Dozens of Labour politicians marched across Westminster today in an extraordinary show of support for Jewish MP Ruth Smeeth ahead of an anti-Semitism hearing.
Ms Smeeth was giving evidence to a disciplinary hearing where Labour chiefs will decide whether or not to expel an activist she accuses of anti-Semitism.
Marc Wadsworth reduced Ms Smeeth to tears at the launch of Labour’s anti-Semitism report in July 2016 by accusing her of colluding with the press.
And today the Jewish Labour MP was coming face to face with him as she urges Labour chiefs to kick him out of the party for good.
She was escorted by around 50 Labour MPs and peers across Westminster, including Luciana Berger, another Jewish MP who has received a torrent of anti-Semitic abuse.
Ms Berger said: ‘The hearing is taking place today and everyone be looking – including my colleagues who are here today in solidarity with our colleague Ruth Smeeth – for some strong action.’
Wes Streeting, Labour MP for Ilford North who organised the march, said it is an ‘appalling state of affairs’ that a Labour MP must be escorted for fear of intimation.
A group of Corbynista activists gathered outside the hearing chanting as Ms Smeeth walked, while Chris Williamson – a key Corbyn ally and former frontbencher, was reportedly giving evidence in Mr Wadsworth’s defence.
The striking scenes come amid widespread anger after Jeremy Corbyn’s long-anticipated meeting with Jewish leaders ended in failure last night.
Ruth Smeeth (pictured in the black and white dress, along with Jewish Labour peer Alf Dubbs to the left, and Labour MPs Luciana Berger and Jess Philips to her right) was escorted by the Labour politician past a noisy picket of Corbynistas who were chanting their support for Marc Wadsworth
Ruth Smeeth (pictured, centre, in the black and white dress on the protest today) was joined by around 50 MPs who escorted her from Parliament to the hearing held nearby to show their support
Labour MPs who joined the march said they wanted to escort their Jewish colleague so that s he would not have to run the gauntlet of these protesting Corbynistas alone.
Mr Streeting said: ‘Victims of abuse giving evidence shouldn’t have to walk through a protest to do so.
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 clams 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.
‘I’m proud of Labour MPs and Peers who stood by Ruth Smeeth this morning. That it was necessary to accompany her through a protest is an appalling state of affairs.’
Ms Berger, the Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree, was by Ms Smeeth’s side during the walk.
Speaking to reporters at the steps of the disciplinary hearing, Ms Berger said Mr Corbyn must finally take action to kick those behind the abuse out of the party.
She said: ‘This is Ruth’s case and we want strong action – it has been 22 months.’
‘There is a lot of talk about due process – that due process has happened.
‘The hearing is taking place today and everyone be looking – including my colleagues who are here today in solidarity with our colleague Ruth Smeeth – for some strong action.
‘And I anticipate that is what will happen.’
She added: ‘Many people are looking for action, that is why you have got MPs here today.’
Her words were at times nearly drowned out by a protester shouting ‘free Palestine’ in the background.
Ms Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley, said: ‘We are here to show our support for Ruth and joining her so that she does not have to walk into a protest on her own.’
Around half a dozen protesters had formed a picket lines outside the Westminster hearing waving placards defending Mr Wadsworth and branding the anti-Semitism scandal a witch hunt.
One of them, John Bridge, told Mail Online: ‘I believe there is a witch hunt going on in the Labour Party. It is totally cynical.
‘Those who have be en expelled or suspended are militant, Jewish, anti Zionists.’
Speaking on his way into the hearing today, Mr Wadsworth said he is confident he will be cleared.
He said: ‘I am feeling very confident because I am not guilty – if this is based on the facts and it’s fair then I will be exonerated.
‘I am totally and utterly opposed to anti-Semitism, to all forms of bigotry and hatred including anti black racism and Islamophobia.’
He added: ‘I have endured nearly two years of trial by media……’
Asked if he thinks he will get a fair hearing, he said: ‘I will reserve my view on that until I have actually met the panel.’
Labour has been dogged by anti-Semitism claims ever since Mr Corbyn was elected leader in 2015.
He has vowed to crack down on the scourge and apologised for it – but his commitment to tackling the abuse has again be questioned after last night he refused to meet any of the demands set out by Jewish leaders.
Labour MP for Ilford North Wes Streeting said it was a sad state of affairs that a victim of anti-Semitism abuse had to be escorted in case they were intimidated to a Labour disciplinary hearing
He was said to have ‘shrugged’ when told at a meeting with Jewish community leaders that he was failing to condemn a wave of abuse from supporters.
He also refused to agree to expedite investigations into cases of alleged anti-Semitism, ban MPs from sharing platforms with those accused of it, or adopt an international definition of the vile behaviour.
Mr Corbyn agreed to the hour-long meeting Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council after an unprecedented storm of protests.
Labour MPs are among those who have demanded action to root out anti-Semitism they say has risen to the surface since Mr Corbyn took over as leader.
But Jonathan Goldstein of the JLC said Mr Corbyn ‘engages in conversation until you ask him to do something’.
‘When you ask him to do something he has this habit of staring and just shrugging,’ he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.