‘Labour voters don’t have a problem with Jewish people….’, Telegraph, 5 May 2016

This time last year, many people believed that the Labour Party was about to supply the UK with its first Jewish Prime Minister since Benjamin Disraeli.  How things have changed.  The party that was led by Ed Miliband for five years between 2010 and 2015 and has a proud record of fighting discrimination in all its forms seems to have a serious problem with antisemitism.

But what about Labour’s voters?  Are those likely to back the party at the polls today any more likely to harbour anti-Jewish sentiments than those who will put their cross elsewhere? A survey conducted exclusively for Queen Mary University of London by YouGov on the first two days of this week suggests not.

Certainly, it looks as if the long weekend’s headlines about Ken Livingstone may have driven awareness of the issue up the agenda. Of nearly 1700 people questioned, some 29 per cent think there is a good deal or a fair amount of prejudice against Jews in the UK – up from 24 per cent when we asked the same question last year.

Yet when we asked people this week how much they agreed with the statement “Jews have too much influence in this country”, we found only seven per cent agreeing with it.  Moreover, only two per cent out of that seven per cent agreed strongly, suggesting that hard-core antisemitism is, thankfully, pretty rare in twenty-first century Britain.

And Labour voters, it seems, are no more likely than anyone else to have a problem with Jews. Indeed, if anything, they were, at 48 per cent, more likely than people as a whole (at 43 per cent) to disagree with the idea that Jewish people have too much influence. Indeed, the only outliers on this question were Ukip supporters, only 31 per cent of whom disagreed with the idea, with 14 per cent of them actually agreeing.

Furthermore, Labour voters (at 74 cent) actually seem happier than their Tory-voting counterparts (at 67 per cent) with the idea of the country having a Jewish Prime Minister – something some 65 per cent of people as a whole had no issue with.  Indeed, if any party’s voters had a problem with the statement, “A British Jew would make an equally acceptable Prime Minister as a member of any other faith”, it was, once again, Ukip’s: at 51 per cent, they were much less keen on the idea than average and more likely (12 per cent compared to 6 per cent of people as a whole) to say they didn’t like it.

But what was also interesting on this question, particularly in view of some of the mud that has been slung around during this year’s mayoral contest, was the apparent difference between voters in London and those living in other parts of the country. In the Midlands/Wales, in the North, in Scotland, and in the rest of the South of England, two-thirds of people said they had no problem with the idea of Jewish Prime Minister. In London, however, agreement dropped to 57 per cent. Londoners were also slightly less inclined to insist that a party having a Jewish leader would make no difference to whether or not they would vote for it.

Quite why this is the case, we can’t know for certain, though some are bound to point to the fact that, just because the capital is one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, doesn’t mean all of its communities embrace cosmopolitan attitudes – hence accusations levelled at Labour by some of its opponents that its antisemitism problem stems not just from sympathy with the plight of Palestiniansin the occupied territories but from its unwillingness to stand up to distinctly un-progressive prejudices back at home.

True or not, the results of our survey point, on this as well as other issues, to a mismatch between what Labour seems to have become under Jeremy Corbyn and the views of some (although not necessarily all) of its voters.  This might not stop the party winning London today. But the rest of the country? Forget it.


Originally published at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05/05/labour-voters-dont-have-a-problem-with-jewish-people-but-london/



About tpbale

I teach politics at Queen Mary University of London.
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