Labour executive member Pete Willsman suspended over claim Israel 'whipped up' anti-semitism storm
A member of Labour's ruling board was today suspended after he was recorded saying Israel whipped up claims of anti-semitism against the party.
Pete Willsman, who sits on the Labour National Executive Committee, was caught on tape saying the crisis was “all lies” and claiming party staffers were “linked” to the Israeli embassy.
MPs and Jewish organisations branded the veteran Labour campaigner an anti-semite, while the Labour Against Anti-semitism group said the comments were “grossly offensive and unarguably anti-semitic”.
Labour confirmed just hours after the story broke that Mr Willsman had been suspended from the party pending investigation, and that he would be unable to serve as an NEC member in the meantime.
It comes after the Equalities and Human Rights Commission launched a full-scale investigation into the way Labour has handled the issue of anti-Jewish racism in its ranks.
The recording of Mr Willsman talking to American-Israeli author Tuvia Tenenbom in January was revealed by LBC Radio this morning.
He told the writer that critics of Mr Corbyn were using claims of anti-semitism to “whip people up,” adding: “They use anything. Any lies.”
He went on: “It’s almost certain who is behind all this anti-semitism against Jeremy... Almost certainly it was the Israeli embassy. Because they caught somebody in the Labour party - it turns out they were an agent in the embassy.
“The thing is that the people that are in the Labour party doing it are people who are linked… one of them works indirectly for the Israeli embassy.”
“I wouldn’t want to be bothered to find out anyway but my guess would be they are the ones whipping it up all the time.”
Labour deputy leader Tom Watson weighed in to demand the suspension of the NEC member.
“The fact that a member of Labour’s governing body feels he can continue to make such offensive remarks after being warned for similar outbursts previously shows how serious the problem of anti-semitism is in our party,” he said.
Mr Willsman was previously handed a warning by Labour general secretary Jennie Formby after he accused rabbis speaking out over the anti-semitism crisis of being “Trump fanatics”.
A Labour party spokesperson said: “Peter Willsman has been suspended from the Labour party, pending investigation.”
Responding to the move, Labour MP Wes Streeting said: “Welcome news that Peter Willsman has been suspended and is subject to disciplinary action.
“If he has a shred of decency, he will resign from the NEC immediately. Those who celebrated his election, even after his conduct came to light, should hang their heads in shame.”