Ivor Caplin set to be the new Jewish Labour Movement chair

He tells the JC the JLM 'will not be bullied' out of the Labour Party


Ivor Caplin, a former defence minister in Tony Blair’s government, is set to be the next chair of the Jewish Labour Movement.

Mr Caplin emerged as the sole candidate to replace previous chair Jeremy Newmark  - who resigned from the post in February following the JC’s revelations about his conduct while employed by the Jewish Leadership Council.

The Labour MP for Hove, in Sussex until 2005, Mr Caplin will take up the role as JLM chair after his position is affirmed at the organisation’s annual general meeting on June 13.

“JLM has been an affiliate to the party for 98 years, playing its role in all the significant moments which have affected our party and the people of this country, never avoiding difficult issues but always supporting our party," Mr Caplin told the JC.

"We will not be bullied out of it."

The pro-Corbyn Jewish Voice For Labour group have campaigned to have themselves recognised as legitimate representative of Jewish Labour supporters.

But Mr Caplin said: “There is one official voice for the Jewish community within Labour.

“That is JLM. Other fringe organisations are exactly that – fringe organisations. They are not affiliates to the Labour Party.”

Speaking to the JC on Tuesday, Mr Caplin, who has been on the JLM’s national executive committee as well as their south-east organiser, said he hoped for progress not only in his “top priority” in dealing with Labour’s long-running antisemitism crisis – but also in “building relationships” with communal organisations such as the Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies.

“I know [JLC chief executive] Simon Johnson and [Board Of Deputies chief executive] Gillian Merron for more years than I dare to remember,” said Mr Caplin, who first became Labour leader of Hove council back in 1995.

“If the three of us cannot work together for the benefit of the Jewish community, and from my perspective in rooting out antisemitism in Labour,  then we will have failed," he said.

“I think they would also accept that.”

Mr Caplin said he would have been more than happy to have fought a campaign against other candidates for the role of JLM chair, but said it was probably in the best interests of the 2,000-strong organisation that nobody else put their names forward before the May 23 deadline.

Although Mr Caplin won’t admit it, and repeatedly refuses to discuss it, the JLM’s standing as an effective campaigning organisation for Jewish Labour Party supporters was dealt a major blow by the resignation of Mr Newmark earlier this year.

Mr Newmark had built up a relationship with Jeremy Corbyn’s office that even in the middle of the most problematic relationship between the party and the community still counted for something.

“The top priority for me as Chair of JLM will be to ensure the Leadership of the Labour Party and the wider movement understand that ‘zero tolerance means zero tolerance’," Mr Caplin said.

“These are critical times and there’s nothing bigger on my agenda then kicking out antisemitism from Labour.

“But also, I don’t want to see antisemitism, racism, sexism or homophobia anywhere in our society. Britain should be better than that.

“I understand why the Board and the JLC did what they did back in March with the Enough Is Enough march, because of all the frustrations.

“I’m looking forward to working with them... but the relationship within the Labour Party is clearly an issue for the JLM – and that relationship has to be built not just with the new general secretary Jennie Formby, like it was at our meeting ten days ago, but also with Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party. That’s what I want and that’s what our members in JLM want.

“As chair of JLM I am well aware of this.”

With his lengthy career in Westminster, Mr Caplin insists that he and Mr Corbyn are not strangers to one another.

“I’ve spoken with Jeremy at a number of functions – I’ve known him for a long time,” he says. “It’s what goes on in the Labour Party, you can’t get away from that.

“We may come from different strands of the Labour Party, but if you asked whether we both wanted a Labour government then that answer would have to be ‘yes’.

“As we proved between 1997-2010 Labour governments are better for our millions of voters than the Conservative government has been since 2010.”

Mr Caplin says his experience of involvement within the stormy Middle East political process will also be an advantage for his new JLM role.

“I’ve been to Israel and Palestine many times – I know many of the players,” he says. “That doesn’t mean I support the current Israeli government, I don’t.

“What I support is a peace process. I still think it is the only position for the British government and for the Labour Party to hold is that of supporting a two state solution.

“There is no other way of engineering peace in the region without having two separate states for two peoples.”

Mr Caplin says he intends to try and bridge the poor relationship between the UK Labour party and that of its sister party in Israel.

Asked about the inevitable criticism he will now face from Labour’s left-wing over his role as a whip and Junior Defence Minister at the time of the Iraq war, Mr Caplin said: "If it means people on the far-left who have criticised me constantly since 2003 carry on criticising me then they are welcome to it.

“Am I going to take notice of them? Have I taken notice of them in the last 15 or so years? Well, no.

“My focus is on JLM, our members and our relationship with the party and other community organisations.”

Commenting on his plan to smooth relations between the JLM and the JLC and the Board, Mr Caplin added: "Very soon, once I get into the post on June 13, I will sit down with Simon and Johnny Goldstein at the JLC to build a professional relationship that allows us to go forward.

“But the over-riding factor is that the JLM is the only organisation that represents Jews in the Labour Party and everyone around that table has to respect that.”

He is also keen to praise the continued hard work of senior JLM figures such as Luciana Berger, the group’s parliamentary chair, national secretary Peter Mason and vice-chair Mike Katz.

He is meeting with Board President Elect Marie Van Der Zyl. “It’s all about building relationships that allows us all to move forwards, “ he says. “And not raking over the past.”

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