POLITICS
04/05/2018 12:58 BST | Updated 04/05/2018 14:55 BST

Jeremy Corbyn ‘Should Go To Barnet To Apologise’ For Anti-Semitism Row Wrecking Labour’s Hopes Of Taking Tory Flagship

Defeated councillor in Jewish ward demands answers

TOLGA AKMEN via Getty Images

Jeremy Corbyn should apologise in person to Labour activists in Barnet for allowing the party’s anti-semitism problem to ruin its chances of winning the key Tory council, a defeated councillor has told HuffPost UK.

Adam Langleben, whose seat in the heavily Jewish ward of West Hendon fell to the Conservatives, said that the Labour leader had a duty to say sorry for the way he had personally failed to get a grip of the issue.

Labour had hoped it would win the north London Tory flagship, but instead Theresa May’s party won it back from no overall control after a dramatic increase in support in key wards.

Instead of making gains, Labour lost three councillors in West Hendon, which it has held for 40 years, but also in Hale, another area with a big Jewish population.

The anti-semitism row – which has seen Corbyn being forced to say sorry for suggesting a Jew-hating mural should not be taken down – also appeared to have a big impact on the Jewish vote outside London too.

In parts of Salford, Trafford and in Bury in Greater Manchester, the Tory vote soared.

HuffPost has been told that Corbyn, who visited Barnet this week without informing local councillors, had been due to visit a ‘victory party’ hosted by local Momentum members on Saturday.  Party sources denied the claim.

Langleben said: “I think he should still come to Barnet tomorrow, or today. It would be the perfect opportunity for him to apologise.

“He should apologise to the Jewish community and articulate exactly how he intends to meet their concerns.

“He should also apologise to Labour activists, the people who have spent the best part of a decade slowly building our support so we can win this borough, only to see it go backwards.”

Langleben was one of three Labour councillors to lose their seats in West Hendon. 

Another was Agnes Slocombe, who had served the ward for 36 years. She was joined on the campaign trail by Sadiq Khan and Jeremy Corbyn last month.

John Stillwell - PA Images via Getty Images
Agnes Slocombe, who lost her West Hendon seat, campaigning last month.

Labour group leader Barry Rawlings issued a personal message overnight, saying he wanted to “speak directly to our Jewish brothers and sisters”.

In his statement, he said many Jewish voters “felt the Labour Party has failed to deal with anti-Semitism at a national level”. “They are right…We either fix this or our values of equality, social justice and human rights die.”

Rawlings, who has blogged for HuffPost about Corbyn’s ‘blind spot’ on the issue, also told his local newspaper the Ham & High: “If the NEC had done something about it two years ago, people would be waking up to a Labour council in Barnet.

“It’s not just the Jewish vote we lost but the friends, neighbours and everyone who knows a Jewish person and who grew to see antisemitism as a virus starting in the Labour Party.”

Within minutes of losing his seat, Langleben took to Twitter to hit out.

“It was the greatest honour of my life to serve West Hendon. We must NEVER have another election like this. No community group should have their vote dictated by their safety. That should shame us.”

Former Hendon MP and local London Assembly member Andrew Dismore added: “There is no doubt antisemitism has had an effect”.

Corbyn issued a statement about the elections, claiming the party had made steady progress, but he has so far failed to comment on Barnet. 

Shadow Communities Secretary Andrew Gwynne told BBC Radio 4: “We have got a job to do to rebuild trust and confidence with the Jewish community across the country.”

On a visit to Barnet, Theresa May was not slow to ram home the point.

The whole row began when Ken Livingstone was suspended by Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) in 2016 after he sparked outrage for linking Jews and Zionists to Hitler and the Nazis.

When other allegations of anti-semitism by party members, including Oxford students, also emerged, Shami Chakrabarti was appointed by Corbyn to chair a review into all forms of racism. 

Her report found “an occasionally toxic atmosphere” and recommended a special legal team to improve disciplinary processes. 

However, with more than 90 unresolved disciplinary cases of anti-semitism, party insiders blame the delays on leftwingers on the NEC, as well as the lack of firm action by the leadership.

Livingstone, who had his suspension extended following his refusal to apologise, admitted on SkyNews on Friday that the issue had cost the party in Barnet.

“If anybody believes I said Hitler was a Zionist then yes, that is damaging,” he said. “What’s been so bad is that two years on this smear about me is still there unchallenged.

“It always gets you into trouble if you tell the truth,” he added. “Hitler wanted to get all the Jews out…and the Zionists wanted to move them all and create a Jewish state in Palestine. They collaborated, they didn’t like each other but they collaborated together to do that.”

Asked if he should just retire, Livingstone said: “I’m not going to my grave without this issue being resolved.”

Corbyn himself met Jewish community leaders recently to reassure them that he wanted action taken against the perpetrators of anti-semitism, promising along with new general secretary Jennie Formby to improve disciplinary processes to do so.

He also insisted that no one who raised the issue should be accused of trying to ‘smear’ his leadership.