UK Politics: Corbyn must tackle Labour's anti-Semitism problem

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of "siding with anti-Semites"
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Jeremy Corbyn needs to do much more to tackle the problem of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Meanwhile, betting markets are open in boroughs where local elections on May 3 will be very competitive.

"Betfair have opened markets on the key council elections on May 3. Some of them are set to be intensely competitive contests, especially in places like Wandsworth and Westminster."

Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party continues to dominate the UK's political news. The charge has been made against Jeremy Corbyn, and some of his supporters, for as long as he has been Labour leader, with Corbyn's alleged support for Hamas and Hezbollah repeatedly cited. The issue resurfaced this week when Corbyn was accused by Jewish leaders of "siding with anti-Semites". The row concerns his support on Facebook for the creator of an anti-Semitic mural in 2012.

Corbyn has mishandled the problem of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. This isn't the place to discuss the issues involved, but it comes down to a very real problem being dismissed by many of Corbyn's supporters as yet another attempt to undermine his leadership. There have been many such manufactured attempts by politicians and commentators terrified of the change a Corbyn government could bring. But this isn't one of them.

Are Labour members in denial about party's problem?

According to a YouGov poll, published on Saturday, 77% of Labour members think the party's problem with anti-Semitism is being exaggerated to damage Corbyn or silence criticism of Israeli foreign policy. Only 19% think there is a genuine problem with anti-Semitism within Labour.

Among other things, the poll indicates that support for Corbyn in the party remains solid. There is little appetite for another leadership challenge, even among Corbyn's Labour critics, and anyone tempted to back an early exit for the Labour is throwing away their money. Corbyn is [1.61] to continue as leader until at least July 2020.

Many of Corbyn's supporters argue that the latest allegations of anti-Semitism have been timed to coincide with the upcoming local elections. Again, this sounds like a way of trivialising a very serious issue.

On Saturday, it was announced that Christine Shawcroft has resigned from Labour's NEC. Shawcroft has come under fire for opposing the suspension from the party of a council member accused of Holocaust denial and has repeatedly dismissed claims of anti-Semitism as a plot to undermine Corbyn. Her resignation is a case of better late than never.

May 3 could still be a good night for Labour

Betfair have opened markets on the key council elections on May 3. There's scant liquidity in there yet, but some of them are set to be intensely competitive contests, especially in places like Wandsworth and Westminster.

The results in both areas will be extremely interesting. They are traditional Tory strongholds, where the the party used to clean up under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, but both voted emphatically to Remain in the in-out referendum of 2016 and people there are dismayed by the government's approach to Brexit.

Voters in these boroughs are also unhappy about cuts to local services which were brought in by the Cameron government and have really started to bite in the past year or two. Tory councils, such as Wandsworth, are famous for their low rates of council tax and have always prided themselves on providing decent services at cheap costs.

However, Lord Ashcroft's researchers canvassed 16 boroughs in key boroughs - including Barnet, Wandsworth and Westminster - and spoke to more than 3,000 voters across London. They found that voters are angry about Brexit, think Tory cuts to public services have gone too far and do not think their boroughs would be worse off under a Labour council.

All is to play for in the local elections of May 3. The parties will be campaigning hard over the next month and there should be opportunities for bettors to find value in boroughs where, for the first time in may years, the outcome is unpredictable.

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