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November 5, 2019 12:04 pm

Antisemitism Scandals ‘Absolutely Killing’ UK Labour Party, Ex-PM Tony Blair Says

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Photo: Reuters / Ronen Zvulun.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair told a top UK Jewish group on Monday there would be a “complete battle” within the Labour party over the issue of antisemitism ahead of the December general election.

Blair led Labour from 1994 to 2007 and served a decade as prime minister. In 2015, however, Labour elected far-left MP Jeremy Corbyn as leader largely as a repudiation of Blair’s legacy. Since then, Labour has been wracked by a series of antisemitism scandals, resulting in the suspension and expulsion of a series of members and officials, and some touching Corbyn himself. Polls show the majority of British Jews consider Corbyn personally antisemitic and are planning to vote against him.

At the Board of Deputies of British Jews president’s dinner, Blair said, “Let me be frank, there is going to be a complete battle in the Labour Party because what has happened over these past years — particularly over antisemitism — is absolutely killing the party.”

He said of the upcoming national vote, “I think in this election there will be more people who look carefully in a non-tribal way — they will look carefully at the candidates in their constituency to a bigger degree than at any election I can remember.”

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“There are really good Labour MPs that are standing in this election,” he added. “People I know, people I’ve worked with. People who have stood up very strongly on antisemitism in the Labour party and I want to see them supported.”

On the topic of Israel, which has been a flashpoint because of Corbyn’s outspoken aversion to the Jewish state, Blair noted there was “a need to explain Zionism and the way Israel was created and why it deserves support today. … Israeli democracy is a real democracy.”

Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl pointed out the contrast between Blair and Corbyn, saying, “When Tony Blair was leader of the Labour party — and, indeed, prime minister — there was not the slightest question about any of the big parties being tolerant of antisemitism.”

Referring to an investigation of Labour by Britain’s top human rights body, van der Zyl said, “I know that he shares our horror that a creation of the last Labour Government, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, has launched a statutory investigation in to whether the current Labour party itself is institutionally antisemitic.”

“When the dust settles after the election, I hope that the party’s current or future leaders will learn from his example that things can — and indeed must — change,” she added.

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