By David Saffer
The Queen announced the government’s legislation agenda at today’s State Opening of Parliament after last week’s general election when Tory leader Boris Johnson enjoyed a “crushing victory” in the fight anti-Semitism.
For the UK Jewish community, victory for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party was unthinkable. Many Jews considered leaving the country rather than live in a Corbyn-led government.
In the aftermath of Johnson’s triumph, Jewish leaders voiced delight, and relief, world leaders welcomed the news while Corbyn critics lambasted Labour’s campaign and leadership.
Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, summed up the Tory triumph as a “crushing victory in the fight against anti-Semitism”.
“I expect to continue the work on strengthening Israel’s excellent relationship with Britain, which is apparent in our trade and tourism relations, and I tell you is apparent in the security issue of fighting against terrorism as well,” he said.
Foreign Minister Israel Katz described Johnson’s win as a “victory of values” over anti-Semitism.
In the UK, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove said Britain had “comprehensively rejected” Corbyn’s politics of “division, extremism and anti-Semitism”.
“I want to say something to a very special group of people, our Jewish friends and neighbours,” he noted. “You have had to live in fear for months now, concerned that we would have a Prime Minister who trafficked in anti-Jewish rhetoric and embraced anti-Jewish terrorists. You should never have to live in fear again.”
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis voiced caution within 24 hours of the result.
“The election may be over but concerns about the resurgence of anti-Semitism very much remain,” he said. “Islamophobia, racism and other forms of prejudice continue to afflict our communities and, as has been well publicised, even our political parties. It is vital that we now bring the country together, ensuring that the voices of people from across our society are heard and respected. We must focus on our shared values and leave all hatred and prejudice far behind us.”
Meantime, Marie van der Zyl, Board of Deputies said the election was an historic achievement for Johnson and the Conservatives.
“We hope that the Prime Minister will use his new mandate to bring the country together, and put an end to the toxicity and prejudice which has become too regular a feature of our politics,” she said. “We look forward to working with the Government to ensure that our country strives to be a beacon of inclusion and respect for all its inhabitants.”
Regarding the opposition party, she noted, “History will not look kindly on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party, where anti-Jewish racism has been allowed to run amok and some at the highest levels of the party have appeared to collude to protect anti-Semites. We urge the next leader of the Labour Party to act quickly to implement the steps repeatedly recommended by Jewish communal groups to begin solving this crisis and moving our politics forward.”
The Anti-Defamation League’s Jonathan Greenblatt acclaimed Corbyn’s demise.
“Let’s hope this will push him from centre stage and drain the hate out of British politics, let alone the rest of the world,’ he noted.
Gideon Falter, Campaign Against Antisemitism, was as succinct.
“Not for the first time, our nation has stood firm against anti-Semitism,” he said. “The British public has watched the once proudly anti-racist Labour Party become infested with Jew-hatred and it has resoundingly decided to stand with its Jewish community and give the anti-Semites a crushing rebuke. The faith that British Jews showed in our country has been vindicated.
“We urgently need to return to a time when anti-Semitism had no place in our politics. We must not allow ourselves to forget the fear that many British Jews felt yesterday when a Corbyn premiership remained a possibility. Firm action must now be taken against anti-Semites in politics and those who enabled them, but an anti-Semite cannot be trusted to rid the Labour Party of this evil.”
As Labour look for a new leader, critics have not held back on their election trouncing. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, speaking earlier this week, was scathing.
“The result has brought shame on us,” he noted. “We let our country down. To go into an election at any time with such a divergence between people and party is unacceptable. To do it at a time of national crisis when a credible opposition was so essential to our national interest, is unforgiveable.”
Regarding Corbyn, Blair said politically, people saw him as fundamentally opposing what Britain and Western societies stand for.
“He personified an idea, a brand of quasi-revolutionary socialism, mixing far-left economic policy with deep hostility to Western foreign policy, which never has appealed to traditional Labour voters, never will appeal and represented for them a combination of misguided ideology and terminal ineptitude that they found insulting,” he noted.
Blair added, “The takeover of the Labour Party by the far left turned it into a glorified protest movement, with cult trimmings, utterly incapable of being a credible government.”
As for the Jewish community, his comments on anti-Semitism rang true.
“Anti-Semitism is a stain,” he noted. “The failure to deal with it, a matter of disgust that left some of us who voted Labour feeling, for the first time in our lives, conflicted about doing it.”
Blair concluded, “Messrs Johnson and Cummings had a strategy for victory, we had one for defeat.”