Poll: Most Labour members say anti-Semitism exaggerated

Labour leader Keir Starmer is facing an uphill battle with his membership.

Ian Forsyth PA Wire

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.”

The Jewish Chronicle claimed the Labour Party is still “in thrall” to Jeremy Corbyn. (Peace and Justice Project)

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.

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Truth be said polls are most often only as good as to the clarity of the question ,namely the context from which the questioner is asking.

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JC
Is a spiritual leader make him chair
After May elections challenge Temporary Embarrassment
My dog would win next leadership election
In the meantime
RaV
Rejoin and Vote

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Alfred Lilienthal placed much more importance to "Anti-anti-semitism" rather than anti-Semitism as a socio-political organized movement.

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I find it amazing that so many LP members think there a problem with AS in the Party....unless the question is posed in such a way that would see a handful of the half million people in the party as anti semites. The real issue of racism in the Party is against Afro Caribbeans and Muslims....but these groups don’t have a fraction of the lobbying power / noise making / Mainstream media influence as the Zionist Lobby. We haven’t been notified of any clear examples of anti semitism since Zionism came to dictate our agenda.

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Mr. O'Donoghue; I wholeheartedly agree with your statement. In addition, it is the Israel Lobby, Zionists, and their supporters who have demonized and dehumanized Muslims and Arabs and have fomented slanderous and vicious hate toward them throughout the U.K. and Europe. The problem is NOT with Muslims or Arabs, the problem is with Occupied Palestine (Israel), Zionism, and their supporters--they survive and thrive on disinformation, misinformation, and most of all hate!

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"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.”"

Grounds for a slander lawsuit, I would think.
Also a complaint to Britain's media watchdog.

Expel Starmer for prosecuting a witch hunt!

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Other important findings of the poll are the overwhelming support for BDS (61% support, 8% oppose) and 49% agreeing with the statement that Israel is an apartheid state.

These are very encouraging number. I don't think the The Jewish Chronicle expected these results. Of course they try to frame the poll as evidence of widespread antisemitism in Labour.

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Corbyn won't bid to lead Labour. He may not be permitted to stand as a candidate at the next GE. That looks quite likely now. If he were to stand as a peace and justice candidate and win his seat, that would be a watershed. Speculation. What is beyond doubt is that the central claim that Labour is "institutionally anti-Semitic" was factitious and maliciously engineered to subvert the left. The Israeli lobby simply can't countenance the election of a PM who believes in equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians. That the PLP sided with them is a disgrace. That the bureaucracy did is only to expected, as it is reactionary and unaccountable. As Alan Duncan has exposed, the Israeli lobby has a direct and significant influence over UK politics. Imagine if Islamic influence worked in the same way: the media would go into hysterical meltdown. Most Labour members know there is virtually no anti-Semitism in Labour. They attend branch meetings, CLP meetings, they campaign - and they never encounter it. The manipulation of our politics by representatives of a foreign power which oppresses the Palestinians, defies international law and regularly uses unwonted violence against civilians is a scandal, and as Duncan has written, "a mess". The one person who emerges from this dirty business with cleans hands is Jeremy Corbyn. There is no evidence he is anti-Semitic but overwhelming evidence he has been consistently anti-racist for half a century. What we have seen at work here is the demented doctrine of the Perlmutters and co: the "new anti-Semitism" or the "real anti-Semitism": in brief, defend the followers of Herzl or you're an anti-Semite. Ironic given the current of anti-Semitism which runs through Herzl's work, which is, indeed, at its core. When the dust settles and the evidence is presented this shabby affair will expose the liars, manipulators, defamers and Corbyn will be exonerated. The left will return, Austin notwithstanding.

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Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London.

At The Electronic Intifada he is associate editor and co-host of our podcast.