It is no secret that Labour’s Parliamentary Party has always been at odds with its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and his inner circle. Their differences have been numerous and varied, but over time it was clear that his cultivation of antisemitism in the Labour Party was prominent among them.
At first, Labour MPs tolerated these differences — some, like Luciana Berger, even initially sat in Mr Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet. But as antisemitic incidents in the Party mounted, and with them the evidence of a corrupt disciplinary process and meddling by the Leader’s office, it quickly became clear that Labour under Mr Corbyn had become institutionally antisemitic.
The situation was so dire that the Equality and Human Rights Commission launched a full statutory investigation into the Party following detailed legal representations from Campaign Against Antisemitism. Among political parties, only the BNP had achieved this level of notoriety before.
Eventually, thirteen courageous MPs decided that enough was enough: Frank Field, Ivan Lewis, Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker, Ann Coffey, Joan Ryan, Ian Austin, John Mann and Dame Louise Ellman. They recognised that remaining in Labour would signal their tacit endorsement of the institutional antisemitism prevailing in their Party and would mean campaigning for an antisemite to become Prime Minister — and they were not prepared to do that.
Three peers also resigned from the Party over antisemitism, along with a large number of principled MEPs, councillors and members.
The rest of the Parliamentary Party, however, has either expressly backed Mr Corbyn or tweeted empty words of sympathy for departing MPs or platitudinous solidarity with the Jewish community, but have not seen reason to resign.
These MPs found various rationales to continue to accept the leadership of an antisemite, ranging from protecting their careers to prioritising other policies over fighting racism. But prominent among these excuses was their increasingly unpersuasive claim that they were “staying to fight”. As one journalist has put it: “Those we once flattered as ‘moderates’ turned out to be so fanatically attached to Labour that no outrage or indignity could prise them away. Their rationale was that they were ‘staying to fight’, resisting antisemitism and extremism from within, and that the Labour Party’s soul could be saved. Behold their victories manifold.”
Those Labour MPs who have acquiesced to Mr Corbyn’s leadership will have to reckon with their choice to tolerate him. They are now being asked to campaign to put an antisemite in Downing Street, knowing full well that to do so would pose an “existential threat” to Jewish life in this country.
Joe Glasman, Head of Political and Government Investigations at Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “After years of excuses, Labour MPs can no longer excuse the inexcusable. In the coming weeks, as they appear on doorsteps, before TV cameras and in radio studios, they will be campaigning for an institutionally antisemitic Party headed by an antisemitic leader, as the Jewish community sits in existential fear of the outcome. History will judge them.”
Over 57,000 people have now signed our petition denouncing Jeremy Corbyn as an antisemite and declaring him “unfit to hold any public office.”