The UK’s 2017 general election campaign was marred by overt racism against Jews on the part of some supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, perhaps most dramatically expressed in the erection of a vast antisemitic banner in a central location in the city of Bristol. Moreover, it came hard on the heels of the Labour Party’s failure to discipline Corbyn’s long-term ally, Ken Livingstone over his appalling historical distortions with regard to Adolf Hitler and the Zionist movement.
The Labour leadership is riding high at the moment, thanks to its less-severe-than-expected defeat in the face of an utterly shambolic Tory campaign. However, there’s been some discussion as to the electoral cost of its failures with regard to the Jewish community (see e.g. Marcus Dysch in the Jewish Chronicle).
Can we put a figure on that cost? If we look at voting in the part of the country with the highest Jewish population, we find that two percent more Jews in a constituency implies a roughly one percent smaller rise in Labour’s vote share.
Literally thousands of Labour members have had to be suspended or expelled for making or circulating antisemitic remarks, (see AntiNazisUnited for documentary evidence), with organisations such as Labour Against Antisemitism and the Jewish Labour Movement often seeming to face insurmountable odds in their effort to fight the problem from within. This seems paradoxical, because popular discourse associates all forms of racism with the political right, but, as recent work by Dave Rich and David Hirsh shows, there is a structural relationship between contemporary antisemitism and the self-identified ‘Left’, which Matt Bolton has argued to share a ‘”personalised” critique of capitalism’ centred around conspiracy theories and encouraged by Corbyn’s particular brand of populist rhetoric. Corbyn’s former media and strategy adviser, Harry Fletcher, has written as follows:
What angered me most was [the leadership team’s] inability to understand why [it is] seen as antisemitic. Jeremy believes he is completely unprejudiced. He would never be hostile to someone in the street. But he is, if you like, antisemitic along the institutionalised lines of the Metropolitan police when they messed up the Stephen Lawrence investigation.
I told Jeremy from the beginning that after his support for Hamas and Hezbollah, he had to say again and again that he supported the Jewish community and would never discriminate in any way. He couldn’t see it at all.
Every attempt to improve relationships did well for a day or two, and then something or somebody would sabotage it. Jeremy and the team didn’t understand the impact of incident after incident.
Some people said the criticism was about his views on Israel, not Jews as a whole. But it wasn’t. Jeremy did have an antipathy towards Israel. But the criticism he received came from a pattern of behaviour perceived by the Jewish community as antisemitic.
It is regrettable that repeated warnings from the likes of Fletcher were not enough to persuade Corbyn to take the Jewish community’s concerns seriously. But now that the election results are in, perhaps self interest will compel him to think again. The Jewish contribution to the Labour Party has historically been immense, but there’s a limit to how long you can expect people of any ethnic group to continue supporting an institution that gives clear signs of hating them.
And now the numbers
The inverse relationship between the size of the Jewish population and the size of the increase in the Labour vote is significant at p < 0.01, i.e. we would expect to get results as extreme as this less than 1% of the time if no such relationship existed. The following table shows the actual constituency-by-constituency figures, as compiled by David Beere. Regression analysis output is at the bottom of the page.
Tabulated figures: Jewish population and rise in Labour vote share
|Jewish population in 2011||Rise in Labour vote share, 2015-2017|
|Finchley and Golders Green||21.1||4.1|
|Hampstead and Highgate||6.5||14.6|
|Holborn and St Pancras||1.9||17.2|
|Hornsey and Wood Green||3.4||14.5|
Using R 3.3.1:
Call: lm(formula = Labour.Vote.Change ~ Percent.Jewish, data = constituencies) Residuals: Min 1Q Median 3Q Max -4.8118 -2.1636 0.7433 1.1903 4.5976 Coefficients: Estimate Std. Error t value Pr(>|t|) (Intercept) 13.4787 1.1456 11.766 1.42e-07 *** Percent.Jewish -0.4612 0.1372 -3.362 0.00634 ** --- Signif. codes: 0 ‘***’ 0.001 ‘**’ 0.01 ‘*’ 0.05 ‘.’ 0.1 ‘ ’ 1 Residual standard error: 3.105 on 11 degrees of freedom Multiple R-squared: 0.5068, Adjusted R-squared: 0.4619 F-statistic: 11.3 on 1 and 11 DF, p-value: 0.006343