In a troubling documentary, eight former Labour Party officials told the BBC that Corbyn’s team “interfered in the complaints process for incidents of alleged anti-Semitism, on some occasions processing them from his Westminster office.”
(November 5, 2019 / JNS) U.K. Labour Party member Lindsay Hoyle was elected on Monday as Speaker of the U.K. House of Commons amid his party facing backlash and the United Kingdom reaching a deal to leave the European Union.
In March 2017, Hoyle said that Jewish female members of Parliament “face the worst of it” when it comes to online harassment.
“We also have female Jewish MPs who are targeted no differently,” he said when asked about the threats to Muslim women. “Hatred is being portrayed in exactly the same way. It is much broader. They really do face the worst of all of it.”
Earlier this year, Hoyle interrupted former Labour MP Ian Austin, who left the party over its handling of concerns over anti-Semitism, when he blasted Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn shortly before being removed from the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.Subscribe to The JNS Daily Syndicate by email and never miss our top stories
Before the vote, Austin said Corbyn “wants to boot me off this committee because I stood up against racism.”
Hoyle interjected and reminded Austin to remind MPs that the debate surrounded replacing committee members and that he shouldn’t call out an individual. Corbyn wasn’t present.
In an interview with The Guardian, published on Monday, Corbyn sought to assure Jewish voters they have nothing to worry about if Labour were to win the Dec. 12 election.
“Anti-Semitism and racism is an evil within our society. I’ve done everything to confront it throughout my life, and will always do so,” he said. “We want this country to be safe for all people. An attack on a synagogue, an attack on a mosque, an attack on a church—an attack on a person walking down the street because they’re perceived to be different from the rest of us—we simply can’t tolerate it.”
At the same time, a Labour candidate selected last week to represent the Coventry South constituency wrote on social media in 2015 that she would “celebrate” if former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were to die.
Zarah Sultana also expressed support for “violent resistance” by Palestinians.
She apologized on Monday for her remarks. “This was written out of frustration rather than any malice,” she said in a statement to the BBC, explaining that her comments were “from decisions by political leaders, from the Iraq War to the killing of over 2,000 Palestinians in 2014, mostly civilians, which was condemned by the United Nations.” She added, “I do not support violence, and I should not have articulated my anger in the manner I did, for which I apologize.”
‘Something’s gone wrong’
Labour has downplayed criticisms of anti-Semitism in the party as the BBC rejected a complaint from the party about an episode from network’s documentary “Panorama,” titled “Is Labour Anti-Semitic?” reported The Guardian. In its complaint to the BBC, Labour lamented about “the tendentious and politically slanted script; the bias in the selection of interviewees; and the failure to identify the political affiliations or records of interviewees in a highly controversial, sensitive and contested subject produced a program that was a one-sided authored polemic.” In the documentary, eight former Labour officials told the BBC that Corbyn’s team “interfered in the complaints process for incidents of alleged anti-Semitism, on some occasions processing them from his Westminster office.”
The insiders—seven of whom worked in Labour’s complaints and disputes department—acknowledged a huge increase in complaints about anti-Semitism since Corbyn rose to power in 2015.
Seumas Milne, Corbyn’s director of communications, wrote in a March 2018 email that the review process for complaints should be evaluated.
“Something’s going wrong, and we’re muddling up political disputes with racism,” he stated. “I think going forward we need to review where and how we’re drawing the line.”
The-then head of the Labour disputes team, Sam Matthews, replied: “This is not a helpful suggestion; it is an instruction.”
Labour remarked that the BBC selectively quoted Milne in that the party said the full sentence of his email began with, “But if we’re more than very occasionally using disciplinary action against Jewish members for anti-Semitism, something’s going wrong … ”
Another former head of the Labour disputes team, Mike Creighton, told “Panorama” that when he asked Milne how to respond to anti-Semitism complaints, “he actually laughed at me,” mentioning to Creighton that Corbyn supports Israel’s existence and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The BBC also obtained emails, including from Labour general secretary Jennie Formby, who attempted to interfere in the case of fellow Corbyn supporter Jackie Walker, who was investigated for being anti-Semitic.
“The NCC [the National Constitutional Committee that looks after Labour disciplinary matters] cannot be allowed to continue in the way that they are at the moment, and I will also be challenging the panel for the Jackie Walker case,” wrote Formby.
Labour told the BBC that “at all levels, [it] is implacably opposed to anti-Semitism,” and seeks to remove the “social cancer” from the party and humanity.
Labour is doing ‘everything’ to address anti-Semitism
Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell told the BBC’s Andrew Marr on Sunday that his party has been doing “everything” to weed out anti-Semitism in the party.
Marr said, “It doesn’t sound like zero tolerance to me.”
“Well, the issue with that is we look at the gradations of the impact of what people had done, kicked people out,” responded McDonnell. “Other aspects were about—well, some of our Jewish members have said these people actually need re-educating. That’s why we’re setting up an education course.”
“I’m saddened by the statements that have been made but I just give this commitment to the Jewish community: We’re doing everything we possibly can, and we will work with them.”
The Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies of British Jews slammed McDonnell’s remarks.
“If Mr McDonnell really wants to show he’s serious about tackling antisemitism, he will resign from Labour Representation Committee, which campaigns against disciplinary action for antisemites & has the expelled Jackie Walker on its board, as we have asked him to do,” tweeted the board with a picture of a letter its president, Marie van der Zyl sent McDonnell earlier this year, calling on him to address Labour’s anti-Semitism problem.