Up to 1,000 people have descended on Labour’s headquarters to protest the party’s handling of anti-Semitism, and particularly to condemn leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The demonstration, organised by the Campaign against Antisemitism, was the second to he held amid the crisis in two weeks and came as a poll for the Guardian revealed half the electorate believe the party has a problem with the issue.
Unlike the last rally outside Parliament Square attended by forty Labour parliamentarians and many from other parties, no senior politicians addressed the crowds today.
Actress Maureen Lipman, a vocal critic of the last two Labour leaders, said she was there as a “disenfranchised socialist”, adding: “How scary that we have to be here at all today.”
While she claimed that what had been heard from other speakers pointed to Corbyn himself being anti-Semite, she said “I think he believes himself to be an anti-racist”. Attending the Jewdas seder, she said, was the “cherry on the cake of his behaviour” around the Jewish community. She demanded he join the Board of Deputies for a seder next year.
Chants of ‘shame’ and boos repeatedly greeted any mention Corbyn and some of his allies, while some loudly called for ‘Corbyn out’ throughout the 90-minute event – something that was lately absent from the event organised by the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council.
When former Labour donor David Abrahams called stressed the need to find a way to work with the party and then protested calls demanding the leader go, he faced hostile shouts of ‘off, off, off’.
Holocaust survivor Agnes Grunwald-Spier decried the “irony” of the emergence of the world’s oldest hatred in Labour. “Indifference,” she said “is more dangerous than anger and hatred. Not to act is to act. Not to speak is to speak.” But she contrasted inaction to the position of John Mann MP, who was roundly applauded.
There was also a warning against silence in the Jewish community from Rabbi Joseph Dweck’s of the S&P Sephardi Community, who made no explicit mention of Labour or Corbyn.
But he said: “We stand here in this great country which not long ago led the rest of the world against the evil of the Nazis…We must not allow not words, not whispers of antisemitism in these shores.
“Standing silent allows for hate to take hold. Sometimes you need to preach to the choir that this is not the time to be silent. No one else will take care if we don’t.” He described the rally as the “first step”.
Several speakers from CAA took to the podium, suggesting Labour’s anti-racist credentials “lay in tatters” and accusing the party of failing to put effective processes in place. Attendees were encouraged to back a formal disciplinary complaint – rejected by the party – against Corbyn over his questioning the removal of a mural featuring anti-Semitic imagery in 2012.
Gideon Falter, the group’s chairman, said matters have “deteriorated” since the communal rally two weeks ago. He added: “Labour must lead by example and show that Jeremy Corbyn is bound by the same rules as Leader as he was as a backbencher, by investigating the disciplinary complaint we have filed against him for bringing the Party into disrepute.”
He added, that had things not progressed, CAA would be back to demonstrate on 13 May.
Amid the current crisis, Corbyn has apologised for the hurt caused by antisemitism in Labour and acknowledged it goes beyond a “few bad apples”. He has also vowed to make it a priority of the new Secretary General to full implement the Chakrabarti report.
The BOD and JLC – who weren’t represented at today’s event – are due to meet Corbyn for their first face to face talks in two years.
CAA speakers also used the opportunity to attack the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) for lack of general prosecutions over claims of antisemitism.
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