Fresh Labour row as frontbencher accuses ex-general secretary of failing to tackle anti-Semitism

Posted On: 
4th May 2018

A fresh Labour anti-Semitism row has erupted after a senior frontbencher accused the party’s former general secretary of failing to tackle the problem.

Dawn Butler is the first senior Labour figure to openly attack former general secretary Iain McNicol
PA Images

Dawn Butler said Iain McNicol was to blame for Labour’s failure to fully implement the findings of Shami Chakrabarti’s inquiry into the issue.

The Shadow Equalities Minister is the first senior figure to openly attack Mr McNicol - who quit his role earlier this year - over the matter.

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She was speaking as Labour failed to win control of its target council of Barnet, amid concerns that Jewish voters in the borough had deserted the party.

Ms Butler told the BBC: “Jeremy Corbyn ordered a report almost immediately and then that report wasn't implemented. It's not a failure of the leadership, it's a failure of the general secretary for not implementing it.”

Former London mayor Ken Livingstone, who is suspended by Labour for claiming Adolf Hitler supported Zionism before the Holocaust, also criticised Mr McNicol.

He told Sky News: “The simple fact is - we've had a general secretary up until very recently who just allowed this to bubble on. So many suspended for nearly two years."

But that was rejected by Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth, whose wife Emilie Oldknow was Mr McNicol’s number two.

He told the BBC: "It's nothing to do with Iain McNicol, it's a nonsense.”

Labour MP Wes Streeting tweeted: “Ian McNicol was an outstanding party servant and deserves better than being used as a TV ‘talking point’ to deflect criticism of our handling of anti-Semitism.”


The row over Mr McNicol’s role came as former Labour councillor Adam Langleben - who lost his seat on Barnet Council in the election - challenged Labour frontbencher Emily Thornberry to kick Mr Livingstone out of the party over his controversial 2016 remarks.

While Ms Thornberry initially refused to be drawn on whether the former London mayor should booted out of Labour, she later conceded: “You're right Adam. You're right, I'm sorry. I'm being too much of a lawyer.

“And you're right - I have said that he should be chucked out of the Labour party and you and I both know that that's what I think. But it's not for me to decide."

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham also piled in, saying that while there had been “really good statements” by the Labour leadership condemning anti-Semitism in recent weeks, the problem had to be “gripped more firmly” in light of the election results.

Barry Rawlings, leader of Barnet’s Labour group, has already pinned the blame for the drubbing in his borough on concerns that the party has been sluggish in its response to anti-Semitism.

He vowed that Barnet Labour would be “a beacon to the rest of the Labour Party in tackling and defeating this anti-Semitism virus that has infected our party”.

"For me dealing with anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and all forms of hate is not an electoral issue, win or lose, it’s a moral responsibility that defines who we are as a party,” Mr Rawlings added.

"We either fix this or our values of equality, social justice and human rights die."