A third of Britons believe Margaret Hodge was right to label Jeremy Corbyn an anti-Semite and nearly one in three Labour voters say the Labour leader is letting the party down in his handling of anti-Semitism, according to a poll for the Jewish News and Jewish Leadership Council.
The findings by ComRes come less than a week after the party’s ruling body provoked anger by adopting a new code of code including a widely-accepted definition of anti-Semitism but not all of its examples – ignoring the pleas of dozens of rabbis and the community’s main leadership bodies.
A total of 2,036 adults were quizzed by ComRes between Friday and yesterday, amid a crisis that shows no sign of abating. Forty-eight percent of all adults polled and 29 percent of Labour voters agree that the Leader of the Opposition is ‘letting the party down by failing to tackle anti-Semitism within some parts of the party’. Just one in five say Corbyn appears to be handling anti-Semitism well, with 35 percent of Labour voters agreeing and 24 percent disagreeing.
Days after the former minister Hodge labelled her leader an “anti-Semite and racist” to his face in an unprecedented altercation in the House of Commons, 31 percent of those polled claimed she was right to do so, including 13 percent of Labour voters, and 43 percent ‘don’t know. Removing those who didn’t know, a majority of 55 to 45 agree with Hodge.
Ilford North MP Wes Streeting said: “These findings underpin the damage that our failure to tackle anti-Semitism is doing to the party’s reputation. It’s not just Jewish people who are right to be concerned – a great many decent-minded people are concerned. This is the responsibility of the leadership and the leadership alone. If they want to be seen as a credible government, they need to start acting like it. It’s time to drop these silly proceedings against Margaret Hodge, adopt the IHRA definition in full and start listening – genuinely listening – to the concerns of the majority of Britain’s Jews.”
ComRes chair Andrew Hawkins said: “Today’s polling is indeed bad for the Labour Party and, when it eventually decides to tackle the issue decisively, the 34 percent of voters who today think the party has a serious anti-Semitism problem will take much convincing that it is trying to clean up its act.
“But the poll is worse for Jeremy Corbyn because of those who express a view, most voters take the side of his colleague Margaret Hodge and her extremely serious allegation. The big question electorally is whether Jeremy Corbyn ends up like Donald Trump: that despite his unpalatability to many even in his own party, his loyalists will follow wherever he leads them.”
Despite the leadership apologising for the pain caused by anti-Semitism in part of its ranks, one in three respondents who voted Labour at the last election still insist the party does not have a problem with the scourge. Sixteen percent of the party’s voters agree that it has a ‘serious problem’ compared to 41 percent who disagree and 44 percent who ‘don’t know’. Among all those polled, 34 percent agree and 23 percent disagree.
Thirty-two percent of respondents believe antisemitism ‘seems to be on the rise in the UK’, while one in four disagree and 43 percent don’t know. Forty percent of Tories and Lib Dems agreed, as did 31 percent of Labour voters. Twenty-six percent of Conservatives suggested claimed of increased anti-Semitism in Britain are ‘exaggerated’, climbing to 32 percent among Labour supporters.
The poll comes as Labour MPs prepare to debate an emergency motion to adopt the internationally-recognised definition of anti-Semitism with all its accompanying examples into its rulebook – a week after just four MPs opposed supporting the definition in full.
The latest motion – which won’t be voted in until MPs return from the summer recess – is being proposed by Louise Ellman and Ruth Smeeth, with the support of Luciana Berger. If backed by the PLP, the NEC still has the power to veto any change to the PLPs standing orders.
Ahead of the debate, Ian Austin MP told Jewish News: “We can’t have a situation where Labour says it knows more about anti-Semitism than the chief rabbi, 68 other rabbis and the leadership of the Board of Deputies and JLC. The leadership of the party really has got to understand the huge level of distress they’ve caused. This is a crisis. Hopefully they’ll look at this again and come to their senses.”
Corbyn has insisted the party’s ruling body was “not trying to re-write it [the definition], it has accepted almost all of it. What it’s done is also put alongside it a code of conduct because we will not tolerate anti-Semitism in any form whatsoever”.
He called for the debate to be delayed until sometime in September to ensure a greater turnout. The next NEC is, however, expected to fall on Rosh Hashanah.