Saturday, 19 March 2016

Antisemitism and political campaigning

The following exchange took place at Business Questions in the House of Commons last Thursday:

Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con): The front page of the Jewish Chronicle today gives a litany of the anti-Semitism that, sadly, we are beginning to see more and more frequently in the ranks of the Labour party and in other institutions, such as universities, in this country. [Interruption.] May we have a debate on the increasing anti-Semitism in our public bodies and institutions?
Chris Grayling: This is a very important point. I agree with the shadow Leader of the House and my hon. Friend that anti-Semitism has no place in our society. However, when we hear words such as “disgrace” from Labour Members, we should remember that we have seen too many occasions in the past 12 months where they have tolerated anti-Semitism in their ranks and where Labour campaigners have used anti-Semitism in their campaigns. That is unacceptable—it is something they should change.
As I heard it, I immediately thought of the Conservative campaign against Susan Kramer in Richmond Park in 2005 which used antisemitic innuendo - something that only stopped when Zac Goldsmith became their candidate in 2010.

Religious and racist slurs continue to mar election campaigns. Islamophobia and hints of terrorism are evoked against Muslim candidates or even those with similar names. Openly Christian candidates are accused of homophobia because of church teaching. They will only abate if party managers instruct their troops on the ground not to use them and mean it.

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