Why I rejoined the Labour Party

Submitted by AWL on 3 November, 2020 - 2:09 Author: Eric Lee
Eric Lee

I have just re-joined the Labour Party.

Some people will say that one should never leave the Labour Party. Whatever it did, whatever bothered you and made it difficult to remain a member, you should stay inside and fight from within. Sure, you disagreed with this or that policy, but that’s no reason to abandon Labour, which has consistently fought against all forms of racism. Whatever you disagreed with, Labour is the party that unites working people of all races and religions, and campaigns consistently for genuine equality and respect.

And to those who said such things, I can only reply: read the damn report.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission described “a culture within the [Labour] party which, at best, did not do enough to prevent anti-Semitism and, at worst, could be seen to accept it.”

The party, to its credit, has committed itself to carrying out the EHRC recommendations, and indeed made that commitment even before the report was published. Labour will need to submit an action plan within the next few weeks to show just how seriously it is taking the report and its recommendations.

But let’s step back a moment and ask how Jewish people like myself were supposed to remain inside a political party which accepted a culture of antisemitism.

Not a party in which there was the occasional, very rare, antisemite. Not the party described by its former leader and his supporters in which practically everyone, including Ken Livingstone, had fought against “every form of racism” for their entire lives.

Jeremy Corbyn famously sneered at “some Zionists” who “don’t understand English irony” despite having lived in the UK “for a very long time, probably all their lives”.

He described representatives of the murderously antisemitic Hamas as his “friends”.

He supported a controversial anti-Jewish mural, created by an artist who later wrote: “Some of the older white Jewish folk in the local community had an issue with me portraying their beloved Rothschild or Warburg etc as the demons they are.”

Demons — Jewish demons.

Corbyn’s suspension from the Labour Party was welcomed in the homes of many British Jews — and many anti-racists across the country.

The actual Labour Party, not the one Corbyn described but the one described in the EHRC report, was one in which Jews felt increasingly unwelcome and uncomfortable.

Many Jews chose to remain in the hopes that things might change. Many others left. In the end, things have begun to change, which is why I and others are drifting back.

No member of an ethnic minority should be expected to remain inside political parties that have a culture of racial hatred and bigotry.

Yes, I have rejoined the party. But my membership, like the membership of any ethnic minority group, is contingent upon my party having a real policy of zero tolerance towards any form of racism, including anti-Semitism.

If it fails to do that, if it fails to fully implement the EHRC recommendations, it cannot count on the support of any Jewish person — nor should it have the support of any genuine anti-racist.

• Eric Lee is the founding editor of Labourstart, and writes here in a personal opinion column.

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