POLITICS
01/02/2019 17:28 GMT

Labour Anti-Semitism Row Set To Reignite As MPs Claim Jew-Hatred Is 'Normalised' In Party

A crunch meeting will take place in parliament next week.

The anti-semitism row that threatened to engulf Labour looks set to flare up again as MPs prepare to tell Jeremy Corbyn the public see Jew-hatred as  “normalised” within party ranks. 

A PLP (Parliamentary Labour Party) motion, seen by HuffPost UK, claims party boss Jennie Formby and Labour’s ruling body, the National Executive Committee (NEC), have intervened to screen out complaints and failed to expel perpetrators. 

If passed after a debate on Monday night, MPs will declare the leadership has failed to get a grip of the party’s anti-semitism crisis and demand answers to 11 key questions. 

The motion, tabled by Newcastle North’s Catherine McKinnell and signed by Stoke North’s Ruth Smeeth – who has been subject to anti-semitic abuse on social media – also calls for party leaders to outline what is being done to protect MPs. 

But allies of the leader have said the party is getting tougher on the problem and that it is “a red herring” to target Corbyn, as disciplinary cases are dealt with by a different Labour body, independent of the leadership – the National Constitution Committee. 

The strongly-worded motion comes after Jewish MPs and councillors faced a tide of anti-semitic abuse online, with many perpetrators using the Corbyn-supporting hashtag #JC4PM.

Jewish community leaders became enraged when the party dragged its feet in adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism.

Tensions reached such a level that Wavertree MP Luciana Berger, chair of Jewish Labour, required a bodyguard to attend Labour conference in Liverpool last year.

Former chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks accused Corbyn of failing to tackle Jew-hatred and Home Secretary Sajid Javid demanded a debate on the issue in Westminster. 

It is not known how many complaints about anti-Semitism have been made to Labour, but the party has faced claims the process has been dogged by delays and that some perpetrators face light sanctions.

The motion, which says the party’s alleged inaction risks “seeming to be institutionally anti-Semitic”, will be seen as a direct challenge to Formby’s authority. 

Deputy leader Tom Watson said Formby, who pledged to tackle the issue when she was appointed in March, should quit if the row had not been dealt with by Christmas. 

“We should have dealt with it earlier,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain in September. “We have hired a new general secretary who has staked her career on dealing with anti-Semitism in our party.

“She has been in post for three or four months. If I come here against at Christmas and she has not dealt with it then you may be asking me why she is still in post.” 

PA Archive/PA Images
Jennie Formby (left) with Jeremy Corbyn during their local election campaign

McKinnell’s motion reads: “The PLP calls on the party leadership to adequately tackle cases of anti-Semitism, as a failure to do seriously risks anti-Semitism in the party appearing normalised and the party seeming to be institutionally anti-Semitic.”  

MPs are demanding to know: 

  • The outstanding cases the party has to investigate and what stages complaints are at;

  • How many times chiefs used delegated powers to return ‘no further action’ verdicts on complaints;

  • The number of full-time staff investigating complaints;

  • The cash spent on lawyers;

  • Which Jewish groups have been consulted on the party’s anti-Semitism code of practice and the timetable for when the code will be reviewed;

  • How many Labour members ordered to take anti-Semitism training have yet to do so;

  • The maximum time for responding to complaints;

  • How the party is engaging with victims;

  • What is being done to protect MPs, such as Ruth Smeeth and Luciana Berger, and councillors who they say are repeatedly targeted.

A Labour Party spokesperson said: “Labour is committed to tackling anti-Semitism in all its forms wherever it arises, in our party and wider society.

“We have significantly sped up and strengthened our procedures for dealing with complaints about anti-Semitism.”