The new chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement, former MP Ivor Caplin, wrapped up Sunday’s one-day conference with an emotional plea that “Brexit is the issue of our generation. As a Labour movement, we have to stand up for those most at risk from Brexit —those whose jobs are threatened by this shambolic decision and the shambolic handling of Brexit by the Conservative Party”.
Mr Caplin, a defence minister under Tony Blair, told the audience at JW3: “I don’t care what the prime minister says. I’m telling you that the only way out of this is to ask the country again for consent”, in the handling of the Brexit deal. He said it was not acceptable to continue saying that Britain had to abide by the referendum result of 2016 — “because no promises made then have ever been fulfilled”.
He called for JLM to back the idea of a second referendum — “or come to the conclusion that what we have now is a better deal than anything else”.
On antisemitism, the issue that dominated the conference, Mr Caplin said it was “time that Jeremy Corbyn called out” bullying behaviour in various constituency Labour parties. He noted that in all the debate around antisemitism, the electorate at large had not been mentioned by the leadership — “and there will be electoral consequences if we ever want to see another Labour government. We have to hope that on Tuesday, common sense will prevail. Not just commons sense for JLM or the Labour Party, but common sense for the people of the United Kingdom”.
Mr Caplin announced two new fund-raising streams for JLM. In January, there will be a fund-raising dinner, with guest of honour Jess Phillips MP; and a “century club” is being launched for people who wish to make more substantial donations to JLM’s work.
The conference comprised nearly 30 separate events and workshops. They included contributions from local councillors, think-tank movements within Labour such as Progress and Open Labour, a session on BAME and interfaith communities, one on mental health featuring the parliamentary chair of JLM, MP Luciana Berger, and input from Baroness Dianne Hayter, Dame Louise Ellman MP, and the comedian Ayesha Hazarika.
Messages of support came from comedian Eddie Izzard, who is a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee, and from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. Mr Khan said: “I want you to know that I will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with London’s Jewish community and work to end the scourge of antisemitism wherever it’s found — whether it’s on the streets of London or within the Labour Party”.