EXCLUSIVE – Dame Louise Ellman: ‘I’m in a traumatic situation’
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EXCLUSIVE – Dame Louise Ellman: ‘I’m in a traumatic situation’

'I've taken the right decision but still feel agonised,' she tells Jewish News after quitting Labour over antisemitism

Dame Louise Ellman has told Jewish News that quitting Labour over antisemitism after more than half a century in the party has left her “in a traumatic situation.”

“I feel I’ve taken the right decision but I still feel agonised about it,” she said in an interview hours after finally leaving the party. “I feel I’m in a traumatic situation.”

The Liverpool Riverside MP, 73, cited growing speculation a general election is imminent as a triggering factor and said she “knew in her heart” she could not “ask people to vote Labour [….] while Jeremy Corbyn was leader.”

“I don’t know what’s in his heart but I do know he has presided over the unprecedented growth of antisemitism within the Labour Party and I hold him responsible,” she said.

Louise Ellman speaking in parliament.

When asked whether there were any moments when she was close to quitting Labour in the last four years, she said: “Up until now I’ve taken the view that it’s better to stay in the party and fight and expose what’s wrong.”

She has received backing from MPs and party members. “There have been some hostility as well […] but I feel very pleased to have had the support I’ve received,” she added.

But, notably, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has not reached out, she added. “I think he realises I am resolute in what I decided and he’s never given any indication that he’s willing to change his position,” she added.

Unlike her former Labour colleague Luciana Berger, Dame Louise pledged not to defect to another party and said “no one has been in touch.” But she has not “given any thought” on whether to contest the Liverpool Riverside seat as an independent in a general election.

“This is a completely new situation for me. I still feel the Labour Party is my political home but I can’t support it with its current leader and this is entirely new territory,” she said.

Dame Louise Ellman’s resignation letter

 

On the likelihood of Corbyn becoming PM, she said: “Anything is possible. We’re in an unprecedented situation where the established political order is breaking down and nobody could assume with any confidence what the outcome might be.”

Dame Louise, who says she will remain a member of Labour Friends of Israel, also revealed she submitted evidence to the EHRC investigation into allegations of institutional antisemitism in the party, for which a verdict is expected as early as January.

“I don’t know what the response will be but I know the EHRC has received overwhelming evidence of the Labour Party’s failure to deal with antisemitism properly,” she said.

One of the antisemitic posts shared by Labour activist Kayla Bibby

The MP referred the EHRC to a case involving the activist Kayla Bibby, who allegedly shared an image depicting the Statue of Liberty being smothered by a facehugger from the sci-fi movie Alien, with a Star of David on its back.

But Dame Louise remains hopeful and said she would wish to rejoin the party under a new leader, describing the party she has been a member of for 55 years as her “natural political home”.

Praising Margaret Hodge and Ruth Smeeth for being “at the forefront of the fight,” she paid tribute to the “overwhelming majority of Labour MPs here who have pursued Jeremy Corbyn on antisemitism and put forward very strong pressure on the Labour Party to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism.”

In a statement, a Labour spokesperson said: “Jeremy Corbyn thanks Louise Ellman for her service to the Labour party over many years.

“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.

“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.”

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