Accusations of anti-Semitism are being used by some people as a means to attack Jeremy Corbyn, veteran Labour shadow minister Stephen Pound claimed last night
Labour should resist calls to instantly expel anyone accused of anti-Semitism and deal with it in its own way, a shadow minister has claimed.
Stephen Pound vowed his party would ‘clean up’ the allegations and admitted there was a ‘real problem’ that would cost the party votes.
But he insisted the allegations were being used to attack Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of Labour and said the party should resist calls to immediately ‘sling out’ members based on any allegation without following party processes.
Mr Corbyn has been repeatedly accused of failing to deal with anti-Semitism. His close ally Ken Livingstone has been suspended for more than a year without a resolution over his Hitler rants.
Mr Pound’s comments came as frontbench colleague Liam Byrne warned there was ‘real alarm’ at the scale of the problem within the party.
Labour grandee Lord Triesman, a former General Secretary of the party, warned today a failure to act on anti-Semitism would have a ‘1930s outcome’.
And a Jewish member of Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee today said she is ‘frustrated’ with the pace of action in dealing with allegations of anti-Semitism in the party.
The party has moved to distance itself from a series of pro-Corbyn social media groups after an investigation by The Sunday Times found they contained hundreds of violent and abusive messages.
Mr Pound told last night’s programme: ‘My point is the Labour Party is not the enemy of Judaism.
‘I think the Labour Party without a doubt has a problem, but on the other hand there are some people who are riding that horse to attack Jeremy Corbyn anyway.’
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (pictured leaving his London home today) has faced a storm of criticism over his handling over anti-Semitish allegations against Labour
Jewish groups called a protest on Parliament Square last week (pictured) to demand the Labour leader acts on anti-Semitism in his party
Asked whether Mr Corbyn’s opponents were using anti-Semitism as a stick to beat the Labour leader, the Ealing North MP said: ‘A small number of them are, and unfortunately in the world of social media nowadays a small number of people can get a huge amount of attention.’
Mr Pound said Labour had to ‘make it absolutely clear that our proud record on being an inclusive party does extend to every single person in this country’.
But he added: ‘The minute somebody outside the party says, ”You the leader need to expel that person”, then … hang on a second, we will deal with this our way and if we have a problem with dealing with the Jewish community then that is our problem.
‘We will not have people screaming from the outside saying, ”Sling this person out, chuck that person out”.
‘We will take care of this. We will clean up this mess because we are the Labour Party, we are not an anti-Semitic party, we’re not a racist party. We’re a party for everyone.’
Labour grandee Lord Triesman (file image), a former Labour General Secretary, warned today a failure to act on anti-Semitism would have a ‘1930s outcome’
Mr Pound added: ‘I think it’s my duty as a Labour member of Parliament to actually reach out to these people who are hurting. I’m not going to rest until the Labour Party has rebuilt those bridges because we are not anti-Semitic.’
He said the row would ‘inevitably’ cost Labour votes in areas such as the north London borough of Barnet, where there is a large Jewish population.
As the row continued, shadow minister Liam Byrne warned there was ‘real alarm’ at the scale of the problem within Labour
‘Yes of course it can, but Barnet is one borough,’ he said. ‘Inevitably, of course it will, but the real story behind these local government elections is (Conservative-led) Northampton County Council, which has gone bankrupt.’
Lord Triesman, who ran Labour HQ under Tony Blair, told The Times: ‘I don’t care who’s the prime minister or leader of the opposition: if you can’t face up to these things, you have a 1930s outcome.
‘The truth is that we need to be alert to the early signs, and we need to deal with them really, really hard when they emerge.
‘The dictatorships in Europe were never of such significance that we ought to bother ourselves with them, until they became too big to handle and then they were of such significance we couldn’t deal with them. These are historic mistakes which don’t have to be repeated.’
Rhea Wolfson, a Jewish member of Labour’s ruling NEC, said today she expects the process to speed up with the arrival of new general secretary Jennie Formby, who has been told by party leader Jeremy Corbyn to make the issue her number one priority.
Ex-Commons Speaker Lord Martin called for a special one-day conference of members to address the problem and demonstrate the party’s abhorrence of anti-Semitism.
The former Labour MP told The Guardian: ‘If you ran a restaurant, and it was dirty and there were cockroaches, you wouldn’t get away with saying ‘the restaurant down the road is dirty and has cockroaches too’.
‘You would be expected to sort out the problem.’
What anti-Semitic incidents have happened in Labour 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 was a Zionist. 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.