The deputy leader of the UK’s Labour party is facing calls to resign after criticizing the leadership’s response to the anti-Semitism scandal engulfing the party.
On Saturday, Tom Watson, who is second only to party leader Jeremy Corbyn, said the faction risked descending into “eternal shame” if it did not deal with its definition of anti-Semitism. “This is one of those moments when we have to take a long, hard look at ourselves, stand up for what is right and present the party as fit to lead the nation – or disappear into a vortex of eternal shame and embarrassment,” Watson said in comments to The Observer, the Guardian’s Sunday publication.
He also urged Labour to drop inquiries launched against two lawmakers who have been threatened with disciplinary action for speaking out against the party leadership.
Immediately following his comments, the hashtag #ResignWatson started trending on social media, as Labour members have called for him to step down, Britain’s The Guardian newspaper reported.
In a tweet, Watson said he never thought he would be facing calls to resign “for standing up for people who are facing prejudice and hate.”
It sometimes feels like people have been calling for me to stand down from day one but I never, ever thought I’d be facing demands to #resignwatson for standing up for people who are facing prejudice and hate.
— Tom Watson (@tom_watson) August 5, 2018
Also on Monday, George McManus, a member of Labour’s influential National Policy Forum, was suspended from the party for comparing Watson to the biblical Judas.
Pointing to donations received by Watson from Jewish businessman Sir Trevor Chinn, McManus posted on Facebook, “Apparently Watson received £50,000+ from Jewish donors. At least Judas only got 30 pieces of silver.”
McManus subsequently deleted the post and apologized for it.
“I’d like to apologize to Tom Watson for my drawing an analogy between him accepting money from Jewish donors and the biblical story of the betrayal by Judas,” he wrote. “I fully accept that such an analogy is wrong and am sorry for making the comparison.”
Despite the apology, the Judas comparison remained popular among Labour supporters and was shared widely on social media.
The Jewish Labour Movement noted McManus’s name was still on the ballot for the NPF.
We hear that George McManus has rightly been suspended from @UKLabour. So why is he still on the ballot for the NPF?
— Jewish Labour Movement (@JewishLabour) August 6, 2018
Pressure on Corbyn has intensified after a series of anti-Semitic scandals involving both members of the party and himself.
Last month, the party’s ruling body and leadership endorsed a code of conduct that excluded several of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance examples of anti-Semitism.
The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is the benchmark for countless organizations, as well as 31 countries, including the US, Canada, Germany, France, and the UK itself.
The party has come under fire from Jewish members of Labour and the British Jewish community for not adopting the full definition — particularly several items that define anti-Semitism masquerading as legitimate criticism of Israel.
The Guardian said Monday that the party was preparing to accept three of the four examples from the IHRA, which had been excluded. However, it reportedly did not want to endorse the example that states, “claiming that the existence of the state of Israel is a racist endeavor” over concerns that it would stifle legitimate criticism of the Jewish state.