Labour’s parliamentary candidate in Finchley and Golders Green said on Wednesday that the antisemitism row had been “drummed up to such a level” by commentators.
Barnet councillor Sara Conway, selected by Labour to run against incumbent Tory Mike Freer, spoke to Jewish News amid growing speculation a general election is imminent.
While stressing that she was not seeking to “dismiss or push back” claims, she said she felt the row had been “whipped up”.
“You can’t weaponise without there being a problem but this issue has been weaponised by certain media commentators. I don’t mean necessarily in the community,” she said.
“I think it has been used. Look, the EHRC is looking into this, I am not trying to dismiss or push back on anything at all but I think there has been an element […] of the press and right-wing commentators that has drummed this up to such a level that it then becomes, if you look on Twitter, an endless back and forth that doesn’t work,” she added.
But Barnet Labour’s lead on communities and libraries also said she was “well aware” of concerns about the Labour leadership and had been active on the issue “from the start”.
She said: “I am very, very much a part of the community so I’ve heard and been aware of these issues for a long time. What has happened Labour-wise also came straight after the Israel-Gaza war and I think a feeling from the community of a very different way of how the community was perceived, rightly or wrongly.
“There was language. It felt a very horrible, uncomfortable time. That’s why I founded an interfaith Jewish Muslim women’s group at that time.”
Cllr Conway also pledged her commitment to ensuring Barnet Labour remains a safe space for Jews, describing her local party as “broadly very very supportive”, home to “moderate mainstream Jewish members.”
“Barnet Labour, we were at the ‘Enough is Enough demonstration. We’ve passed the IHRA, we passed that locally. We’ve called for action on Chris Williamson. My chair and I are waiting for a meeting with Jennie Formby to discuss the need for an independent system, on all cases, not just antisemitism, but on racism, homophobia, et cetera,” she said.
Later on, Cllr Conway expressed concern about the planned date for the snap general election that could disenfranchise religious voters if the vote falls during Sukkot.
“I don’t think it’s right,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how people are voting. I don’t think it’s great that it’s on Sukkot at all and I know that the postal vote can be difficult from what I understand, particularly with some of the communities.
“They should do it the 16th or the week before. It’s a busy month for Jewish communities.”