Labour MPs say Shadow Cabinet members ‘actively complicit’ in smearing anti-semitism whistleblowers

Posted On: 
21st July 2019

Labour MPs have hit out at colleagues in the Shadow Cabinet who they say have been “actively complicit” in smearing whistleblowers on the party’s anti-semitism crisis.

Members of Labour's Shadow Cabinet are to hold a crunch meeting on Monday
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In a damning letter, backbenchers condemned the “officially sanctioned spin campaign” against former staff who spoke of anti-Jewish racism in the party’s ranks for a recent BBC Panorama programme.

It comes ahead of a crunch Shadow Cabinet meeting on Monday to specifically discuss how to tackle the issue of anti-semitism internally.

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The document, co-signed by Jewish Labour Movement chair Ruth Smeeth, Wes Streeting and John Mann, called for those on the frontbench to “examine their consciences” - as called for in a separate letter from the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) and the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

The MPs said: “Since the broadcast of the Panorama documentary, too many members of the Shadow Cabinet have been silent bystanders to, or - worse still - actively complicit in, an officially sanctioned spin campaign against victims of racism and whistleblowers."

“We ask you to consider how you would react to any other employer acting in this way and on how this reflects on our Party as a champion of equality and workers’ rights.”

In the hour-long programme titled 'Is Labour Anti-Semitic?', broadcast earlier this month, former members of Labour's disputes team, which investigates complaints against members, claimed their mental health was affected by the attitude of aides in Mr Corbyn's office.

One former head of the team said he had contemplated suicide because of the stress he suffered in the job, while others detailed how they had been subjected to anti-semitic abuse at Labour meetings.

A Labour spokesperson, on the day it was broadcast, described former members of staff taking part as “disaffected former officials” opposed to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, who had "both personal and political axes to grind".

The response was criticised by the MPs, who pointed out that a number had voted twice for Mr Corbyn to become leader.

They also referenced a GMB Labour staff branch resolution which condemned the party’s official response and which passed by a margin of 124-4.

The group said it should serve as “a wake up call” to Shadow Cabinet members who are “deluded” into dismissing complaints as being by those with “an axe to grind”.

“We can’t go on like this. The bunker mentality around the Leader is causing immense damage to the Labour Party. Monday’s meeting of the Shadow Cabinet is an important opportunity to turn things around,” they add.

“We urge you not to waste it. Individually, and collectively, you are the leadership of the Labour Party. It is time for you to step up to the mark.”

On the JLC and the Board of Deputies letter, they added: “The JLC and the Board of Deputies are the representative bodies of British Jewry. They do not claim to speak for every Jewish citizen, but they do speak for a majority.

“The Board has urged you to turn the tide against anti-semitism within our ranks and have outlined the minimum steps they would expect the Labour Party to take in order to start this process.

“The JLC have urged you to examine your consciences and have also made it clear that to be silent is be complicit.”