The current political battleground in Britain looks almost unrecognizable to what we have grown used to over the past few decades. Brexit has become the most decisive political conversation of our times, and it’s creating an interesting scenario for Britain’s two major parties. Internal faction wars in the Conservative party over its handling of Brexit has hurt them in the polls, and the party remains without a clear and agreed plan for Britain’s future.
This is the prime time for the Labour party to ride in, a knight in shining armour for the British voting public. But an ugly streak of anti-Semitism that has run through the party for some time is holding it back from coming to the rescue of those who are dissatisfied.
Recent actions of some Labour MPs including Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, have worried Jewish communities in Britain as well as some of Labour’s student supporters. Only recently has the Labour party fully accepted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition for anti-Semitism.
A photo of Corbyn posted by the Daily Mailshowed him attending a memorial service that reportedly sympathized with the perpetrators of the 1974 Munich terrorist attack, which killed 11 Israeli Olympians. Video footage of Corybn also shows him at a pro-Palestine meeting in 2013, where he said that British Zionists don’t understand ‘English irony’, which has had the effect of alienating a vast number of Jewish people in Britain. Corbyn has also defended a photo on Facebook that depicted a highly anti-Semitic mural, causing a major backlash in 2012.
It’s not just Corbyn who has made these mistakes. Ken Livingstone, former Labour Mayor of London, quit the party following remarks he made suggesting Hitler was a Zionist. What’s worse is that it took two years for him to leave Labour following these comments. Many suggest the party should have forced him out earlier.
These are the actions that have raised questions amongst the British electorate over Labour’s integrity, as well as its ability to control its own members. The strength of student support is rather flaky. While students do overwhelmingly lean left, there has been some confusion over the party’s official position on Brexit. A poll on undergraduate students has revealed that 55% of the respondents thought that Labour wanted the UK to remain in the European Union, and 42% of Labour voting students said they would be less likely to vote Labour in future if the party showed clear support for Brexit.
Labour needs to be careful not to alienate its young student backers. With confusion around the party’s stance on Brexit, and an increasingly bright light shining on the recent issues of anti-Semitism, students have every reason to question their voting intentions.