Voters rejected vile anti-Semitism, says PM as Tories regain control of Barnet

The Prime Minister has said voters "rejected the vile anti-Semitism" of Jeremy Corbyn's party as the Conservatives regained control of key Labour target council Barnet.

Labour went into the election hoping for a historic victory that would have seen it take control for the first time since the authority's creation in 1964.

But the anti-Semitism controversy, which has dogged Mr Corbyn recently, "made a difference" to voters in the north London borough - an area with a large Jewish population - according to the council's Labour group leader.

And defeated councillor Adam Langleban said the party had been "punished" by voters over the refusal of the national leadership to tackle the issue.

Theresa May thanked activists and councillors at the Finchley and Golders Green Conservative office on Friday for their "hard work" in spreading the Tory message.

But she added: "I think here we've also seen something else at play.

"I think people of all faiths have rejected the vile anti-Semitism that has gone unchallenged in the Labour Party for too long."

The Tories made concerted efforts to target wards with large Jewish populations in the wake of the controversy.

And the breakthrough came when they made a clean sweep in one of those wards, Hale, taking a seat off Labour and increasing their vote by almost 2,800.

The crushing blow came when the Conservatives took all three seats in long-time Labour stronghold West Hendon.

Labour group leader Barry Rawlings said: "I must say that in some wards where there is a large Jewish community, it has made a difference.

"Of course the Tories did go hard in those areas on that issue, saying that if you vote Labour you're voting for Jeremy Corbyn.

"But, to be honest, most of the conversations (with voters) have been about potholes rather than anti-Semitism.

"That said, we want people to know it is an issue we take very seriously in the Labour Party."

Mike Freer, MP for Finchley and Golders Green, who was in Barnet with Mrs May, said: "It would be wrong to say that, in the borough with the largest Jewish population, anti-Semitism didn't play a part, but it's not the only issue.

"It is true to say that the anger from the Jewish community towards the Labour Party was palpable on the doorsteps.

"But if you look at the results across Barnet it can't be just that issue."

Council leader Richard Cornelius said voters were generally more concerned about "local issues" rather than accusations of anti-Semitism within Labour.

He told the Press Association: "It's things like potholes, the collection of their rubbish bins and keeping the council tax low.

"Of course there is a concern about anti-Semitism in the Jewish areas, and of course there is a wider concern about more generally - people are horrified, and Labour have to address that."

Voter turnout was 43.7% - an increase of 2.6% from 41.1% four years ago.

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