ONE of Stephane Savary’s biggest political regrets, if not his biggest, was voting for Jeremy Corbyn to become leader of the Labour Party in 2015.
Now, that might not seem such an odd thing to regret, as a lot of Corbyn’s antisemitic dalliances had yet to be discovered.
But when you take into account that Stephane is the national vice chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement, you begin to see why that is worthy of being such a big regret.
France-born Stephane, 39, said: “At the time, my trade union, Unite, and GMB supported him, and you do the job in that case.
“When I suddenly realised I was wrong, I knew I needed to do something about it.
“I know a lot of people in JLM who voted for and campaigned for him in 2015.
“It’s my biggest mistake ever, and if I could go back and undo it, I would.”
Despite being one of the most vocal proponents of the party’s problems with antisemitism, and never hiding away from his Judaism, Stephane wasn’t actually born Jewish.
Born-and-raised Catholic in Lille, the majority of his friends growing up were Jewish.
And aged around 15, he fell out of love with religion altogether.
“I had a massive breakdown with the church, at that age, over many things,” he explained.
“I didn’t believe in a lot of things and asked a lot of questions, to which I never got an answer, and there were a lot of things happening in the church at the time that I wasn’t happy with.
“For around 15-20 years, I shut down on everything to do with religion, but still had a lot of Jewish friends to the point that everyone thought I was Jewish — it was a bit confusing for them.
“My partner went though breast cancer — although she is fine now — and I started to argue a lot with God and came back to faith through Judaism.
“I converted when I came to the UK, thanks to Menorah Synagogue (Cheshire Reform).
“I had been to the only shul in Lille, which is an Orthodox shul, but the people don’t really want you there.
“It’s harder to be a part of the community there than it is here.
“I had a Jewish girlfriend who told me not to say anything and pretend that I was visiting from Israel.
“I converted because it was the right thing to do — I knew that in my heart.”
A mortgage broker by trade, Stephane read history, geography and cartography at Lille University, and has a Master’s degree in classical, ancient Mediterranean and near Eastern studies and archaeology from the same university.
He also spent six months living in Liverpool — which explains why he supports the soon-to-be Premier League champions, Liverpool.
But it was always politics that piqued his interest.
He said: “I’ve been a member of the UK Labour Party since 2009, but before that I was a member of a socialist party in France.
“I joined a political party there at the same time I left religion.
“I still wanted to change the world and make things better.
“I come from a working class community in France, and could see the National Front becoming stronger and stronger.
“It was a defining moment for me and I had to do something about it, so when I arrived in the UK, I joined Labour because that was the only party on the left that could stop that.
“Gordon Brown was leader at the time. Ten years later, what he did as Prime Minister was right and I think he was a better PM than Tony Blair — he understood Labour and Labour values.
“He was a traditional Labour prime minister.
“When nothing was really happening in Labour for many years, I joined the Jewish Labour Movement after receiving antisemitic abuse.”
The abuse began in 2015 when he was called a “Rothschild Zionist”.
Stephane admits to having no idea what the classic antisemitic trope meant at the time.
He laughed: “To me, Rothschild was a very rich guy in 19th century France — that’s it.
“They called me that because I shared an article about Palestinian kids, which was critical of the Israeli government, but it was from Ha’aretz — but people saw Israeli newspaper, which means Jew, which means Rothschild Zionist.
“I shut down completely and didn’t worry about it, but it started again a year later.
“I started to look into left-wing antisemitism in the UK, which I had no idea existed.
“The biggest mistake that the moderates in Labour did was in 2016, when they went after Corbyn after the EU referendum.
“They opened the gates to all these nutters who joined just to protect their man, and are still there today.
“Most of them are antisemitic — that’s when things changed completely.
“They all joined because they recognised Jeremy Corbyn as someone they can trust and is on their side.
“Jeremy doesn’t understand antisemitism, which is not acceptable when you’re leader of the party.”
The abuse became too much for Stephane, and he decided that he was going to leave JLM.
But the conversation took a different turn . . . and he was asked to stand for national vice-chairman instead, alongside Joe Goldberg and Sarah Sackman.
And he was voted in, much to his surprise.
But he pointed out that this was as high as he wanted to go, not just in the JLM but in politics overall.
He said: “In France, they wanted me to be a candidate, but I left the country and came to the UK. I’m not involved in politics to become a politician — it isn’t me.”
Stephane also shared his thoughts on the current Labour leadership elections, choosing Sir Keir Starmer as his pick.
But for Stephane, whoever the leader is doesn’t necessarily matter as the party is lost for “at least a generation”, not just to the Jewish community, but around the country, too.
“If you go to the north, you knock on doors and people tell you that it has lost its roots,” he added.
“How are we going to be relevant again in Scotland? It’s going to take a lot of hard work for us to make it relevant again.
“This youth movement that was talked about on social media, isn’t also not there on the doorstep.
“I don’t think we’ll see a Labour government for at least the next 10 years, if not more.”
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