Assessing the UK Election and its Significance for Jews Everywhere
On Dec. 12, the United Kingdom held a general election for the third time in just five years. The election resulted in the Conservative Party, led by incumbent Prime Minister Boris Johnson, maintaining its status as the largest party in parliament and increasing its seat count with a net gain of 66 seats to secure 365 out of the 650 seats in the House of Commons — nearly 40 more than the necessary 326 required to form a government. The opposition Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, suffered a net loss of 42 seats, decreasing its share of seats from 262 to 203 in the party’s worst performance since 1935. For the Conservatives, this election was the party’s biggest victory since the re-election of Margaret Thatcher in 1987.
The election was a victory for supporters of Brexit. The Conservative Party, under the leadership and direction of Boris Johnson, had made leaving the European Union a big part of their campaign — to the point of making their official mantra “Get Brexit done.” Although a majority of the British public voted to leave the European Union in June of 2016, the parties have failed to reach an agreement on what the leave should look like. At a victory speech to supporters, Johnson said, “I will put an end to all that nonsense, and we will get Brexit done on time by the January 31 — no ifs, no buts, no maybes. Leaving the European Union as one United Kingdom, taking back control of our laws, borders, money, our trade, immigration system, delivering on the democratic mandate of the people.”
The election result also proved to be a victory for investors. As soon as an exit poll showing the Conservative Party would win a significant majority was published, the British pound jumped two percent against the euro, and 2.3% against the U.S. dollar. Throughout the election, markets improved whenever Conservative Party poll numbers increased and dropped whenever there was a chance that Corbyn’s Labour Party would form a government. Neil Wilson, an analyst at Markets.com, remarked about the election, “The exit poll shows a whopping victory for the Conservatives and the perfect result for the market and for business. Markets hate uncertainty, but they would have hated a Corbyn government a lot more.”
However, without any doubt, the biggest winner of this election is the Jewish community, not just in England, but worldwide.
Outgoing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been plagued by numerous anti-Semitic scandals. Corbyn referred to Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends,” despite both groups being designated terrorist groups by both the European Union and the United States. In 2012, Corbyn appeared on Iran’s Press TV, and speculated that the “hand of Israel” was involved in a terrorist attack in Egypt in which sixteen policemen and border guards were killed and seven were injured. Corbyn said about the attack, “I’m very concerned about it [the massacre] and you have to look at the big picture: in whose interests is it to destabilise the new government in Egypt? In whose interest is it to kill Egyptians, other than Israel, concerned at the growing closeness of relationship between Palestine and the new Egyptian government?” When asked by presenter Lauren Booth if “a Muslim would go against his Egyptian brother and open fire?”, Corbyn responded, “It seems a bit unlikely that would happen during Ramadan, to put it mildly, and I suspect the hand of Israel in this whole process of destabilisation.” In 2014, Corbyn traveled to Tunisia and participated in a wreath-laying ceremony for the terrorists who murdered eleven Israelis at the 1972 Munich Olympics. At the time, then-Labour MP Luciana Berger called on Corbyn to apologize: “Being ‘present’ is the same as being involved. When I attend a memorial, my presence alone, whether I lay a wreath or not, demonstrates my association and support. There can also never be a ‘fitting memorial’ for terrorists. Where is the apology?” Last year, Corbyn was forced to apologize for attending an event in 2010 titled “Never Again for Anyone: Auschwitz to Gaza,” that compared Israel to Nazi Germany. In 2017, it was discovered that Corbyn was a stalwart supporter of an anti-Israel campaign group, Deir Yassin Remembered, which is chaired by notorious Holocaust denier Paul Eisen. Eisen wrote an essay in 2005 detailing his support for a jailed German Holocaust denier, and insisted being a Holocaust denier was an “entirely honourable thing.”
The controversy surrounding Corbyn drew comments from people who usually refrain from speaking about politics publicly. Former Chief Rabbi of England Jonathan Sacks said in an interview with the New Statesman in 2018 that Corbyn is “an anti-Semite” who has lent support to “racists, terrorists and dealers of hate.” The comment was the first time Rabbi Sacks has issued a political statement in his 30 years in public life. Rabbi Sacks was also asked on the BBC if he knew any Jews who were seriously considering leaving Britain if Corbyn would become the next prime minister, and responded with, “of course.” Indeed, a poll commissioned by the Jewish Leadership Council and shared with The Times of Israel found that 47% of Jews in the U.K. would “seriously consider” emigrating if Corbyn won, and 87% considered Corbyn anti-Semitic. The current Chief Rabbi of England, Ephraim Mirvis, in an unprecedented move, warned that the “very soul of our nation is at stake.” Assessing the way Labour has handled allegations of anti-Semitism, Rabbi Mirvis said, “The way in which the leadership of the Labour Party has dealt with anti-Jewish racism is incompatible with the British values of which we are so proud - of dignity and respect for all people. It has left many decent Labour members and parliamentarians, both Jewish and non-Jewish, ashamed of what has transpired.”
With the results of the latest election, the Jewish community can breathe a sigh of relief. Not only will Jeremy Corbyn not be the next Prime Minister of England, he will no longer lead the Labour Party. Following his electoral defeat on Friday, Corbyn announced he would step down as leader. The election results in Britain are good news for Jewish communities around the world, and indeed for all people who oppose bigotry.
Photo caption: The outgoing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been plagued by numerous anti-Semitic scandals.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons