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Anti-Semitism row had an effect on Labour’s election hopes – John McDonnell

The shadow chancellor promised progress on addressing the issue, which hit Labour’s effort to win control in Barnet.


John McDonnell said anti-Semitism had hit Labour's election hopes (Steve Parsons/PA)

John McDonnell said anti-Semitism had hit Labour's election hopes (Steve Parsons/PA)

John McDonnell said anti-Semitism had hit Labour's election hopes (Steve Parsons/PA)

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has acknowledged the row over anti-Semitism hit Labour’s local election hopes.

The senior frontbencher insisted that Labour was tackling the problem and would be able to demonstrate progress at a scheduled meeting with Jewish leaders.

The issue has been blamed for the party’s failure to secure the key target of Barnet, an area of London with a large Jewish population.

On BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr McDonnell said he would be meeting Barnet councillors this week, adding: “Anti-Semitism certainly had its effect, there’s no doubt about it, in Barnet itself.

“I’m hoping that the measures we have put in place now, the Chakrabarti Report implemented in full, Jennie Formby the new general secretary – Jeremy Corbyn said to Jennie ‘your first priority is tackling this issue’.”

He said when senior Labour figures meet the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council again in July, they would be able to demonstrate “really positive progress”.

Labour also sought to turn their fire on the Tories, who have faced their own racism rows.

Tory Rosemary Carroll, who made a post comparing an Asian person with a dog last June, was reinstated by the Conservatives on Friday, giving the Tories narrow control of Pendle council in Lancashire.

Mr McDonnell told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show that reinstating her after making the “foulest racist joke” was “unacceptable”.

He said the Tory leadership should “apologise and suspend that councillor again”.

Setting out how Labour hoped to make further progress, Mr McDonnell said the party would “tour the country with detailed seminars” on economic policy and community involvement in politics.

“There are issues now about how we address those communities – this isn’t just party political any more either – that feel that their economy, which has been blighted by austerity, has left them behind,” he said.

After elections in 150 councils across England, Labour had a net gain of 82 seats and controlled the same number of authorities as before the vote.

The Tories suffered a net loss of two councils and had 96 fewer councillors.

Shadow trade secretary Barry Gardiner hailed the results but added: “Would I have liked to have done better? You bet.”

On ITV’s Peston on Sunday, he said: “How extraordinary that the Prime Minister goes running to Wandsworth to say ‘congratulations guys, you’ve been wonderful, you only lost seven seats to the Labour Party’.

“That is not a Prime Minister who sees the pinnacle of her success culminating in a general election victory next time.”

He acknowledged that “we have rightly come under the microscope for our failure to deal with anti-Semitism promptly, quickly and effectively” but added that the process had now been “speeded up”.

Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery acknowledged there was a problem with anti-Semitism and racism, as he pledged to root it out.

He told Sky’s Ridge On Sunday: “We’ll put this right. We’ve got a new general secretary, Jennie Formby. Jennie’s got this at the top of her political agenda.

“Anti-Semitism has no role, no place at all in the Labour Party. We will root it out from top to bottom.”