LABOUR’S political and media opponents portray the party’s performance in the English local council and mayoral elections as disappointing, but it captured more seats and defended more than any other party.
Labour certainly did not capture some of its prime target councils, although its achievements in winning Kirklees or pushing Tory Trafford into no overall control should not be underestimated.
Nor should progress it made in Westminster and Wandsworth be downplayed, gaining seats in the former where Labour has never won control and the latter — Tory for over four decades — in which just 150 votes borough-wide kept the Tories in control.
Both boroughs are on a political knife edge, representing a triumph for the Labour volunteers, especially those mobilised by Momentum, who stormed Tory strongholds in the capital, giving Labour its best results in a London council election — and the Tories’ worst — since 1971.
Labour should learn lessons, looking at where it could have done things more effectively, but neither party nor activists should be downcast.
An oft-quoted truism is that divided parties lose elections and, while Labour is united across Britain behind Jeremy Corbyn, a vocal minority, especially in Parliament, opposes the leader and misses no opportunity to put the boot in.
A glance at media coverage reveals the usual suspects griping about their party’s alleged political inadequacies.
Foremost as ever in the media commentary by political opponents and internal critics is anti-semitism, repeating the slander that Labour under Corbyn tolerates this vile variant of racism and pointing to the results in Barnet as confirmation.
Defeated Labour councillor Adam Langleben, a national executive member of the Jewish Labour Movement, which has worked with the self-appointed conservative Board of Deputies of British Jews and Jewish Leadership Council to stoke the fires of anti-Corbyn allegations of anti-semitism, predictably blamed his own defeat on “Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour leadership.”
He told Sky News: “For too many members of the Jewish community voting Labour today was simply impossible, regardless of who the candidate was.”
Perhaps he and his group should be self-critical and assess how helpful they have been to Labour’s campaign.
As a Jewish Socialists’ Group member has pointed out, Barnet is not the only place in Britain where Jews live. In the east London borough of Redbridge, for instance, which has a notable Jewish population, Labour increased its tally from 36 seats to 51 while the Tory contingent was halved to a dozen.
Anti-semitism is a despicable crime that exists throughout society, including in political parties.
It should be be called out and condemned wherever it raises its head and all parties must educate members and supporters about its manifestations, but to wield it as a weapon against the most anti-racist leader of any party in Britain speaks volumes for the motives of those who do so.
The Tory Party has a long history of tolerating all forms of racism, including anti-semitism, in its own ranks and those of its allies.
It has reinstated a councillor in Pendle, suspended for tweeting a racist “joke,” to turn no overall control into a Tory council gain. Where is the media furore?
Similarly, its MEPs sit in the European Conservatives and Reformists group at Strasbourg, which contains some of the worst anti-semites and racists. Again no media concern.
That same media and the neoliberal defeatists within Labour will try to demoralise activists into believing the English elections have been a disaster for the party. They haven’t and better still lies ahead.
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