Labour peer says party has 'serious' anti-Semitism problem

Posted On: 
28th April 2016

A senior Labour peer has warned the party has a “serious problem” with anti-Semitism following the suspension of an MP for Facebook posts she shared about Israel.

A Labour peer commented on anti-Semitism in Labour following a fresh scandal
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PA Images

Naz Shah had the whip removed yesterday following the revelation she shared a post before becoming an MP which suggested the whole of Israel should be transported to the United States.

It follows a string of anti-Semitism scandals in the party with growing concern the leadership is failing to crack down on the issue.

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Lord Levy, a former chief fundraiser for Labour, said anti-Semitism was an issue across political divides but appeared “more prominent” in his own party.

He told BBC Newsnight Ms Shah’s behaviour showed “ignorance”, leaving him "scratching his head with despair as to how people like this can enter our parliament with such a lack of knowledge, discretion and sensitivity".

An independent peer, Baroness Neuberger said the issue in Labour was "attached to Jeremy Corbyn becoming leader", and "an issue with the hard left".

In a statement yesterday, a Labour spokesperson confirmed Ms Shah’s suspension.

“Jeremy Corbyn and Naz Shah have mutually agreed that she is administratively suspended from the Labour Party by the General Secretary,” it read.

“Pending investigation, she is unable to take part in any party activity and the whip is removed.”

Ms Shah has apologised and initially resigned as parliamentary private secretary to Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell when the allegations first surfaced.

She used a point of order in the Commons to state her “deep sorrow” for her actions and to “wholeheartedly apologise” to the House.

“I accept and understand that the words I used caused upset and hurt to the Jewish community and I deeply regret that,” she said.

“Anti-Semitism is racism, full stop.”

SCANDALS

It is just the latest in a string of anti-Semitism controversies to have hit Labour in recent months.

Councillor Aysegul Gurbuz was suspended earlier this month after she reportedly branded Adolf Hitler the “greatest man in history”.

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.

That was followed by the suspension of a senior Labour councillor who appeared to post anti-Semitic messages on Facebook.

Reports also surfaced last month that Jewish under-graduates were harassed and intimidated by members of Oxford Labour Students.

And it has been claimed Jewish Labour MP Louise Ellman was being targeted by party members in her constituency.

'WRONG'

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show recently, Mr Corbyn argued anti-Semitism was "absolutely abhorrent and wrong" and said anyone in his party suspected of it was automatically booted out pending an investigation.

He added: "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 not 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."