POLITICS
31/07/2018 18:46 BST | Updated 31/07/2018 20:44 BST

Jerermy Corbyn Ally Apologises After Saying 'Trump Fanatics' Were 'Making Up' Anti-Semitism Claims

Peter Willsman says he is referring himself to receive equalities training.

Simon Dawson / Reuters

A member of the Labour Party’s ruling body who was recorded making “disgusting” comments about Jews has apologised for his behaviour. 

Peter Willsman, an ally of Jeremy Corbyn, has said he recognises the “offensive nature of my comments” after calling some members of the Jewish community “Trump fanatics” and suggesting they were “making up” problems about anti-Semitism in the party.

Meanwhile, in a separate recording of Willsman at an NEC meeting, he is heard discussing sending recommendations for the Chakrabarti report on anti-Semitism to the Labour leader, who he describes as his “mate of 40 years”.

In his apology, he said he would be “referring myself to receive equalities training”.

In a statement Willsman said: “I am sorry for my behaviour in the last meeting of Labour’s NEC, which I deeply regret.

“Having sat on the NEC for many years, I am of course aware of appalling instances of anti-Semitism within our party, and am wholly determined to rooting it out of our movement.

“I do not believe anti-Semitism is ‘widespread’ in the Labour party, and that was what my comments were trying to refer to, but we do have a problem which needs stamping out. One anti-Semite is one too many.

“I recognise the offensive nature of my comments and that in diminishing the experiences of those who face anti-Semitism in our party and society, I showed a lack of the sensitivity required for discussions around racism.

“I will be referring myself to receive equalities training so I can better understand how to approach discussions of such issues in a respectful way.”

The fresh recording from July 2016, obtained by Sky News, includes Willsman describing the Labour leader as his “mate of 40 years”.

Willsman said Mr Corbyn sent him a text message from a First World War centenary event to discuss the Chakrabarti report.

Willsman told the NEC: “The phone went and it was Jeremy.

“He was texting me. He said: ‘I’m sitting on the Somme waiting to make a speech, I’ve got a few minutes, could you please text me the recommendations in Shami’s report we need to be a bit careful about?’.

“By that point I’d read it and I texted him back, recommendations 10 and six which I’ll come to in a moment.

“And I thought ‘this is a chap who’s cracking up, he’s sending me texts from the Somme about Shami’s report’. So I had a very good laugh.”

Jewish leaders have called for Labour to expel the National Executive Committee (NEC) member and raised questions about whether the party leader was present at the meeting where the comments were made.

Labour former minister Yvette Cooper said Mr Willsman’s remarks were “appalling” and urged Mr Corbyn to ask him to stand down as a candidate in internal party elections.

She told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One programme: “We do need action and also, what would be really helpful is, given that we are in an election for the NEC at the moment, I think it would be very helpful if Jeremy Corbyn could ask Pete Willsman to stand down from those elections, because I think that would actually help us make clear that the Labour Party is going to take seriously anti-Semitism in future.”

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson described the National Executive Committee member as a “loud-mouthed bully”, while Jewish Labour Movement chairwoman Luciana Berger said the comments were “sickening”.