Labour MPs march in support of Jewish colleague ahead of anti-Semitism hearing
Ruth Smeeth is due to give evidence at a hearing involving party member Marc Wadsworth.
Dozens of Labour MPs have marched in support of a Jewish colleague as she prepared to give evidence at the disciplinary hearing of a suspended party member accused of anti-Semitism.
They were met by a small group of protesters carrying placards and chanting their support for Marc Wadsworth.
He was suspended from the Labour Party after he challenged Ruth Smeeth MP at a press conference launching the Chakrabarti report on anti-Semitism within the party.
A disciplinary hearing on Wednesday in Church House, Westminster, will decide whether he should be kicked out of the party, although a decision is not expected immediately.
Ms Smeeth was accompanied to the hearing by colleagues on a march from Westminster Hall.
One of the MPs, Jess Phillips, said: “(We are) making sure she isn’t walking into a protest on her own.”
The group was met by protesters gathered by the entrance to Church House, chanting “reinstate Marc Wadsworth”.
Ahead of the hearing, Mr Wadsworth told reporters: “I’m confident, as I’m not guilty. Based on the facts, this hearing, if it’s fair, I will be exonerated.
“I’m totally and utterly opposed to anti-Semitism, to all forms of bigotry, including anti-black racism and Islamophobia.”
Mr Wadsworth was described by supporters as a veteran anti-racist.
Stan Keable said: “The charges should be dropped. He’s been suspended for nearly two years.
“She has falsely accused him of anti-Semitism. He didn’t even know she was Jewish.”
It comes as Labour reportedly pledged to settle the “vast majority” of outstanding cases of alleged anti-Semitism in the party within months.
Jewish leaders accused Jeremy Corbyn of failing to turn words into actions in tackling anti-Semitism in the Labour party after a meeting with
Jonathan Arkush, president of Board of Deputies of British Jews (BDBJ) and the chair of the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), Jonathan Goldstein, in Westminster on Tuesday.
Among the proposals put forward by the community leaders was a fixed timetable for dealing with outstanding cases of anti-Semitism and expediting long-standing cases like that of Ken Livingstone.
According to the BBC, the party has pledged to settle most of the cases by July.
Following the meeting, Mr Corbyn had said the talks had been “positive and constructive”.
However Mr Arkush rejected the suggestion the meeting had been constructive, telling BBC’s Newsnight: “Positive yes, but if you measure constructiveness by the actions to go with the words then I don’t think that’s what I would call it.”
Mr Arkush said the meeting was “friendly” in tone and Mr Corbyn was “extremely engaging (and) he looked interested”.
“But there were no actions to go with the words, yet again, and that’s why we thought the meeting has been a real missed opportunity and a great disappointment,” he added.
Meanwhile, frontbencher Chris Williamson, an ally of Mr Corbyn, is reportedly planning to share a platform with Jackie Walker, who was suspended by Labour over allegedly anti-Semitic comments in 2016.
Barry Gardiner, shadow secretary of state for international trade, said people were “innocent until proven guilty”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s right that when somebody has been found guilty nobody should share a platform.
“My own view, my personal view, is that Chris is wrong to share a platform with somebody who has expressed the views that she has.”