EXCL Labour staff stage walkout over official who shared anti-semitism 'smear' video

Posted On: 
18th July 2019

Labour staff staged a walkout over a senior official who shared a video claiming the party’s anti-semitism crisis was trumped up to undermine Jeremy Corbyn.

Labour has been hit by a seies of anti-semitism controversies.
Credit: 
PA Images

The protest took place on Jules Rutherford’s first day as Labour’s new head of membership on Wednesday.

PoliticsHome revealed how Ms Rutherford had retweeted a post which claimed anti-semitism allegations were "smears against the party leader".

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The tweet, by Jack Jazz, linked to a video in which Professor Norman Finkelstein described the claims as "witch-hunt hysteria".

Shortly after Labour were contacted about it, Ms Rutherford's Twitter account was deleted.

It is understood that her appointment caused anger among staff in Labour's Newcastle office, where the party's membership department is based.

A Labour source said: "On her first day, she went around desks meeting colleagues - only they all walked out of the office because they didn’t want to meet her."

One member of staff did remain in the office, but only to challenge Ms Rutherford on her views on anti-semitism and to ask why she had retweeted the "smear" video.

A Labour spokesperson refused to comment.

The row comes against a backdrop of mounting anger among Labour staff members.

On Thursday, members of the GMB union overwhelmingly passed a motion hitting out at the response by Jeremy Corbyn's office to last week's Panorama on anti-semitism.

The programme accused aides to Jeremy Corbyn of interfering in anti-semitism cases, and heard former Labour staff claim their mental health had been affected by working for the party.

The motion said: "As trade unionists, it is unacceptable for an employees workload or the culture of an organisation to cause staff to have breakdowns or to contemplate suicide.

"The fact that there is even a suggestion that this culture exists within the Labour Party is reprehensible and a source of great shame."

One staff member said: "There is a toxic culture in the Labour party. One of fear and bullying.

"Those who speak out against anti-semitism are forced on sick leave and out of the building. Today, Labour staff said that we won’t stay quiet on anti-semitism or tolerate this pernicious culture any more.

"Jeremy has to listen. To move forward there has to be strategic changes at the top of the Labour party and that starts with his team."