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Two days is a long time in pre-election politics
On 28th November Francis Elliott’s triumphalist article in the Times heralded a seat-by-seat analysis based on polling by YouGov for The Times.
But two days later, a BMG poll which questioned 1,663 voters between 27 and 29 November showed that the Conservative lead had ‘narrowed sharply’ (Reuters) – halved when compared with last week’s poll.
Robert Struthers, BMG’s head of polling, said “If this trend continues, this election could be much closer than it looked just a matter of weeks ago.”
Rob Merrick (Independent) points out that the results come at the end of a week when Mr Johnson has faced further criticism on several counts, compounding earlier allegations, including:
- his appalling attitude to single mothers and working-class men
- his unwillingness to face Andrew Neil.
- the early release from prison of the London Bridge attacker and
- his relationship with Donald Trump, who will arrive for a NATO summit in London on Tuesday.
Robert Struthers said there was growing evidence Labour is “starting to build momentum” ahead of the election on 12 December. 73% of those who backed the party at the 2017 election now planning to do the same on 12 December – up from 67% a week ago.
The change in direction is shown above and BMG’s headline voting intention figures take the Conservative lead from a likely majority into possible hung parliament territory. Will this continue and take the Labour Party into the lead?
Many who watched ‘a grandstanding Andrew Neil’ interviewing Jeremy Corbyn commented on social media or wrote to the BBC like this Yardley Wood reader – were “appalled at AN’s aggression and bullying manner. . . JC did remain calm but was not given a chance to fully answer any of the questions”.
It is simply false to assert that Corbyn “refused to apologise” for antisemitism in his party. Rather, he ignored a bullying demand for an apology for something for which he has no reason to apologise.
Corbyn thankfully has the nous to spot a propagandist elephant-trap when he sees one, and to simply ignore it – and he was absolutely right not to allow himself to be positioned into apologising by a grandstanding Andrew Neil, whose sole purpose was to create his own newsline that would then generate a storm that would consume Corbyn.
Mr Learmont-Hughes appears not to be aware of the new book by reputable academic researchers, Bad News for Labour: Antisemitism, the Party and Public Belief (Greg Philo et al., Pluto, 2019), which provides chapter-and-verse on the orchestrated establishment assault on Labour and Corbyn around antisemitism.
He might also be surprised to hear that since 1977, there are at least 50 instances of Corbyn having proactively supported challenges to antisemitism and having supported Jewish causes, Of course the critics can’t acknowledge the latter, as it would fatally disrupt their Corbyn-beating narrative.
The Chief Rabbi is merely the latest weapon to be deployed by the “Destroy Corbyn By Any Means” Project; and the BBC’s wall-to-wall reporting of this non-story in particular has been an outrage, and in flagrant contravention of their legal responsibility for neutral political reporting in general election campaigns.
London Imam and broadcaster Ajmal Masroor writes a powerful open letter to the Chief Rabbi about Jeremy Corbyn
Dear Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
My name is Ajmal Masroor. I have been an Imam for almost 30 years and I write to you today as your brother in faith and humanity.
I proudly practice Islam in our multicultural and multi-faith country, without fear or prejudice, despite the rising levels of Islamophobia. I take a keen interest in politics and believe in actively influencing change, which is why I stood for Parliament twice – once in 2010 and again in 2018.
I believe people of faith must play an active role in all aspects of our society, including politics. As such, I welcome your letter to The Times, where you urge us to vote with our conscience. Both our Jewish and Islamic traditions place conscience at the core of our Godly life on this Earth. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for reminding us of our innate, God-gifted tool: the conscience.
However, I vehemently disagree with the rest of your assertions, where you suggest that Jeremy Corbyn is unfit to be our next Prime Minister. You blame Jeremy Corbyn personally for the antisemitic behaviour of Labour Party members. In my humble opinion, you have made a severe error of judgment in calling Jeremy Corbyn unfit to be our Prime Minister. Before I express why, do you believe that Boris Johnson is more fit to be our Prime Minister?
