A few weeks ago, Campaign Against Antisemitism wrote to all the Opposition parties in Parliament (other than Labour) asking whether they would rule out making the antisemite, Jeremy Corbyn, Prime Minister.
The scenario could arise prior to an election or in the event of a hung Parliament after one if the Opposition parties agree to enter into a coalition led by Mr Corbyn.
The responses and lack of responses from Party leaders were disappointing.
The Liberal Democrats, Change UK, the Democratic Unionist Party and Plaid Cymru did not respond to our letter at all.
Although the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinson, has repeatedly ruled out working with Mr Corbyn because of his views on Brexit and his handling of the antisemitism crisis, this position has been repeatedly weakened by the addendum that Mr Corbyn also could not command the requisite numbers in Parliament, which regrettably dilutes the principled anti-racism approach with political pragmatism, which is not reassuring.
The Rt Hon. Ian Blackford MP provided the SNP’s detailed response, in which he wrote: “I want to make it clear that the SNP abhors antisemitism in the strongest possible way. We believe that the recent political events show that now more than ever politicians should be responsible with their actions and use language with care. The SNP is absolutely opposed to racism and antisemitism in all its forms.”
However, the SNP did not rule out backing Mr Corbyn, albeit it noted our concerns: “Noting your concerns, I want to be clear that we do not have a preference for any particular individual and our support for any caretaker Prime Minister would only be for as long as is necessary to secure the extension, with an election held immediately afterwards. Our priority is to stop a No Deal Brexit…and remove the current government. The SNP would not offer support to any individual or party for any longer than is strictly necessary.”
Mr Blackford ended by saying: “I want to ensure you [sic] that the SNP will continue to support and engage with [the] Jewish community in Scotland and the UK.”
The Green Party’s response, from Caroline Lucas MP and the two leaders and deputy leader of the Green Party, was even more disappointing. The letter, which we appreciate receiving, began by reassuring us that “the Green Party deplores racism and antisemitism” and that “we very much agree with the importance of confronting antisemitism wherever it occurs, including in political parties, and reaffirm our commitment to standing up against racism. We would expect the leaders of all political parties to do the same and believe this is an issue above party politics.”
Nevertheless, the letter went on to clarify that although “there is the very real possibility that Jeremy Corbyn would not command a majority in Parliament to lead a caretaker government [h]owever, it is only right that he is given the opportunity to try to form a short term government…as he is official leader of the biggest opposition party. We would therefore support him in this, and would also support attempts to unite behind a different caretaker Prime Minister, with the express and only purpose of securing either a People’s Vote or, if Parliament does not back a confirmatory referendum, an early General Election.”
Joe Glasman, Head of Political and Government Investigations at Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “It is clear that for some Parties, it is a question of politics and not principle as to whether or not an antisemite resides in Downing Street. The Greens and the SNP were at least honest with us about their intentions, whereas the Liberal Democrats and others chose to ignore our inconvenient question altogether. The darkest chapters in the history of antisemitism took place under antisemitic leaders — leaders who were supported not always because of what they stood for but just as often because bystanders had different priorities and were unwilling to put up a fight. Zero tolerance for racism means taking a principled stand and recognising that no political objective legitimises supporting a racist leader.”
On 28th May, the Equality and Human Rights Commission launched a full statutory investigation following a formal referral and detailed legal representations from Campaign Against Antisemitism, which is the complainant.
Over 57,000 people have now signed our petition denouncing Jeremy Corbyn as an antisemite and declaring him “unfit to hold any public office.”