Labour MPs accuse leadership of hiding true scale of anti-semitism in the party

Posted On: 
11th February 2019

Labour MPs have accused the party leadership of hiding the true scale of anti-semitism among its members.

Jennie Formby with Jeremy Corbyn at Labour conference.
Credit: 
PA Images

Data published by general secretary Jennie Formby revealed that nearly 700 complaints were made against Labour members between April last year and January.

That led to 12 members being booted out of the party, while five quit before their cases were heard.

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But at a stormy meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party on Monday evening, MPs said Ms Formby had hidden the full extent of the problem.

They also condemned senior party figures, including leader Jeremy Corbyn, for failing to appear at the meeting to hear their concerns.

In her email, Ms Formby said that before she became Labour general secretary last April "there was no consistent and comprehensive system for recording and processing cases of anti-semitism", meaning she could not provide any figures from before that date.

But her predecessor in the role, Iain McNicol, told the meeting that the figures were collated during his time in charge and that Ms Formby was "plainly wrong".

Wes Streeting said that the data provided by Ms Formby "did not pass the smell test", while Luciana Berger said: "It is absolutely disgraceful that no one from the leadership can show their face."

Speaking after the meeting, Jewish Labour MP Margaret Hodge said: "We don't know if the data is complete. Trust has broken down, so they've got to be much more open."

Ruth Smeeth MP, who is also Jewish, said: "The PLP is united on this issue and the leadership aren't providing what we need. The data is unrealistic. It only starts in April 2018, but we know of thousands of complaints that were submitted before then.

"But these people are not going to hound me out of the Labour party - we're going to stay and fix this. 

"We need genuine leadership and we need them to turn up to provide it. I wish this was over, every Jewish MP wishes this was over, but it's not over and we're not going to keep quiet until anti-semitism has gone from the Labour party."

One former minister told PoliticsHome: "MPs are horrified by the level of anti-semitism in parts of the hard left. The meeting laid bare the culture that has been fostered in the past few years. It’s appalling."

In her email, Ms Formby said: "It is clearly of the utmost importance that everyone feels welcome in our party and we must ensure that includes all members of our Jewish communities."

A Labour spokesperson said: "Jennie Formby, after obtaining the NEC’s agreement, has published the figures on anti-semitism complaints handled by the party and published a report on the work the party has done and is doing to speed up and strengthen our procedures, increasing transparency.

"These figures relate to about 0.1% of our membership, but one anti-semite in our party is one too many. We are committed to tackling antisemitism and rooting it out of our party once and for all.”