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May 19, 2016 11:35 pm

New Poll Reveals Labour Party Members Almost Evenly Split On Antisemitism Problem

avatar by Lea Speyer

From left to right: Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, Labour peer Baroness Janet Royall, Ex-London mayor Ken Livingstone. Photos: Wikimedia Commons.

From left to right: Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, Labour peer Baroness Janet Royall, ex-London mayor Ken Livingstone. Photos: Wikimedia Commons.

As Britain’s Labour Party attempts to assuage widespread allegations of antisemitism within party ranks, a new poll found that almost half of its members do not believe the party has a problem with Jews and that the issue has been exaggerated by the media.

According to a YouGov poll on behalf of The Times newspaper published on Wednesday, 49 percent of respondents agreed that “the Labour party does not have a problem with antisemitism and it has been created by the press and [party leader] Jeremy Corbyn’s opponents to attack him,” while 45 percent believe Labour has an antisemitism problem. Regarding antisemitism in political parties in general, 47 percent agreed that “antisemitism is a problem in the Labour party but it is no worse than in other political parties.”

The poll comes amid a growing scandal within Labour following the suspension of over 50 of its members for antisemitic statements and gestures. When asked whether Corbyn was right to suspend former London mayor Ken Livingstone from the party for controversial remarks about Hitler, 59 percent agreed with the decision. However, only 27 percent believe he should be expelled from the party permanently, with 54 percent believing his comments were not antisemitic in nature.

Corbyn has faced broad criticism for his handling of the situation, with many accusing him of failing to take proper action against anti-Jewish bigotry within party ranks. Despite this, according to the poll, 72 percent of Labour members believe he is doing well in his position, with 64 percent responding that they would definitely or probably vote for him again as leader. 1,031 Labour members took part in the poll.

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While Corbyn appears to be taking steps to combat antisemitism — as evidenced by a Labour investigation into the claims, that is itself clouded in controversy — the party has again found itself embroiled in a public battle after it was revealed that Labour officials “suppressed” an inquiry into claims of antisemitic misconduct by Oxford University Labour students, the UK’s Daily Mail reported on Tuesday.

The investigation came in response to the resignation of Oxford University Labour Club (OULC) co-chairman Alex Chalmers in February 2015, after he claimed that a vast number of the group’s members “have some kind of problem with Jews.”

The inquiry into the OULC — led by Labour peer Baroness Janet Royall — did not find evidence of “institutional antisemitism” but said the club now faces “difficulties” in making Jewish students feel welcome. Royall also issued recommendations for Labour, saying those expelled from the party for antisemitism should not be permanently barred since “people may change their views.” She called on the party to adopt “a definition of antisemitism” and issue new policies aimed at “swifter action” against claims of antisemitism. Only the executive summary and recommendations of the OULC report were published.

Jeremy Newmark, chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, told the newspaper that Royall was “visibly frustrated” over the party’s decision to not publish the full report. “There is a problem of denial of antisemitism in the party. Failure to publish Royall’s full findings risks contributing to that,” he said. 

Simon Johnson, the chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, told the Daily Mail, “We would like to express our appreciation to Baroness Royall for her efforts. However, we regard them as incomplete and are disappointed with the NEC’s [Labour’s ruling National Executive Council] decision to suppress the release of the full inquiry.”

Jonathan Sacerdoti, director of communications at the Campaign Against antisemitism, questioned what Labour is attempting to hide by censoring the full report. “Only the Executive Summary has been published, and it tells us nothing new, except that Baroness Royall thinks the Co-Chair of Oxford University Labour Club was wrong when he resigned over institutional antisemitism. What was left out of the publication? And why is it not being fully revealed today?” he asked in a statement, adding, “There are no public findings about the antisemitic incidents at the club and those who perpetrated them, and it seems that the report is designed to be unremarkable.”


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