You could practically hear the collective sigh of relief among many British Jews on Friday morning.
Certainly not because Anglo-Jewry was any more enthusiastic about the faltering Tory election campaign than the wider country. Not just because of Theresa May’s record of staunch support for Israel and the community. It was rather above all else, because Jeremy Corbyn wasn’t about to become prime minister.
of the Jewish Leadership Council, had warned that that once seemingly impossible scenario would trigger a crisis for the community. Indeed, in the days leading up to the poll, some had suggested they might leave the UK if Corbyn won, perhaps confident in the assumption that could never happen.
Any sense of relief was immediately coupled with a massive dose of reality however; Corbyn lost decisively in terms of seats and votes, but he wasn’t a million miles away from having the chance to form a coalition, and many seats are now marginals. The man who couldn’t possibly lead Labour and couldn’t conceivably survive once much of his parliamentary party expressed no confidence in him; the man who would surely oversee a collapse in support of historic proportions at the polls, confounded his critics and the ‘experts’ once again. And he did so despite his opponents highlighting the anti-Semitism scandal in his party and him once introducing Hamas members as ‘friends’; Brexit, social care and living standards may have been at the centre of this
election, but it would be worrying if voters in general were happy to ignore this.
May and her party seem determined to see out the full five-year term, and a big majority of British Jews, if polls are to be believed, will be hoping she succeeds in a way previous minority governments have not. But two things are not in doubt; Thursday’s result proves that the crisis Goldstein warned of is now a realistic possibility and that anti-Semitism and the way it is dealt with will continue to affect many British Jews’ attitudes towards Labour. At least until further, serious, progress is made.
It won’t have been lost on the party’s leadership just how close four London seats with large Jewish communities came to going red.
We can sometimes overplay the influence of Jewish voters, and community members make up just 20 percent of the electorate even in Golders Green and Finchley. While Labour candidates believe the Jewish vote was more than the 13 percent suggested by polls before the election, it would be extremely short-sighted, in a General Election where even Kensington turned red, to suggest Labour would not have had a decent chance of taking at least some of the four had it not been for the anti-Semitism scandal and the biased track record on Israel of its leader.
Winning even all four would not have been enough to make the difference for Corbyn, but it would have taken him closer. With many tight battles nationwide, the party may also reflect on a recent ComRes poll for Jewish News, which suggested anti-Semitism allegations would make 34 percent of voters think twice about backing Labour.
It is not just electorally prudent, however, it is – and has always been –
a moral obligation to take the community’s concerns as seriously as it would another minority’s. Rather than basking in their unexpected successes, Labour and its leader must use their renewed strength to strain every sinew to ensure its rhetoric of zero tolerance is matched by action at every turn. As a community we must be ready to acknowledge steps forward, however small, when they are taken
The leader must also take urgent steps to show his readiness to personally address concerns over his past record on the Middle East – although many won’t be holding their breath.
Despite defeats last week for the chair and vice chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, the organisation has a key role to play. Community leaders must continue to press, quite simply, for what is right. This struggle will also be down to the many Labour MPs whose friendship with the community has never been in doubt, but whose survival in the Commons had been at the start of the campaign.
We heartily congratulate the likes of Ian Austin, Joan Ryan, Wes Streeting and Tulip Siddiq – who, within hours had called for a new independent probe into anti-Semitism – and our friends on the Tory benches, including Mike Freer, Matthew Offord, Bob Blackman and Oliver Dowden, and wish them wisdom on the bumpy road ahead.