A former MP is set to take on the leadership of the Jewish Labour Movement.
Ivor Caplin, who served Hove in the Commons from 1997-2005, said he offered “experience and determination to rid Labour of anti-Semitism” after he emerged as the only candidate to succeed Jeremy Newmark as chair. He will formally take on the role at the organisation’s AGM on 3 June.
The former defence and foreign minister said his top priority will be to ensure the Labour leadership understand that “zero tolerance means zero tolerance” in fighting a “poison” in the party. But he said: “I believe the vast majority of Labour members, those in Parliament , the NEC and party headquarters believe we shouldn’t be a party that ever entertains anti-Semitism, given we never have in the past.”
Jeremy Corbyn is someone he can work with, he said. And while he believes there is a better understanding among the leadership of the scale of the issue following the “welcome intervention” of the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council, Labour move quicker to deal with complaints. “I’m very focused on outcomes rather than procedures,” he said. “That will be a hallmark of my chairmanship.” He also welcomed comments by the new general secretary Jennie Formby insisting that JLM will remain the only affiliate representing the “real voice” of Labour Jews within the party.
He takes on the challenge a month after the Tories regained Barnet – the number one target for Labour at the recent local elections. “Like you I want to see a Labour government ,” he wrote to JLM members, “and yet this single issue is stopping us from winning in areas not just in London but in the North West of England too. The fact it’s starting to affect or electoral prospects is focusing minds.”
As JLM’s chair in the south-east for the last two years, Caplin was at the forefront of successful efforts to expel Tony Greenstein. But he said the activist should “never have been allowed into the party” in the first place. He also decried the actions of MP Chris Williamson in addressing a Momentum meeting with Greenstein hours after his expulsion – calling for the whip to be withdrawn from him for this and his approach to the expulsion of Marc Wadsworth.
Caplin has proposed moving the JLM office to the Westminster area and vowed to lead efforts to “raise new funding streams to secure the long-term future of JLM”.
Turning to Israel, he said: “JLM is the majority representative political organisation of left leaning British Jews. We are Zionist. But that does not mean that we blindly support the Government of Israel. It does mean that I want to have a constructive friendship with progressive parties in Israel including our sister party for the longer term and support all efforts for peace.”
He added: “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. We will not be bullied out of it.”