This afternoon, Jeremy Corbyn delivered his keynote speech to the Labour Party Conference. For an hour and a half, he covered all manner of topics, from the economy to the abuse that Diane Abbott has suffered. However, his big speech failed to mention the Labour Party’s big problem.
The Labour Party has been cleaved in two since Mr Corbyn took power, with antisemites and their apologists on one side of the divide, and Jews and their defenders on the other.
Nobody has been more vocal than the antisemites. At the Labour Party Conference, they have clamoured for the right to deny the Holocaust. They have demanded that the Jewish grouping be expelled from the Party. They have demanded that Israelis be treated like Nazis. And when the media exposed them all, Len McCluskey, Ken Livingstone and Ken Loach took to the airwaves to claim that antisemitism is being faked. Mr McCluskey called it “game playing” to “undermine Jeremy Corbyn”. Mr Livingstone said that the stench of antisemitism merely came from a few rowdy social justice warriors who “just go over the top when they criticise Israel” before moving to what he considers to be the really critical topic of Labour Party Conference: “We need to resolve the issue of the Palestinians”. Mr Loach could not even bring himself to condemn those who want a debate about whether the Holocaust actually happened at all, telling an interviewer: “I think history is for all of us to discuss”. Against this backdrop, Jewish activists succeeded in securing a change of rules to make it easier to expel antisemites, but Messrs McCluskey, Livingstone and Loach merely rolled their eyes and asked: “What antisemites?”
The Jews too have been vocal, and their defenders even more so. The national media has devoted its front pages to this year’s episode of what should be the Labour Party Conference but is instead the annual antisemitism festival, where Jewish delegates feel unsafe and antisemites and their enablers get free reign and standing ovations. As the media has exposed putrid far-left antisemitism to the nation, decent people have stepped forward. The Labour leader of the Labour council which owns the venue used by the conference has told his own Party that they will not be permitted to return unless they can satisfy him that antisemitism will no longer be on the menu. The CEO of the country’s scrupulously fair and independent Equality and Human Rights Commission has demanded that the Labour Party prove that it is not racist. Veteran Labour MP John Cryer has said that his Party’s antisemitism problem is “redolent of the 1930s” and made his hair “stand on end”. And we at Campaign Against Antisemitism have produced a comprehensive database of antisemitism amongst candidates and officials in every political party to clearly evidence the exceptional nature and ugly details of the Labour Party’s antisemitism problem.
When two warring sides face each other, and there can be no compromise, leadership is needed. But there is no opportunity more frequently and deliberately missed, than the opportunity for Jeremy Corbyn to show leadership on antisemitism. After more cover ups than can be counted, and the Chakrabarti whitewash bought with the only peerage he has ever awarded, Mr Corbyn has been very clear in his intention. He will not lead when it comes to antisemitism. He will not even recognise what it is.
And yet even I permitted myself the faint hope that this year, some grown-up adviser might convince Mr Corbyn to say something expedient to show that he is at least nominally on the side of the Jews and their defenders, not the antisemites and their apologists.
But when the moment came for Mr Corbyn’s big speech, he failed to address the elephant on the Conference floor by declining to mention antisemitism once. By omitting to firmly rebuke antisemitism in his keynote speech, Mr Corbyn has encouraged those like Len McCluskey, Ken Loach and Ken Livingstone who say that antisemitism is being faked, whilst emboldening those who so brazenly perpetrate it. Antisemitic crime has been rising every year, and British Jews are increasingly fearful. There are no certainties anymore in politics, but of this I am sure: if Mr Corbyn comes to power, his Government will be just as blind to antisemitism as his Party, and antisemites in Britain will rub their hands the morning after the election, knowing that their dawn has finally broken. We know where it goes from there.
Gideon Falter is Chairman of Campaign Against Antisemitism