Jewish Labour Movement members vote to remain affiliated with party
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Jewish Labour Movement members vote to remain affiliated with party

More than 200 people crowding the Western Marble Arch Synagogue heard passionate pleas to stay and fight from Dame Louise Ellman, Dame Margaret Hodge and Ruth Smeeth.

Dame Margaret Hodge addressing the JLM Extraordinary General Meeting (JLM on Twitter)
Dame Margaret Hodge addressing the JLM Extraordinary General Meeting (JLM on Twitter)

Members of the Jewish Labour Movement have voted overwhelmingly in favour of staying in the party at two hastily arranged Emergency General Meetings in London and Manchester.

The more than 200 people crowding the Western Marble Arch Synagogue in central London heard passionate pleas to stay and fight from three Jewish Labour MPs, Dame Louise Ellman, Dame Margaret Hodge and Ruth Smeeth.

Also attending were supportive MPs Wes Streeting, Bill Esterson and Ian Austin – who quit the party last week.

Ivor Caplin, who chaired the meeting, said that JLM members were “rightly angry at the situation… And it’s not just Labour members that are angry and frustrated, it’s the Jewish community too.”

He went on to thank Stella Creasy and the 140 Labour MPs who had signed a letter supporting JLM and urging it not to disaffiliate from the party.

Caplin added to applause that “I am staying to fight in Labour, as I did in the 1980s”.

Peter Mason, JLM national secretary, said that the movement had “been with Labour through thick and thin… And we should stay and fight”.

But he had a message to the 150 odd MPs who did not sign Creasy’s letter and for the candidates in May’s local elections, “if you want our solidarity, you must show solidarity with us”.

Ellman said it was “a fight for the soul of the Labour Party. We joined to fight racism, but you can’t be an anti-racist party if there is antisemitism”.

However, she noted a change of late. “I feel it’s different in the party now. Tom Watson [the deputy leader] and the 140 MPs who signed the letter show that we are getting through with our fight. But we must intensify our efforts,” she said.

“Yes, we are in a major battle, but this is not the time to leave. This is the time to increase our efforts in this fight.”

Hodge said JLM members needed to “look at the bigger picture. Labour has been around 100 years, the JLM and its predecessor Poalei Zion 99 years. I’ve been a member for 56 years. But Jeremy Corbyn has been leader for only three and a half years.

“Jews are fighters, and we fought in the 1980s [against the far left]. I have fought against the fascists on the far right and I will fight the fascists on the far left”, adding that she is receiving more antisemitic abuse now than she did when the BNP put up a candidate against her in Barking.

Smeeth pleaded with members to stay. “I really need you. We really need you. I don’t want to be a Jewish MP with the [Corbynista] Jewish Voice for Labour representing Jews in the party,” she said.

In the debate that preceded the vote, where only a handful of members voted for disaffiliation, the mood was nevertheless combative. One after the other, members said that the movement should stay in the party if only to ensure that the mainstream Jewish voice is heard.

Others feared a JVL takeover of the Jewish representations, while many stipulated that they would stay in Labour, but would not campaign for Jeremy Corbyn to become Prime Minister.

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