Labour has got an issue with anti-Semitism – Andrew Gwynne
The shadow cabinet minister said the party’s members had to recognise the problem as leader Jeremy Corbyn prepared to meet Jewish leaders.
Labour members must acknowledge the party has an issue with anti-Semitism, a shadow cabinet minister said as Jeremy Corbyn prepared to meet Jewish community leaders.
The 5pm showdown comes after protests, criticism from Labour MPs and international condemnation over the way the Opposition leader has dealt with hostility to Jews.
After weeks of turmoil over the party leader’s handling of the issue, shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne said Mr Corbyn must work to rebuild trust with the Jewish community.
Organisations representing Jewish communities will call on Mr Corbyn to use his “personal authority” to drive through changes to wipe out the problem in the party.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) said there must be “action not words” when they accepted his invitation to meet.
Labour Jewish MPs spoke out about anti-Semitism in the party during a debate in Parliament and warned “enough is enough”.
Holocaust survivor Susan Pollack called for Mr Corbyn to show leadership in tackling anti-Semitism.
“He has to act and he has to show his leadership, and then I think that’s the only way we will have respect,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today.
Asked if Mr Corbyn had shown leadership on the issue, Mr Gwynne sidestepped the question, saying: “I think what we have now got to do – and we have got an issue in the Labour Party – we have got to acknowledge that that problem exists and, for some, that is a challenge.
“For me, the Labour Party was created to fight injustice, to fight against prejudice, to fight against hatred, and that we are where we are really hurts me, so we have got to act.”
He told Today that Labour had to “rebuild confidence in the Jewish community” adding: “I think it’s my job as shadow communities secretary to try and rebuild some of that trust, and it’s Jeremy’s job as the leader of the Labour Party to try and rebuild some of that trust.”
Mr Gwynne acknowledged that the party’s disciplinary process had taken “far, far too long” in deciding cases such as former London mayor Ken Livingstone.
Jenny Manson, co-chair of the Corbyn-supporting Jewish Voice for Labour, said “none of us in my group have ever experienced any anti-Semitism in the Labour Party” and warned against a “witch hunt”.
She said: “It is a misery and a tragedy that Margaret Hodge and other Labour MPs have received nasty anti-Semitic comments, I suspect most of these have been on social media and I suspect that no-one has actually worked hard to find out exactly who this nasty stuff is coming from.”
The Board of Deputies, made up of almost 300 deputies directly elected by synagogues and community organisations, and the JLC, a charity supporting the Jewish community, took the unusual step of protesting outside Parliament in March before delivering an open letter to a meeting of Labour MPs and peers about their concerns.
The Labour leader has said he is “happy to meet” the two bodies “without any preconditions” and pledged to hear their concerns about tackling anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
In a letter accepting his invitation, the organisations thanked Mr Corbyn for his commitment to addressing the “anguish” caused by anti-Semitic incidents.
However, they said recent events had not been “reassuring” for Jewish people in Britain and told him he must root anti-Semitism out of his party.
They later refused to attend a roundtable meeting Labour had proposed to hold on Wednesday with a wider group of Jewish organisations that reportedly included Jewish Voice for Labour, a recently-established group that has downplayed the issue.
The Labour leader has admitted the party needs to “do better” in the fight against abuse and has issued an apology for the “pain and hurt” caused by anti-Semitism.