Britain’s main opposition Labour party may have to cancel its annual flagship conference next month because it cannot find a company to provide security. G4S, the firm which has secured the gathering for 20 years, was dropped by Labour under its Israel-criticizing leader Jeremy Corbyn two months ago because of its links to Israel. This week, Labour went back to G4S with a plea for help, British news outlets reported Thursday, but was rebuffed.
With no security firm to handle the conference, the UK Home Office and police could shut down the conference altogether, a dramatic move that would strike a significant blow to the party, as the annual conference is a centerpiece of the political calendar and is used to garner support for new policies and initiatives. Corbyn is in the midst of a leadership challenge, and the result is set to be announced on September 24, the day before the conference.
Labour dropped the British-Danish G4S multinational security firm over its relationship with Israel following a controversial vote last year by members of its National Executive Committee. It then sought to find a replacement for the September 25 Liverpool event, in vain.
Unable to find an alternative security firm, the left-wing party went back to G4S earlier this week, only to be turned down.
Quite apart from any bitter feelings left over from the Israel-related boycott, the company told the Telegraph newspaper it refused to work with UK Labour in light a number of incidents in which members of the party cursed at and spat on G4S employees.
The security firm also noted that preparations for the conference can normally take up to a year, making the one month left before the event insufficient.
“Safety for delegates and our staff is our priority and at this late stage and with our teams committed elsewhere, we are not in a position to step in and provide security for the conference,” the company said in a statement.
Three other companies have declined the offer of a contract and one withdrew its bid after carrying out a risk assessment, according to a Telegraph report.
The police could secure the conference, but have said this is “not an option at the moment,” the Guardian reported.
G4S has faced criticism over its involvement in Israeli prisons where Palestinian security prisoners are held. The Israeli lawmaker Hilik Bar wrote in a letter to a UK Labour colleague complaining about reports that suggested the Labour boycott of G4S was over Israel.
Labour leader Corbyn, who in 2009 called Hezbollah and Hamas his “friends,” has called for sanctions against the Jewish state for what he regarded as its violations of international law. He has since regretted calling the terrorist groups his friends.
Britain’s Jewish community leaders have accused Corbyn of both encouraging anti-Semitic rhetoric with his policies on Israel and of whitewashing the hate speech problems they said this creates within Labour. The party has in recent months also faced a succession of scandals over anti-Semitism within its ranks.