Sunday, 6 Dec 2020

Momentum’s threat to sever Labour Party and ‘leave in droves’ amid antisemitism row

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During a row over antisemitism within the Labour Party, Keir Starmer sacked Rebecca Long-Bailey from the Shadow Cabinet after she shared an interview with actress Maxine Peake. The Labour MP branded Ms Peake a “diamond” in a tweet. However, in the interview, Ms Peake said that “the tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services”. The actress later apologised for her “inaccurate” comments. “It’s been clearly documented by Amnesty International that many US police departments do train in Israel. The original Independent article even backed up the claim. “In the leadership campaign Rebecca signed up to the Board of Deputies pledges and made clear she is committed to tackling antisemitism in our party.

“More than 135,000 Labour members voted for Rebecca in the leadership election. Keir says he wants to party unity, yet sacks her from the front bench for no good reason. I stand in absolute solidarity with Rebecca Long-Bailey, as does the rest of Momentum.”

Sir Keir sacked Ms Long-Bailey, saying she shared an article containing an antisemitic conspiracy theory.

This sparked outrage from Momentum founder Jon Lansman, who branded the sacking “a reckless over-reaction”.

He also appeared to warn that the 135,000 Labour members who supported Ms Long-Bailey in the leadership race could leave in droves.

He continued: “I don’t believe there is anything antisemitic in the interview and sacking Rebecca is a reckless overreaction by Keir Starmer.

Ms Long-Bailey clarified her post on social media, saying: “I retweeted an interview that my constituent and stalwart Labour Party supporter Maxine Peake gave to The Independent.

“Its main thrust was anger with the Conservative government’s handling of the current emergency and a call for Labour Party unity.

“These sentiments are shared by everyone in our movement and millions of people in our country.”

The antisemitism row in the Labour Party reached another low today after the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) released a damning report on its handling of the crisis.

Former leader Jeremy Corbyn came in for more criticism after the EHRC report claimed Labour could have addressed the antisemitism crisis more effectively “if the leadership had chosen to do so”.

It also found that Labour breached the Equality Act in two cases, committing unlawful harassment” against Jewish people while dealing with cases relating to Ken Livingstone and Pam Bromley.

In the report’s foreword, it said: “We found specific examples of harassment, discrimination and political interference in our evidence.

“But equally of concern was a lack of leadership within the Labour Party on these issues, which is hard to reconcile with its stated commitment to a zero-tolerance approach to antisemitism.”

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It added: “Although some improvements have been made to the process for dealing with antisemitism complaints, it is hard not to conclude that antisemitism within the Labour Party could have been tackled more effectively if the leadership had chosen to do so.”

The report also stated it had found evidence of interference in complaints cases by the party leadership.

The EHRC found the party guilty of “indirectly discriminatory and unlawful” actions when dealing with complaints, but Mr Corbyn responded with a defence today.

He said: “One antisemite is one too many, but the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media.

“That combination hurt Jewish people and must never be repeated. My sincere hope is that relations with Jewish communities can be rebuilt and those fears overcome. While I do not accept all of its findings, I trust its recommendations will be swiftly implemented to help move on from this period.”

In response to this statement, Sir Keir has suspended his predecessor, with Labour saying in a statement: “In light of his comments made today and his failure to retract them subsequently, the Labour Party has suspended Jeremy Corbyn pending investigation.

“He has also had the whip removed from the Parliamentary Labour Party.”

Mr Corbyn said he will “strongly contest the political intervention to suspend me”.

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