Labour’s candidate for Ilford South has accused some “people associated” with the party of seeking to “exploit” the row over antisemitism due to a foreign policy clash with party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Sam Tarry made the remarks at a hustings on Wednesday evening in response to a question on the Labour antisemitism row. “I think it’s extremely troubling,” he said, in reference to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) investigation into claims of institutional antisemitism in the party.
But he added: “I also think it’s extremely troubling that there are people associated with the Labour Party who have sought to exploit the issue just because they don’t agree with Jeremy Corbyn over an issue of foreign policy.
“I’ll put this on record now. Jeremy Corbyn is not an antisemite and I do not believe for one second that he is.”
Please watch my full response to a question about anti-semitism during last night's Ilford South hustings. pic.twitter.com/qKIdnQpEzf
— Sam Tarry (@SamTarry) November 28, 2019
On whether Corbyn should personally apologise, he said: “I think that he has apologised and that he should apologise. Yes I do agree with that.
“Look, many of my friends here when I was at Highlands School were Jewish people. They still are my friends this day. I go to West Ham to watch the football with a group of Jewish young people.
“And the fact is the Jewish community, whether we like it or not, in the Labour Party, is hurting and hurting badly. And we have to listen and put in place the things, and make the changes necessary, so we can win back the hearts and minds of the Jewish community.”
A spokesperson for the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) told the Jewish Chronicle: “Sam Tarry is right that the Jewish community is deeply hurt, that Corbyn should apologise and that Labour must listen and make the necessary changes.
“So it’s beyond disappointing that in the next breath he plays to the gallery and produces a tired old trope that the EHRC inquiry – instigated by JLM’s referral – is motivated by a desire to smear Corbyn, rather than confront racism.
“Given his record in fighting racists and the BNP (British National Party), we would expect much better of him.”
JLM, along with the groups Campaign Against Antisemitism and Labour Against Antisemitism, submitted dossiers detailing allegations of antisemitism to the EHRC.
In a statement to Jewish News, Tarry said his comment was directed at former Labour MP Mike Gapes, who took part in the hustings. “I was clearly referring to Mike Gapes, who was participating in the hustings, and is not Jewish,” he said.
“I was not referring to Jewish people who have expressed genuine and serious concerns about antisemitism in our party, as have I, and I continue to stand in solidarity with the Jewish community against prejudice.”
Tarry added: “I was explicitly clear that the Jewish community is deeply hurting over this issue, and we as a movement must listen and make all necessary changes. This is shown in my full response at last night’s hustings, rather than the edited video.
The Labour Party was approached for comment.