Senior Tories baffled over signs of Jewish support for Labour

Questions asked as to why communal figures appear willing to return to party led by pair who served under Corbyn


There is growing disquiet among senior figures within the Conservative Party over the signs of support from some influential community figures for Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer – with his party viewed as still being riddled with antisemites.

The JC understands that questions have been raised over how it is possible for Jews to feel comfortable backing a Labour Party in which many of its MPs – including Sir Keir and Deputy Leader Angela Rayner – willingly served under Jeremy Corbyn up until the last election.

While recognising that Sir Keir has attempted to apologise for the antisemitism crisis that took place under the previous leader -  and that he has begun a process of expelling and suspending councillors and members facing allegations of anti-Jewish racism -  senior Tories point to the continued influence of trade unions such as Unite over the party.

One leading communal figure told the JC this week: ”There is serious disquiet at CCHQ about this.

“Starmer, Rayner and most of the current Labour MPs served under Corbyn. Many have shown no remorse at all.

“Antisemitism is rife in the unions, many of whom promote BDS. Are Jewish people so short of memory?”

In the run-up to the election last December, the Tories had made Mr Corbyn’s failure on antisemitism one of their key election issues alongside the pledge to deliver Brexit.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson Johnson said it was “extraordinary” the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis  had felt the need to speak out during an election campaign about his fears for his community if Mr Corbyn became prime minister.

Following the trouncing of Labour at the polls, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove said Britain’s Jewish community should “never have to live in fear again.

“You have had to live in fear for months now with concerns we will have a prime minister who trafficked in anti-Jewish rhetoric and embraced anti-Jewish terrorists,” he added.

Last weekend The Observer newspaper reported that big donors who had abandoned Labour were considering renewing their support.

Lord Michael Levy - Labour’s leading fundraiser under Tony Blair – said: “It’s very early days, but whereas I would say major donors would have had no interest over this last period, I think there is a real possibility now that they will return to the fold.

“The party needs to be funded by people who believe in the cause and we need to work closely with the unions. Neither should be mutually exclusive.”

The JC understands that Lord Kestenbaum, the Labour life peer, is among those now helping the party leadership with efforts to boost funding. He is one of several Jewish donors to back Sir Keir's leadership campaign.

“I don’t think the issue is just about donors,”  the senior communal source told the JC.  “I think it’s more about how the community leadership seems obsessed with trying to wheedle their way back into the heart of the Labour Party.”

Conservative MP Robert Halfon also stressed that despite his party’s strong opposition to Jeremy Corbyn, Jewish support or votes should not be taken for granted.

The Harlow MP and chair of the Education Select Committee told the JC: ”It is good that as a party we are being kept on our toes as Keir Starmer attempts to move his party towards the centre.

“However, just saying the right things is not enough. There are still hard-left activists in place within Labour across the entire country.

“We will only know that change has really come when these people are removed from the party.”

Another for Labour donor told the JC they did not yet feel comfortable yet in backing the party, stressing that antisemitism was “deep in the party membership.”

But they added: “Keir has begun a process that is going to take time. I am cautiously optimistic moving forwards.”

Big private donations dried up almost completely under Mr Corbyn - but the party’s huge membership and union support put it in a strong financial position without the need for funding from wealthy backers. 

In recent weeks, Len McCluskey’s Unite union has made threats about future funding, citing the recent decision by Labour to settle the libel case with the antisemitism whistleblowers who had appeared on BBC Panorama and the journalist John Ware who made the show.


Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive