Labour have ‘not done nearly enough, quickly enough’ in tackling anti-Semitism within the party,a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn today admitted.
Andrew Gwynne scrambled to insist the party is finally taking the scandal seriously, amid warnings it threatens to harm the party’s chances ahead of local elections this week.
The shadow communities minister, who is masterminded the party’s election campaign, said he is determined to ‘root out’ anti-Semitism.
Meanwhile, John McDonnell suggested the Labour anti-Semitism scandal could in the long run be a good thing as it has highlighted the issue of the abuse in the community at large.
And as he dismissed suggestions made by other key allies of Mr Corbyn – including union baron Len McCluskey – they are being used to ‘smear’ the leader.
Andrew Gwynne (pictured today on the Andrew Marr Show) scrambled to insist the party is finally taking the scandal seriously as it threatens to harm the party’s chances ahead of local elections this week
Jeremy Corbyn (pictured outside his home yesterday) has faced criticism for failing to do enough to root out the abuse spouted by some of his supporters
He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show: ‘Let’s be clear: we have to make progress on this.
What are the anti-Semitic incidents in Labour that have reached a crisis under Corbyn’s watch?
- Jeremy Corbyn defended an artist who painted an anti-Semitic mural in 2012, questioning why the offensive art should be removed
- He was a member of a Facebook group which was awash with anti-Semitic rhetoric, and he has described anti-Semitic groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah as ‘our friends’
- The Labour leader stood by when a speaker disrupted the launch of his party’s anti-Semitism policy by accusing a Jewish MP of colluding with the press
- Labour has still failed to expel former London mayor Ken Livingstone, two years after he claimed Hitler supported Zionism. He has still not apologised
- Delegates at last year’s Labour conference complained of a ‘witch hunt’ against anti-Semitism and heard from a speaker who said it was legitimate to question the Holocaust
- The problem is so rife in the party the Jewish Labour Movement has had to hold training sessions for party members on how not to be anti-Semitic
- Labour members and councillors have shared disgusting messages and images on Facebook describing Jewish people of controlling world capitalism and being to blame for the policies of the Israeli government
- The party is failing to deal with a huge backlog of complaints and has failed to expel people even though they have committed offences such as referring to Jewish people as Yids
- Corbyn ally Len McCluskey, the Unite general secretary, has dismissed anti-Semitism claims as ‘mood music’ spread by Blairites.
- Labour’s new general secretary Jennie Formby was accused of recruiting a party member suspended for saying Hitler was a Zionist god.
‘We’ve not done nearly enough quickly enough, and that is recognised across the Labour Party, its recognised by our new general secretary Jennie Formby.
‘We are determined not just to call out anti-Semitism, but to root out anti-Semitism. It has no place in the Labour Party.’
Labour has been dogged by claims of anti-Semitism since Mr Corbyn became leader in 2015, and MPs who have spoken out have received death and rape threats and threatened with deselection.
And there was fresh anger last week after a meeting between Mr Corbyn and Jewish leaders ended in disappointment as the Labour leader ‘shrugged’ when confronted over his inaction and refused to take up their demands.
Mr McCluskey’s – the boss of Unite and dubbed ‘red Ledn because of his left-wing views – claim Labour MPs were ‘polluting’ the leader’s efforts to tackle the problem.
But Mr Gwynne slapped down the union leader’s remark, saying: ‘It is perfectly acceptable for Labour MPs to call out anti-Semitism in our party and in our movement and it is incumbent on our party and on our movement to act and root it out.’
He said people needed to ‘acknowledge that there is an issue of anti-Semitism on the left of British politics’.
‘It’s not just something that affects the right of British politics – there is an element in the left. It is a small element.’
Mr McDonnell, the shadow chancellor and one of Mr Corbyn’s closest ally, suggested the anti-Semitism scandal has a silver lining – as it shines a light on the abuse more widely in society.
He told Sky News’ Paterson on Sunday: ‘I think as a community we might come out strengthened from this because it has highlighted the issue of anti-Semitism…
If any good is going to come out of this, and certainly it’s about cleaning up the act of the Labour Party, but more wider than that, tackling it in society as a whole.’
Last week female Jewish Labour MPs rounded on Mr Corbyn in the Commons as they told movingly of the abuse they have suffered after speaking out about anti-Semitism.
John McDonnell (pictured on Sky News today) suggested the Labour anti-Semitism scandal could in the long run be a good thing as it has highlighted the issue of the abuse in the community at large
Ruth Smeeth moved some of her fellow MPs to tears after she told of the torrent of abuse s he suffered – prompting her fellow MPs to flout parliamentary rules to give her a rare standing ovation.
And in a remarkable show of solidarity, around 50 Labour politicians escorted her across Westminster to give evidence to a disciplinary hearing on anti-Semitism last week.
The MPs walked side by side with her so that she would not have to run the gauntlet of protesters outside who were chanting and branding her allegations a ‘witch hunt’.