POLITICS
03/04/2018 17:24 BST | Updated 03/04/2018 19:10 BST

Nearly 1,000 People Have Joined Labour Since Anti-Semitism Protest In Parliament Square, Leaked Figures Show

But 470 also actively quit in past fortnight, HuffPost reveals

Ben Birchall - PA Images via Getty Images

Nearly 1,000 people have joined Labour since Jewish groups staged an unprecedented protest against anti-semitism in the party last week, HuffPost UK can reveal.

The ‘Membership Weekly KPI Report’ for the week since March 26 – the day of the ‘Enough is Enough’ demonstration in Parliament Square – shows that 952 people signed up to Labour. In the same period, 180 people actively resigned.

The Labour leader may be heartened by the new joiners over the past two weeks, during which he faced unprecedented pressure to tackle anti-semitic abuse by some in the party.

Leaked official figures for Monday March 19 to Sunday April 1 show a mixed picture, with the current total membership now standing at 546,110.

A total of 1,714 have joined up - and 470 have actively resigned – in the past fortnight as Jeremy Corbyn responded to the controversy.

Thousands of ‘lapsed’ memberships over the past six months mean that the overall figure is down from its high point after the ‘Corbyn surge’ of 2017.

But it is still higher than before the general election and is one of the highest of any political party in Europe.

HuffPost UK
The weekly figures for March 26-April 21

As members rarely state why they are joining, it’s unclear how many new members have signed up specifically to support Corbyn over the issue or as part of his wider appeal. 

Figures for the week starting March 19 – which covers the period when Corbyn was first revealed to have supported a graffiti artist who painted an anti-semitic mural - showed that 763 people joined. That was the third lowest weekly total since the start of the year.

For the same period, some 293 people resigned, the highest weekly figure since January.

Luciana Berger first revealed a Corbyn Facebook post on the mural on Friday March 23, four days after the weekly stats period began.

HuffPost UK
The weekly figures for March 19-March25

While coverage of the mural in the East End may have helped fuel resignations, Corbyn supporters appear to have come to his aid since his apology and since his letter denouncing those who use attacks on the Israeli government as a cover for Jew hatred.

The rise in new members is not as high as some of the wilder claims last week – when some activists claimed an increase of 3,500 on Monday March 26 alone.

But it does suggest that backing for Corbyn and Labour has ticked up as he faced one of the most controversial periods of his leadership, coming off the back of accusations he was a Communist spy or failed to blame Russia directly for the Salisbury nerve agent attack.

The figures also show that 4,268 people allowed their membership to lapse in the past fortnight, ending direct debits from their bank account.  

The ‘lapsed’ statistics meant that the overall net number of members was down by just over 3,000 in the past two weeks.

However, as the party allows a six month period of arrears, many of those lapsed memberships could stretch back to last year rather than be linked to recent events, party sources say. Neither Corbyn critics nor allies rely on the ‘lapsed’ statistics.

Jack Taylor via Getty Images
The protest staged by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and Jewish Leadership Council

Labour’s membership under Corbyn soared under his leadership, rising from around 200,000 under Ed Miliband to more than half a million.

Last year, the party membership swelled by a massive 33,000 in just four days after Theresa May lost her Commons majority.

Allies of Corbyn played down a report on Monday that there had been a 17,000 drop in members since the start of the year, pointing out that was about a three per cent dip in the total.

Supporters and critics of the Labour leader blame the fluctuating numbers on various factors, ranging from disillusion over the party’s confused message on Brexit to a natural ‘churn’ that follows a large increase in membership.

On Tuesday, Corbyn defended his decision to mark Passover by joining members of a leftwing Jewish group, Jewdas, at their seder meal.

“It was very interesting talking to a lot of young people about their experiences in modern Britain and I learnt a lot, isn’t that a good thing?” he told reporters.

Empics Entertainment
Momentum founder Jon Lansman

Momentum founder Jon Lansman backed him up, but said that a tweet by Jewdas - that Israel was ‘a steaming pile of sewage’ - was “certainly not helpful to Jeremy or the cause of opposing anti-Semitism in the Labour party”.

Lansman said that he and Corbyn now “realised the extent of the problem” of anti-Jewish abuse in the party and warned that “unconscious bias” had wrongly led some activists to treating anti-semitism less harshly than Islamaphobia.

“We’re all, I think, tired of too many people arguing it is all smears. It isn’t,” he told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme.

Labour’s new general secretary Jennie Formby started her first day in post on Tuesday, sending an email to members vowing to introduce procedures to deal with complaints and disciplinary cases.

She said that the “stain” of anti-Semitic attitudes must be “completely eradicated” within the party. 

However, tensions continued within the party following the resignation of NEC Disputes Committee chair Christine Shawcroft, after she supported a candidate embroiled in a Holocaust denial row.

A Labour spokeswoman refused to give a ‘running commentary’ on membership figures.

But a party source told HuffPost: “This is not an unusual figure for us, and is consistent with our membership trends over the last two years”.