Jewish leaders condemn the English Defence League

They accuse the far-right group of “bigotry” and “Islamophobia”.

The Jewish Chronicle reports that the English Defence League has established a Jewish division. The far right, anti-Islam protest group, whose violent nature was exposed by the Guardian last week (and covered by the NS here), has professed support for Israel in the past and is now urging British Jews to "lead the counter-jihad fight in England".

But its advances have been swiftly rebuffed by Jewish leaders. Mark Gardner, communications director for the Community Security Trust, told the Chronicle:

The EDL intimidate entire Muslim communities, causing tension and fear. Jews ought to remember that we have long experience of being on the receiving end of this kind of bigotry.

Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said:

The EDL's supposed "support" for Israel is empty and duplicitous. It is built on a foundation of Islamophobia and hatred which we reject entirely.

Sadly, we know only too well what hatred for hatred's sake can cause. The overwhelming majority will not be drawn in by this transparent attempt to manipulate a tense political conflict.

Daniel Trilling is the Editor of New Humanist magazine. He was formerly an Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

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Tom Watson rouses Labour's conference as he comes out fighting

The party's deputy leader exhilarated delegates with his paean to the Blair and Brown years. 

Tom Watson is down but not out. After Jeremy Corbyn's second landslide victory, and weeks of threats against his position, Labour's deputy leader could have played it safe. Instead, he came out fighting. 

With Corbyn seated directly behind him, he declared: "I don't know why we've been focusing on what was wrong with the Blair and Brown governments for the last six years. But trashing our record is not the way to enhance our brand. We won't win elections like that! And we need to win elections!" As Watson won a standing ovation from the hall and the platform, the Labour leader remained motionless. When a heckler interjected, Watson riposted: "Jeremy, I don't think she got the unity memo." Labour delegates, many of whom hail from the pre-Corbyn era, lapped it up.

Though he warned against another challenge to the leader ("we can't afford to keep doing this"), he offered a starkly different account of the party's past and its future. He reaffirmed Labour's commitment to Nato ("a socialist construct"), with Corbyn left isolated as the platform applauded. The only reference to the leader came when Watson recalled his recent PMQs victory over grammar schools. There were dissenting voices (Watson was heckled as he praised Sadiq Khan for winning an election: "Just like Jeremy Corbyn!"). But one would never have guessed that this was the party which had just re-elected Corbyn. 

There was much more to Watson's speech than this: a fine comic riff on "Saturday's result" (Ed Balls on Strictly), a spirited attack on Theresa May's "ducking and diving; humming and hahing" and a cerebral account of the automation revolution. But it was his paean to Labour history that roused the conference as no other speaker has. 

The party's deputy channelled the spirit of both Hugh Gaitskell ("fight, and fight, and fight again to save the party we love") and his mentor Gordon Brown (emulating his trademark rollcall of New Labour achivements). With his voice cracking, Watson recalled when "from the sunny uplands of increasing prosperity social democratic government started to feel normal to the people of Britain". For Labour, a party that has never been further from power in recent decades, that truly was another age. But for a brief moment, Watson's tubthumper allowed Corbyn's vanquished opponents to relive it. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.