UK Labour MPs demand data on party’s efforts to root out anti-Semitism

General Secretary Jennie Formby faces charges of foot-dragging in tackling abuse, insists progress has been made

UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves the stage after delivering a speech at Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, May 24, 2018. (Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images via JTA)
UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves the stage after delivering a speech at Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, May 24, 2018. (Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images via JTA)

Lawmakers of Britain’s Labour Party unanimously passed a motion Monday demanding that party leaders provide detailed data in writing on the handling of complaints about anti-Semitism, with some MPs accusing top officials in the party of covering up the number of complaints.

The internal party motion passed at Labour’s weekly parliamentary meeting in the lower house, escalating internal rifts over the issue. The motion called “on the party leadership to adequately tackle cases of anti-Semitism, as a failure to do so seriously risks anti-Semitism in the party appearing normalized and the party seeming to be institutionally anti-Semitic.”

It “asks some entirely reasonable questions of the leadership,” Luciana Berger, a Jewish senior member of Labour, wrote in a Monday op-ed in The Times of London.

The questions include: “What is the true number of cases of antisemitism that have been dealt with? What is the backlog of cases at every stage of the disciplinary process, and when will it be cleared? How many staff are working on such cases? Which Jewish organizations have been consulted?”

The motion also asked party leaders to commit to a timeline for the publication of a long-awaited code of conduct on anti-Semitism.

Luciana Berger, a British Jewish MP who is a leader of the Jewish Labour Movement. (YouTube screenshot)

Over the past year, Berger wrote, “it feels like we have gone backwards” in the fight against anti-Semitism within Labour.

At the meeting, described by the British daily The Guardian as “angry,” MPs including Margaret Hodge, Ruth Smeeth and Catherine McKinnell charged that the party’s top manager, General Secretary Jennie Formby, had covered up the figures for complaints received by the party’s institutions over anti-Semitic abuse and threats.

Hodge told reporters outside the meeting that “the resolution was unanimously supported by the parliamentary Labour party, and then the general secretary of the Labour party basically said she wasn’t prepared to give us the information that was required in the resolution. For me if you want to get rid of the cancer of anti-semitism in the Labour party you have to have complete transparency. She has refused to do that. Jennie’s message was vague,” Hodge said in comments quoted by The Guardian.

In a statement before the meeting, Formby acknowledged there was a problem, but said progress had been made.

“I had witnessed first-hand that our complaints and disputes procedures were not fit for purpose, with longstanding cases that hadn’t been dealt with, alongside new cases coming in, especially in relation to appalling antisemitic tropes and conspiracy theories, mostly on social media,” the statement said.

In 2015, Jeremy Corbyn, a far-left politician who in 2009 called Hezbollah and Hamas his “friends,” became Labour leader. Corbyn has been accused of allowing anti-Semitism to grow among many thousands of supporters who joined the party in support of his policies.

He has denied this, vowing to punish hate speech promoters. In April, he promised to “efforts to bring this anxiety to an end.”

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