In the upcoming general election, we are limited in our choices. We know that the Liberal Democrats will never achieve enough support to win the election. We are left with a choice between the Conservative party and the Labour party. Under the Conservative party, our country has witnessed unprecedented levels of poverty, inequality, austerity, homelessness and division.
The Conservative party has sold its soul to Nigel Farage’s UKIP, and now Brexit party. The true moderate and centre ground Conservative politicians have been pushed out or side-lined by the extremists within this party. If your assertion is that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour should not be supported, are you endorsing the Conservative party, that is deeply hostile to the multicultural and multi-faith fabric of our society? Inadvertently, are you telling the Jewish community to vote for a deeply Islamophobic party? Is this your idea of voting with our conscience?
We are men of faith, and you will agree that the practise of double standards in all faiths is abhorrent. When I read about your selective outrage – calling out the Labour party for its failure to stamp out antisemitism – while turning a blind eye to the Conservative party’s Islamophobia, I felt deeply disappointed. Antisemitism is evil and we should all stand against it with all our might. Islamophobia is also evil, and we should equally stand against it. I find it deeply hypocritical when people do not observe fairness and consistency when struggling against all kinds of evil. In Judaism, as in Islam, justice and fair dealings are considered closest to Godliness. Sadly, your letter did not display justice or fairness towards Jeremy Corbyn, and instead came across as a cheap attempt at political posturing.
If I was told to choose between a lying, philandering and narcissistic clown and a truthful, principled and humble socialist, my choice would be easy. I would never entrust the future of our country to the hands of a man who is an occupational liar. I would never ask the people of our country to vote for a man who makes a mockery of clean and principled politics. The only thing Boris Johnson is interested in is himself; not our country, and certainly not community cohesion.
Jeremy Corbyn has a forty year track record of selfless service to his constituency and the absolute interest of all people in our country. He has always been a genuine friend of the minorities, disadvantaged and vulnerable. Why would you suggest that he was unfit for the Prime Minister’s office?
What is Jeremy Corbyn’s actual crime that has led you to deeming him unfit for the job? Has Jeremy Corbyn personally been accused of antisemitism? The answer is an emphatic ‘no’! He has never been accused of antisemitism.
On the other hand, Boris Johnson has made many inflammatory and deeply offensive remarks about Islam and Muslim women, including citing Islam as the reason for backwardness, violence and economic degeneration within the Muslim communities. He has also likened Muslim women, who wear face covering, to “bank robbers” and “letter boxes”. In the week of his remark, anti-Muslim hate crime spiked by more than 300%. And he hasn’t stopped at the Muslim community alone. His opinion and remarks on minority communities has been abhorrent, including saying he was afraid of black men; that black people were “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”, and referred to gay men as “bum boys”. Is this the rhetoric you expect from the leader of our country?
I know the Labour party is accused of antisemitism, and the UK human rights commission is currently investigating it. I pray the investigation is thorough and where strands of antisemitism are identified, that they are promptly and swiftly removed and publicly admonished. But surely you would agree that the Conservative party should also be investigated for Islamophobia. Allegation alone is not enough for faith leaders like us to charge entire parties. Our claims must be substantiated, with credible evidence, and then we must wait for investigations to completed and for those findings to be made public. Both of our religious traditions have a rich, ethical parameter on how to deal with accusations, and how to challenge hatred. I am saddened to say that I believe you have violated this very principle by adding further fuel to an allegation; an act that is not only irresponsible but astoundingly dangerous in the middle of the most important election of our time.
I have always respected you as a man of faith and expected you to adhere to a higher standard of moral and ethical probity. I did not expect your high office to be compromised by spreading aspersions on Jeremy Corbyn. By doing so, you have become actively involved in what is essentially a smear campaign against Jeremy Corbyn, who has never been antisemitic in his life. The plain truth is that there are numerous accounts of Jeremy Corbyn championing all forms of campaigns to eradicate hate crime from our society, including standing up for the rights of our Jewish communities in and around the UK. He has equally championed the right of the Palestinians too. He has recognised failings within the party, taken responsibility for these, offered an apology and vowed to do better. He has been honest and upright, and as a man of faith, I would expect you to follow suit.
