UK Labour party shortlists for Parliament two members reported for anti-Semitism

Aysha Raza’s and Luke Cresswell’s candidacies still need approval by party’s National Executive Committee

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Screen capture from video of UK Labour Party city councilor Aysha Raza. (YouTube)
Screen capture from video of UK Labour Party city councilor Aysha Raza. (YouTube)

Two members of Britain’s Labour party were shortlisted to become members of Parliament despite both having been reported for alleged anti-Semitism. One was later removed.

Labour has grappled with anti-Semitism accusations since far-left Jeremy Corbyn was elected party chief in 2015.

Aysha Raza was listed as a potential candidate for Ealing North, BuzzFeed reported Tuesday. On Monday the website reported that Luke Cresswell had been shortlisted as a candidate for South Suffolk.

Raza was reported in April 2018 by Labour Against Antisemitism over social media posts that included tweeting in 2013: “Pa finally has his annual sale but I am traumatized by the hours spent in that Zionist shop.”

It was not clear which shop Raza was referring to. She has also in the past tweeted her support of an Israel boycott and defended a 2012 east London mural that was deemed anti-Semitic for its depiction of Jewish bankers and businessmen counting their money. Party leader Corbyn was slammed for opposing removal of the mural in 2018 and Raza tweeted her support too, along with the hashtag #OneRuleForYou&AnotherForUs.

Raza, a local councilor for Ealing, was named along with three others as possible replacement for Labour MP Stephen Pound, who is leaving.

Raza responded to the report in a statement saying, “In the past I have apologized sincerely for historical tweets dating back several years, have undertaken antisemitism awareness training run by the Jewish Labour Movement, and I once again sincerely apologize for any hurt my words caused.”

However, spokesperson for Labour Against Anti-Semitism Fione Sharpe said, “Aysha Raza should be nowhere near the parliamentary candidate shortlist. She has a well-publicized track record of promoting antisemitic views.”

Cresswell was twice referred to Labour party authorities for alleged anti-Semitism. He was suspended from the party in 2016 while being investigated for posting images that compared Israel to Nazi Germany and a blood-soaked Star of David along with a caption that “Moses must be proud” of supposed “genocide” by Israel.

He later apologized and was reinstated but was then referred a second time over other allegations of anti-Semitism, but, according to BuzzFeed, no action was taken.

Since the BuzzFeed report earlier this week on his selection as a possible candidate, he has been removed from the shortlist.

Earlier this month, Labour’s governing body, the National Executive Committee, decided that to prepare for possible snap elections it would draw up longlists of parliamentary candidates, from which shortlists would be drawn by panels composed of NEC and regional board members, along with local party representatives. Final due diligence checks would only be carried out after the shortlists were made, according to BuzzFeed.

Criticizing the NEC, LAAS spokesperson Sharpe said “the evidence suggests they are either staggeringly incompetent or are willfully turning a blind eye to alleged anti-Jewish racism.”

“The candidate selection process that Labour has settled on is not fit for purpose,” Sharpe said. “Given the antisemitism crisis the party is facing, it is outrageous that they are apparently shortlisting applicants with a known history of alleged antisemitic views. As a result, Labour members who should have in our opinion been expelled long ago are now being presented as viable parliamentary candidates.”

Labour Party leader MP Jeremy Corbyn stands on stage during the party annual conference in Brighton, England, September 21, 2019. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)

Ruth Smeeth, a Jewish Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, said, “It seems bizarre that the NEC members responsible for longlisting candidates for our key seats seem unable to find enough to fill a shortlist” who haven’t “brought the party into disrepute by either inadvertent or overt anti-Jewish racism.”

A Labour party sourced denied there were problems with the shortlisting process or that it showed party anti-Semitism.

“We’re conducting due diligence checks as quickly as possible, but this takes time for so many applicants across the country,” the source told BuzzFeed. “All candidates who are selected by their local Party will ultimately need to be endorsed by the NEC.”

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

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.

Fresh scrutiny arose this year after a BBC program in which a number of former party officials accused Corbyn and his allies of interfering in efforts to address the anti-Semitism issue.

Times of Israel staff and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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