EXCL Labour NEC member condemned for 'disgraceful' response to MP Louise Ellman's anti-semitism resignation

Posted On: 
17th October 2019

A member of Labour's ruling body has come under fire over her "disgraceful" response to a Labour MP who quit over the party's handling of anti-semitism.

Lara McNeill was accused of 'denying' Louise Ellman's experience of anti-Jewish abuse.
Credit: 
PA

Lara McNeill, who sits as the youth representative on Labour's National Executive Committee, accused Dame Louise Ellman of choosing to "sit on the fence" in the face of a Conservative government after the MP announced her exit from Labour after 55 years of membership.

Dame Louise, who is Jewish, made the "agonising" decision to quit the party on Wednesday night, saying Jeremy Corbyn was "not fit to serve as our Prime Minister".

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Warning that anti-semitism had "become mainstream in the Labour Party", the Liverpool Riverside MP accused Mr Corbyn of allowing anti-semites to feel "comfortable".

And she said: "Jeremy Corbyn - who spent three decades on the backbenches consorting with, and never confronting, anti-semites, Holocaust deniers and terrorists - has attracted the support of too many anti-semites."

But Ms McNeill tweeted in response: "We are faced with an imminent election after a decade of Tory devastation. The choice is Johnson or Corbyn - and you choose to sit on the fence. 

"Imagine writing that Jeremy Corbyn has spent decades 'not confronting antisemitism and Holocaust deniers'... demonstratively false."

She added: "Don’t ignore antisemitism, don’t ignore this Conservative government actively inciting racism and don’t ignore Labour’s - and Corbyn’s - record showing what a Labour government would actually mean for equality and anti-discrimination."

That exchange drew an angry response from the Jewish Labour Movement, the party's longstanding affiliate for Jewish members.

Luisa Attfield and Jack Lubner, the JLM's co-youth and student officers, told PoliticsHome: "For the second time, a Jewish MP has been bullied out of the Labour Party. This should be a great shame on us all.

"Instead of standing in solidarity with Dame Louise Ellman, Labour’s NEC Youth Rep accused her of ‘sitting on the fence’ and denying her lived experience of bullying and racism within the Party. 

"It is disgraceful behaviour from anyone, let alone a member of the Party’s ruling body. 

"If McNeill is not able to respond with empathy to a Jewish MP resigning as a result of antisemitism, she’s not fit to hold a representative role in the Party which requires being able to listen to the concerns of members."

The Labour Against Antisemitism campaign group meanwhile called on Ms McNeill to "resign from her position" on the NEC over the "grossly offensive" comments.

Spokesperson Fiona Sharpe told PoliticsHome: "Ms McNeill’s suggestion that Dame Louise’s resignation letter, in which she voiced her concerns at the prospect of a Jeremy Corbyn government, would 'whip up panic' demonstrates a fundamental and arguably wilful misunderstanding of the seriousness of the Labour antisemitism crisis for British Jews.

"As a member of the NEC, Ms McNeill should have seen huge amounts of antisemitic content generated by Labour members and reported by Labour Against Antisemitism. It says much about the apparent attitude of those at the top of the Labour Party that anti-Jewish racism can seemingly be dismissed so casually."

'WITHDRAW'

Labour MP Toby Perkins - who has been sharply critical of the party's handling of anti-semitism - said the tweet had been "spectacularly ill-judged" and called on Ms McNeill to retract her statement.

"To dismiss the resilience that Louise Ellman has displayed in remaining a member through the recent years of antisemitism that she has faced, and to dismiss the letter that accompanied her resignation will reinforce the view that many have that collectively the Party’s NEC do not take the fight against antisemitism seriously," he told this site.

And he added: "I ask her to withdraw this tweet and instead dedicate herself to understanding why the Jewish community feel that the party that she is on the NEC of are a threat to their community. 

"If she can couple that understanding with action that addresses the issues that caused Louise to leave the party after 55 years she will be offering a service not just to the Labour Party but to the global fight against racism and antisemitism."

'STRONGLY DISAGREE'

Responding to the criticism of her tweet, Ms McNeill told PoliticsHome that she was in "no way celebrating [Dame Louise] leaving or denying her lived experience".

She added: "Louise Ellman has experienced appalling antisemitism. I haven't in any way, and would never seek to, deny this experience and my tweet said we must not ignore antisemitism in our party." 

But Ms McNeill added: "I, like many people, strongly disagree with Louise Ellman's remarks about what a Labour government will mean for people in our country and I believe inflammatory rhetoric whips up panic. 

"Jeremy Corbyn has campaigned against antisemitism throughout his life and he will be the first Prime Minister in decades to oppose all forms of oppression and prejudice and to defend all communities in our diverse society."

In contrast, Ms McNeill said the Conservatives had "targeted and impoverished minorities in our country" and said there was "too much at stake from another five years of Conservative rule".

The Labour Party has been approached for comment. 

'ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN TWEETS'

Dame Louise's resignation follows the exit of fellow Liverpool MP Luciana Berger, who quit the party earlier this year over what she called "a culture of bullying, bigotry and intimidation".

Ms Berger, who is also Jewish, has since joined the Liberal Democrats, and on Wednesday night urged other Labour MPs to follow the pair out of the party.

"Please don’t tweet about how upsetting/awful it is that Dame Louise Ellman and I have left Labour if you’re in a position of leadership and still in there," she said. "Don’t be a bystander. Actions speak louder than tweets."

Responding to Dame Louise's resignation, a party spokesperson said on Wednesday: "Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party are fully committed to the support, defence and celebration of the Jewish community and continue to take robust action to root out antisemitism in the party and wider society."

They added: "Jeremy Corbyn has consistently supported struggles for human rights and justice around the world and made the right calls in the interests of security and peace."