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EXCL Former treasurer in Jeremy Corbyn's local Labour branch quits party over anti-Semitism

3 min read

A former treasurer of Jeremy Corbyn's local Labour branch has quit over the latest anti-Semitism row to hit the party.

Russell Smith-Becker said he was "no longer sure that the Labour party is a force for good" over its attempts to tackle anti-Jewish abuse.

His decision follows a decision by Labour's ruling National Executive Committee not to fully adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of anti-Semitism.

That then led to a row involving veteran Jewish Labour MP Margaret Hodge, who is facing disciplinary action for calling Mr Corbyn "an anti-Semitic racist".

In a letter to the Labour leader posted on his Facebook page, Mr Smith-Becker said it was "a real wrench" to quit the party after 28 years as a member.

During that time, he has been treasurer of Mr Corbyn's Islington North constituency party, and as recently as last year was part of the local campaign forum choosing Labour council candidates in the area.

He said he had written to Mr Corbyn after attending a protest in Parliament Square organised by the Lewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies of British Jews against what they said was Labour's failure to tackle anti-Semitism by some of its members.

"When I encouraged you to listen to the JLC, BoD and other community groups I meant with a view to doing as they ask rather than the opposite," Mr Becker-Smith wrote. "When I encouraged you to take action on anti-Semitism I meant against it rather than to increase tolerance of it."

"You have said that you are not anti-Semitic and I believe you. Merely saying this is not enough though - if you are so often tolerant towards anti-Semitism then this has the same practical effect as if you were anti-Semitic and it is hardly surprising that people like Margaret Hodge might get the impression that you are."

Mr Beckett-Smith said he also had concerns about the party's approach to Brexit, the leadership's "sometimes unthinking support" for the governments of Venezuela and Russia, and attacks by Mr Corbyn's supporters on the mainstream media.

He added: "I am happy to support a party which is a force for good even if I have some differences, but I am no longer sure that the Labour party is a force for good.

"I therefore resign my leadership of the Labour party. The Labour party has become somewhere anti-Semites feel comfortable and where many Jews feel uncomfortable - I hope I can join again when it is the other way around."

A Labour spokesman said: "The Labour party is committed to eradicating anti-Semitism in all its forms. Labour’s new general secretary, Jennie Formby, has made it her first priority to speed up and strengthen our procedures and to develop a programme of political education to tackle anti-Semitism.

"The Code of Conduct adopts the IHRA definition and expands on and contextualises its examples to produce robust, legally sound guidelines that a political party can apply to disciplinary cases."

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