Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn faces an election under assault from two political quarters for his lack of leadership in rooting out the antisemitism long tainting his party: his predecessor former Labor PM Tony Blair as well as his rival the Conservative PM Boris Johnson. Criticism was stoked by Corbyn’s refusal to apologize to Britain’s Jews for his failure, after the UK’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mivis published an unprecedented accusation in advance of the UK’s Dec. 12 election: The poison of antisemitism “sanctioned from the top” has taken root in Britain’s opposition Labor Party, he wrote. What will become of the Jews and Judaism in Britain if the Labor Party forms the next government? This anxiety is justified,” said Rabbi Mirvis. The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the UK’s senior cleric, said in support that the chief rabbi’s remarks should alert the country to the unease felt by many Jews.
A number of key Labor lawmakers and members have quit the party in recent years in protest against Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to deal with crude anti-Semitic manifestations by fellow members and his own sympathy for and associations with anti-Israel figures. Such occurrences were unknown in this party in recent decades. While antisemitism is not a new phenomenon in British history, a chief rabbi has never before publicly intervened in a national election. As a minority of some 240,000 souls, the Jewish voter’s impact on the election is negligible, but the antisemitism issue is helping to place Corbyn’s fitness to lead a government at the center of the election campaign – even overshadowing the Brexit controversy. The latest polls place Johnson’s Conservatives 13 points in the lead.