Tanya Gold

Starmer couldn’t have done more, so I’ll vote for him on July 4

Jews are safer when we stick to the centre


Britain's Labour Party launch their election campaign (Photo by Peter Nicholls/Getty Images)

June 11, 2024 16:02

I remember the day Keir Starmer became Labour leader because of what he said after his victory. “Antisemitism has been a stain on our party. On behalf of the Labour Party, I am sorry. And I will tear out this poison by its roots and judge success by the return of Jewish members and those who felt that they could no longer support us.”

I am one such: on July 4, I will vote Labour in St Ives, partly because a dysfunctional country – as I believe we are under the Tories – will never be safe for Jewish people. We must cleave to the centre.

The Liberal Democrat candidate, former MP Andrew George, who will likely take the seat from the Conservative, tried to rename Holocaust Memorial Day Genocide Memorial Day in 2011.

By and large, Starmer has won his war for British Jews: or, rather, he has done as much as anyone could reasonably do. Jeremy Corbyn, who did more than any British politician to bring antisemitism to the mainstream, is standing against the Labour Party in Islington North, a seat he has held for Labour since 1983. His vanity is now exposed. He is trying to deny Labour victory, will probably fail – at least the polls say so – and this is a measure of Starmer’s success.

Diane Abbott, who compared antisemitism and anti-Irish and Traveller racism to the impact of having red hair, is standing for Labour in Hackney North and Stoke Newington. Abbott’s case is trickier. She is the most abused woman in public life, and this is obscene. I think it is reasonable, under these circumstances, to accept her apology, even if I can’t forget her face when Luciana Berger and Ruth Smeeth gave their testimony of antisemitism to parliament. It was utterly blank. It’s also good optics. Starmer pledged above all to win, and casting Abbott off will hurt him. Nor can she campaign for her former ally Corbyn: she is likewise exposed and very far from power. The worst apologists for antisemitism under Corbyn have been chased away. This is both moral, and good politics. Starmer can’t win with these people on side and he knows it. Funnily enough, they don’t.

What they like to call the purge, presumably because it invokes Bolshevism, which excites them, goes on. MPs Andy McDonald (“From the River to the Sea”) and Kate Osamor (Gaza “genocide”) had the whip withdrawn and reinstated when they apologised. Jamie Driscoll, the then Mayor of North of Tyne, was barred from running as a Labour candidate last year for sharing a platform with Ken Loach. (He stood as an independent and lost.) Azhar Ali, slated in to stand for Labour in Rochdale (Netanyahu “allowed the massacre [of October 7]”), and Graham Jones, in Haslingden and Hyndburn (“I’m sure when [world leaders] go home, like me, pardon my French [they say] ‘f***ing Israel’ again”), were suspended in February. Ali’s suspension led me to go to Rochdale to cover the Galloway campaign, where I stood in the second-hand car dealership that was his office (my urgent question: is it still?) and was later told by a smiling teenage supporter that every Jew in the world should be butchered. When I told him there are anti-Zionist Jews, aghast, he agreed to pardon them. Galloway won Rochdale, as you know.

In recent weeks, two Labour candidates have been purged: Faiza Shaheen in Chingford and Woodford Green, and Lloyd Russell-Moyle in Kemptown and Peacehaven. Russell-Moyle is the subject of a complaint that is not public knowledge yet, but I suspect he is out for inviting Ahmed Alshami, a spokesman for the Houthis (partial mantra, “Death to Israel, A Curse Upon the Jews”), to parliament for a Stop the War event in 2019. (After an outcry, he withdrew the invitation.) At least I hope that’s the reason.

Shaheen is out for her Twitter/X output, including liking a post referring to the “Israel lobby”. She claims she does not remember doing this and is contrite; but not so contrite that she will not stand as an independent against Labour, which she accuses of “an ingrained culture of bullying, a palpable problem with black and brown people, and thinks nothing of dragging a person’s good name through the mud in pursuit of a factional agenda, with no thought of the impact on committed members’ mental health and wellbeing”.

“They say it takes a village to raise a child, and C&WG [Chingford and Woodford Green] raised me,” she says. “Now that child wants to represent that village”. The main impact of her actions, of course, is to make it more likely that the Tory candidate, Iain Duncan Smith, will hang on.

I do not say there is not a problem with antisemitism among some Labour voters. Rochdale taught me that. But Starmer has, by and large, kept his promise. I don’t see how he could have done more.

June 11, 2024 16:02

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