POLITICS
29/03/2018 09:09 BST | Updated 29/03/2018 11:27 BST

John McDonnell Refuses To Say Whether Christine Shawcroft Should Quit Labour's NEC

'It’s up to the electorate to decide if she should be elected again.'

PA Wire/PA Images

John McDonnell has refused to say whether Christine Shawcroft should resign from Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) 

She quit as head of Labour’s disputes panel on Wednesday evening after asking for a council candidate embroiled in a Holocaust denial row to be let back into the party.

The disputes panel is the body that decides whether to investigate sexist, racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic abuse and other disciplinary cases.

However the Momentum-backed Shawcroft remains on the party’s powerful ruling NEC.

Asked multiple times by Sky News on Thursday morning if she should step down from the NEC, McDonnell would not be drawn.

“It’s an elected position and it’s up to the electorate to decide if she should be elected again,” he said.

Christine Shawcroft
Christine Shawcroft has stepped down from Labour's disputes panel.

The shadow chancellor said people who were found guilty of anti-Semitism in the party would be treated “severely and ruthlessly”.

The further escalation of the anti-Semitism accusations within Labour came after a man, named as Alan Bull, reportedly shared an article on Facebook called: “International Red Cross Report Confirms the Holocaust of Six Million Jews is a Hoax.”

It was accompanied with a picture of the gates of Auschwitz, with the famous phrase ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ (work sets you free) replaced with the phrase ‘Muh Holocaust’.

Shawcroft sent an email, obtained by The Times, calling for Bull to have his suspension lifted.

In a statement last night she said she had not seen the “abhorrent” image posted on Facebook when she made the request.

“This week we have seen a clear expression of the pain and hurt that has been caused to Jewish members of our party and the wider Jewish community by anti-Semitic abuse and language, and by the reality of anti-Semitism being denied and downplayed by others,” she said.

“In light of this, I have decided to stand down as Chair of the Disputes Panel to ensure my wrong and misguided questions on this case do not cause doubt or anxiety about our processes.

“We must eliminate anti-Semitism from our party and wider society. To do this we must make sure our processes are as robust as possible and have the faith and confidence of our members.”

In January, HuffPost UK revealed how Corbyn supporters had used their new majority on the (NEC) to get Shawcroft the key position.

If Shawcroft quits the body, she would be automatically replaced by Eddie Izzard, who is seen as less favourable to Corbyn.

Labour MP Mike Gapes said there was “no place for Holocaust deniers or apologists for Holocaust deniers” in the party “period”.

“Let’s expel them all. Whether an ordinary member or a member of our NEC it makes no difference they must go. Now,” he tweeted.

Jennifer Gerber, director of the Labour Friends of Israel, said: “Christine Shawcroft should be suspended from the Labour Party and kicked off the NEC.

“Those who defend Holocaust deniers should have no place in the Labour Party.

“If Jeremy Corbyn is serious about his new zero tolerance approach to antisemitism he will deal with this as a matter of urgency.”

The resignation came on another tricky day for the Labour Party as Labour MP John Woodcock signalled that he was considering resigning the whip in protest at Corybn’s leadership on anti-semitism, Russia and Brexit.

Meanwhile, the leader of Barnet Council’s Labour group has declared that Corbyn has a “blind spot” on anti-Semitism that risks costing the party crucial Jewish support in its bid to topple the Tories in the local elections.

In an exclusive blog for HuffPost UK, Barry Rawlings said the Labour leader should state clearly that his supporters on the Left who compare Israelis to Hitler are “no better than far right fascists”.