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Barnet voters send stark message to Jeremy Corbyn

Labour has failed to take control of its top target council, Barnet, after antisemitism crisis

    Jeremy Corbyn (Photo: Getty)
    Jeremy Corbyn (Photo: Getty)

    The Conservatives have won back control of Barnet Council after a massive revolt by Jewish voters against the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party.

    Early indications suggested turn-outs as high as 70 per cent in some parts of Golders Green as Tory candidates were supported en masse in a concerted effort to stop Labour.

    Barnet has a Jewish population of around 15 per cent, the highest of any council in the country.

    Visiting the borough on Friday lunchtime, Theresa May said the results showed voters of all religious backgrounds had "rejected the vile antisemitism that has gone unchallenged in the Labour Party for too long".

    Standing alongside the borough's three Tory MPs, she congratulated Conservative councillors on their victories.

    Perhaps most significantly, in the West Hendon and Hale wards with strong Jewish Labour traditions, voters defected from Mr Corbyn's Party - either voting Conservative or not voting at all.

    In a Council in which the vast majority of wards showed results that had been expected, it was the sizeable snub to Labour by traditionally left-wing voters that had the biggest impact of all.

    In West Hendon, where Labour lost all three councillors, despite having held the ward for 40 years, Councillor Adam Langleben, who also sits on the national executive committee of the Jewish Labour Movement, suggested the local community had felt threatened by the possibility of a victory for Mr Corbyn's party.

    He tweeted: "No community group should have their vote dictated by their safety. That should shame us @UKLabour."

    Labour group leader Barry Rawlings said: "I must say that in some wards where there is a large Jewish community, it has made a difference."

    He added: "Of course the Tories did go hard in those areas on that issue, saying that if you vote Labour you're voting for Jeremy Corbyn.

    "And Mr Corbyn could have done a whole lot worse than to have come down and seen how much work the Barnet Labour group has done to try and win back the trust of the community."

    In a later statement he said: "I am extremely grateful to all members of the Jewish community who cast votes for Labour yesterday.

    "But too many didn’t. It wasn’t because they disagreed with our manifesto, but because they felt the Labour Party has failed to deal with anti-Semitism at a national level. They are right.

    "I pledge that Barnet Labour will be a beacon to the rest of the Labour Party in tackling and defeating this anti-Semitism virus that has infected our party. For me dealing with anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and all forms of hate is not an electoral issue, win or lose, it’s a moral responsibility that defines who we are as a Party."

    Another furious Labour figure told the JC: "Jeremy Corbyn took the p**s out of the Jewish voters of Barnet - and now he's suffered the consequence.

    "He didn’t even tell us he was coming here on Monday to campaign because I think he was scared of confrontation with locals if his visit was flagged up in advance."

    Council leader Richard Cornelius, a Conservative councillor, said he had picked up a lot of anger among Jewish voters on the doorstep.

    He said the 70 per cent turn-outs in favour of the Tories in Golders Green were an "impressive show of democracy."

    Mark Shooter, the victorious Conservative candidate in Hendon told the JC:"I did not even have to ask voters who they were opting to vote for if I knocked on a door with a mezuzah.

    "I could tell by the way people seemed so keen to say they were going to vote on the day, who they were going to vote for.

    "The Conservatives have fought a very good campaign locally in Barnet.

    "In areas that have traditionally voted Conservative we are seeing increases in our share of around 7 per cent."

    The Conservatives controlled Barnet from 2002 until it fell back into no overall control this March when one of their councillors, Sury Khatri, resigned.

    They made concerted efforts to target wards with large Jewish populations in the wake of the controversy convulsing Labour.

    After a succession of predictable results at the count, the break through came in the early hours of Friday when it was announced they took a seat off Labour in Hale ward and all three from the long-time Labour stronghold of West Hendon.

    Voter turnout was 43.7% - an increase from 41.1% four years ago.

    In a statement Jewish Labour Movement said: “For the second time within a year, England has seen the electoral impact of the Labour Party’s problem with antisemitism. For the Party of anti-racism to lose seats because of antisemitism is

    a sad chapter in our proud history. JLM will be meeting with Jennie Formby next week and will be urgently raising this.”

    Elsewhere, the Conservatives took the Kersal ward in Salford, which has a Jewish population of around 40 per cent – the highest proportion of Jews in any ward in the country – from Labour.

    Ann-Marie Humphreys lost her seat to Conservative Ari Leitner, who now has a majority of 750. They also took Pilkington Park in Bury from Labour.

    Mr Langleben called for Jeremy Corbyn to come to Barnet to apologise to the Jewish community. He told the Guardian: "We knew this was a possibility since last night, that this was worse than the general election in 2017. Things have definitely shifted since June. Every Jewish Labour household we visited, people said, 'not this time'. 

    "Activists were being told, 'this is a racist party, an antisemitic party', doors were slammed in their faces. We as Jewish Labour activists were told we were endorsing anti-semitism. The reason we have lost here is the inability to deal with this issue and to tackle antisemitism.

    "Jeremy Corbyn was supposed to come here tomorrow for a victory speech. We want him to come to Barnet anyway, to apologise to Jewish Labour activists, to Barnet Labour and to the Jewish community here so we can start the healing process. We won this election on ideas, the Tories just ran a relentlessly negative campaign.

    "But just look at the wards with high Jewish populations where we lost, East Barnet, Brunswick Park, West Hendon. The seats with even higher Jewish populations, where Labour didn’t target as hard, the Tories have huge landslides.

    "The Labour leadership and people around them have seen the signs for a long time and they have not acted.

    "I’m not quitting, this is about the health of our democracy. We have two parties of government in this country and one has a sickness that it needs to deal with. People need to join the party; they need to educate people and those who are antisemitic need to be immediately expelled. But first of all, the party can start by listening to Jewish activists and the community."

    In Manchester, the Conservatives also tasted victory in the country's most-Jewish ward. More than 40 per cent of voters in Kersal, in Salford, are Jewish. Previously Labour-held, the Tories won by 750 votes with an enormous 41 per cent swing. The Labour vote dropped by 22 per cent.

    Mr Corbyn's party held the Sedgley ward, where nearly 34 per cent of residents are Jewish, but the Tories increased their vote share by 11 per cent.

    On Trafford Council, the Tories gained the St Mary's ward where 10 per cent of residents are Jewish, with a 13 per cent increase in their vote share. While the Conservatives lost control of the council, the authority's most Jewish ward bucked the trend.

    Russell Langer, public affairs manager at the Jewish Leadership Council, collated a series of results in Jewish areas. See his statistics in a thread of tweets starting here: 

     

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