Labour peers take out advert to tell Jeremy Corbyn he has 'failed test of leadership' over anti-semitism

Posted On: 
17th July 2019

More than sixty Labour peers have taken out a newspaper advertisement to tell Jeremy Corbyn he has "failed the test of leadership" over the party's anti-semitism crisis.

The group of peers told Mr Corbyn the party was "no longer a safe place for all members".
Credit: 
PA

In an unprecedented move, former Cabinet ministers John Reid, Peter Hain and Peter Mandelson are among who have put their name to the full-page ad, which has been placed in The Guardian.

The signatories make up around a third of all Labour peers in the House of Lords.

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The advert reads: "The Labour party welcomes everyone* irrespective of race, creed, age, gender identity, or sexual orientation. (*except, it seems, Jews). This is your legacy, Mr Corbyn."

Addressing the Labour leader directly, they add: "Under your leadership, Labour is no longer a safe place for all members and supporters, whatever their ethnicity or faith.

"Thousands have resigned and thousands more feel unable to attend party meetings because of the toxic culture you have allowed to divide our movement."

It also accuses Mr Corbyn of having "failed to defend our party's anti-racist values" and says he has therefore "failed the test of leadership".

But Labour branded the advert "false and misleading".

'SHOOT THE MESSENGERS'

The move comes amid the bitter fallout over Labour's response to last week's BBC Panorama programme which alleged that senior figures close to Mr Corbyn had interfered in anti-semitism cases.

The party has strongly denied any meddling and has lodged a complaint with the BBC.

But it has come under fire for describing ex-party staff who took part in the documentary as "disaffected former officials including those who have always opposed Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership".

Seizing on that response, the group of 64 peers said: "It’s the style of your office and your followers to deny the truth of the message and shoot the messengers, whether they are party members or whistleblowers from Labour’s head office. But we cannot stay silent while younger, braver party workers and members speak out."

Former defence secretary Lord Robertson, who co-signed the ad, said: "It was important to make a bold statement so that Jeremy sits up and understands the strength of feeling. 

“The problem has been discussed by Jeremy but the action taken hasn’t been strong enough. No one is convinced that the party is getting to grips with the truth, which is shameful to us all, that there are racists in our party and they aren’t being thrown out quickly enough."

The Labour peer meanwhile said that an offer by Mr Corbyn to the party's Lords leader Angela Smith was not enough because he had "ruled out any serious change". 

He added: "People are outraged – it doesn’t feel as if Jeremy has the same level of anger and shame about what has been happening.

“Immediately ruling out further action shows the same attitude as the reaction to the Panorama programme and the young people, members and party workers, who have taken the brave decision to go public. We should be listening to them and supporting them, not denouncing them as having a political axe to grind."

'FALSE AND MISLEADING'

But a Labour spokesperson said: "Regardless of false and misleading claims by those hostile to Jeremy Corbyn's politics, Labour is taking decisive action against anti-Semitism."

They added: "Jeremy Corbyn has made clear in interviews, videos and articles that there is no place for antisemitism in the party.

“Jennie Formby [Labour's general secretary] has sped up and strengthened procedures and the rate at which cases are dealt with has increased more than four-fold. Since September 2015, the number of cases that have undergone disciplinary procedures relate to about 0.06% of members.

"The Labour party’s comprehensive rebuttal of the Panorama programme did not in any way criticise Jewish members who have suffered antisemitism. As we said after the programme aired, we will fully investigate any complaints alleging antisemitic incidents reported by party members in interviews in the programme."

Labour's deputy leader Tom Watson on Tuesday launched a move to try and ensure allegations of racism are investigated by an independent body.

A motion in the name of Mr Watson and four other members of the party's ruling National Executive Committee also calls for activists to be automatically expelled "where there is irrefutable evidence of racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia or transphobia".

Their demands will be debated and voted on at a crunch meeting of the NEC next Tuesday.