Commentators on the left and right have been fiercely arguing for the past few weeks over which political party is more racist: Labour or the Conservatives. Conservatives have pointed out Jeremy Corbyn’s numerous links and associations with anti-Semites, Labour’s refusal to adopt the IHRA definition and Jewish conspiracy theorists on Twitter. In response, prominent left wingers have flung back at them calls by Sayeeda Warsi for an inquiry into Tory Islamophobia and comments by Boris Johnson about women in burqas looking like letter boxes.
But what do the public actually think about allegations of racial prejudice within the two main parties, and who do they think is worse? Coffee House can shed some light on this today as we reveal two new polls, conducted in April and June, by Deltapoll, which show how far voters think anti-Semitism and Islamophobia have spread within the Labour and Conservative parties.
At first glance, the findings do not reflect well on Corbyn at all, with 34pc of those polled believing that he holds anti-Semitic views. By comparison, only 21pc of voters think that Theresa May has anti-Islamic opinions. As a party that likes to see itself as the vanguard of anti-racism, and given Corbyn’s own self-proclaimed anti-racist credentials, this difference between will certainly be cause for concern among Labour supporters.
Labour does slightly better when it comes to the parties as a whole. Similar numbers of the public think that prejudice exists inside the Conservatives and Labour. 51pc think Labour has ‘pockets’ of anti-Jewish sentiment whereas 47pc believe the Conservatives have similar amounts of anti-Islamic views. However, given that these polls took place before the most recent outbreak of allegations on both sides, the findings could now be worse.
But, as in every other aspect of public life, the UK public is as polarised as ever and opinion on racism in the two parties is largely divided along factional lines. Only 12pc of Labour voters in the 2017 General Election believe that Corbyn’s party is ‘riddled’ with anti-Semitism and, strikingly, 40pc think that Labour has no more a problem with anti-Jewish sentiment than any other political party. Meanwhile, similarly low numbers of Conservative voters think that their own party is ‘riddled’ with anti-Islamic views, and over a third think that the party contains little or no islamophobia.
Both sides are far more confident that their political opponents have a problem. 70 percent of Tory voters think that Labour contains anti-Semitic views, and more than half think that Corbyn is personally anti-Semitic. Labour voters are slightly more equivocal, but half still think that the Conservative Party is anti-Islamic, and a third think that May herself is Islamophobic.
More worryingly for Corbyn and May, are the third of voters across the political spectrum who either hadn’t decided, or didn’t know enough in April and June about racism within the two parties to form an opinion. The two polls precede Labour’s row over the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, the new allegations of Corbyn’s associations with anti-Semites, and Boris’ comparing of women in burqas to ‘letter boxes’. While political pundits often overestimate how much attention the public pays to current affairs, blanket coverage of the two rows over the summer could easily have given these voters enough information to make up their minds.
The early signs suggest that Labour and Corbyn may have come out worse from the fracas. A poll released today by YouGov showed that for the first time in months, the Conservatives moved in front of Labour by four points.