Historian Sir Richard Evans was persuaded to change his mind on whether to back the Labour Party at next month’s general election by the solicitor Anthony Julius.
Sir Richard tweeted on Sunday that he would be voting for the Labour Party at the general election despite what he termed its “failure to deal with antisemitism in the party,” its “support for Brexit” and “leader” Jeremy Corbyn.
The author of The Third Reich Trilogy and expert on Nazi Germany served as an expert witness in the libel case brought by David Irving against Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt.
Julius, who argued for Lipstadt, wrote an open letter to Sir Richard published in the New Statesman on Wednesday.
“You have not asked me for my views, but in the spirit of the exchanges we had when you were an expert in the Lipstadt case, let me give them to you anyway,” he told the historian.
“Antisemites cannot be social reformers. Their antisemitism incapacitates them. As a result, antisemitism does not just injure Jews. It encourages misconceptions about the causes of social conflicts – of human suffering and social deprivation – and therefore prolongs their existence, to everyone’s loss,” he wrote.
“To purge the party of antisemitism will be the work of a generation. The evidence that the political will exists to undertake this task is not compelling: members are not yet ashamed enough of their party’s antisemitism,” he added.
The letter convinced Sir Richard to withdraw his support for the Labour Party. “Back from a visit to Germany to find Anthony Julius’s persuasive open letter to me in the New Statesman,” he tweeted on Thursday.
“As much as Corbyn’s lamentable failure to apologise in his TV interview, or the intervention of the Chief Rabbi, this has persuaded me to change my mind and not vote Labour,” he added.
This comes after a difficult week for the Labour Party, which saw the row over antisemitism deepen after Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis warned “a new poison sanctioned from the very top” had taken root in it in an op-ed for The Times.
An interview with the BBC’s veteran journalist Andrew Neil on Tuesday evening saw the Labour Party leader decline to personally apologise to the Jewish community four times.