British Jewry breathes a sigh of relief after Corbyn defeated

Far-left Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn announces he will step down “after period of reflection,” likely at the beginning of next year.

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn poses outside a polling station after voting in the general election in London, Britain, December 12, 2019 (photo credit: REUTERS/HANNAH MCKAY)
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn poses outside a polling station after voting in the general election in London, Britain, December 12, 2019
(photo credit: REUTERS/HANNAH MCKAY)
British Jewry breathed a collective sigh of relief on Friday after Jeremy Corbyn and his antisemitism- riddled Labour Party were resoundingly defeated by the Conservatives in Thursday’s general election.
The Conservative Party, led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, won a majority of 80 seats in the House of Commons, and won traditional working class constituencies which had voted for the Labour Party for generations.
Corbyn said following the heavy defeat that he would step down as leader after a “process of reflection,” and that he will likely make way for a new leader some time in early 2020.
Jewish leaders and organizations warmly welcomed the election results, noting the severe anxiety  that has built up amongst the Jewish community over the last four years because of the antisemitism that has taken hold in a large segment of the Labour Party.
Ever since 2015, when the far-left Corbyn became Labour leader, the party has become mired in ever greater controversy over thousands of antisemitic incidents, in many cases involving members who shared Corbyn’s far-left, anti-Western and anti-Zionist world view.
Members at all levels of the Labour Party have made appallingly antisemitic comments, including members posting on Facebook about Jews drinking blood, alleging that Jewish newspapers work for the Mossad and accusing Jews of being “Fifth Columnists.”
Following the Conservative victory, UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said that while the election may be over, “concerns about the resurgence of antisemitism very much remain.”
The rabbi said that “Islamophobia, racism and other forms of prejudice continue to afflict our communities and, as has been well publicized, even our political parties,” and “We must focus on our shared values and leave all hatred and prejudice far behind us.”
Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, an umbrella organization of British Jewry, said “history will not look kindly on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party, where anti-Jewish racism has been allowed to run amok and some at the highest levels of the party have appeared to collude to protect antisemites.”
In light of Corbyn’s announcement that he will step down, van der Zyl urged whoever becomes the next Labour leader “to act quickly to implement the steps repeatedly recommended by Jewish communal groups” to resolve Labour’s antisemitism crisis.
Dame Margaret Hodge, a Jewish Labour MP who retained her seat on Thursday and who has been one of the most outspoken Labour MPs against Corbyn, said acerbically of her party leader’s comments about a period of reflection that “I’ve reflected. You failed. Please stand down.”
And the well-known Jewish businessman and presenter of the UK’s Apprentice show Lord Alan Sugar said that Corbyn should “Do the right thing and resign now.”
Added Sugar, “To regain your credibility I suggest you take up charity work – my recommendation is to join the board of Jewish Care,” a UK charity.
Following his emphatic victory, Johnson visited former strongholds of his Labour opponents in northern England on Saturday and pledged to repay their trust for helping to deliver a stunning victory for his Conservative Party in Britain’s national election.
Johnson led the Conservatives on Thursday to their biggest election win since Margaret Thatcher’s landslide victory of 1987, trouncing his socialist Labour Party opponent Jeremy Corbyn by winning 365 parliamentary seats and securing an overall majority of 80. Labour won 203 seats.
The election saw the crumbling of Labour’s “Red Wall” of formerly safe seats in working class areas across northern and central England, where most people voted in a 2016 referendum to leave the European Union.
Johnson, the face of the “Leave” campaign in that referendum, fought the election on the slogan “Get Brexit Done.”
“I know that people may have been breaking the voting habits of generations to vote for us,” Johnson told supporters in Sedgefield, a symbolically important seat as it was once held by former prime minister Tony Blair, Labour’s most successful leader. “I want the people of the northeast to know that we in the Conservative Party, and I, will repay your trust.”
Brexit was widely seen as the decisive factor in the election, with Johnson’s promise to take Britain out of the EU by January 31, 2020, winning over many former Labour voters.
“What an incredible thing you have done. You have changed the political landscape. You’ve changed the Conservative Party for the better, and you’ve changed the future of our country for the better,” said Johnson. “First of all, what are we going to do to repay that trust? We are going to get Brexit done.”
Johnson, who called the snap election to break years of deadlock in parliament over quitting the EU, has also promised to spend more money on health, education and the police.
On Friday, Johnson called for unity to heal the Brexit divisions that have split the United Kingdom.
“I urge everyone to find closure and to let the healing begin,” he said outside his Downing Street office. “We are going to unite and level up... bringing together the whole of this incredible United Kingdom – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland together, taking us forward, unleashing the potential of the whole country, delivering opportunity across the entire nation.”
Johnson added that “I want to speak also to those who did not vote for us, or for me, and who wanted and perhaps still want to remain in the EU. I want you to know that we in this One Nation Conservative government will never ignore your good and positive feelings of warmth and sympathy towards the nations of Europe.”
Reuters contributed to this report.