DOREEN WACHMANN COLUMN
Like Labour, world is on cusp of change

THIS year's Labour Party conference, which begins on Sunday, is conveniently timed in the run-up to Rosh Hashana, which is the time in the Jewish year when the thoughts of the religious Jew focus on introspection and the differentiation between right and wrong, according to rules set down thousands of years ago.

To many over the millennia, these rules have been seen as out-dated and outmoded, to be cast aside as new moral and amoral fashions become the trend until we are living in a world which no longer knows the difference between right and wrong and currently struggles to keep up with the latest trends in thinking.

It's not so long ago since Prime Minister Tony Blair was flavour of the decade, winning three consecutive general elections as "Teflon Tony" to whom no criticism would stick - until he fell from power and was demonised, mainly for his eagerness to go to war in Iraq and more recently for his creation of New Labour, which is anathema to the new left-wing politics.

Long-standing Labour members and MPs are currently in a massive quandary over what to believe and what to do about their beliefs as the social democratic values they had espoused for decades have given way, first to New Labour, which was almost Conservative Lite, and now to a new Marxism which so many thought had died a timely death with the demise of the Soviet Union.

Historically, many Jews have been attracted to both Marxist and the Labour parties, probably because of their almost messianic visions and values of compassion which honed in with the Jewish ones many thought they had discarded.

But as the 20th century progressed and regressed into the barbarism of Stalinism, many became disillusioned and felt more comfortable within more moderate Labour parties.

Now crises of conscience beset so many Labour MPs, members and voters, particularly those with Jewish roots, as their beloved party becomes not only more and more antisemitic but also less and less amenable to the values of free speech and democracy.

Any criticism of leader Jeremy Corbyn, who spent all his years on the backbenches opposing his own party, is deemed a black mark setting the perpetrator clearly on the road to deselection as an MP.

On Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, religious Jews pray with trepidation for the year ahead and fear any calamities which, God forbid, may befall them.

For many moderate Labour MPs, the week before Rosh Hashana - that of the Labour Party conference - will be similarly fraught.

My heart particularly goes out to Liverpool's Riverside MP Louise Ellman, who has always been absolutely fearless in standing up for Israel whatever the opposition, as well as working extremely hard as a constituency MP and chairman of the Transport Select Committee. A more honest and hardworking MP one could not find.

Yet the Labour Party in her constituency of Riverside is now being threatened with a takeover by the vile Momentum group, which has stooped to antisemitism in its attempts to deselect her.

Although not Jewish, Louise's neighbour Angela Eagle, who had the courage to stand against Corbyn in the leadership election, has suffered similar Momentum abuse in her Wallasey party.

In Manchester, MP Ivan Lewis, who has always served his local constituency and Jewish community well, having failed the local Labour mayoral contest is now faced with having to lose his constituency in the proposed boundary changes.

The only good news on the horizon as far as the proposed boundary changes is concerned is that the constituencies of both Corbyn and his biggest fan, Diane Abbott, could encompass between them Stamford Hill's large charedi community, whose members, I am sure, are no fans of theirs.

But that aside, my heart goes out to all moderate Labour MPs, members and supporters - Jewish and non-Jewish - as the Labour conference gets under way, if, as expected, Corbyn wins the vote.

May God recompense all who have done good service for their communities and country and help them to make the right decisions in the fraught days ahead.

We, too, as we pray in shul on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, should bear them in mind, as well as the similarly fraught post-Brexit future of our country, particularly for the future of democracy here, as well as in Europe which is busy tearing itself apart between those keen on rapid integration under a new European army and nationalist states which want to block all immigration and curb democratic freedoms.

Like the British Labour Party, the whole world is on the cusp of change which could be possibly catastrophic from the imminent American elections to the ongoing and increasingly complicated carnage in Syria and neighbouring countries, to Russia and Turkey's recent power grabs, not to mention little Israel, which continues to bear the brunt of undeserved hostility from all quarters.

We are certainly not short of an agenda for our prayers for the New Year. May it at least be better than feared for all of us!

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