The Labour party’s loss of a council seat has raised questions about the extent to which the party’s well-documented problems with antisemitism influenced the result.
The council seat of Kersal in Salford had been held by Labour for decades. However, on Thursday night the Conservatives took the seat with 42 per cent of the vote. Labour received just 27.3 per cent, a decline of 21.5 per cent from their previous total.
Commentators were quick to point out the ward’s large Jewish population – around 40 per cent - and in the words of the Guido Fawkes political blog, “those on the ground are already saying that antisemitism was a factor.”
However, the situation is more complicated than that; an independent Jewish candidate appears to have siphoned off a significant percentage of that Labour vote, receiving 17.5 per cent. But he was running for a seat for a rather different reason.
Jonny Wineberg, better known as the Vice President of Manchester’s Jewish Rep Council, was standing on behalf of the Kersal Moors Resident’s Association, which was set up in response to a local planning disagreement.
Salford City Football club, which has achieved a measure of national fame by virtue of its owners – five former Manchester United players from the famed “class of 92”, Paul Scholes, Gary and Phil Neville, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs – filed a planning application to expand.
“The council chose not to listen to the voices of local residents in their objections to the development of the club, and failed to put into place the necessary safeguards before passing planning permission,” he said.
“We’re already seeing the problems, where we have emergency vehicles not being able to get through because of blocked streets. We’ve got huge shopping problems, we’ve seen anti-social behaviour such as public urination, littering and so on. This of course, in terms of the Jewish community, is on a Shabbos afternoon, in the main [when most football matches are], but also, of course, in terms of the mainstream Kersal community, it’s incredibly unpleasant.”
He said that he had “not explicitly” heard complaints about antisemitism in Labour while campaigning, although he said “there were a couple of people who expressed that they would never vote for the [Labour] party with Jeremy Corbyn there, and underlying that I would assume there is some of that [concern on antisemitism].
“I think there is a general feeling that the Labour party has lost its way – but by the same token we found very little enthusiasm for the Conservative party. But the tribal mentality makes it very difficult to actually break through.”
However, there were definitely suggestions that concerns over both the football ground and antisemitism were a factor for some.
A local Jewish resident who had voted for Mr Wineberg told the JC that he felt Mr Wineberg “had really been voicing the local’s thoughts and opinions during the football ground issue more so than all others.
“Plus in general at this time, with antisemitic abuse rife within the Labour Party and with Corbyn appointing dubious people to head the antisemitic policy making within the party, I wouldn't vote for Labour if you paid me right now.”