Labour MPs at 'breaking point' over anti-Semitism row, says Chuka Umunna

Posted On: 
14th August 2018

Labour MPs are being "pushed to breaking point" by the party's battle with anti-Semitism, prominent backbencher Chuka Umunna has warned.

Chuka Umunna said that his party had allowed anti-Semitism to flourish
PA Images

The Streatham MP and former shadow business secretary urged Jeremy Corbyn's Shadow Cabinet to hold an “emergency meeting” to deal with the problem, and said anti-Jewish abuse had been allowed to "flourish" in the party.

Labour has come in for criticism from a string of Jewish community groups in recent weeks after its ruling body decided against adopting the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Definition (IHRA) of anti-Semitism and its accompanying examples of abuse.

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Writing in the Independent, Mr Umunna said the party's top team now needed to take "collective action" to tackle the mounting crisis, and claimed that backbench MPs were scared out speak out in case they faced deselection for criticising Mr Corbyn.

"In this context, it is extraordinary that Labour’s Shadow Cabinet has not held an emergency meeting to get a grip and bring an end to this crisis – they are the party’s leadership, after all, so it is not unreasonable to expect some concrete collective action," he wrote.

The MP added: "In spite of the silence of most of the Parliamentary Labour Party – driven by a fear of deselection if they speak out – there is no doubt that most Labour MPs are as horrified as I am by the anti-Semitism which has been exposed in the party in recent months.

"Many feel that they are being pushed to breaking point."

Mr Umunna, who has been an outspoken critic of the Labour leader on a string of issues, said Labour's handling of the crisis was undermining its ability to hold the Conservatives to account following the furore over Boris Johnson's description of Muslim women wearing the niqab as "letterboxes".

He warned: "Part of the reason I joined Labour was because I believed it to be anti-racist, which is why this latest development sickens me and I have not hesitated publicly to say so. The fact that arguably the same can be said of the Tories with regard to the Muslim community makes this no less appalling."


He also waded into the latest row over claims that Mr Corbyn laid a wreath at a grave for Palestinians accused of the 1972 massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics.

Labour has said the leader's 2014 visit to the Palestine National Cemetry in Tunisia was to honour the victims of a 1985 Israeli airstrike, and Mr Corbyn has said he does not "think" he was "involved" in a wreath-laying for those accused of the Munich attack.

But Mr Umunna said: “It is precisely because of the leader’s past utterances and actions on these matters, and his sharing of platforms with those that promote extreme views, that the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs did not believe he was fit to lead the party in the first instance."

He added: "The very serious questions regarding the leader’s presence at a wreath-laying ceremony in Tunisia in 2014 are just the latest example of this."

Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell last night pushed back at criticism from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who urged "unequivocal condemnation" of the Labour leader.