DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Sometimes, during my more reflective moments, I do wonder whether I’ve stumbled into an alternative history novel. One of those dark works where Britain’s famed political moderation, perhaps more the product of luck that we care to admit, is swept away and fascism or bolshevism emerge as a credible force on our islands. The past few weeks in particular have been an education in the fragility of our supposedly tolerant and liberal society. Ironically its executioners may turn out to be those men and women who, over the past few decades, claimed to be its most assertive champions.
Its hard to overstate just how unprecedented the past month has been in UK politics. October ended with Jewish News, one of the three main UK newspapers serving the community, publishing a Survation poll in which 47 percent of British Jews said they would “seriously consider” leaving the UK if Jeremy Corbyn becomes Prime Minister. Just days later the Jewish Chronicle released a paper with an incendiary frontpage, addressed “To our fellow British citizens”, accusing Corbyn of having “allied with and supported anti-Semites” throughout his career and pleading with their compatriots not to make him Prime Minister. Then, at the beginning of this week, an article from Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis was published describing how “a new poison – sanctioned from the top – has taken root in the Labour Party” and asserting “the very soul of our country is at stake” in December’s General Election.
This is, to be blunt, the sort of reaction you could reasonably have expected in the 1930s had the British Union of Fascists developed into a serious electoral force. Yet it is aimed not at some far-right faction but at Labour, a party that until recently could comfortably pride itself on its history of anti-racism. Now, under Corbyn’s direction, Labour has become only the second UK political party, after the neo-fascist BNP, to find itself under formal investigation by the EHRC over alleged institutionalised racism.