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Major faith leaders unite to condemn prejudice within Labour

4 min read
26 November 2019 | UK NEWS

In a series of extraordinary interventions over the course of yesterday and today, three religious leaders have condemned the Labour Party for its alleged failure to deal with repeated occurrences of prejudice and discrimination against minority groups, both within the party itself and in wider society. The party is already under formal investigation by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission for allegations of anti-Semitism. The only other political party to have been investigated in this manner was the BNP.

It began when Britain’s Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, wrote an article in The Times published last night, in which he stated that the most frequent question he was now asked within his community was: “What will become of Jews and Judaism in Britain if the Labour Party forms the next government?”

His article’s opening remarks were forceful, stating that most British Jews were “gripped by anxiety” in the course of this election campaign, and that “this anxiety is justified”. He added that the Jewish community had been watching “with incredulity” as supporters of the Labour leadership had acted to expel members, staffers and parliamentarians from the party for “challenging anti-Jewish racism”.

Perhaps most damningly, he referred to the messaging put out by the party that it was doing everything it reasonably could to tackle the allegations and to investigate all reported complaints as “a mendacious fiction”, adding that “a new poison – sanctioned from the top – has taken root in the Labour Party”. He concluded his article by saying:

“It is not my place to tell any person how they should vote. I regret being in this situation at all … When December 12 arrives, I ask every person to vote with their conscience. Be in no doubt, the very soul of our nation is at stake.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, responded to the Chief Rabbi’s intervention within hours on Twitter, opening his full statement with: “That the Chief Rabbi should be compelled to make such an unprecedented statement at this time ought to alert us to the deep sense of insecurity and fear felt by many British Jews.” While he did not explicitly refer to the Labour Party, his statement is seen as a direct response to the concerns voiced by the Chief Rabbi.

Later in the day, the Hindu Council also wrote a letter to the Chief Rabbi, in which they suggested the modern Labour Party was not only anti-Semitic, but also anti-Hindu. Its author, Anil Bhanot OBE, stated amongst other things that: “Our holiest day, Diwali, was recently targeted by demonstrators prompted by several Labour Party members and MPs’ support, not least with their openly condemning Hindus in their letters to the Prime Minister, Foreign Office and the UN.”

It is, as far as we can tell, unprecedented in UK political history for even one major faith leader to condemn a political party in such pointed terms during the course of an election campaign – let alone three within 24 hours.

It comes at what could well be the worst possible time for Labour during this election period, given that today was also the launch of its ‘Race and Faith Manifesto’. As part of the launch, Jeremy Corbyn further explained one of the Labour Manifesto’s policies, namely the establishment of an ‘Emancipation Educational Trust’. The role of this Trust would be “to ensure historical injustice, colonialism and role of the British Empire is taught in the national curriculum”. Some have questioned whether this would lead to children being taught that a disproportionate extent of their country’s history in particular was one of misdeeds.

Mr Corbyn also used the launch to state publicly that: “Anti-Semitism in any form is vile and wrong, it is an evil within our society. There is no place whatsoever for anti-Semitism in any shape or form or in any place whatsoever in modern Britain and under a Labour government it will not be tolerated in any form whatsoever.”

We at Wolves wonder whether statements such as these, in the light of the events of the past 24 hours, might be what the Archbishop of Canterbury was referring to in another quote from his statement earlier today:

“Voicing words that commit to a stand against anti-Semitism requires a corresponding effort in visible action.”

This notion may be particularly underscored by one final related development this evening: Jeremy Corbyn has failed four times in succession, in an interview with Andrew Neil tonight, to apologise to Jews in Britain for the way the party has handled the allegations of anti-Semitism levelled against it. Among many responses of a similar nature, Mr Corbyn said towards the end of this line of questioning that: “I want to work with every community to make sure it’s eliminated. That is what my whole life has been about.”

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