Labour's Chuka Umunna Says Left 'Fringes' Have Anti-Semitism 'Problems', And Singles Out Ken Livingstone

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Chuka Umunna: "I think there is a problem with anti-Semitism on the fringes of the left, there is no doubt about that; it would be completely disingenuous to deny that." | Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Chuka Umunna has identified problems with anti-Semitism “on the fringes of the left”, and singled out Ken Livingstone as the “obvious example” of someone who has “very much offended” Jewish people.

Speaking to The House magazine, the Labour MP underlined the tensions within the party as he referred to a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn amid its row over anti-semitism in the party's Oxford University branch.

ken livingstone

Former London mayor Ken Livingstone is the "obvious example" of some people who have "clearly said some things which have very much offended the Jewish community", said Umunna

Umunna has launched an inquiry, with Corbyn's backing, into why the party lost so many votes among black, Asian and ethnic minority voters, among whom it used to poll so well.

In 2005, Livingstone, the left-wing former London mayor, faced heavy criticism after he likened a Jewish newspaper reporter to a Nazi concentration camp guard.

Livingstone later said the incident was “a huge fuss over nothing”, and attacked the Jewish community for being “obsessive” about his relationship with an extremist preacher.

Earlier this month, an investigation” into anti-Semitism within the Oxford University Labour Club was launched after its co-chair resigned and more members came forward with allegations of ‘anti-Jewish’ incidents.

Alex Chalmers, a student at Oriel College, issued a strongly-worded statement which said he was stepping down from his position because a large proportion of both the Club and the student left in Oxford “have some kind of problem with Jews.”

Ed Miliband's office announced the former Labour leader had postponed a talk at the Club following reports of bigoted behaviour.

Umunna, who is one of Labour’s key voices in the case to remain in the European Union, said: "I think there is a problem with anti-Semitism on the fringes of the left, there is no doubt about that; it would be completely disingenuous to deny that. And there are some people who have clearly said some things which have very much offended the Jewish community. Ken Livingstone's the obvious example."

Asked whether his recent interventions on various issues have been helpful to the party, he said: "No."

He said: "We are shedding votes at the most alarming rate. In the glory years in the 1990s and pretty much every decade leading to that we were commanding the support of around 85% of our different ethnic minority communities - which should never be viewed as one homogenous group - but in aggregate we did very well and we have gone from that situation to a situation last year where we are down to 52% amongst black and ethnic minority voters."

Umunna, seen as being on right of the party, quit from the Labour frontbench when Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader. Livingstone is set to play a key role in decided whether Labour continues to back the Trident nuclear weapons system, co-chairing a review into its renewal.

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