An elderly couple in North London, life-long Labour voters, sobbed last November, as they entered the polling station at the General Election. This tells the story of the Labour Party and antisemitism. It captures the heartache I witnessed at close quarters, as Jewish Members of Parliament and Jewish Labour activists agonised over whether to remain within the Labour Party. Some stayed; others resigned. But their moral compasses were identical.
When Special Branch rang my daughter to check her movements for security reasons, I had my own moment of truth. The rape threats to my wife and daughters were another direct response to events within the Party. This was not the only police involvement, not the only threats, and some of this is ongoing.
I raised my concerns more than once with Jeremy Corbyn, loudly in the Parliamentary Party and in private to his face. He never uttered a single word to me about it in response. One brief letter in total, whereas every other party leader took the time to come and speak to me, as did many of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet members, such as Richard Burgon and Angela Rayner. The one power a leader of the opposition has is to run their own Party. We call it leadership. It wasn’t there.
Sir Keir Starmer will be judged on his response to the inquiry by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, for better or for worse, because he has the power to do something about it and the EHRC notice requires him to do so. My advice is to go well beyond the legal requirements and to embrace the Jewish community in a way that the founders of the Party did, welcoming in the Jewish Labour Movement as an integral element of the early Labour Party.
The response by Jeremy Corbyn is pitiful. No contrition, no apology, no acceptance of any responsibility. No understanding of the seriousness of the situation, even now. Nobody forced Jeremy to stand to be leader of the Labour Party, but as the EHRC says, he is ultimately accountable and responsible for what happened at that time. Corbynism died its death today.
The British Jewish Community is already feeling the relief of normality re-emerging in British politics – not on Brexit, the NHS or free school meals, but on antisemitism. It is what we all want to achieve by the next election: for the Jewish community to participate in those big political debates without abuse or the fear of retribution and to be able to vote on the other big issues of the day, not on antisemitism.
A divided Jewish community, with some voting Tory, some Labour, others for smaller parties, will be a return to political normality. It will serve to strengthen our democracy, our communities and our country.
Lord Mann of Holbeck Moor is the government’s antisemitism tsar, a sitting member of the House of Lords and a former Labour MP