Your statement carries with it a grave dishonesty, and I am deeply disappointed by it. In a time of political and social crisis across the world, let us adhere to honesty first and foremost. And in this very spirit, let me ask you: have you called Jeremy Corbyn antisemitic because he has been critical of the Israeli government’s policy of occupation, expansion of illegal settlements and dehumanisation of the Palestinian people? Using your pulpit to broadcast the same message as those who have weaponised antisemitism is plainly irresponsible. It beggar’s belief that you would find criticism of Israel or its political ideology of Zionism as antisemitism. No state or political ideology is beyond reproach. You falsely labelling Jeremy Corbyn as an anti-Semite will not silence people, nor will it deter people from standing up against Israeli aggression and violence against the Palestinian people.
It pains me to know that as a man of faith first and foremost, you have been a clear supporter of the Israeli government’s aggression against the Palestinian people. In August 2014, you wrote that Israel had “understandably and justifiably defended her citizens” by taking disproportionate and indiscriminate military action in Gaza, killing innocent men, women and children. Israel continues its illegal policies of assassination, destruction of Palestinian homes, confiscation of Palestinian people’s land, occupation, collective punishment and keeps an iron fist around the Palestinian people’s right to freely move – even within their own areas. It has built the disgraceful apartheid wall and it steals water from the Palestinians and then sells it back to the Palestinians. You have remained silent about the state-sponsored injustices perpetrated by Israel, and now you are criticising Jeremy Corbyn of anti-Semitism for championing the rights of Palestinians.
You have been a supporter of Benyamin Netanyahu, who has been convicted on many corruption charges, including fraud, breach of trust and bribery. You have no moral authority to lecture us on how Jeremy Corbyn is unfit to be the Prime Minister of our country. You have politicised your spiritual position to influence voters and I believe this is totally wrong. You are abusing your office to silence criticism of Israel, and that too is totally wrong. As a man of faith, you should know better.
If we believe that as men of faith, we should be leading our communities in the way of honesty and integrity, I would urge you to reconsider your position. Our people deserve better; we can and should be better.
Your brother in faith
Imam Ajmal Masroor
In an even-handed review of Andrew Neil’s interview with Jeremy Corbyn, Jim Pickard said that Mr Corbyn’s appearance was praised by some of his most loyal supporters: Aaron Bastani, from the leftwing Novara Media, said: “This is like a master batsman at the crease”.
A valued correspondent had earlier sent a message about the interview and said that Jeremy Corbyn came across as ‘an impatient irritable old geezer’.
I have never seen a Neil interview and knew little about him so I read around before seeing the interview. I learnt that he had been:
- chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students,
- employed by the Conservative Party,
- worked for Rupert Murdoch as editor of the Sunday Times for 10 years,
- chair of the Dubai based publishing company ITP Media Group since 2006,.
- has strongly supported all military actions,
- compared Tony Blair to Winston Churchill
- and rejects the scientific consensus on climate change,
The snapshot on the right was taken during the first few moments of the interview, showing a far from cordial or polite Andrew Neil.
After focussing on the usual well-worn accusations Andrew Neil was visibly rattled when Corbyn started to speak about the funders of ISIS (our Gulf allies) who created the dangers now facing many – and quickly cut him short.
My verdict: A few of Jeremy Corbyn’s answers could have been better worded but, despite Andrew Neil’s irritability and aggression, the Labour leader endured the frequent bullying interruptions of his answers with great patience and dignified composure.
Anti-semitism, neoliberalism and austerity rejected by Jeremy Corbyn – the first Labour leader in decades to do so
British Jews, most of whom have family in Israel and lost family in the Holocaust, and all with plenty of experience taking on antisemites face to face across the political spectrum, point out that Jeremy Corbyn is the first Labour leader in decades to promote a policy agenda that rejects neoliberalism and austerity.
They ask: “Is that (policy agenda) why mainstream media don’t want to give access to the counter-narrative?”
