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Ken Livingstone blamed for Labour losses in Jewish areas

Did Labour’s antisemitism scandal put Jewish voters off?

A Labour councillor in Manchester has directly attributed his party’s local slump to the antisemitism scandal that saw Ken Livingstone suspended. Labour kept control of Bury council, Greater Manchester, but saw its vote collapse in Prestwich, a town represented by the council with a high Jewish population.

Labour lost three of its seats on Bury council, two of them wards in Prestwich, which is one of six towns the council represents. The Liberal Democrats gained the Prestwich ward of Holyrood from Labour, and the Conservatives gained the Prestwich ward of Sedgley from Labour. A Labour councillor in Sedgley, Alan Quinn, blamed these losses on comments about Israel and Hitler that led to Ken Livingstone’s suspension last week:

“It’s down to one person, and that’s Ken Livingstone. He has caused grotesque offence to the Jewish population in Prestwich with his absolutely awful comments. Our councillors put their hearts and souls into representing the area and there really is no place in the Labour Party for bigots like Ken Livingstone.”

Under similar scrutiny is the three-way marginal seat of Eastwood, a Scottish Parliamentary constituency that also has a high concentration of Jewish voters. In a significant gain, the Scottish Conservatives won the seat from Labour. It was once a Labour heartland; a vast bulk of it made up former Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy’s Westminster seat of East Renfrewshire when he was an MP.

Gemma Doyle, the former Labour MP for West Dunbartonshire in Scotland, tweeted that Labour losing Eastwood was “almost certainly” down to the party’s antisemitism row.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said today that Livingstone’s comments “set us back”, and Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale claimed the scandal had “unquestionably had an effect” on Labour's showing in Holyrood. Livingstone himself admitted that the furore had “undoubtedly” hit Labour’s election hopes, but put the story down to “Blairites [. . .] whipping up all the antisemitism stuff”.

It will be clearer how badly the party's antisemitism problem has affected Jewish votes when the London Assembly constituency results come through. Areas of north London, such as Golders Green and Stamford Hill, have a high proportion of Jewish voters, and about two-thirds of the UK's Jews live in Greater London.

The Labour party, the local party in Bury, the Bury South MP Ivan Lewis, and the Scottish Labour party have all been contacted for their responses to this story, but we have yet to hear back.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.