John McDonnell admits antisemitism ‘has had its effect’ on election chances
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John McDonnell admits antisemitism ‘has had its effect’ on election chances

Labour's shadow chancellor reiterates apology to Jewish community and insists the party has 'done everything we can possibly do' to root it out

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

John McDonnell has admitted he worries the issue of antisemitism within Labour may have impacted on the party’s chances of winning the General Election.

The shadow chancellor said his party have “done everything we can possibly do”, but “want to learn more lessons”.

He added that there were only “a small number” of antisemites in the Labour Party, and that they have “started kicking them out in numbers”.

His comments were made on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show after a Sunday Times report claimed Labour is still overwhelmed with complaints about anti-Jewish racism that have been left unresolved for months or years.

A Labour Party spokesperson said: “All of these individuals are either expelled or suspended, and these claims about numbers of cases are categorically untrue.”

Mr McDonnell described the issue of antisemitism as “horrible”.

Asked whether if Labour loses the upcoming election, antisemitism will have been part of the reason, Mr McDonnell said: “I worry that this has had its effect, and we’ve done everything I think we can possibly do.

“We’ve apologised to the Jewish community.”

Questioned on whether he really believes Labour have done all they can do, he added: “We’ve always got to learn lessons, of course we have, all political parties – but it isn’t just the Labour Party – I want us to be a shining model.

“I apologise to the Jewish community for the suffering we’ve inflicted on them, I say to them we’re doing everything possible, we want to learn more lessons and we want to be the shining example of anti-racism that the Labour Party should be.”

Rebutting claims in The Sunday Times that more than 130 cases remain outstanding, Mr McDonnell said there were only ever “a small number” of antisemites in his party.

“It wasn’t so many people, it was a small number, but I don’t care how many people, one antisemite in our party is too many, and what we’re doing is we’ve started kicking them out in numbers,” he said.

Questioned whether the figure of outstanding complaints of antisemitic behaviour is accurate, he added: “No it isn’t, from my understanding.”

He continued: “The individuals they’ve named we’ve kicked out, that’s the first thing, the numbers they’re talking about we’ve dealt with.

“My understanding is well below that, and there will be a report in the normal way published in January.”

Mr McDonnell also repeated that he was “angry” that the Labour Party “weren’t quick enough or ruthless enough” in dealing with the issue, but that “the new procedures are dealing with that”.

He added that this is something which the report “doesn’t take into account”.

Mr McDonnell also said that we was working within the Labour Representation Committee to “challenge” issues of antisemitism.

“Well I’m working within the LRC to challenge those issues and I think I can turn the LRC around on these particular issues. There’s a debate going on,” he said.

McDonnell has been criticised in the past for refusing to distance himself from the LRC, which he helped found, as is the president of. The group has previously dismissed antisemitism claims in the Labour Party as “ruling class propaganda“.

When Jewish News exclusively interviewed John McDonnell in 2018, the paper asked him if he was comfortable remaining president of the Labour Representation Committee that had previously said the Ken Livingstone case was a ‘witch hunt’.

The Shadow Chancellor said he was “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.”

On Tuesday, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn admitted on ITV’s This Morning that he was “very sorry for everything that has happened” regarding antisemitism in the Labour Party.

But on Thursday, the Jewish Labour Movement called on the Equality Human Rights Commission to urge the Labour Party to acknowledge it has become “institutionally antisemitic”.

Last month the Chief Rabbi strongly criticised Labour for not doing enough to root out anti-Jewish racism, and asked people to “vote with their conscience” in the upcoming General Election.

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