POLITICS

Momentum Activist Jackie Walker Facing Labour Expulsion Over Anti-Semitism

Among more than a dozen cases considered by party

07/03/2017 15:40 GMT | Updated 08/03/2017 15:52 GMT
Matt Crossick

Momentum activist Jackie Walker is facing expulsion from the Labour party after allegations of anti-semitism were referred to a full disciplinary hearing.

Walker will have to give evidence to the National Constitutional Committee (NCC), a quasi-legal body which has the authority to kick out members accused of the most serious breaches of party rules.

An ex-vice chair of the steering committee of Momentum, her Labour membership was suspended after HuffPost UK published a video of her making remarks about Holocaust Memorial Day at the party conference last September.

She had wrongly claimed that the annual holocaust day did not include non-Jewish genocide victims, claimed she had not found a definition of anti-semitism she could “work with” and questioned the need for security in Jewish schools.

Walker’s was one of 11 cases of anti-Jewish conduct considered by the ruling National Executive Committee’s disputes committee on Tuesday.

Also formally referred to the NCC was Marc Wadsworth, an activist who accused Jewish Labour MP Ruth Smeeth of colluding with the media at the launch of Shami Chakrabarti’s report into anti-semitism within the party.

He denies intending any offence and says he was not aware that Smeeth is Jewish.

Walker, Wadsworth and the other suspended members will now get the chance to defend themselves on the charges against them, with lawyers to represent them at the NCC hearing.

A criminal level of proof is needed “beyond reasonable doubt” and all witnesses are required to identify themselves.

Walker, who is Jewish, was heckled when she asked at the Labour training session last September: “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Holocaust day was open to all peoples who’ve experienced Holocaust?”

When told the day was indeed for all post-World War II genocides, she said “in practice it is not circulated and advertised as such.”

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
Jeremy Corbyn and Baroness Chakrabarti at the launch of her anti-semitism report

The Holocaust Educational Trust and the Jewish Labour Movement said they were “appalled” by her remarks, but Walker insisted she was anti-Zionist and abhorred any anti-Semitism.

In May 2016, Walker was readmitted to the Labour party after she was suspended earlier in the month over alleged anti-Semitic comments on Facebook.

In comments on the site, she had written about Jews as “chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade”.

Walker was removed as Momentum’s steering committee vice chair last October over her “irresponsible” comments.

Momentum, founded by key Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell ally Jon Lansman, said at the time that her remarks had been ‘ill-judged’ rather than anti-semitic.

At the NEC disputes committee, only one member defended Walker. Leading Momentum activist Rhea Wolfson made a speech backing the formal referral to the NCC, HuffPost UK has been told.

A separate case involving suspended member Vicki Kirby was withdrawn from consideration by the NEC sub-committee for legal reasons.

Jeremy Newmark, Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement told HuffPost UK: “These reported decisions appear to be a step in the right direction and could be a critical move towards the Party beginning to turn a corner on this issue. However there is still a long way to go.

“Some of the cases referred to the NCC today date back over a year and should have been concluded a long time ago. Other cases previously referred by the NEC remain unheard by the NCC for many months.

“Meanwhile key promised changes to Party rules and processes and the implementation of many of the recommendations from the Royall and Chakrabarti reports remain ‘under discussion’.

“The rhetoric of “zero tolerance” needs to be matched with swift, firm and decisive action against antisemitism.”