Labour’s response to the Chief Rabbi

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Labour launches its ‘race and faith manifesto’ this morning. At an event in Tottenham’s Bernie Grant Arts Centre, Jeremy Corbyn, Dawn Butler and Diane Abbott will unveil a range of policies designed to create a society that “isn’t blighted by austerity and the politics of fear”. The proposals include ensuring that colonialism and the role of the British empire is part of the national curriculum, tackling pay discrimination based on race, end Home Office charges for documentation, and review the underrepresentation of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) teachers. “Labour is the party of equality and human rights,” Corbyn said ahead of the launch today.

But the Chief Rabbi has written an article for The Times in which he makes a forceful political intervention, despite convention dictating that those in his role do not publicly take sides during an election campaign. Ephraim Mirvis says “the overwhelming majority of British Jews are gripped by anxiety” due to the prospect of a Labour government, and that the Jewish community has been “treated by many as an irritant, as opposed to a minority community with genuine concerns”. He describes antisemitism in the Labour Party as a “poison” that has been “sanctioned from the top”. The piece can be read in full on the Chief Rabbi’s Facebook page.

A Labour spokesperson last night commented: “Jeremy Corbyn is a lifelong campaigner against antisemitism and has made absolutely clear it has no place in our party and society and that no one who engages in it does so in his name. A Labour government will guarantee the security of the Jewish community, defend and support the Jewish way of life, and combat rising antisemitism in our country and across Europe. Our race and faith manifesto, launched Tuesday, sets out our policies to achieve this.”

Lord Alf Dubs, who came to the UK on the Kindertransport, appeared on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning. Of Corbyn, he said: “I think he is fit to be Prime Minister. I do not believe he is antisemitic.” Many other Jewish members and supporters of the Labour Party strongly agree. But a significant number will hold their nose when voting Labour next month, and too many have already left the party after feeling that their concerns were brushed under the carpet or even outright rejected in the least compassionate way. Labour activists with the urge to question the motives of the Chief Rabbi and those who have expressed similar upset should remember that doing so is neither considerate nor constructive. Such criticism must be received in good faith, and lead to the only acceptable response: we will do better. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

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