Jewish Labour candidate: Party's antisemitism problem is 'more nuanced' than is alleged

Charlotte Nichols, who is standing in Warrington North, says: 'If I believed for a second the party was irredeemably mired in antisemitism, I wouldn’t be standing'



“If I believed for a second that the party was irredeemably mired in antisemitism and that there was nothing that could be done to resolve the issue, of course I wouldn’t be standing. I wouldn’t even be a member,” says Charlotte Nichols.

Ms Nichols, a 28-year-old who converted to Reform Judaism in 2014, is standing for the safe seat of Warrington North, near Manchester, and has remained a vocal supporter of the party through its issues with anti-Jewish racism under Jeremy Corbyn.

Asked how she can continue to support a party dogged by allegations of institutional antisemitism, the Jewish Labour Movement member does not deny the party's problem and points out she spoke out against former London Mayor Ken Livingstone and now ex-MP Chris Williamson.

But she criticises what she sees as two polarised views about the party – that it is either “irredeemably, irrevocably, institutionally antisemitic and that’s it” or that antisemitism doesn’t come “within five miles of a Labour member”.

“I think, as with all things, the truth is something that’s a little bit more nuanced than that,” she says.

“It’s something that I really want resolved, and I think people like me and the Jewish Labour Movement and other people within the Jewish left are in a really good place to sort of push the party where it needs to go.”

She says she tells voters: “Look, I’m someone on the left of the party. I’m someone who’s supported both of Corbyn’s leadership campaigns. If I’m telling you that I’ve experienced antisemitism within the Labour party then it must be true.”

However, she adds that she worries that critics of Labour's failure to deal with its antisemitism are making a mistake by "personalising it to Corbyn”, because this could help “entrench this idea that it’s some sort of ruse to get rid of him as opposed to a genuine issue".

“My concern is that where the focus has really been around Corbyn, that some of the other stuff ends up getting lost," she says.

“I know that a lot of black Jews in particular feel quite hurt by what they perceive to be the community’s support of the Conservative Party when you look at what’s happened with Windrush and the hostile environment and anti-black racism… that they feel the Conservative Party has stoked.

“If we’re going to talk about racism in politics, we have to hold all parties to the same standards on it.”

Labour defended Warrington North in 2017 with a 9,582-majority, so it would take a major upset to deny Ms Nichols victory on Thursday.

Asked what her political plans are, she pinpoints a “fundamental reform of the labour market” and mentions queues outside of foodbanks in the constituency and says “work isn’t working for people.”

But Ms Nichols notes that the Labour vote has been “squeezed” in places on Brexit, “both from staunch Remainers who want to revoke Article 50 and from people who think that we should have already done No Deal Brexit.”

She points to polarisation in politics, adding that “trying to have a position that everyone could live with… that’s quite tricky to tease out.”

Asked what led her to convert to Judaism, she told the JC that whilst reading into different faiths, Judaism spoke to her in a way no other religion did.

She then spent “months and months and months” reading about the faith before thinking: “This has gone on long enough, I’ll go to synagogue, it’ll be like church… it’ll be super boring and it’ll sort of knock this all on the head.”

But, despite not following what was happening, the Friday night service she attended gave her a “sense of calm”.

“So I started going more often. I found the weeks that I didn’t go, the following week I felt worse... I’m proud to be Jewish, particularly because it’s a choice that I made… it’s not something that I take for granted.”

A member at Jackson’s Row, she says the congregation are glad to have her back after a stint in London. Jane Black, who sits on Bury Council, has promised to sponsor a kiddush for Ms Nichols if she is elected.

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