Poll: Most Labour members say anti-Semitism exaggerated

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and current leader Keir Starmer (Reuters)

Asa Winstanley

The Electronic Intifada  /  April 15, 2021

The vast majority of Labour Party members believe that the issue of anti-Semitism in the party has been exaggerated, a new poll indicates.

The full poll, published earlier this month, revealed that 70 percent of members believe either that the party doesn’t have a serious problem with anti-Semitism or that the scale has been exaggerated.

Almost half of members polled answered that Labour “has a problem with anti-Semitism, but the extent of the problem has been exaggerated” – 46 percent.

About a quarter answered that Labour “does not have a serious problem with anti-Semitism” – 24 percent.

A minority answered that the party “has a serious problem with anti-Semitism” which “has not been exaggerated” – 23 percent.

In a sample size of 1,073 members, almost three quarters said that former leader Jeremy Corbyn should not be expelled from the Labour Party. Only 15 percent said he should.

Corbyn was suspended as a Labour member in October last year.

The move came following a posting by Corbyn in which he said of alleged anti-Semitism in the party that “the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents.”

Smear campaign

Corbyn was soon readmitted as a party member, but remains banned from Labour’s group in the House of Commons – despite being an elected MP – following a decision by right-wing leader Keir Starmer to block him.

The new poll shows that despite Starmer’s attempt to purge the party of the left and supporters of Palestinian rights, the vast majority of members remain convinced that the so-called “Labour anti-Semitism crisis” was overstated.

The smear campaign by Israel and its lobby contributed to this exaggeration.

Earlier polls showed similar figures.

In February 2020, 73 percent of Labour members polled said anti-Semitism in the party had been “invented or wildly exaggerated.”

This new poll was conducted by British firm YouGov for the anti-Palestinian newspaper The Jewish Chronicle, to coincide with Starmer’s first year in office.

More purges

The paper claimed that the poll showed that large numbers of Labour members are “still in thrall to Jeremy Corbyn” and that the party “remains in denial.”

In an objectively inaccurate headline, it misreported that the poll showed 70 percent of members “still think the party has no problem with Jew hate.”

But the 70 percent headline figure included the 46 percent who in fact answered that “the Labour Party has a problem with anti-Semitism, but the extent of the problem has been exaggerated” (my emphasis).

The paper claimed that the poll shows “the scale of the challenge that still faces Sir Keir, who pledged on his first day as leader to tear anti-Semitism out by the roots and restore trust with the Jewish community.”

In other words, pro-Israel activists are suggesting that Starmer should go even further in his membership expulsions.

Corbyn’s return?

In a commentary piece on the poll, pro-Israel unelected lawmaker (and former Labour MP) Ian Austin was more explicit.

He called for Starmer to “expel the hard left,” who he blamed for alleged anti-Semitism, “starting with Corbyn and John McDonnell,” the former leader’s close ally.

Austin is clearly worried that the so-called “hard left” such as Corbyn and McDonnell could one day make a comeback. And that’s why he is demanding expulsions: “Anything less and the public will wonder whether they could seize control again.”

“Seize control” is a bizarre way to refer to two fully democratic landslide Labour leadership election victories within the course of a single year.

Is Ian Austin’s fear of a Corbyn return realistic?

So far Corbyn has shown little to no desire to defend himself against the false charge that he and his party base are anti-Semitic.

While it’s impossible to count Corbyn out, until he learns to start fighting back, leading Labour again would be impossible.

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London