Adviser suggested Corbyn did not empathise with Jews because they are ‘relatively prosperous’

Comment by Andrew Murray is cited in new book on Corbyn’s time at the helm of Labour


GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 22: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn meets with asylum seeker brothers Somer Umeed and Areeb Umeed at Possilpark Parish Church on August 22, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland. Jeremy Corbyn met with asylum seeker families in Glasgow threatened with eviction by Serco and called for such services to be delivered by public bodies. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

One of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s close advisers, trade unionist Andrew Murray, sought to tackle the antisemitism allegations levelled against his boss by saying he was “empathetic with the poor” but that “happily, that is not the Jewish community in Britain today”.  

Mr Murray, quoted in a new book being serialised in the Times, says Mr Corbyn “would have had massive empathy with the Jewish community in Britain in the 1930s and he would have been there at Cable Street, there’s no question. But, of course, the Jewish community today is relatively prosperous.”

According to Left Out: the Inside Story of Labour Under Corbyn by Gabriel Pogrund and Patrick Maguire, amid a multitude of suggestions floated between Mr Corbyn and his close advisers to mend ties with the Jewish community, only one was ever actioned.

In an effort to “reclaim an overwhelmingly hostile narrative”, Mr Corbyn’s chief of staff Karie Murphy is said to have drawn up a list of suggestions that might help to “soothe the nerves” of the Jewish community about the Labour leader.

The book says: “Some of Murphy’s suggestions were mundane: a round-table summit with community organisations, a series of meetings with Jewish Labour activists and MPs, outreach to Jewish communities outside of London, and a new strategy for rebutting stories in the media.

 “Others were more striking. Corbyn would visit Auschwitz. He could meet children at London’s Jewish Free School. Haaretz, Israel’s liberal broadsheet, would get a set-piece interview. Congregants at a progressive synagogue and residents of a Jewish care home would get to mix with Corbyn too.”

However, all but one of those suggestions came to naught. Labour’s code of conduct was amended to “comprehensively rule out all forms of prejudice”.

The book also claims Mr Corbyn deferred to a circle of Islington friends who formed a “kitchen cabinet” to help him make decisions on how to deal with the party’s antisemitism crisis.

“To them, the communal organisations demanding the adoption of full IHRA — like the Board of Deputies — were firmly of the right, and therefore too unrepresentative to dictate policy in the community’s name,” the book says.

Mr Corbyn “harboured the same aversion” to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism as those who contended its examples “were an attempt to police legitimate criticism of the Israeli state’s conduct in Palestine”, according to “those who knew him best”, the book claims.

The extract also recounts how a party investigation into Jewish MP Margaret Hodge following an outburst at Mr Corbyn created a rift between the Labour leader and his shadow chancellor and long-time ally John McDonnell.

In 2018, after the party adopted a new code of conduct that omitted certain examples in the IHRA definition, Ms Hodge approached Mr Corbyn in parliament to tell him his decision was “outrageous” and calling him “an antisemite and a racist”.

“The Labour leader said little. By the time their conversation had finished, Hodge was shaking.”

Following the incident, disciplinary action against Ms Hodge was launched. “Those who saw the political danger in following the letter of the rulebook rather than conceding in the interests of what they called ‘the Project’ were exasperated,” the book claims. “McDonnell was among them.”

He was said to have asked Ms Murphy to cancel the disciplinary action, and “lobbied Corbyn obsessively over the decision”. One cabinet meeting, witnesses described Mr McDonnell as being “gripped by an almost biblical temper at the decision to proceed with action against Hodge”.

Following the cabinet meeting, one senior aide told the authors: “They never spoke for months. Never spoke the whole summer.”

“By the end of the summer, neither was answering the other’s calls. ‘It was absolutely true that they weren’t talking,’ said another staffer. ‘They were walking past each other in the corridor and blanking each other, it was that level of not talking.’”


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