Labour MP Ruth Smeeth does not believe Jeremy Corbyn is going to have “a very enjoyable return to Parliament” this week amongst the latest wave of anti-Semitic accusations at certain party members. The Stoke-On-Trent North MP was speaking at the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) one-day conference this week at the JW3 centre in London’s Hampstead.
Ms Smeeth who last year received more than 20,000 hate messages alone on her twitter account, some containing death threats and even more worrying, some from fellow Labour supporters and members, said she meets with Jeremy Corbyn each week after Prime Minister’s Question Time. “It is the highlight of my week” she joked as she explained, “he just cannot get his head around it,” referring to the extreme anti-Israel and anti-Jewish comments from some Labour members and councillors.
“He honestly believes he is dealing with anti-Semitism,” Ms Smeeth said referring to the calm voice Corbyn uses to express himself when saying the party will not tolerate racist behaviour. But just last week, Shadow Minster Chris Williamson, a key ally of Corbyn, believed that accusations against the Labour Party being anti-Semitic were “dirty, lowdown tricks” and “smears” and that the anti-Semitism claims are just a “weaponisation for political ends.” In other words, Corbyn’s key allies along with the Labour party in general remain in denial.
The first ever JLM conference heard Labour members from the audience in the main hall and various break-out session rooms raise their concerns. One said that a known Labour “Holocaust denier was reported but nothing was done by the party.” Another said they saw anti-Jewish messages on social media from a Labour member and had evidence of their extreme anti-Jewish views from talks they had given “but no action was taken.”
A great deal of “online abuse” was another subject brought up by several party members asking how it can be tackled and dealt with. Yet another asked about losing voters in the last general election because of the perceived anti-Semitism and wanted to know what to do about it. Ruth Smeeth MP immediately replied “We will get those people back once Ken is voted out of the Labour Party.”
Another question came from a young female audience member asking “Who in the Labour Party recently invited the radical preacher, Sheikh Ekrima Sa’id Sabri for tea at the House of Commons?”
She then pointed out that the right wing American columnist Pamela Geller was banned from entering the UK, but Sabri, who is the former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and current Imam of the city’s Al-Aqsa Mosque was ironically expected in Britain on September 11. However, it now appears the extremist will not be arriving next week. But just the thought of a man, who said the Holocaust was a fairy tale, called for the destruction of Britain and USA and said that Jews are “the most cowardly creatures Allah has ever created and that he is “filled with rage” towards them, would be allowed into Westminster Palace is shocking.
Louise Ellman who was one of many Labour MP’s trying hard to answer audience questions said she was “appalled and angry about the anti-Semitism and about what is happening in the Labour Party.” But Louise who is MP for Liverpool Riverside added she “wants a Labour government but will not accept the anti-Semitism.”
In an activist training session with the Regional Board and JLM National Secretary, Peter Mason, delivered a fascinating workshop on how the Labour Party works with all its different factions and block voting. Councillor Mason then explained how complaints are dwelt with but admitted “The party was not equipped for the onslaught of disciplinary action.”
If a Labour MP, Councillor or a simple Party Activist member is reported as a Holocaust denier, they are not just expelled but are passed on to the disciplinary side of the party which is dwelt with by the NEC or CLP. From there, the member may receive a slap on the wrist or be passed on to the NCC which is currently dealing with 57 cases.
But what seems to frustrate many Labour activists is if you campaign for another party or stand against a Labour candidate then this will lead to an automatic exclusion or expulsion for five years, but if you deny the Holocaust or call for Israel’s destruction, very little or mostly, nothing happens.
JLM CEO Jeremy Newmark admitted Labour has “Outdated disciplinary codes and processes for a party rooted in anti-racist values and zero tolerance.” The former Finchley and Golders Green election candidate explained that when cases go before the various disciplinary structures in the party, they are all being dwelt with as bringing the party into disrepute.
“For example, Ken said he was hauled in front of a panel for anti-Semitism, but he wasn’t – he was hauled up for bring the party into disrepute.”
The JLM are now gearing up for the party conference next month where they will introduce a motion for a Labour rule change to put anti-Semitism and other forms of racism and discrimination as Mr Newmark explains “On a par with campaigning against an official Labour candidate and create a category for automatic exclusion for that offence.”
When asked was he confident the agenda would be passed, Mr Newmark was not sure. However, Peter Mason believed the motion would definitely be adopted. But if the agenda is passed, the question remains how will the Labour Party ever decide what exactly is anti-Semitism or racism when some members insist it is their view that the Holocaust never happened and it is their right to free speech to call for the death of “Zionist” Israel.