Jewish Labour Movement calls on party to suspend new Peterborough MP over anti-semitism row

Posted On: 
7th June 2019

Labour is facing calls to suspend its new MP for Peterborough amid a row over anti-semitism - just hours after she was elected.

Lisa Forbes on the campaign trail with Jeremy Corbyn in April
Credit: 
PA Images

Lisa Forbes saw off the Brexit Party by 683 votes to hold the seat last night, which was vacated when voters triggered a by-election against disgraced Fiona Onasanya.

But the new MP came under pressure during the campaign after it was revealed she liked a Facebook post saying Theresa May had a “Zionist Slave Masters agenda” alongside a video of children praying after the New Zealand terror attack.

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In another comment she said she had “enjoyed reading” a thread that said Isis was created “by the CIA and Mossad”.

It was also discovered that Ms Forbes signed a letter calling on Labour bosses to reject the adoption of the International Holocaust Rememberance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-semitism.

She later apologised for the comments, saying: “I apologise wholeheartedly for not calling out these posts. I liked a video of school children praying in solidarity with the Christchurch attacks, not the views expressed in the accompanying text. I am sorry.”

It comes as the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) prepares to conduct an investigation into Labour over complaints of anti-semitism in the party.

Following her by-election victory, the Jewish Labour Movement said Ms Forbes needed to go "far further" in her apology and criticised party bosses for having “consistently failed to take a zero-tolerance approach to anti-Jewish hate.”

A spokesperson added: “This has encouraged a culture to develop where not only is it acceptable for someone who has shared racist material and rejected the internationally accepted IHRA definition of anti-semitism to be a member, but they can advance politically and gain public office."

“Labour’s newest MP is a perfect example of this. Ms Forbes will have to go far, far further than her statement at the weekend to demonstrate to our members and the Jewish community that she isn’t racist against Jews.

“The [Parliamentary Labour Party] called for the party to adopt the IHRA definition. Given her previous rejection of IHRA, Ms Forbes should have the whip suspended immediately.

“This shows how urgent and necessary the EHRC’s investigation into Labour’s institutional racism is. The party is simply incapable of rooting out hate by itself.”

'SERIOUS QUESTIONS'

Ilford North MP Wes Streeting, who refused to campaign for Ms Forbes on the back of what he called her "antisemitic social media activity," criticised the party for selecting her to contest the seat.

Writing for PoliticsHome, he said: “Once again, the Labour party leadership has serious questions to answer about candidate vetting and on what ‘zero tolerance’ and the ‘militant fight against antisemitism’ really means. I’d say not much.

“I’ve given up hope that this Labour leadership can prove me wrong, but I have not given up hope that the new MP for Peterborough can be true to her apology and show genuine contrition.”

Backbencher Jess Phillips meanwhile said she could not be as "gleeful or proud as I'd want to be [at the Peterborough result] because of how it shows that anti-semitism is becoming normal in the party".

She added: "Lisa ignored and endorsed anti-semitic things, I'll take her explanation and apology at face value and look forward to her proving, as others have, that actions not excuses alone can heal.

"But with every case the party's values chip away and our ability to stand up against hate erodes."

Her colleague John Mann told Sky News: “Until Jeremy Corbyn shows proper leadership on anti-semitism it will continue to haunt the Labour party and cost us votes. There’s no question it’s costing us votes across the country."

A Labour Party source said: "Lisa Forbes did not make any comments herself or share any posts.

"She liked a video about showing solidarity with Christchurch victims without reading the accompanying text, which Facebook users know is an easy thing to do. She has fully accounted for this genuine mistake and apologised."

But Labour MP Wes Streeting said: "I am not surprised this came from an anonymous ‘Labour Party source’. No one with any self-respect would put their name on that rubbish.

"I don’t even know how they look themselves in the mirror sending it as a source quote. This apologism for racism is baked in to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership."