As told to Anna Silverman
There is a shocking problem with anti-Semitism in the Labour Party; it is in danger of becoming institutionally anti-Semitic and this won’t change while Jeremy Corbyn remains leader. This might seem like a surprising thing for me to say; I ran as a Labour candidate twice, became a Labour Party member as soon as it was legally possible, and have several staunch Labour politicians in the family.
My late grandfather, Tony Benn, was a Cabinet minister in Labour governments and a close ally of Corbyn’s; my uncle, Hilary Benn, is the former Shadow Foreign Secretary; and my mother Nita Clarke worked closely with Tony Blair. But the sad truth is, right now, many people feel Labour doesn’t deserve to be the next government – and that is all my family and I have ever fought for.
I was brought up to think of Labour as the equality-promoting, anti-racist party, but at the moment it’s far from living up to it. There are countless examples of anti-Semitism in the party under Corbyn, including recent remarks made by senior members, as well as countless controversies such as the comments Corbyn himself made about an anti-Semitic mural and him changing the universally recognised definition of anti-Semitism, to name a few.
Because of this, huge swathes of Labour supporters feel lost and don’t know where to turn. I have Jewish friends who are leaving the Labour Party and finding themselves politically homeless. I’ve had conversations with other members who are still there but feel unbelievably hurt and bewildered. Corbyn should take far more responsibility than he is doing if he wants to be PM.
I can’t say whether Corbyn is anti-Semitic; all I can say is we know that he has called convicted Hamas terrorists who want to wipe out Jewish people ‘brother’ and ‘friend.’ You can understand the hurt and anger in the Jewish community. Why is he not out there every single day publicly condemning anti- Semitism, given the absolute crisis Labour is in? It’s also devastating because a weak leadership means a lack of opposition nationally at a vital time for our country. For example I have no idea where Labour stand on Brexit. What worries me is how intolerant the party has become of dissenting views.
The second you say anything that’s not behind Corbyn, you’re castigated as a traitor. The only thing that seems to matter is swearing undying loyalty to the leader.
The other day I tweeted my views about Corbyn and, predictably, was trolled to high heaven by some of his supporters who called me ‘poison dwarf ’ and told me my grandfather would be ‘turning in his grave’. I’ve put up with similar vitriol every time I’ve dared to criticise Corbyn, so my eyes are open now. It’s terrifying to think of the rational people who might be turned o politics, seeing that this is the abuse you have to deal with. If we’re going to bring my grandfather into this, I’m sure he wouldn’t favour some of the personal attacks Corbyn’s devotees are using to shame his granddaughter. He always said to me, ‘Stand up, say what you mean, mean what you say, but if someone’s going into the gutter, don’t follow them.’
Corbyn needs to do something, fast, because the anti-Semitism crisis has been allowed to develop under him. As for the politically homeless who used to vote Labour – don’t give up. Get involved and try and change things from within. If you still think no one is representing you, try and form your own party. Last year, I came back from America to campaign for Labour MPs. There are fantastic people still fighting for the party and they need all the support they can get