A Labour election candidate defended her chief campaigner after he wrote about a ‘Jewish final solution’, Jewish News can reveal.
Laura McAlpine, who is aiming to unseat Conservative Robert Halfon in Harlow in December’s election, supported top aide Brett Hawksbee in emails to colleagues, seen by Jewish News, despite one party official warning Hawksbee had “breached IHRA (the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism) in almost every single way possible”.
Hawksbee blogged in September 2018: “The fear of many on the left is that the ideological successors of the bombers of the King David Hotel, the mass murderers who decimated Deir Yassin, would be quite happy to see a pogrom in Gaza and the West Bank, a Jewish final solution to the Palestine problem.”
McAlpine resisted calls from party officials to publicly condemn the remarks. One email circulated to Labour staffers reads: “She (McAlpine) isn’t happy with the first line (of the apology) because she doesn’t want to be disloyal to someone who ‘organises so much for her and who she is on the phone with three times a day’.”
The email continues: “She also echoed his view that the context somewhat excuses the remarks. I made it clear that her loyalty is now to the reputation of the Labour Party but not sure what impact that made.”
According to local newspaper Your Harlow and the local Conservative group, McAlpine did not make a public statement over Hawksbee, but a statement condemning him was prepared by the party, to be released “in case of future comms enquiries”.
McAlpine told Jewish News: “I did not and would not defend Brett Hawksbee’s remarks in this blog. Brett’s comparison between Israel and the Nazis was unacceptable and last year he made a full apology for making such a comparison.”
She added: “I support all efforts to root antisemitism out of our party and to educate our members about antisemitism. This is a further example of why we all need to educate ourselves and listen to our Jewish brothers and sisters about antisemitism and the ways in which this ancient hatred is continuing to reinvent itself, so we can identify it and call it out.
“These age-old tropes surface in criticisms of Israel and we must educate ourselves so that we can ensure the movement supporting justice for Palestinians and the Labour movement are free from antisemitism and ensure that Jewish members of our movement feel safe and welcome.”
The Jewish Labour Movement said: “It’s unacceptable that Laura McAlpine stood by Brett Hawksbee despite his antisemitic comments because of his usefulness to her shows how little she cares about fighting racism.”
McAlpine’s Conservative rival Halfon said: “It’s incredibly sad that the virus of antisemitism in the Labour Party has reached our town of Harlow which is a kind, decent and tolerant place and has a strong and proud Jewish community and synagogue. It’s hard to believe that the Labour Party is being investigated for institutional antisemitism by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. But given what has allegedly happened with the Harlow Labour Party and candidate, I think people will understand why this is the case.”
Hawksbee, who since apologised, was pictured this week seated in the front row of a meeting in Harlow, alongside party leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer.
The activist has been a vocal supporter of Chris Williamson, who resigned from the party this week after being banned from standing in the election.
The Labour Party and Harlow Constituency Labour Party have been approached for comment.