A Labour official who opposed the suspension of a council candidate accused of anti-Semitism should remain on the party’s ruling executive, John McDonnell has said.
The shadow chancellor admitted Labour should have implemented measures to deal with hostility in the party to Jews “ages ago” and appeared to blame Iain McNicol, who recently quit as general secretary.
Christine Shawcroft said she was “wrong and misguided” in her handling of a complaint about anti-Semitism as she was forced to stand down as chairwoman of Labour’s disputes panel.
Mr McDonnell insisted it was right that Ms Shawcroft had quit the post, but said she did not need to also resign from the National Executive Committee.
Asked if she should step down from the ruling body, he told Sky News: “Well, no. Jeremy has asked her to stand down as the chair of the disputes committee.”
He added: “She’s not at the head of that committee (the NEC). It is an elected position and it is up to the electorate to decide whether or not she should be elected again.”
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Mr McDonnell insisted the party did not tolerate any form of anti-Semitism but said the latest furore was “worrying”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Any form of anti-Semitism will not be tolerated in our party. We are bringing forward mechanisms. They should have been implemented ages ago but they will be now, under the new general secretary.”
The shadow chancellor said Labour “woke up” to the problem of anti-Semitism two years ago “when it was pointed out to us” and the party had brought in Shami Chakrabarti to investigate. The former Liberty boss was later made a peer and given a job in the shadow cabinet.
Mr McDonnell said Jennie Formby, who is replacing Mr McNicol, will implement the findings of the peer’s report.
He added: “We launched the Chakrabarti report. They have not been implemented effectively. We’ve now brought in a new general secretary. They will be implemented.”
Ms Shawcroft said she was sorry to have sent an email calling for the suspension of a council candidate to be lifted.
Labour sources said the controversy centred on Alan Bull, who was suspended from the party last week after being accused of being responsible for anti-Semitic posts on social media. He has said they were “doctored screenshots”, according to reports.
Ms Shawcroft said: “I sent this email before being aware of the full information about this case and I had not been shown the image of his abhorrent Facebook post. Had I seen this image, I would not have requested that the decision to suspend him be re-considered. I am deeply sorry for having done so.
“This week we have seen a clear expression of the pain and hurt that has been caused to Jewish members of our party and the wider Jewish community by anti-Semitic abuse and language, and by the reality of anti-Semitism being denied and downplayed by others. In light of this, I have decided to stand down as Chair of the Disputes Panel to ensure my wrong and misguided questions on this case do not cause doubt or anxiety about our processes.”
Luton South MP Gavin Shuker wrote on Twitter: “If this is true, Christine Shawcroft doesn’t just need to step down from chairing the disputes panel; she needs referring to it.”
Jennifer Gerber, director of the Labour Friends of Israel, said: “Christine Shawcroft should be suspended from the Labour Party and kicked off the NEC.”
The resignation came as Jeremy Corbyn pledged to deal with 70 outstanding cases involving claims of anti-Semitism within Labour ranks as soon as possible.
Senior Jewish leaders have demanded the Labour leader disowns supporters who had “vilified” anti-Semitism protesters.
In a letter to the Labour leader, the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) said it was a “disgrace” that people who joined a demonstration against anti-Semitism in the Labour Party had been subjected to “abuse and insults”.
They said Labour members and Labour-supporting blogs driving the abuse were “largely doing so in your name”, undermining his pledge to eliminate anti-Semitism in the party.