Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

Jewish leaders have congratulated Prime Minister Keir Starmer and the Labour Party on its historic general election victory.

While leaders acknowledged how Starmer had changed the culture of Labour and offered thanks to Rishi Sunak and the Conservative Party for 14 years communal support there was a call for continued vigilance over antisemtism across the UK.

Labour’s landslide triumph with 412 seats, a majority of 174, is the party’s biggest increase in MPs from one election to the next since World War 2. The result for Sunak and outgoing government, who retained just 121 seats, there lowest in the party’s history, was a disaster. Sunak will remain until his successor is announced, but former Foreign Minister, Lord Cameron, has ‘stepped back’ from front line politics, and will not be in the shadow cabinet. The Liberal Democrats, meantime, hold 72 seats, their highest total since 1923. SNP crashed to nine seats, Reform UK have five, Plaid Cymru and Green Party four apiece, 23 seats were won by other candidates.

Liz Truss, who held a majority of over 26,000, suffered the ignominy of being the first PM to lose a seat since Ramsay Macdonald in 1935.

Among Jewish MPs to also lose seats was Defence Secretary Grant Shapps. Jewish triumphs included Ed Miliband, now Energy Secretary, Fabian Hamilton, Alex Sobel, Sarah Sackman, Ben Coleman, Georgia Gould, David Pinto-Duschinsky, Peter Prinsley and Josh Simons.

Campaign Against Antisemitism and Action Against Discrimination gave a sobering evaluation of the result.

Gideon Falter, CAA Chief Executive, said: “The Labour Party arrives in Government as levels of anti-Jewish racism have skyrocketed and rocked the Jewish community for months. Our polling of British Jews is proof of the widespread fear that antisemitic extremists in our country are now completely out of control, with the effects of their hatred most visible on our streets and our campuses. So far, precious little has been done to tackle this outpouring of hatred and we will be making urgent proposals to the new Government, seeking firm action to halt the surge of Jew-hatred in Britain. The Labour Party has had to confront rampant antisemitism in its midst in recent years, and we hope that at this time of need it will do what is necessary to confront antisemitism in society, and defend this country’s Jewish community.”

A CST spokesperson stated: “Right now, it is more important than ever that a change of government does not affect our continuing fight against antisemitism and its causes. In this respect, we welcome the commitment that Sir Keir made to continuing the Protective Security Grant for the Jewish community that plays such a vital role in protecting our community.”

CST thanked Sunak and outgoing ministers for communal support particularly after the October 7 terror attack and subsequent rise in antisemitism in the UK.

Jonathan Metliss, AAD chairman, said: “We note with some anxiety, as do many members of the Jewish community, that the new Labour cabinet contains at least six members who have not been sympathetic to Israel’s position and cause. Foreign Secretary David Lammy has called for the establishment of a Palestinian State, the arrest of Benjamin Netanyahu and end of arm sales from the UK to Israel. Justice Secretary Shabana Mahmood has been prominent on pro-Palestinian marches, Culture Secretary Lisa Nandy was chairman of Labour Friends of Palestine, Energy Secretary Ed Milliband has a history of criticising Israel, whilst Attorney General Richard Hermer and Starmer himself has called for the establishment of a Palestinian State. Starmer also recently re-affirmed his support and respect for Corbyn, brought Diane Abbott back into the Labour fold, despite her antisemitic slurs, and dropped litigation against the Corbyn element of the party.”
Metliss added: “AAD expresses incredulity at how the Jewish community and its leaders have flocked back to and shown support for the Labour Party notwithstanding its leaning against Israel and the pro-Gaza and Palestine sentiments in the party. Where is the new government’s outrage at the continuing captivity of the Israeli hostages? It will be interesting to see how Home Secretary Yvette Cooper deals with pro-Palestinian marches which have become an incitement to antisemitism and the bias of the BBC. I and many others in the community are not holding our breath. We can only wait and see but without great confidence.”

Gary Mond, NJA chairman said the election victory was a pivotal moment for the UK.

“The British Jewish community is cautiously optimistic but remains vigilant,” he said. “The true test of whether Labour has effectively eradicated its antisemitism problem will be revealed in the coming months. While progress has been made, there are still pressing issues that require attention, such as Labour’s stance on recognising a Palestinian state and the UK’s continued support for Israel in its fight against Hamas.”

“The Jewish community will be closely monitoring the new government’s actions and policies,” Mond added. “It is imperative that the UK maintains its support for Israel’s right to self-defence and continues to stand against the terrorism that threatens both Israel and global stability. We urge the PM to uphold these values and ensure that antisemitism is met with zero tolerance.”

Phil Rosenberg, Board of Deputies President, recalled the state of Labour when Starmer took over from Jeremy Corbyn, now a sitting independent, in 2020.

“The fact that the incoming Prime Minister has changed the party so profoundly, transforming Labour’s fortunes from seismic defeat to landslide victory, is an enormous testament to his personal strength, determination and political courage,” he said. “We look forward to working with Keir and his Cabinet, many of whose members will be longstanding communal allies, to advance our common objectives and values. While there may be disagreements, we will seek to resolve these through constructive engagement.”

Rosenberg thanked Sunak and the Tory party for adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism, funding security for communal buildings, proscribing Hamas and Hezbollah, standing as an ally to Israel and advancing a new Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre beside Parliament.

Rosenberg added: “The challenges the new government faces, at home and abroad, are enormous. From the cost-of-living crisis to climate change, to rising hatred and extremism, to wars in defence of freedom and democracy in Ukraine and Israel, there is much to do to heal our broken world.

“Beneath the victory of a strong, stable and centrist government, many in our community will be concerned about the emergence of strains of divisive populism. The Jewish community tends to be allergic to the politics of the extremes. A key task of the new government, and our society, is to stand up to the forces of bigotry and strengthen the forces of cohesion. The Board will play its part.”

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said Starmer was taking on the mantle of national leadership at a “critical time when our fragile world is threatened by polarisation, extremism and conflict”.