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Len McCluskey: Labour MPs using anti-Semitism to 'attack and undermine' Jeremy Corbyn

4 min read

Labour MPs are using the anti-Semitism row engulfing the party to "attack and undermine" Jeremy Corbyn, according to Len McCluskey.

The veteran Unite chief said "Corbyn-haters" were whipping up the controversy for their own ends and warned them that they face mandatory deselection as Labour election candidates.

His comments, in an article for the the New Statesman, came just a day after the Labour leader held a tense meeting with the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council to discuss ways of tackling the problem of anti-Semitism.

Mr Corbyn also issued an apology to the Jewish community for the way Labour has handled the issue, and insisted those highlighting it were not doing so to "smear" him.

But Mr McCluskey - who previously described the anti-Semitism claims as "mood music" - said: "Here are two truths about the state of the Labour party today. First, there are a small number of members expressing entirely unacceptable anti-Semitic views and attitudes, especially on social media.

"The second is that this issue has joined a line of others in being used by a group of backbench Labour MPs to attack and undermine Jeremy Corbyn and the progressive leadership of the party."

He added: "Of course, they have a right to express their own views, a right Jeremy Corbyn exercised in his backbench days; but you would have to go back a long way to find such a sustained smearing by MPs of their own leader and their own party as we are seeing now.

"MPs such as Chris Leslie, Neil Coyle (my own MP), John Woodcock, Wes Streeting, Ian Austin, and others, have become a dismal chorus whose every dirge makes winning a Labour government more difficult."

Mr McCluskey said he was "personally not in favour of mandatory reselection", but said those criticising Mr Corbyn should not be surprised if they end up facing that process.

He said: "To watch as these so-called social democrats tried to demean and attack, in front of our enemy, a decent and honourable man who has fought racism and anti-Semitism all his life and who has breathed life and hope back into the hearts of millions, especially the young, made my stomach churn. To see Tory MPs cheer and applaud them was shameful.

"Promiscuous critics must expect to be criticised, and those who wish to hold Corbyn to account can expect to be held to account themselves."

Some of the MPs attacked by Mr McCluskey hit back at his comments.

Neil Coyle, the MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, accused Mr McCluskey of "undermining" Mr Corbyn.

He said: "This is hugely disrespectful to the leader. Jeremy has said there is a problem, and Len is saying he is wrong.

"He's pretending there isn't a problem before important elections and at a time when most of the party is united on the need to tackle anti-Semitism."




Meanwhile Richard Angell, director of the centrist Labour grouping Progress, blasted the Unite chief and accused him of using the issue of anti-Semitism for a "pathetic power play".

"Just when you think we are all moving in the right direction on combating antisemitism Len McCluskey’s mask slips," Mr Angell said. "Jeremy Corbyn, Momentum, GMB and Unison have all said the problem is real and MPs are right to stand with victims. *

"Thankfully we have MPs [who] will be not be bullied into silence on antisemitism with threats of deselection. Labour members appalled by this behaviour will stand with them.

"Any true anti-racists on Labour’s traditional left will tell McCluskey where to put his New Statesman article. The issue of antisemitism is about the victims of Jew-hated not McCluskey’s pathetic power play."

The latest row came after Jewish Labour MP Ruth Smeeth was flanked by colleagues as she made her way to give evidence at a disciplinary hearing against a party activist accused of anti-Semitism.

It also emerged that Labour is now dealing with 90 outstanding cases of anti-Semitism, while 300 have been dealt with over the past three years.

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