Former UK Labour MP says activists accused her of dual loyalty to Israel

Louise Ellman, who left party after 55 years and is Jewish, says members espouse anti-Semitic conspiracies, have ‘obsession’ with Israel, refused to use her name in publications

Louise Ellman resigned from the Labour party due to what she described as systemic anti-Semitism within the party. (Courtesy)
Louise Ellman resigned from the Labour party due to what she described as systemic anti-Semitism within the party. (Courtesy)

A veteran UK Labour Party Jewish lawmaker who quit the party last week said she had been sidelined by new far-left party activists who refused to use her name in publications and accused her of dual loyalty to Israel.

Liverpool Riverside MP Louise Ellman, 73, who left the party she had been a member of for 55 years, said in an interview with The Telegraph website published Wednesday that since she became an MP in 1997, many new party members have joined who “endorsed anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and came from revolutionary Communist groups.”

Ellman also said many in the party had an “‘obsession’ with Israel at the expense of any other domestic or foreign issue.”

“One member said to me, ‘How does it feel to be elected as a member of a democratic party in this country but represent a fascist party overseas?'” she said.

In another recent incident, the report said, “a group of new hard-Left activists refused to use her name because of her support for Israel. They referred to her only as ‘the MP,’ throwing around the word ‘Zionist’ as a term of abuse, and one member shouted ‘No, no, no’ when she suggested they call her Louise.”

Illustrative: A London bus stop defaced with an unauthorized poster reading, ‘Israel is a racist endeavor,’ which a pro-Palestinian group put up in protest at the UK Labour Party’s adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, on September 6, 2018. (Twitter)

“It caused me anguish,” she said. “There’s always been some anti-Semitism on the Left, it’s not a new phenomenon, but it’s not been dominant in the Labour Party until Jeremy Corbyn became leader. I think that’s because he’s from the hard-Left, and the hard-Left holds conspiracy views of the world relating to power and control, and often those conspiracy theories morph into anti-Semitic theories about Jews having power and control.”

When she complained in person to Corbyn, Ellman said she was insulted by his response. “He listened to what I said, [but] did not respond in any meaningful way. He listened and told me about a Jewish member in his constituency who’d been there a long time. That just showed that he couldn’t or wouldn’t recognize the gravity of the issue.”

“There’s been a rapid increase in anti-Semitism… which isn’t taken seriously, and it’s only dealt with when there’s public exposure,” Ellman charged.

Ellman has been a prominent critic of the party’s handling of anti-Semitism allegations and of Corbyn. In the resignation letter last week, she wrote she was “deeply troubled” by the increase in anti-Semitism and that she could no longer support voting Labour when it risks Corbyn being becoming prime minister.

“I believe that Jeremy Corbyn is not fit to serve as our prime minister,” wrote Ellman.

“Corbyn, who spent three decades on the back-benches consorting with, and never confronting, anti-Semites, Holocaust deniers and terrorists — has attracted the support of too many anti-Semites,” she wrote.

“Jewish members have been bullied, abused and driven out. Anti-Semites have felt comfortable and vile conspiracy theories have been propagated,” she wrote. “A party that permits anti-Jewish racism to flourish cannot be called an anti-racist party.”

She said her decision was “truly agonizing,” but clarified that she would not join another party, saying she would return to Labour when the party has a different leader. “I can’t stay in the Labour party under its current leadership,” she told the BBC on Thursday. “But I hope that under a different leadership I can return to my political home.”

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party addresses party members during the Labour Party Conference at the Brighton Centre in Brighton, England, September 24, 2019. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)

Earlier this month Ellman had faced a no confidence vote scheduled for Yom Kippur eve by a local Labour Party branch over her criticism of Corbyn and remarks in September that she “understands why Jews would seriously consider leaving Britain if Corbyn became PM.”

The no-confidence vote was canceled after officials at Labour’s North West Region warned against the action.

Corbyn has come under prolonged attack — including from within Labour — for allegedly allowing anti-Semitism to spread in the party and for initially refusing to adopt fully the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism in its code of conduct.

Britain’s main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks during Question Time inside the House of Commons in London, July 10, 2019. (Jessica Taylor/House of Commons via AP)

Labour has grappled with anti-Semitism accusations since Corbyn was elected party chief in 2015. Fresh scrutiny arose this year after a BBC program in which a number of former party officials accused him and his allies of interfering in efforts to address the issue.

In May the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission announced it had launched a formal investigation into allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour party.

The EHRC, the main government anti-racism watchdog, said it would probe whether the main opposition party led by Corbyn had discriminated against, harassed or victimized Jews in violation of the UK’s 2006 Equality Act.

In February Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger quit the party calling it “institutionally anti-Semitic” and last month announced she was joining the Liberal Democrats instead.

In her Telegraph interview, Ellman said she had contemplated for weeks whether to leave Labour, and did not share her deliberations with anyone — not even her family — until they were over.

“It had to be my decision, just my decision,” she said.

Stuart Winer and agencies contributed to this report.

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