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Jewish Councillors Say Barnet Win Is A Step Forward For Labour Relations After Anti-Semitism Allegations

4 min read

Jewish councillors have described Labour winning control of Barnet Council as a significant step forward in the party’s efforts to rebuild trust with their community following allegations of anti-semitism in the party under former leader Jeremy Corbyn.

In the early hours of Friday morning, 41 Labour and 22 Conservative candidates were confirmed to have won seats in the local authority, giving Labour overall control of Barnet.

The council, which represents the home of the UK’s largest Jewish residential population, had been held by the Conservatives in all but two elections since 1964. Barnet is one of three London councils, including Westminster and Wandsworth, that Labour took from the Tories in Thursday's election.

Barnet represented a particular test for Labour leader Keir Starmer, who has made renewing trust from the Jewish community following accusations of anti-semitism by his predecessor a key tenet of his leadership. Starmer campaigned in the area in the run up to Thursday's vote.

“Barnet Labour’s win shows that Labour has transformed under Keir Starmer’s leadership,” Miriam Mirwitch, a former chair of Young Labour and newly elected councillor for Waltham Forest, told PoliticsHome.

“We are eradicating anti-semitism from our party and rebuilding the trust of the Jewish community,” she added.

Among the 41 successful Labour candidates in Barnet are two members of the Jewish Labour Movement, Ella Rose and Liron Velleman.

Both councillors were highly critical of their party under Corbyn's leadership, agreeing it had an institutional problem with anti-semitism.

However, Velleman and Rose have said they believe Starmer is serious about rooting out anti-semitism, and that the party has changed since the Corbyn days.

"This set of results in Barnet are nothing short of remarkable," Vellman told PoliticsHome.

"Winning [ward] seats like Whetstone and Childs Hill shows just how far the Labour Party has come since 2018 and is a testament to a Barnet Labour group who have consistently stood with the Jewish community in Barnet," he added.

"Having fought to rid anti-semitism from the Labour Party, Ella and I are ready to fight every day in the interests of all communities in Whetstone and across the Borough."

Rebecca Filer, a national organiser with the Jewish Labour Movement and newly elected Camden councillor, agreed that Labour gains in Barnet were "momentous".

"After the bitter disappointment of the results in 2018, seeing the council switch to Labour this year is a very good indicator of the progress that Keir Starmer has made in cleaning up our party's reputation and building trust with the Jewish community," she said. 

Filer added that while they were campaigning in Barnet, she and Jewish Labour Movement members "spoke to many Jewish families who were considering voting Labour once again having seen that the party is indeed changing for the better".

While growing trust in Labour among Jewish voters is believed to be a significant factor in Friday’s election result, councillors have also cited disapproval of Boris Johnson and frustration over partygate as another major reason for the decline in local Conservatives’ vote share.

Barry Rawlings, who leads the Labour group in Barnet Council, suggested anger towards the Prime Minister was a greater reason for his party’s win than Starmer or Labour’s appeal.

"I’ll be honest, it’s not us being wonderful," Rawlings said.

"I think a lot of Conservatives haven’t voted this time, I think they feel alienated from Number 10 and that they’ve been disappointed with Boris Johnson."

As well as in Barnet, Jewish candidates gained seats in several other local authorities, including Camden Council, Waltham Forest and Wandsworth.

Many of those who were successful have previously reported experiences of racially motivated bullying and harassment at the hands of former Labour party members and Corbyn allies between 2015 and 2020.

“I’ve been incredibly grateful for the support and allyship I’ve received in Waltham Forest when I’ve faced antisemitism, just as I stand in solidarity with all communities facing discrimination in our borough,” Mirwitch told PoliticsHome.

“I'm committed to working hard for all of our residents in Hoe Street.”


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