Jeremy Corbyn facing rows over Brexit and anti-Semitism
The Labour leader sacked Owen Smith from the shadow Cabinet over his call for the possibility of a second referendum.
Jeremy Corbyn was fighting on two fronts after sacking a shadow cabinet minister over Brexit and appearing to support the painter of an allegedly anti-Semitic mural.
The Labour leader sacked Owen Smith for calling for a second European Union referendum, leading to a backlash from Remain MPs.
And he got caught up in a row over his response to a Facebook post by street artist Mear One about the plan to paint over the controversial mural.
Responding to the rows engulfing Labour, MP Wes Streeting said: “If only anti-Semites were dealt with as swiftly as Remainers.”
Tomorrow they want to buff my mural Freedom Of Expression. London Calling, Public artPosted by MEAR ONE on Monday, October 1, 2012
Mr Corbyn’s response to Mear One questioned why the painting was being destroyed and said the artist was “in good company” because the Rockefeller family had covered over a work featuring Lenin in their New York development.
The mural, in east London, depicted a group of businessmen playing a Monopoly-style game on a board balanced on the backs of people.
The artist denied being anti-Semitic, saying the mural is about “class and privilege” and contains a group of bankers “made up of Jewish and white Anglos”.
If only antisemites were dealt with as swiftly and severely as Remainers. https://t.co/hnm3tCRn4Q— Wes Streeting MP (@wesstreeting) March 23, 2018
Mr Corbyn said he made a “general comment about the removal of public art on grounds of freedom of speech” but acknowledged he should have looked more closely at the image before posting on Facebook.
He said: “I sincerely regret that I did not look more closely at the image I was commenting on, the contents of which are deeply disturbing and anti-Semitic.”
It is the latest row over anti-Semitism to hit Labour and MP Chuka Umunna said “there clearly is an issue” within the party.
“It isn’t that a majority of our members are anti-Semitic but there’s definitely amongst the minority a real problem here which is not in keeping with the values of the Labour Party,” Mr Umunna told BBC’s Newsnight.
Apparently Corbyn world free speech is allowed for antisemites but not for Labour MPs supporting the views of our members and our 2016 Conference Policy on the EU.— Mike Gapes (@MikeGapes) March 23, 2018
The decision to sack Mr Smith for deviating from the official party line led to accusations of a “terrible Stalinist purge” from former Northern Ireland secretary Lord Hain.
Labour MP Mike Gapes said it appeared that “free speech is allowed for anti-Semites but not for Labour MPs supporting the views of our members and our 2016 Conference Policy on the EU”.
Mr Smith said he had been sacked for his views on the “damage” Brexit will do to the UK’s economy and the Good Friday Agreement.
In an apparent message to Mr Corbyn, he added: “Those views are shared by Labour members and supporters and I will continue to speak up for them, and in the interest of our country.”
Just been sacked by @jeremycorbyn for my long held views on the damage #Brexit will do to the Good Friday Agreement & the economy of the entire U.K. Those views are shared by Labour members & supporters and I will continue to speak up for them, and in the interest of our country.— Owen Smith (@OwenSmith_MP) March 23, 2018
Mr Smith, who unsuccessfully challenged Mr Corbyn for the party leadership in 2016, won public support from pro-EU Labour figures.
Streatham MP Mr Umunna said: “It’s quite bizarre for him to be sacked from his post for expressing views that were well known about before his appointment – but also for expressing views that the overwhelming majority of our voters and members support.”