UK Jewish Labour group won’t campaign for Corbyn-led party in December elections

Jewish Labour Movement says its members will only canvass for ‘exceptional’ candidates, but it shouldn’t be seen as sign of support for Conservative, Liberal Democrat parties

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, walking along the promenade, arrives for the Labour Party Conference at the Brighton Centre in Brighton, England, September 21, 2019. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, walking along the promenade, arrives for the Labour Party Conference at the Brighton Centre in Brighton, England, September 21, 2019. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)

Britain’s Jewish Labour Movement on Thursday announced that it would not send members out to canvass for Labour Party candidates ahead of the elections scheduled for December, amid a rift with the party over its handling of charges of anti-Semitism.

The movement, which has been harshly critical of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, said it would only support candidates in “exceptional” cases.

“This crisis of anti-Semitism in the Labour party stems from a failure of leadership from Jeremy Corbyn. When the answer has been to take swift, decisive action, the reality has been equivocation and token gestures,” the movement  said in a statement..

“We will not be campaigning unless in exceptional circumstances and for exceptional candidates, like our parliamentary chair Ruth Smeeth, and members of the parliamentary Labour party who’ve been unwavering in their support of us. We will not be giving endorsements to candidates in non-Labour-held seats,” the organization said.

Jewish Labour Party MP Ruth Smeeth (screen capture: YouTube)

“Political interference is endemic in the system, which is used to protect the leaderships’ friends and allies, rather than ensure the party is a safe space for Jews,” the movement charged.

The honorary president of the Jewish Labour Movement, Dame Louise Ellman, and former parliamentary chair, Luciana Berger, both left Labour this year, amid accusations of a failure by the party and its leadership to deal with anti-Semitism in its ranks.

Earlier this month,  Ellman quit the Labour party after 55 years and later said she had been sidelined by new far-left party activists who refused to use her name in publications and accused her of dual loyalty to Israel.

Berger left the opposition party in February, calling it “institutionally anti-Semitic.”

“When two accomplished and dedicated Jewish Labour MPs no longer see a place for themselves in the Labour party, it’s clear that the party has lost its way,” the movement said.

Members of the Jewish community hold a protest against Britain’s opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn and anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, outside the British Houses of Parliament in central London, on March 26, 2018. (AFP Photo/Tolga Akmen)

JLM said its withdrawal of unequivocal support for all Labour candidates should not be seen as a sign of support for Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the Conservative party or the Liberal Democrat leader, Jo Swinson.

The party responded to JLM’s announcement, saying Labour is “fully committed to the support, defense and celebration of the Jewish community and continues to take robust action to root out anti-Semitism in the party and wider society.

“We have imposed swift suspensions and the rate at which cases have been dealt with has increased more than four-fold. Jeremy Corbyn has made clear that anti-Semitism has no place in the party, has brought forward reforms to fast-track expulsions, and launched an education program to deepen understanding of anti-Semitism within our movement.”

Corbyn has come under prolonged attack — including from within Labour — for allegedly allowing anti-Semitism to spread in the party and for initially refusing to adopt fully the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism in its code of conduct.

Margaret Hodge speaks during the Jewish Labour Movement Conference in London, September 2, 2018. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images/via JTA)

Labour has grappled with anti-Semitism accusations since the far-left Corbyn was elected party chief in 2015. Fresh scrutiny arose this year following a BBC program in which a number of former party officials accused him and his allies of interfering in efforts to address the issue.

On Monday, Jewish MP Dame Margaret Hodge, who last year called leader Jeremy Corbyn an anti-Semite, won a reselection vote to remain as the local party candidate, after party members had triggered a process to possibly remove party backing from her.

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