The deputy leader of the UK’s Labour party said he felt “ashamed” of the anti-Semitism storm that engulfed the party over the summer and said that it was up to him and party leader Jeremy Corbyn to unite Labour’s members, in an interview published Saturday.
Tom Watson, who is second only to Corbyn, spoke to Britain’s The Guardian newspaper ahead of the Labour Party’s annual conference, which opened Sunday in Liverpool. He said that there was still a lot of work to do to “rebuild trust with the Jewish community.”
“I worry about it. There are too many groups of people in our party who feel unwelcome, unwanted or driven out,” he said. “We’ve obviously had the sense that our Jewish members feel that they’re not welcome in the party.”
He said that though the party had changed significantly since Corbyn took over as leader, the only way Labour could be successful was if it was open-minded and tolerated a wide range of opinions and traditions.
“We are only successful when we’re a broad church,” he said. “You look at our traditions from the Marxist tradition to ethical socialism to Christian socialism to classic social democracy. We’re only successful when those traditions are aligned and find an accommodation with each other.”
He had 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.
While allegations of anti-Semitism have dogged Corbyn since he became Labour leader three years ago, the furor has reached a new magnitude since March.
The revelation that Corbyn defended an anti-Semitic mural, and the Jewish community’s “Enough is Enough” demonstration in Parliament Square in its wake, were swiftly followed by the row over the party’s refusal to adopt in full the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism. To boot, there broke a seemingly never-ending series of revelations about Corbyn’s links to terrorists, anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers over the course of the summer.
The crisis over anti-Semitism in the Labour Party — including its failure to fully adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism until earlier this month — has caused a major schism within its ranks and led Jews to express fears over their future in the country.
Almost 40 percent of British Jews would “seriously consider emigrating” if Corbyn became prime minister, according to a recent poll conducted for The Jewish Chronicle.