Don’t abandon the Labour Party over Corbyn, pleads activist


Labour -supporting Jews should not leave the party in response to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, according to the vice chair of Labour Friends of Israel.

Rebecca Simon admitted that it was “hard not to feel bleak about the future” with Mr Corbyn in charge, but she urged Jews not to abandon the party.

She said: “People want to rip up their membership cards. But I believe we have to get up and fight the good fight. We need the community’s support more than ever and we are going to have to find new ways of engaging with people in a way we haven’t done before.

She said Jews in the party would have to become more active to counter “such a strong anti-Israel force who are going out there to knock on doors.”

Mr Corbyn was not a credible leader, she said, but she did not expect him to stand down at any point.

Ms Simon, who is also co-chair of the Labour Women in Business Network, said: “People are talking about there being a new party but it is not going to happen and neither is a coup.

“The unfortunate fact is, it is going to be Jeremy in 2020 and that poses obvious problems for Jews.

“People are not going to know how to vote. They will on the one hand want to support their party, one they have been card-carrying members for all their lives, but then no one wants to vote for a leader they think is rubbish.

“And he is rubbish — never mind about the Israel stuff, he is just not a credible opposition.”

She added that there was no hope of Labour winning the next election.

Over 100 people attended Ms Simon’s session entitled “Re-examining the community’s relationship with the Labour party”.She told them that the relationship had fractured because of hostile attitudes towards Israel. Under Mr Corbyn, she said, “Israel has fundamentally been delegitimised”.

She added: “When I started working at LFI, we had a direct line to number 10 and the Foreign Office. Our relationship was strong. Under Jeremy, we are going to have to find new ways of operating.”
The fact Israel currently had a “right wing government” did not help.

“It is very hard when the current government plays into the narrative of those who are blindly against it.”
She admitted groups like LFI were not able to compete with the people power of campaign groups like Momentum and Stop The War.

Tracing how Labour had gone from a leader like Tony Blair to Mr Corbyn, she delivered a stinging criticism at Ken Livingstone, a former Labour MP and now a close adviser to Mr Corbyn.

Describing Mr Livingstone’s views as hostile to Jews, she said that the mayoral election in 2004, when Mr Livingstone stood for Labour, was the first time she was unable to vote for the party.

“I couldn’t vote for him but I had to vote, so I spoilt my ballot.”

But it was not all bad news. The current Labour candidate Sadiq Khan would be a good choice as London mayor at next May’s election: “He is very keen to engage with the Jewish community,” Ms Simon said.

An LFI spokesman said: "Rebecca Simon was speaking in a personal capacity and not on behalf of LFI."

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