01, 2019 10:25

For most Labour activists, general elections are a time of frenetic activity.

Certainly that’s been the case for me and many of my fellow Jewish Labour Movement members in recent years. In 2017, JLM’s then chair and I stood in the two most Jewish seats in the country, Finchley & Golders Green and Hendon. And JLM - the Labour Party’s sole Jewish affiliate - organised more than fifty campaign events over six electoral regions during the general election campaign.

But this election, it’s different.

At our AGM in April, our members unanimously adopted policy deeming Jeremy Corbyn unfit to be Prime Minister as a result of his abject failure on antisemitism. So we’re reflecting this in our approach to this general election.

Since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader in 2015, a culture of antisemitism has been allowed to emerge and fester in the Party at all levels. 

From murals and wreaths to Livingstone and Walker and Williamson, there are too many shameful examples to list; itself damning evidence of the moral slide, from a party that fights intolerance to one that tolerates casual racism against Jews.

Mike Katz is chair of the Jewish Labour Movement

Our Honorary President, Dame Louise Ellman MP, along with our former Parliamentary Chair, Luciana Berger MP have been hounded out of Labour after years of relentless abuse, particularly in their local constituency parties. 

Jeremy Corbyn was well aware of this bullying but did nothing to address their concerns. When two accomplished and dedicated Jewish Labour MPs no longer see a place for themselves in the Labour Party, it’s clear that the party has lost its way. Yet many Labour activists deny the negative experiences of Jewish members and claim the issue is a politically motivated fabrication.

Labour’s crisis of antisemitism stems from a failure of leadership by Jeremy Corbyn. Its leadership should reflect on the recent Survation poll, reported in the JC, which found that 78 per cent of British Jews preferred a no-deal Brexit to a Corbyn premiership.

In 2016 the same pollster found that Jews voted to remain in the EU referendum by a two-to-one margin. Many Jews are genuinely concerned about what Corbyn as Prime Minister may mean for them, their families and the community. 

Our attempts to engage in good faith and propose the actions necessary to tackle anti-Jewish racism have been rebuffed time and time again. Instead of implementing an independent disciplinary process we’ve seen delay, obfuscation and botched decision-making. Political interference is endemic and used to protect the leadership’s friends and allies, rather than ensure the Party is a safe space for Jews.

It is little wonder that the Equalities and Human Rights Commission is now investigating the Labour Party for institutional racism against Jews. This is the first time that a statutory investigation is underway for a political party.  

So this campaign, we will not be campaigning unless in exceptional circumstances and for exceptional candidates, like our Parliamentary Chair Ruth Smeeth, and MPs who’ve been unwavering in their support of us. Nor will we be supporting candidates in non-Labour held seats.

Our Labour values have not changed, nor have our support for Labour policies. But we can’t support a Leader who has failed so utterly to tackle racism in his Party and ensure it is a safe space for us. 

We’re proud of our long history of activism in Labour; next year marks the centenary of our affiliation to the Party. We won’t be pushed out without a fight, neither will we abandon our principles for electoral expediency.

Fighting racism, prejudice and intolerance remain at the heart of our Labour values. It is the failure of the Leader and his supporters to live these values which has led us to take this stance.

November 01, 2019 10:25

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