Most Brits think Corbyn’s handling of antisemitism row shows he’s unfit to be PM
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Most Brits think Corbyn’s handling of antisemitism row shows he’s unfit to be PM

EXCLUSIVE: ComRes poll for Jewish News reveals a major surge of voters saying the party has a big problem with Jew-hate in its ranks.

Justin Cohen is the News Editor at the Jewish News

Jeremy Corbyn  (Photo credit: Aaron Chown/PA Wire)
Jeremy Corbyn (Photo credit: Aaron Chown/PA Wire)

More than half of Britons believe Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of antisemitism in Labour shows he is unfit to be prime minister, amid a major surge of voters saying the party has a major problem in its ranks.

The staggering figure is revealed in a ComRes poll for Jewish News in a week when Labour was hit by yet more revelations over Jew-hate and moved to suspend several council candidates.

A staggering 55 percent of those polled agreed that the Labour leader’s ‘failure to tackle antisemitism within his own party shows he is unfit’ for Downing Street – echoing the position overwhelmingly adopted by the Jewish Labour Movement last week. Among them were close to a third of 2017 Labour voters and 15 percent of those currently planning to vote for the party. Just a fifth of the 1,047 respondents disagreed and a quarter didn’t know.

While Labour has established a lead in the national polls overall, today’s survey paints a worsening picture for Corbyn when it comes to the ongoing antisemitism crisis.

Half of British adults (51 percent) believe the party has a serious antisemitism problem – up from 34 percent when the question was asked by ComRes last July during the row over the definition of antisemitism that Labour initially refused to adopt with all its examples. Just 18 percent disagreed.

But perhaps of greatest concern at Labour HQ will be the rise in the numbers of the party’s 2017 voters who believed the problem to be serious: 29 percent now compared to 16 percent last summer. That increase is almost entirely attributed to those voters who were ‘don’t knows’ when last asked.

Mike Katz, chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, said: “We’ve always argued that tackling its institutional crisis of antisemitism is a moral imperative for Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party – but this polling shows that it should be a political priority for them too. The fact that more than half of those polled, and a third of Labour voters thought that his handling of anti-Jewish racism made the Leader of the Labour Party – the party which prizes it’s anti-fascist credentials – unfit to lead the country should make him and those around him pause for thought.”

Mike Katz

He added: “Clearly our members are in tune with the majority of voters. Labour needs to take meaningful action now.”

In a tape leaked to last weekend’s Sunday Times, Corbyn acknowledged privately that some evidence of antisemitism may have been “mislaid or ignored”.

The figures come as the Jewish Leadership Council marked next week’s anniversary of communal leaders’ meeting with Corbyn by releasing a video accusing him of not being “firm enough, fast enough, transparent enough, empathetic enough” in tackling racism. Echoing the ‘Enough is Enough’ banner under which thousands rallied in Parliament Square last year, the video said: “You lead the British pubic to only one conclusion. One it comes to racism in your party, you simply don’t care enough.”

In the ComRes poll, just 22 percent maintained the veteran MP has an ‘absolute determination’ to stamp out antisemitism from his party; 54 percent say the leader’s ‘failure to tackle antisemitism in Labour undermines his proud claim to be an anti-racist; and four times as many people say Labour is not doing enough to tackle the issue as believe they are.

Over half (56) agreed the veteran MP was ‘unwilling or unable to act decisively’ against antisemitism with just 17 percent disagreeing. Among 2017 Labour voters, there was a close to even split (37 to 33 percent) between those who agreed and disagreed, rising to 50 percent disagreeing among those still planning to support the party at the polls. When it comes to the suggestion Corbyn is ‘the target of a concerted smear campaign by his political opponents to try to discredit him over antisemitism, just over a quarter of all respondents agreed and 42 percent disagreed. Just 12 percent of those currently planning to back Labour say he is not the target of such a campaign.

Overall, on the issue, there remains a huge age divide. Just as 18 to 24-year-olds were far less likely than those aged over 65 to consider Corbyn unfit for the country’s top job because of the ongoing crisis, they were also far less likely to see a serious problem in the party: 39 percent compared to 67.

Andrew Hawkins, chair of ComRes, described the findings as: “Given the existential crisis facing the Conservative Party, it is also a stunning failure by Labour not to be powering ahead in the polls. Being seen as soft on racism must account for a major part of Labour’s malaise given that almost one in three of the party’s own voters at the last election believe its leader is not fit to be Prime Minister because of the issue.”

A Labour source said: “This looks like a set of leading questions that anyone would expect to produce a negative result.”

A Labour Party spokesperson said: “The Labour Party is fully committed to the support, defence and celebration of the Jewish community and its organisations. We are taking action against antisemitism, standing in solidarity with Jewish communities, and rebuilding trust.”

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