Jeremy Corbyn told to 'get a grip' of anti-Semitism in the Labour party

Posted On: 
13th April 2016

Jeremy Corbyn needs to "get a grip" of anti-Semitism within the Labour party and do more to root out the problem, according to one of the party's senior MPs.

Jeremy Corbyn has been urged to 'get a grip' of anti-Semitism in the Labour party
PA Images

Former frontbencher Michael Dugher said the Labour leadership needs to admit the party "has a problem" within its ranks and prove to the Jewish community that it will not be tolerated.

His comments, in an exclusive article for PoliticsHome, follow a string of controversies which have hit the party in recent months over the issue.

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Mr Dugher, who is vice-chair of Labour Friends of Israel, said: "The test for Labour - and for our leadership - isn't why it is happening, but what are we actually going to do about it.

"On the Andrew Marr Show last weekend, I was pleased to hear Jeremy Corbyn say again that antisemitism is “abhorrent and wrong” and that he is dealing with cases when they are referred to him.  

"But actions do speak louder than words and it is not good enough simply to react to events."

The Barnsley East MP insisted neither Mr Corbyn or Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell were anti-Semitic themselves.

But he added: "Yet both need to be seen to do more including taking on a noisy minority – who often include some of their most vocal supporters – who undoubtedly are anti-Semitic.

"The perception that there is a whiff of complacency about the scale of the problem, or that the leadership has been slow to act, has been hugely damaging to the whole Labour party. It's time for the leadership to admit that Labour has a problem and to get a grip."

Mr Dugher - who was sacked as Shadow Culture Secretary in January - also criticised Mr Corbyn's recent defence of his brother over remarks he made about a Jewish Labour MP on Twitter.

Piers Corbyn dubbed Louise Ellman a "Zionist" after she accused party bosses of failing to do enough to tackle anti-Semitism.

The Labour leader responded by saying: "My brother has his point of view, I have mine and we actually fundamentally agree - we are a family that were brought up fighting racism from the day we were born."

Mr Dugher said: "Jeremy's defence of his brother’s remarks ... was unwise and insensitive."

It emerged today that Labour MPs and activists are seeking to change party rules to make it easier to expel members with anti-Semitic views.

The Blairite campaign group Progress has also published an eight-point plan to stamp out the problem.

The moves follow a string of negative headlines for Labour.

Vicki Byrne, deputy chair of the party's Woking branch, was suspended for a second time last month after anti-Semitic Twitter posts she made in 2011 and 2014 re-surfaced.

A probe has also been launched into claims that Jewish under-graduates were harassed and intimidated by members of Oxford Labour Students.

And earlier this week, a Labour councillor whose Twitter account branded Hitler the “greatest man in history” also resigned.

Speaking last Sunday, Mr Corbyn said: "We have suspended and we will suspend any member who behaves in that way. Enquiries are going on on the cases that have been referred to us. We are absolutely resolute on this. There is no place for any type of racism of any sort within our party and I will ensure that it is rooted out where it exists.

"But I have to say it is a very small number of cases over the whole country and we are dealing with it."