Don’t aban­don the Labour Party over Cor­byn, pleads ac­tivist

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY ROSA DO­HERTY

LABOUR -SUP­PORT­ING Jews should not leave the party in re­sponse to Jeremy Cor­byn’s lead­er­ship, ac­cord­ing to the vice chair of Labour Friends of Is­rael.

Re­becca Si­mon ad­mit­ted that it was “hard not to feel bleak about the fu­ture” with Mr Cor­byn in charge, but she urged Jews not to aban­don the party.

She said: “Peo­ple want to rip up their mem­ber­ship cards. But I be­lieve we have to get up and fight the good fight. We need the com­mu­nity’s sup­port more than ever and we are go­ing to have to find new ways of en­gag­ing with peo­ple in a way we haven’t done be­fore.

She said Jews in the party would have to be­come more ac­tive to counter “such a strong anti-Is­rael force who are go­ing out there to knock on doors.”

Mr Cor­byn was not a cred­i­ble leader, she said, but she did not ex­pect him to stand down at any point.

Ms Si­mon, who is also co-chair of the Labour Women in Busi­ness Net­work, said: “Peo­ple are talk­ing about there be­ing a new party but it is not go­ing to hap­pen and nei­ther is a coup.

“The un­for­tu­nate fact is, it is go­ing to be Jeremy in 2020 and that poses ob­vi­ous prob­lems for Jews.

“Peo­ple are not go­ing to know how to vote. They will on the one hand want to sup­port their party, one they have been card-car­ry­ing mem­bers for all their lives, but then no one wants to vote for a leader they think is rub­bish.

“And he is rub­bish — never mind about the Is­rael stuff, he is just not a cred­i­ble op­po­si­tion.”

She added that there was no hope of Labour win­ning the next elec­tion.

Over 100 peo­ple at­tended Ms Si­mon’s ses­sion en­ti­tled“Re-ex­am­in­ing the com­mu­nity’ s re­la­tion­ship with the Labour party”. She told them that the re­la­tion­ship had frac­tured be­cause of hos­tile at­ti­tudes to­wards Is­rael. Un­der Mr Cor­byn, she said, “Is­rael has fun­da­men­tally been dele­git­imised”.

She added: “When I started work­ing at LFI, we had a direct line to num­ber 10 and the For­eign Of­fice. Our re­la­tion­ship was strong. Un­der Jeremy, we are go­ing to have to find new ways of op­er­at­ing.”

The fact Is­rael cur­rently had a “right wing gov­ern­ment” did not help.

“It is very hard when the cur­rent gov­ern­ment plays into the nar­ra­tive of those who are blindly against it.”

She ad­mit­ted groups like LFI were not able to com­pete with the peo­ple power of cam­paign groups like Mo­men­tum and Stop The War.

Trac­ing how Labour had gone from a leader like Tony Blair to Mr Cor­byn, she paused to direct a sting­ing crit­i­cism at Ken Liv­ing­stone, for­mer Labour MP and now a close ad­viser to Mr Cor­byn. De­scrib­ing Mr Liv­ing­stone’s views as hos­tile to Jews, she said that the may­oral elec­tion in 2004, when Mr Liv­ing­stone stood for Labour, was the first time she was un­able to vote for the party.

“I couldn’t vote for him but I had to vote, so I spoilt my ballot.” But it was not all bad news. The cur­rent Labour can­di­date Sadiq Khan would be a good choice as Lon­don mayor at next May’s elec­tion: “He is very keen to en­gage with the Jewish com­mu­nity,” Ms Si­mon said.

Re­becca Si­mon

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