The Labour Party has continued to struggle against anti-semitic sentiment within its own ranks.
Yesterday in the House of Commons tensions appeared to boil over as three of the party’s Jewish MPs attacked the party’s stance on the issues, resulting in overwhelming standing ovations.
The debate yesterday, which was very emotionally charged, resulted in Labour backbenchers lining up to address the rising antisemitism claims under Mr Corbyn’s leadership.
— Total Politics (@TotalPolitics) 18 April 2018
Dame Margaret Hodge, Labour MP for Barking and the daughter of Jewish refugees, told the Commons that she felt like “an outsider in the party I have been a member of for 50 years”. In a heart-wrenching speech, the veteran MP said “I have never felt as nervous and frightened as I feel today at being a Jew. It feels that my party has given permission for antisemitism to go unchallenged.” Such was the emotion in her speech that MPs from all parties stood up and applauded her courage.
I never thought that I would experience #Antisemitism as a member of the Labour Party. But I have – and it has left me feeling an outsider in the party I have been a member of for over 50 years. To that I simply say, #EnoughIsEnoughhttps://t.co/uABh0NDoV4
— Margaret Hodge (@margarethodge) 17 April 2018
Luciana Berger, the Labour member for Liverpool Wavertree, received a similar reception to Dame Margaret, said that antisemitism had become “more commonplace, is more conspicuous and is more corrosive” in the party. “That’s why I have no words for the people who purport to be both members and supporters of our party, who use that hashtag JC4PM [Jeremy Corbyn for prime minister], who attacked me in recent weeks for my comments; they attacked me for speaking at the rally against antisemitism . . . who say I should be deselected.”
Ruth Smeeth, the Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, emphasised the recent rise in anti-semitism by reading a simple tweet he had received: “hang yourself you vile treacherous Zionist Tory filth, you’re a cancer of humanity” and “first job for Jeremy Corbyn tomorrow, expel the Zionist hag bitch Ruth Smeeth”.
John Mann, the Labour MP for Bassetlaw, said his wife had been “threatened with rape” by a “leftist antisemite” after he attended a demonstration against antisemitism in Labour three weeks ago. She was also “sent by a Labour Marxist antisemite a dead bird through the post,” he said. His daughter, he added, had been “rung up in the last few weeks by Special Branch to check out her movements.”
— Jeremy Vine (@theJeremyVine) 17 April 2018
But the most pointed gesture came from Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, who chose to sit not in his usual spot next to the party leader but on the back benches between Ms Berger and Ms Smeeth. The Labour leader sat through much of the debate, occasionally shaking his head when Conservative MPs criticised his record on antisemitism. Yet his engagement seemed to switch off as he walked out half way through Mr Watson’s speech.
The debate is not the only woe for Mr Corbyn this week as it was revealed that a group of Jewish leaders refused to attend an event with the Labour leader when they discovered that a group of anti-semites from Labour left would also be attending the event.