Australia/Israel Review

Europa Europa: Locked-in syndrome

Nov 29, 2019 | Douglas Davis

Johnson vs. Corbyn: Britain’s Jews are watching closely
Johnson vs. Corbyn: Britain’s Jews are watching closely


British voters have witnessed an extraordinary – perhaps historic – election campaign. And when the ballots are counted in mid-December, the consequences might be no less extraordinary. By Christmas, Conservative leader Boris Johnson might find himself licking his political wounds in some distant eyrie, while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn might be busily assembling Europe’s only far-left Marxist government.

Given such a scenario, Britain could soon find itself borrowing £1.2 trillion (A$2.28 trillion) to fatten up its public services, withdrawing from NATO and the European Union, unilaterally abandoning its nuclear capability, and ditching the Five-Eyes intelligence-sharing group that currently includes the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Britain. Corbyn, who has declared that he would recognise a Palestinian state on his first day in Downing Street, will also pivot away from traditional Western alliances and towards some of the most radical elements in the Third World: from Venezuela and Bolivia to Iran and China.

For all the uncertainty that lies ahead, no group is more concerned about a Corbyn victory than Britain’s Jewish community. But even without that victory, much of the long-term damage has already been done: antisemitism is now coursing through the national bloodstream. 

Meanwhile, Corbyn remains locked in the grim, hard-core counter-culture mindset of the Sixties, including his embrace of Third World causes. He is particularly enamoured by the most radical elements in the Palestinian constellation. That might go some way towards explaining the coterie of comrades who rushed to surround him – and the explosion of antisemitism they unleashed – when Corbyn was catapulted into the party leadership five years ago.

Antisemitic tropes and their more bare-knuckle variety have become the daily diet of many Labour Party members. Abuse is very often directed towards Jewish MPs, especially women, from within their own party. This has led to a spate of resignations by Labour MPs of both sexes who are simply unable to absorb the continuing ugliness. 

“I see no indication at all that Corbyn recognises his responsibility for what’s happening, or indeed that he wants to do anything about it,” said Dame Louise Ellman, who resigned after serving as a Labour MP for 22 years. “I see no contrition, no recognition of his role in this terrible situation.”

Luciana Berger, another Jewish Labour MP who left the party, accused Labour leaders of demonstrating a “hierarchy of racism” where antisemitism is deemed less bad than other forms of prejudice. Why did she leave rather than stay and fight? “They have betrayed Labour’s history as an anti-racist party… I did everything in my power to challenge it and yet it got worse.”

The Jew-hatred, now released, is not about to disappear, even if a defeated Corbyn is driven from public life. One hint of the despairing response to this avalanche of hatred was summed up in a dramatic banner headline atop the front page of Britain’s Sunday Telegraph last month: “Jews will leave if Corbyn wins”, it proclaimed starkly.

In an attempt to stem the tide, Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission launched a formal investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party, only its second such inquiry after investigating antisemitism in the neo-Nazi British National Front movement. Labour was the natural home for Jewish voters half a century ago; now only 7% are expected to vote Labour. The party is also worried that it could face bankruptcy if the EHRC finds it is institutionally antisemitic and it must face claims of damages by former Jewish members.

Meanwhile, a poll of Jews conducted for the London-based Jewish Chronicle found that almost half – 47% – of respondents said they would seriously consider emigrating if Corbyn won the election. 

In a newspaper article last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Labour leaders “pretend their hatred is directed only at certain billionaires – and they point their fingers at individuals with a relish and vindictiveness not seen since Stalin persecuted the kulaks”.

So what are the chances of a Corbyn victory? He is lagging in the polls, so if that is any indication, the answer is “unlikely”. On the other hand, polls have proved themselves to be fickle political prophets in recent years. Then, again, this is not just a tussle between Corbyn and Johnson. If the difference between them is small – and it might well be – they will go scavenging for coalition partners among the tadpoles. In such a contest, Corbyn is likely to fare best, and may win the crown.

If Corbyn stumbles in the election and decides to call it a day, he will not be leaving a vacuum. Tens of thousands of hard-Left supporters surged into the party ranks after his success and have ensured they have their hands on the levers of power in the party’s engine-room. They will determine the future shape and direction of the party and Jewish voters will have noticed the vessel is unlikely to be bound for destinations that they would find enticing.

Corbyn launched his election campaign with the slogan, “For the many, not the few”. Then some media wag came along with a re-write: “For the many, not the Jew.” 


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