Labour’s Lead in Polls Shields Corbyn From Latest Antisemitism Fight

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn looks set to survive yet another row over antisemitism currently engulfing his Labour Party. This time, though, he may have Prime Minister Theresa May to thank.

The latest spat was triggered by Labour’s decision not to adopt in full an internationally recognized definition of antisemitism, dropping specific examples referring to Israel. That sparked criticism from Labour lawmakers, and three Jewish newspapers published the same front cover in protest at Labour’s position under the headline, “United We Stand.”

The Times reported Tuesday that even Corbyn’s closest ally, finance spokesman John McDonnell, was leading a rebellion against his handling of the issue -- though a party spokesman described the story as “false.”

It’s the sort of scandal that in normal times might be expected to bring Corbyn down. But May, his opposite number in the ruling Conservative Party, has inadvertently taken some of the pressure off. Since the prime minister published her plan for a soft Brexit this month, euroskeptic Tories have been in open rebellion, and Labour has taken a lead in recent opinion polls.

Corbyn is also helped by lack of leadership alternatives, said Justin Fisher, professor of politics at Brunel University in London, adding that the Labour Party “has tied itself in so many knots” over antisemitism.


“Is it likely to bring him down? At the moment probably not,” he said. “What you would need is someone from the Corbynite left saying enough is enough over this issue, and we’re not yet seeing that.”

Even so, the furor is showing no sign of fading away. Jewish lawmaker Margaret Hodge and Ian Austin, whose adoptive parents lost relatives in the Holocaust, have criticized Corbyn over his handling of the spat.

They now face party disciplinary proceedings -- to the dismay of Labour moderates, who have also been incensed by the lack of disciplinary action against another Corbyn ally. Peter Willsman, who is standing for re-election to the party’s National Executive Committee, blamed allegations of antisemitism on Jewish “Trump fanatics” in a recording released by the Jewish Chronicle.

Luciana Berger, one of the Labour moderates who tried to oust Corbyn in 2016, called the recording “sickening.” Another of the former rebels, Wes Streeting, said in a tweet it was “depressing” that “the Party’s leadership have only ever been shamed into action on antisemitism.”

Labour said it isn’t up to Corbyn to decide whether to begin or drop party disciplinary proceedings.

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