Calls for John McDonnell to resign from Labour group backing suspended members
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Calls for John McDonnell to resign from Labour group backing suspended members

The group published a statement from Jewish Voice for Labour describing the expulsion of Jackie Walker as a 'travesty of justice'

Justin Cohen is the News Editor at the Jewish News

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell. Photo credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell. Photo credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

The Board of Deputies has written to John McDonnell urging him to step down as honorary president of a Labour group that has backed suspended and expelled party members.

It came after the Labour Representation Committee published a statement from Jewish Voice for Labour describing the expulsion of Jackie Walker as a “travesty of justice”.

Action was taken against the former Momentum vice-chair this week for bringing the party into disrepute including over comments which may reasonably be deemed antisemitic.

She remains on the LRC board – to which she was elected last month at a conference addressed by McDonnell.

In a letter to McDonnell today, Board President Marie van der Zyl said he had shown leadership on the issue of antisemitism on occasions including by challenging an LBC caller who suggested suggestions of antisemitism were “smears”.

But she wrote: “The organisation has repeatedly defended and campaigned for individuals who have a long history of denying the problem of antisemitism in the Labour Party.

“The LRC have also campaigned against the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism, contravening Labour Party policy.

“On the basis of this, we ask that you stand down from your position as President of the organisation. This is a matter of great concern to the Jewish community.”

As well as Walker, she specifically pointed to support given to Chris Williamson and Marc Wadsworth.

McDonnell has yet to comment on the expulsion but a spokesperson for the shadow chancellor told Jewish News: “John has no day to day involvement in the operation of the LRC.”

Walker was initially disciplined after saying that “many Jews were chief financiers of the slave trade”, before being quickly readmitted after an investigation.

Walker was again suspended in October 2016 after being filmed at a Jewish Labour Movement training event at the party’s annual conference, saying Holocaust Memorial Day should include other genocides – which it already does.

She also said she had not yet seen a definition of antisemitism she could “work with”.

Since her suspension, Walker has been touring the country with a film about how she was “lynched” by Israel supporters, after she was twice suspended.

In an interview with Jewish News last year, McDonnell described the row over the IHRA definition as an “absolute nightmare” and called for greater dialogue with the community.

But asked if he was uncomfortable to be associated with the LRC, he said: “I’m not going to disassociate myself from an organisation I founded because they disagree with me or I disagree with them on these particular issues because on most issues I agree with them and they have been a beneficial force in the Labour party and in other policy areas.

“I’ve made my position clear, I completely disagree if I’m honest.”

The LRC has been contacted for comment.

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