(JTA) – Following unprecedented protests by British Jews against a major political movement, the country’s Labour party lost in local elections a heavily-Jewish area of London that it had held for decades. Labour, whose leadership many British Jews believe is ignoring or encouraging the proliferation of antisemitism in its ranks, failed in the May 3 elections to win from the Conservatives control of the council of Barnet, which is a northern borough of London where 14 percent of the population is Jewish. Labour has never won control over Barnet Council since the borough’s creation as a municipal unit in 1964. But in West Hendon, which is an area of Barnet, all three Labour candidates lost to Conservative rivals even though Labour had held West Hendon for nearly 40 years, according to The Independent.
The losses in Barnet follow three street protests by Jews against Jeremy Corbyn, a hard-left politician who became Labour leader in 2015. Corbyn in 2009 called Hezbollah operatives his “friends” and Hamas an organization “dedicated towards the good of the Palestinian people and bringing about peace and social justice.” He also defended in 2013 an artist who drew a mural depicting Jewish men playing Monopoly on the backs of black men. He has vowed to kick out antisemites from Labour, but the Board of Deputies of British Jews dismissed these pledges as lip service, citing multiple failures to act on them. The street protests were unprecedented and highlighted a deep crisis in the relations between representatives of British Jewry and the party that used to be their constituents’ political home.
With results in from 99 of the 150 English councils that were holding elections, the Conservatives had a net loss of two seats, Labour had a net gain of 37 and the Liberal Democrats were up 40. UKIP were down 92. But Labour’s showing was relatively weak, according to a Bloomberg analysis titled “Corbyn Has Little to Celebrate in Britain’s Local Elections.” This is because in local elections in Britain, the party that’s in national government usually loses seats as voters views at an opportunity to kick the party in national power. “For Labour to barely be ahead of the Tories in overall net gains is poor,” Robert Hutton, British political reporter for Bloomberg News, wrote.