A shadow Cabinet minister lashed out at Len McCluskey today after the union baron accused moderate Labour MPs of using the anti-Semitism row to hammer Jeremy Corbyn.
In an incendiary intervention, Mr McCluskey said a ‘small number’ of incidents were being ‘used’ to ‘attack and undermine’ the Labour leader.
He also delivered a dark threat about moves to deselect anti-Corbyn politicians – saying ‘promiscious critics’ should expect to be ‘held to account’.
But shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said it was ‘obvious’ the party has an issue with anti-Semitism and those who deny it are ‘part of the problem’.
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said today it was ‘obvious’ Labour had an issue with anti-Semitism and those who deny it are ‘part of the problem’
Union baron Len McCluskey (file image) today defied Jeremy Corbyn to brand anti-Semitism allegations by Labour MPs as ‘smears’
‘I disagree with Len McCluskey. Jeremy Corbyn has made it clear, and it is obvious, that we have got a problem with anti-Semitism. We have got to deal with it robustly and effectively,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
‘Part of that is the disciplinary procedure, which needs to be much quicker and much more effective, but there is also a cultural question.
‘Part of that cultural question is to stop those denying that there is even a problem. That is part of the problem. So I am afraid I disagree with Len on this.’
Writing in the New Statesman magazine, Mr McCluskey accused MPs on Labour’s centrist wing of ‘working overtime trying to present the Labour Party as a morass of misogyny, anti-Semitism and bullying’.
While he insisted that he was fiercely opposed to anti-Semitism and cases needed to be dealt with strongly, he singled out five MPs – Chris Leslie, Neil Coyle, John Woodcock, Wes Streeting and Ian Austin – who he said are ‘polluting’ the leader’s efforts to tackle the problem.
‘I look with disgust at the behaviour of the Corbyn-hater MPs who join forces with the most reactionary elements of the media establishment and I understand why there is a growing demand for mandatory reselection,’ he wrote.
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.
The raging row escalated further this week when Mr Corbyn’s attempt to mend fences with the Jewish community backfired – with leaders of the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) accusing him of ‘shrugging’ when confronted with a wave of vile abuse.
Following talks on Tuesday, Board of Deputies president Jonathan Arkush and JLC chair Jonathan Goldstein said ‘a deep cultural change’ was needed within Labour to rebuild trust.
They said Mr Corbyn had refused to commit to specific set of proposals designed to address the problem within Labour.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott today risked further inflaming tensions by saying there were ‘different versions’ of the meeting.
She told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that Labour did not want to accept the international definition of anti-Semitism because it might hamper ‘criticism of Israel’.
‘We are concerned with some of the paragraphs that talk about criticism the state of Israel. We don’t want a situation where if you criticise the state of Israel, you will be labelled anti-Semitism,’ she said.
Ms Abbott said the ‘important thing’ was that Labour had committed to dealing with ‘serous cases’ – including that against Ken Livingstone – by the end of July.
‘The leadership of the Labour party is not anti-Semitic and Jeremy Corbyn isn’t anti-Semitic. Focusing on Jeremy and trying to pin a label on him doesn’t get to the heart of the matter,’ she said.
Dozens of Labour politicians marched across Westminster yesterday in an extraordinary show of support for Jewish MP Ruth Smeeth ahead of an anti-Semitism hearing.
Ms Smeeth came face to face with Marc Wadsworth – the activist who left her in tears at the launch of the Labour anti-Semitism report after accusing her of working ‘hand in hand’ with the press – at the hearing.
Around 50 MPs and peers escorted Ms Smeeth from Parliament to the hearing held nearby to show that they support her.
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 small group of Corbynista activists had gathered outside the hearing shouting and chanting as Ms Smeeth walked in to the hearing, where Labour chiefs will decide whether or not to kick Mr Wadsworth out.
The Unite leader’s incendiary intervention came just hours after Mr Corbyn (picured at PMQs today) failed to convince Jewish leaders he would stamp out abuse – but did warn his supporters the allegations were not smears but a real issue
Members of the Board of Deputies addressed the media last night after the meeting with Mr Corbyn. Picture left to right are Gillian Merron, Jonathan Arkush, Jonathan Goldstein, and Simon Johnson