They were alarmed to read, yet again, a list of evidence-free accusations charging Jeremy Corbyn with antisemitism (Letters, 15 November) and wrote a letter published in the Guardian today, which continued:
We are not the least surprised that the Jewish friends of the 24 luminaries who signed are worried and frightened about this supposed antisemitism – they repeatedly read and hear unsubstantiated allegations in pages of newsprint and hours of broadcasting, while the vast amount of countervailing evidence that has been collected by highly reputable researchers, many of them Jewish, is entirely disregarded.
As British Jews, most of whom have family in Israel and lost family in the Holocaust, and all of us with plenty of experience taking on antisemites face to face across the political spectrum, we are not prepared to be used as cannon fodder in what is really a political siege of the Labour party.
We beg you, enough – and we beg the 24 protagonists and their Jewish friends – to check out the alternative voices.
- Antony Lerman,Former director, Institute for Jewish Policy Research,
- Lynne Segal, Anniversary professor, psychosocial studies, Birkbeck, University of London,
- Richard Kuper, Founder, Pluto Press,
- Jacqueline Rose, Professor of humanities, Birkbeck, University of London,
- Adam Sutcliffe Professor of European history, King’s College London,
- Miriam David Professor emerita, UCL Institute of Education,
- Dr Brian Klug Senior research fellow in philosophy, St Benet’s Hall, University of Oxford,
- John S Yudkin Professor emeritus, University College London,
- Jonathan Rosenhead Emeritus professor of operational research, LSE,
- Francesca Klug Visiting professor, LSE Human Rights,
- Dr Graeme Segal Emeritus fellow, All Souls, University of Oxford,
- Mica Nava Emeritus professor of cultural studies, University of East London,
- Elizabeth Dore Professor emeritus, Latin American Studies, University of Southampton,
- Naomi Wayne Former chief enforcement officer, Equal Opportunities Commission for Northern Ireland,
- Stephen Sedley
The Guardian also has three other letters on the subject – well worth reading.
This is the title of an article written by Emily Apple to which a Bournville reader has drawn attention
Her reasons for voting Labour:
- We have a Labour Party run by an anti-fascist who’s put his money where his mouth is in terms of action;
- his party seeks a genuine alternative to the status quo of neoliberalism, austerity and gross inequality;
- she believes a Labour government will make a real difference to millions of people across the world;
- on behalf of all who’ve suffered under the vile and heartbreaking austerity measures of Conservative-led governments – and
- of people being bombed with weapons sold by UK companies.
Since Jeremy Corbyn came to power, Emily has seen those that oppose him try every trick in the book to find the key to smearing him. For a while, nothing stuck. Then came the antisemitism ‘crisis’. And relentless pressure, a complicit establishment media that has been happy to ‘distort’ the facts, gross repetition and a witch hunt that eventually worked. Now it’s got to the point where many people automatically associate Labour and the Corbyn project with antisemitism.
there is a horrific rise in antisemitism – it’s just not in the Labour Party – the far right desecrates Jewish graves with swastikas, and there are open attacks on Jewish people in the streets. This is real and utterly terrifying. But unlike the manufactured crisis, it’s got nothing to with critiquing Israel or supporting Palestinian freedom.
But this election has caused her another existential crisis. She supports Corbyn and she’ll vote Labour. But she reminds us to remember that an election doesn’t give us real political power. It’s easy to get caught up thinking ‘my vote matters’ – especially when you live in a marginal constituency.
But – and it is a big but – this doesn’t mean supporting parliamentary democracy. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be looking at alternatives. And even if Corbyn wins, we need to be looking at ways of dismantling the power of Westminster and putting that power back in the hands of our communities – something Corbyn says he wants to do. She ends:
“But people are dying under the Tories. I’m also terrified for my future, my child’s future, and the future of millions of strangers under the Tories. This is why, as a Jewish person who believes parliamentary democracy is fundamentally flawed, I’m supporting Labour and I’ll be ticking that box come election day – giving Jeremy Corbyn the chance to see him running the country – a chance that needs to be taken”.