A longtime Labour lawmaker said Saturday he was stepping down from the British parliament in protest of party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s alleged anti-Semitism.
John Mann, 59, said he would not run in the general election and will instead focus his efforts as the United Kingdom’s top adviser on combating anti-Semitism, accusing Corbyn and others on the far-left of helping “normalize” Jew hatred.
“I’m not prepared to stand as an MP with Corbyn as leader,” Mann told the Jewish Chronicle.
The departure is the latest for a party that has been roiled by claims of harboring anti-Semites and doing little to expel them from the party’s ranks. Those charges have intensified since the far-left Corbyn took over the party in 2015, with many longtime supporters defecting in protest or calling for him to step down.
Mann, who told the Chronicle he would remain a member of Labour, accused Corbyn of allowing anti-Semites to “hijack” the party.
“Corbyn has given the green light to the anti-Semites and, having done so, has sat there and done nothing to turn that round,” he told the Sunday Times.
“Every time I go into a meeting with a group of Jewish people, I wince when they raise the issue of the Labour party and Corbyn. It is impossible to overstate the anger that I have about that. He has not just hijacked my political party – he has hijacked its soul and its ethics. I will never forgive him for that.”
An MP for Bassetlaw, outside of Sheffield, since 2001, Mann has been outspoken about combating anti-Semitism and headed the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, though he himself is not Jewish.
He was named anti-Semitism czar by former prime minister Theresa May as one of her last acts before stepping down earlier this year, and the role was recently upgraded by her successor Boris Johnson, allowing him to take on the job full time, according to The Guardian.
“The role will allow me to devote 95 percent of my life to fighting the war against antisemitism, rather than the five per cent I was able to devote while working as an MP,” he told the Jewish Chronicle.
He said he had been witness to anti-Semitic abuse just last week while dining with the head of the Community Security Trust, which oversees security for the UK’s Jewish Community.
“It was ‘Jew this… Jew that’ to two members of the community and myself who were just sitting outside having some food and attempting to chat,” he told the Chronicle. “That’s the scale of the problem – it’s becoming normalized.”
In August, the CST said it had recorded an all-time high of anti-Semitic incidents in the first half of 2019.
“Corbyn is an enabler. His unwillingness to undo the damage he has done has had huge consequences,” he told the Jewish Chronicle. “He’s not just an enabler – he’s the enabler in this country.”
A poll conducted on behalf of the Times of London in July found that support for Corbyn had fallen significantly among party members, partly in response to the anti-Semitism crisis that has developed under his leadership; almost half of those surveyed supporting him stepping down immediately or ahead of the next general election.
Corbyn came under fresh scrutiny earlier this summer after the BBC broadcast a number of former party officials accusing him and his allies of interfering in efforts to address anti-Semitism.
One former Labour official interviewed by the BBC accused Corbyn of having “done more than anyone in modern political history to bring about the rise of anti-Semitism” and described how interference with his efforts to deal with the problem almost drove him to suicide.
The party has been subject to an ongoing investigation by the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission, a government watchdog that is looking into thousands of cases of anti-Semitic hate speech in the party’s ranks since 2015.
Mann made headlines in 2016 when a video went viral of him confronting former London mayor Ken Livingstone, who had just claimed on a radio program that Adolf Hitler was initially a supporter of Zionism. Not mincing his words, Mann rounded on Livingstone in a building crammed with TV cameras, calling him “a Nazi apologist.”
Speaking to the The Times of Israel in July, he accused Corbyn of being a catalyst for some of the Jewish race hate, but warned that if Corbyn disappeared tomorrow, much of the anti-Semitism would still remain.
“The problem is deeper than Corbyn. Anti-semites within the Labour Party have been emboldened, and extremists have been attracted to the Labour Party,” he said.
He said then that he would focus in his new role on making sure Jewish teens feel safe in Britain.
“I have one overriding objective, and this I will say to the government: that Jewish teenagers feel secure and safe living here, that there is no impingement on their ability to be themselves and want to do well in this country, and to remain in this country, positively,” said Mann. “That’s the objective. But I don’t believe at the moment that it is the case.”
“The Jewish community is the canary in the coal mine for humanity and for the safety and future of my grandchildren,” Mann said at the time. “That’s why we have, whether we like it or not, no choice.”