”Scores” of Labour members are quitting the party in protest at Ken Livingstone’s suspension, the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) has said.
The group, which is the oldest affiliate of Labour, claimed that despite pleas for people to “stay and fight”, many of its members saw Livingstone being spared expulsion for his repeated outbursts about Hitler as a step too far.
“JLM has received messages from scores of our members, many of whom are considering leaving the Party, some of whom already have,” a spokesperson told The Huffington Post UK.
“We understand where they are coming from, but are encouraging them to heed the lessons of the Battle of Cable Street: you stay, you stand, you fight.”
When Livingstone was asked by LBC’s Iain Dale if he was concerned about people leaving Labour because of him, he responded: “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
But many Labour members took to social media to announce they felt “physically sick” and “betrayed” by the ruling on Livingstone. “I’m done,” said a member in Jeremy Corbyn’s Islington North constituency. “Finally done.”
Former EasterEnders star Tracy Ann Oberman also announced she was left “reeling” by the Livingstone verdict. “Resigning my membership. Feel so let down,” she said. It was “all very upsetting tbh [to be honest],” she later recounted to HuffPost UK.
Huff Post UK also spoke to members who said they were on the verge of leaving the party.
Mark, a 42-year-old charity director from Sheffield, said the “ineffective” sanction levied against Livingstone “belittles the offence he caused”.
“The sanction given to Livingstone is a joke,” he said. “It neither recognises the offence caused, even the Chief Rabbi has commented on this, nor acts as a deterrent to anyone else tempted to make similar remarks.
“I can tolerate policy issues I disagree on, I can even tolerate what I perceive is the wrong direction being taken, but I cannot stand by in silence when foundational principles of our party are being challenged in this way.
“We must have a zero tolerance policy on antisemitism - this doesn’t come close.
I love the Labour Party and I have worked hard in recent years knocking doors, making calls, even standing to be a candidate, but I cannot be party to anything that turns a blind eye to antisemitism."
Aaron, a software engineer in his thirties from London, is Jewish on his father’s side.
He said he had “agonised” over whether to leave Labour given its troubles with anti-Semitism for close to two years but had concluded: “At present it’s impossible for me to be against discrimination and remain in the party.”
“He shows absolutely no remorse, won’t acknowledge he’s transgressed in any way and I have absolutely no doubt that with the lenient sanctions imposed on him he’ll continue to act in the manner in which he has over the past few years.
“In effect there’s no punishment at all if he’s still allowed to continue attending meetings; he’s lost nothing considering he’s currently in no real position of power within the party save that which the profile and voice that his longevity and history with the part affords him.
I’m not sure where I can go from here and still engage with politics in any meaningful way."
”My own father has already resigned from the party over the on-going anti-Semitism problem. I’ve discussed this particular incident with him and his response was ‘If I hadn’t already gone, this would have pushed me over the edge’”.
But some members are being called on to stay and fight, instead of leave.
“Dig in, don’t walk away,” MP Wes Streeting implored.
Corbyn has intervened since the clamour from Jewish groups, MPs and shadow cabinet ministers to allow the party’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) to look again at Livingstone’s conduct.
In a statement, the Labour leader said: “Ken Livingstone’s comments have been grossly insensitive, and he has caused deep offence and hurt to the Jewish community.
“It is deeply disappointing that, despite his long record of standing up to racism, Ken has failed to acknowledge or apologise for the hurt he has caused.
“Many people are understandably upset that he has continued to make offensive remarks which could open him to further disciplinary action.
“Since initiating the disciplinary process, I have not interfered with it and respect the independence of the party’s disciplinary bodies.
“But Ken’s subsequent comments and actions will now be considered by the National Executive Committee after representations from party members.”