Labour’s anti-Semitism row deepened last night as a key Corbyn ally tried to dismiss it as a smear attempt.
Senior party figure Christine Shawcroft said the crisis had simply been ‘stirred up’ by critics.
It came as Labour peer Lord Winston said Mr Corbyn had ‘encouraged and endorsed’ anti-Semites in the party, adding: ‘He has a lot to answer for.’
Senior party figure Christine Shawcroft said the crisis had simply been ‘stirred up’ by critics
And the party’s former chief fundraiser Lord Levy revealed he had received hate mail calling him a ‘Jewish pig bloodsucker’ after he criticised the Labour leader this week.
Miss Shawcroft, a member of Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC), said it ‘absolutely beggars belief’ to suggest Mr Corbyn was giving succour to anti-Semites poisoning his party.
She suggested the concerns raised by Jewish groups, Labour moderates and others were concocted to damage Mr Corbyn. ‘This whole row is being stirred up to attack Jeremy, as we all know,’ she said. ‘That someone who has spent his whole life fighting racism in all its forms should find himself being accused of not doing enough to counter it, absolutely beggars belief.’
Left-wing paper’s ‘sinister’ story
Backlash: The Word’s controversial cover
A left-wing newspaper was forced to defend a ‘sinister’ front page yesterday that asked ‘Which side are you on?’ following Labour’s anti-Semitism row.
On one side of The Word’s front page is Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, as well as former London mayor Ken Livingstone and Jackie Walker – who are both suspended from the party over anti-Semitism claims, along with a group of black children.
On the opposite side are Communities Secretary Sajid Javid and Labour MP Chuka Umunna at an anti-Semitism protest.
In the same half are Labour MP John Woodcock, who has criticised Mr Corbyn, Theresa May and former prime minister Tony Blair.
Journalist David Collier, who exposed Jeremy Corbyn’s membership of the controversial Palestine Live group, tweeted: ‘You haven’t really just produced an us against the Jews front cover – have you?’
Another user, calling herself Funny Girl, tweeted: ‘Who is inhumane enough to use images of African children as weapons to fire at those who courageously call out anti-Semitism. Feeling sick.’ Another called Terry wrote that it was ‘pure racism’.
Editor Alan Davies defended the page on Facebook, posting: ‘This is about right versus left and honesty versus money and power. Race and religion have NOTHING to do with it.’
But Tory MP Nadine Dorries said it was ‘sinister’ adding: ‘The Word doesn’t even try to hide its anti-Semitism. It is literally telling the world that the Left is anti-Semitic.’
The row came as:
– Mr Corbyn used a video message to the Jewish community to acknowledge Labour needed to ‘do better’ to deal with the hatred of some hard-Left activists towards Jews;
– 39 Labour MPs and peers wrote a letter demanding he axe Mrs Shawcroft from the NEC;
– Theresa May said it was time for all public figures to ‘stand up and make our voices heard in the face of anti-Semitism’.
Miss Shawcroft’s comments undermined efforts by Mr Corbyn to mend fences with the Jewish community. She was sacked as chairman of Labour’s disciplinary panel on Wednesday after the Mail revealed she had opposed the suspension of an apparent Holocaust denier who was standing as a Labour council candidate.
In a message on Facebook, which was later deleted, Miss Shawcroft insisted she was ‘not a Holocaust denier’ and would not knowingly support one.
The anti-Semitism crisis culminated this week in an unprecedented demonstration in Westminster by Jewish community leaders. In a video message to mark Passover, Mr Corbyn said his party would ‘never be complacent about anti-Semitism,’ adding: ‘We all need to do better.’ He went on: ‘It is easy to denounce anti-Semitism when you see it in other countries, in other political movements. It is sometimes harder to see it when it is closer to home.’
However, Mr Corbyn was last night resisting calls from dozens of Labour MPs and peers to remove Miss Shawcroft from the disciplinary panel altogether and suspend her from the NEC. She is a long-time ally on Labour’s hard-Left and a director of the Momentum group.
Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, described Miss Shawcroft’s comments as ‘disgusting’. She posted on Twitter: ‘I’ll tell you what beggars belief: That instead of asking serious questions as to why a member of your party thinks it’s OK to post sickening material denying the Holocaust, you suggest the huge concern regarding anti-Semitism is “stirred up” and enough is being done to combat it. Disgusting.’
Veteran Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh said it was time for Mr Corbyn to stop paying lip service to the issue and take action against his friend and ally. She said: ‘I would say we have got enough letters to paper Nelson’s Column saying that Jeremy will take action. The time for words is over.’
In his Passover video message today, Mr Corbyn – who has spent much of the week avoiding questions from journalists – said he wanted to ‘remember all our Jewish brothers and sisters, who have battled against discrimination’
Christine Shawcroft (pictued) was forced to stand down as chair of the disputes panel this week after admitting she was ‘wrong and misguided’ to have sent an email calling for a council candidate in Peterborough to have his suspension lifted
Fellow Labour MP Wes Streeting said: ‘Even when caught red-handed defending a Holocaust denier, Christine Shawcroft still dismisses genuine concerns about anti-Semitism. Enough is enough. Christine Shawcroft must resign from the NEC immediately. She has no shame.’ Asked if she would be suspended, a Labour Party spokesman would say only that her Facebook comments had ‘now been deleted.’ In her statement yesterday, Miss Shawcroft said she was ‘deeply sorry’ for the way she handled a complaint against Labour activist Alan Bull, who posted a Facebook link to a fake news article titled: ‘International Red Cross report confirms the Holocaust of six million Jews is a hoax.’
Although she told Mr Bull he needed anti-Semitism training, she added: ‘Alan certainly wasn’t sharing it because he agreed.’
Lord Winston, a leading scientist and TV presenter, told the BBC’s This Week show he was ‘deeply ashamed’ of the party.
He added: ‘Whether he likes it or not, Jeremy Corbyn has a lot to answer for. He has encouraged anti-Semites and he’s endorsed them.
‘In the modern world using social media, their conspiracy theories about Jews and statements about hate, spread like a disease and this virus is infecting the Labour Party.’
In her own Passover message, the Prime Minister made no direct reference to the Labour crisis. But she said Jews had faced ‘hatred, discrimination and violence’ for centuries. And in a pointed reference, she added: ‘It is a situation that continues to this day, including, I am sad to say, here in Britain.’