Why Corbyn’s Antisemitism Problem Will Never Go Away

Image: Creator/Simon Dawson Credit/REUTERS

Image: Creator/Simon Dawson Credit/REUTERS

Politicians trade on reputation

In 2010, comedy show the Thick of It hammered home a message: We the electorate are fickle and seemingly innocuous parts of a politician’s personal life has the potential to ruin their career. This was everyone’s favourite spin doctor Malcom Tucker’s understanding, and is as relevant to today as it was almost a decade ago.

Unless your name is Boris Johnson or Donald Trump.

Without the immunity of wealth and fame, MP’s private lives and small blunders can haunt them once embarking on a career in the public eye. Remember when Emily Thornberry was forced to resign over a tweet of a picture of a house? Or when Andre McNeil lost his job over allegedly calling some police officers ‘plebs’? 

Probes of MP’s personal lives and track record are an unavoidable part of national politics. Scandals over seemingly innocent or vague claims of misconduct become high-risk in a job that relies on the electorate’s opinion of you. Being an elected representative of the people, your record must match your words and your actions must be carefully considered. Politicians trade on reputation – if you are liked, you get elected, and if you fall out of favour, you get fired.

Corbyn’s labour party has been embroiled in an antisemitism scandal since 2016. 

The Labour party is supposed to be the party of inclusion and anti-racism, the party for minorities to feel represented and their voices heard; the antithesis of the gammon-faced Tories. 

The reputational damage that this poorly managed antisemitism scandal has done is, in my opinion, immeasurable.

Labour’s anti-racist agenda has been undermined 

Many left-wing commentators on this topic call to attention the fact that Corbyn is being held to a very different standard to Conservative or Republican politicians when it comes to his track record. They conclude that the news media are unfairly judging Corbyn, because leaders of the right are not dragged through the mud in same way over their blatantly racist actions and words. 

My understanding is we absolutely should be holding the leaders of the left to a higher standard than the (non-existent) standards of the right. 

In an ideal world, all politicians should face consequences for problematic behaviour. Unfortunately, on the right these kinds of actions are more often praised than shamed, as evidenced by one of the most problematic Tories of this generation becoming prime minister last week. 

The left must lead by example. Holding our leaders to a higher standard than the conservatives do is not a mark of unfairness - it’s a sign that left-wing parties take these issues seriously where right-wing parties will not.   

It is shocking that our major left-wing party has had a problem with xenophobia. Not only does it affect the Jews like me and our willingness to put these accusations aside for the policies that most align with our views, it also affects those that vote Labour for its anti-racist and inclusive agenda. 

If Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour cannot crack down on antisemitism and tackle the problem head-on, how can we trust this to be a party that will foster inclusivity if they are elected?

Permanent Damage

It is simply not reasonable to ask voters to forget about the scandal and vote based on policy alone. We (the electorate) have always been a fickle bunch, and something as powerful and long-running as a 3 year long antisemitism scandal is unlikely to fade from memory before the next election. 

My most cynical self believes that it has done permanent damage not just to Corbyn’s reputation, but to Labour as a whole. This would leave us with the neoliberal economic ideas of the Liberal Democrats as the left-wing alternative. Unfortunately for those looking to instate a new kind of politics, the antisemitism scandal is likely to become a defining feature of this chapter of the Labour party’s executive. 

What I believe is absolutely true, whether or not you believe the scandal is overblown or obsessed over, is that Jeremy Corbyn’s office has a reputation that cannot be salvaged. This reality must be faced if we are serious about ending the horrific reign of the Conservatives.

Article by Olivia Cohen