Fri, 28 January 2022

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Tom Watson says Labour has 'moral obligation' to rid party of anti-Semitism

Tom Watson says Labour has 'moral obligation' to rid party of anti-Semitism
3 min read

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson has said his party has "a moral obligation" to kick out anti-Semites within its ranks.


He said "failing to tackle the problem risks eternal shame" on the party, which was dogged by controversy over Jew hatred throughout the summer.

In an emotional speech to a Labour Friends of Israel fringe meeting at the party's annual conference in Liverpool, Mr Watson condemned those who make "grotesque parallels between the Jewish states and the Nazis" and others who call for boycotts of Israeli goods.

He praised Joan Ryan MP, chair of Labour Friends of Israel, who he said had been "hounded out by people who've only just joined" the party - a reference to a vote of no confidence which was passed in her by members in her Enfield North constituency.

And significantly, Mr Watson also singled out Ian Austin, who is facing disciplinary action for “berating” Jeremy Corbyn and Labour chairman Ian Lavery over the party’s failure to tackle anti-Semitism.

His comments came just hours after Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said anti-Semites should be expelled from Labour "the way Oswald Mosley was kicked out of Liverpool".

Labour leader Mr Corbyn - who did not attend the LFI reception - has insisted the party will tackle its anti-Semitism problem.

Mr Watson said: "We have a moral obligation to rid this party of anti-Semitism and I know it's important to all of us in this room that all of those commitments are delivered.

"I recognise the hurt that's been caused, I recognise the pain that's been thrust upon our friends in the Jewish community

"I know how failing to tackle a problem risks bringing eternal shame. I just hope that we can do what we can to rebuild that trust and confidence, and I know with people like Joan Ryan chairing this organisaton - courageous, dogged and determined, hounded out by people who've only just joined the Labour party  - and Luciana (Berger) and Ian Austin, I know that journey will be long but I tell you we will do everything we can to rebuild that trust."

The Labour leadership also faced criticism at the event from Israeli Labor MP Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin, as well as Mark Regev, Israel's ambassador to the UK.

Meanwhile, Joan Ryan said: "I have spent much time in recent months meeting people in synagogues, at communal events and, indeed, on the doorsteps of north London.

"The reaction I encounter is almost universal: it is one of anxiety, hurt and anger. An incomprehension that our party could have treated a minority community in this country with such disregard, arrogance and contempt.

"A bewilderment that our party – with its long and honourable history of fighting racism – should have decided to lecture Jews on what does and does not constitute anti-Semitism.

"And, yes, a real fear that our party under the current leadership might soon be in government. This is a collective failure and only remorse, humility and empathy can begin to redress it."

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