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Labour won, but lost hearts and minds of voters

Rabbi David Mason said the decrease in Labour’s majority in the North London borough was good for democracy

    Joseph Ejiofor
    Joseph Ejiofor Photo: Twitter

    The new leader of Haringey Council must work hard to build a relationship with the Jewish community, according to a leading rabbi.

    Rabbi David Mason, of Muswell Hill Synagogue, said the decrease in Labour’s majority in the North London borough was good for democracy.

    Joseph Ejiofor, who was elected as leader of the council on Tuesday, is a member of the national co-ordinating group for Momentum, the pro-Corbyn campaign group.

    He posted a link on Twitter last year to a Jewish Socialists’ Group article which claimed accusations of antisemitism in Labour were being “weaponised” to attack Mr Corbyn.

    Before the election, Rabbi Mason raised concerns about the potential influx of hard-left councillors and suggested a Momentum-dominated council would make it hard to maintain positive community relations.

    While Labour kept control of the council as expected, the party’s majority was reduced by voters in the west of the borough flocking to support the Liberal Democrats.

    Labour now has 42 councillors and the Lib Dems 15.

    Rabbi Mason said: “I don’t think we can say it was the Jewish voters that did it. But I think we know that Jewish people in large numbers rejected Labour because of antisemitism and that would have made some impact in Haringey.

    “I think the result is really good for democracy. To have a bigger Lib Dem minority will mean Labour has to be more considerate as a group.

    “I think the leadership of the council will have to consider how they are going to relate to the Jewish community. They will need to do that in different ways, and one way is to make sure they have clear communication with the community and show a strong commitment to supporting them.”

    Rabbi Mason said he was very keen to work with Mr Ejiofor and said he hoped “no rash or new decisions are made on how antisemitism is defined”.

    There was controversy last year when the authority adopted the IHRA antisemitism definition and hard-left activists protested in the council chamber.

    Before the election, a third of Labour councillors were expected to be replaced by Momentum activists, either as a result of deselection, or because councillors decided to stand down.

    Among them was Claire Kober, who had been council leader for a decade.

    Mr Ejiofor said the party’s losses were the result of “substantial media attacks”.

    Liz Morris, the interim Lib Dem leader, said antisemitism had played a role in people switching to her party.

    “During the campaign we spoke to residents who were despondent about the state of politics,” she said.

    “They look at their local Momentum-led Labour Party with an approach to politics that alarms them.

    “Labour may have won the election but they have not won the hearts and minds of people living in Haringey.

    “Resident after resident spoke of their aversion to bullying and infighting and especially to antisemitism. They were angry and upset.”

    Ms Morris said the Lib Dems had promised to “hold Labour to account”.

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