JVL Introduction

Geoffrey Alderman is renowned for his work in the field of modern Anglo-Jewish history.

We don’t often agree with him politically but have admired his dogged persistence over the years at taking on those who have claimed to be representative of all British Jewry. See for instance his 2012 article “Once, the chief rabbi represented all British Jewry. No longer

In this article he is once again out of step with Jewish “orthodoxy”.


Horrors! Corbyn’s a ‘PM in waiting’ – accept it

Geoffrey Alderman, Jewish Telegraph
18 April 2019


WE live in interesting times. Earlier this month, our beleaguered prime minister, Theresa May, invited into 10 Downing Street Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.

Her purpose in extending this invitation — which he graciously accepted — was to enlist his support in the current crisis over the precise terms of the UK’s exit from the European Union.

But don’t worry. I’m not going to bore you about Brexit.

My purpose, rather, is to focus on the person of Jeremy Corbyn, whom we must now clearly regard as a potential prime minister.

The opinion polls, which for months have been showing the Corbyn-led Labour Party trailing the May-led Tories, are now announcing a Labour lead.

I would be the last person to insist that we must trust the polls. We mustn’t. But if a general election was held soon, it is entirely possible that Labour would win more seats than the Conservative Party, whose back has been well and truly broken on the Brexit wheel.

In that scenario, the Queen would be bound to call on Corbyn to form a minority government.

What, from the point of view of British Jewry, would such a government hold in store?

In spite of numerous scare stories, I honestly can’t see such a government banning shechita or brit mila. If Diane Abbott, currently Shadow Home Secretary, found herself actually in charge of the Home Office, would she outrage her many charedi constituents by closing down synagogues and moving to deprive Jews of the rights of British citizenship?

Of course not.

We might indeed see a Corbyn-led government cosying-up to the BDS movement. Labour is already committed to recognising a Palestinian state “immediately” it forms a government, so such a recognition is a probability.

Would Israel then sever diplomatic relations with the UK? I doubt it. The recognition of a Palestinian state would remain a symbolic but, in practical terms, meaningless gesture.

Corbyn’s Foreign Secretary (the tactless Emily Thornberry) might enjoy striding on to the podium at the UN Security Council to support — perhaps even to propose — some blood-curdling resolution denouncing the Jewish state as a neo-colonialist plot.

She would do so safe in the knowledge that American president Donald Trump would veto it. And let’s remember that on December 23, 2016, in the dying days of the Obama-led administration, a UN Security Council resolution condemning in the most explicit terms Jewish control of the West Bank and east Jerusalem — including the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem and the Western Wall — was adopted with the full-hearted consent and approbation of Theresa May and her tactless Foreign Secretary, one Boris Johnson.

The Tory-controlled UK government could have abstained. It could even have exercised its veto. It chose to do neither.

Reacting to that act of betrayal, I outlined in this column on January 13, 2017, a number of concrete measures that those who order the affairs of British Jewry might have taken to signal the community’s anger.

I suggested that May and Johnson could be disinvited from all communal events, and that Jewish groups should withdraw from co-operation with May’s government — for instance over security issues and the anti-terrorism “Prevent” agenda.

A communal macher took me aside and pointed out that these bold suggestions would never be acted upon, because those who order the affairs of British Jewry would never forego the chance of a Downing Street photoshoot and the yichus that such an opportunity apparently confers.

He’s right. By the same token, our narcissistic communal leadership would positively salivate on receiving, and being able to courteously accept, an invitation from Prime Minister Corbyn to take morning coffee or afternoon tea at No 10.

As a matter of fact, Jeremy Corbyn has an impressive demonstrable record of supporting Jewish communal initiatives.

In 2010, he put his name to an Early Day Motion — tabled by Diane Abbott in the Commons — calling on the UK government to facilitate the settlement of Yemeni Jews in Britain.

He was supportive of Jewish efforts to facilitate the speedy issue of death certificates by the North London coroner.

In June, 2015, he took part in a ceremony in his Islington constituency to commemorate the original site of the North London Synagogue.

Of course, there’s another side to this story. In relation to Jewish sensitivities, Corbyn has on too many occasions acted foolishly, I suspect without thinking through the long-term consequences of his actions.

The fact remains that he is a prime minister “in waiting”. We must learn to accept that reality.