POLITICS
08/05/2018 11:54 BST | Updated 08/05/2018 12:25 BST

John McDonnell To Meet Defeated Barnet Labour Councillor Amid Warnings Over Anti-Semitism

Shadow Chancellor most senior figure to hear concerns in person

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A former Labour councillor defeated in Barnet is to urge Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell to condemn “alt left” and “conspiracy theory” websites that suggest anti-semitism was not to blame for the party’s losses in the council elections. 

Blogging for HuffPost UK, Adam Langleben said he would tell McDonnell some ‘hard truths’ when they meet on Tuesday, following the party’s failure to capture its number one target Tory borough last week.

Labour had hoped to score a notable victory by taking the Conservative flagship for the first time in 50 years, but instead lost seats including in Langleben’s West Hendon ward, which has one of the highest Jewish populations in London.

Some websites such as Skwawkbox attacked the BBC for highlighting the impact of the party’s anti-semitism problems on the results, and pointed instead to areas with Jewish voters where the Labour vote went up.

But Langleben said that a protest by Jewish Labour voters was “the only explanation” for the collapse in every target ward in Barnet, as well as losses in Haringey, Kersal in Salford, Bury, Liverpool and Hackney.

Jeremy Corbyn has yet to comment on the Barnet result, but McDonnell made plain this weekend that “anti-semitism certainly had its effect, there’s no doubt about it in Barnet itself”.

Party general secretary Jennie Formby has pledged to change the party’s disciplinary processes to tackle the issue more effectively.

John Stillwell - PA Images via Getty Images
Jennie Formby, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell on the campaign trail

Langleben, who revealed that the Shadow Chancellor had messaged him personally to set up the meeting to hear his concerns, said it was time for the party leadership to follow through on its words on the topic by telling members to stop denying the problem.

“Anyone who was knocking on doors will tell you, in the words of Barnet Labour’s leader, Barry Rawlings, that we couldn’t tell ‘if the next person we spoke to would accuse us of racism’,” he said.

“Wherever voting-age Jews lived in high numbers, the Labour Party paid a price for its incompetence, betrayal and attitude towards the community that helped lay the party’s foundations.”

Langleben, who has suffered online abuse since he spoke out about the loss of his seat last week, said the bigger issue

“I look forward to talking to John. I am going to tell him hard truths: that there was rarely a canvass session over the past month in Barnet where we did not lose votes over antisemitism.

“And I am going to ask that he, Jeremy and the Shadow Cabinet come to Barnet as soon as possible to apologise to our activists and the Jewish community. The issues raised by the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council remain outstanding. The Party can no longer hide behind process.” 

He added that he wanted to urge McDonnell to call out “fake news, conspiracy theory websites” that “provide a dark place for antisemitism to fester and be nurtured”.

“Antisemitism’s dark past started with conspiracy, ending in gas chambers. History has taught us this. He and others should come out and say clearly that such websites are not part of our Labour movement’s discourse and that they are detrimental to our success and to our anti-racist, evidence-based Enlightenment values.” 

A source close to McDonnell stressed that the meeting on Tuesday night would be private.

Steve Walker, who runs Skwawkbox, told HuffPost this weekend that he objected to Langleben’s attacks on his site.

He claimed that Langleben’s “agenda to shut down independent media inconvenient to the right is clear”.