| Eye on Europe |

A Labour of Love?

Luke Akehurst is a Labour Party activist and director of the pro-Israel group We Believe In Israel,
who fought Jeremy Corbyn’s 2015 takeover of the party
After the election trouncing, Corbyn is on his way out. But is there a way for Labour to come to its senses and become moderate again?

Of course there is. We’re going to have a leadership election with Corbyn retiring by March at the latest, and so the election result makes it the best way to get to a different leader. It’s a question of who’s the successor. If moderates can’t win the internal debate now, we don’t deserve to win.

Corbyn’s hard-left faction has taken over the Labour Party institutions since 2015. Doesn’t that make it unlikely that you can sideline him?

There are certainly tough hurdles for moderates, and the nomination process guarantees that there will be hard-left candidates on the ballot, but there is a path ahead.

Firstly, having the support of 10 percent of MPs gets you on the ballot paper, and since only about 37 out of 203 MPs are Corbynites, that gives moderates a chance. The other route is getting the support of either 5 percent of constituencies, which have become Corbynite, or the support of one of five big trade unions.

Of Labour members, we are trying to get people to join the party now to change its direction. I know that there are people from the Jewish community who left since 2015 who are now rejoining to have a say in the leadership election.

Do you buy the Corbynite line that it was only Brexit that did for Labour?

No, that’s just spin. Although the lack of a clear Brexit policy was hugely important, a leader who the public trusted would have had more room on the issue. People thought Corbyn was extreme and weak at the same time. He scared people on the economy, making totally unrealistic spending pledges, and on national security issues. Everything moderates said in 2015 about Corbyn being unelectable is true, and by tolerating extremism, Labour didn’t deserve to win.

What about anti-Semitism — is that too entrenched to root out? What steps would Labour need to take to get rid of it?

I’m not being naive about how long this could take, because anti-Semitism has now entered the mainstream, but under a new leader with a genuine zero tolerance policy, there is scope for dramatic action.

In the near future we will have the Equality and Human Rights Commission report, which may set out penalties and measures for the Labour Party to address anti-Semitism. But the moment the party deals with anti-Semitism is the moment it turns its back on the Corbyn era.

How long will Labour remain out of power?

No one in British history has ever recovered from this kind of loss in one cycle. It will take two or possibly three elections to recover, barring the Conservatives making a disaster of Brexit. Remember that we first have to win back traditional Labour seats in working-class places before moving on to marginal areas. That’s not going to happen overnight.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 790)

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