Labour MP Mike Gapes will ‘consider his position’ if NEC fails to adopt IHRA
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Labour MP Mike Gapes will ‘consider his position’ if NEC fails to adopt IHRA

Warning from politician comes amid reports Labour may be prepared to accept IHRA definition in full with extra protections to allow criticism

Justin Cohen is the News Editor at the Jewish News

Mike Gapes MP
Mike Gapes MP

Labour MP Mike Gapes will “consider his position” in the party if its governing body fails to adopt the international Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition with all the examples.

The warning came as reports emerged that Labour is now “open” accepting the full definition with all 11 accompanying examples.

The party’s national executive committee last month provoked widespread anger by adopting a code of conduct on tackling anti-Semitism that included the IHRA definition but only seven of its examples, despite pleas from dozens of rabbis and the community’s main representative bodies to reject it. The NEC instead agreed to consult the community, having all but failed to do so before adopting the policy.

With the parliamentary Labour party set to vote on 5 September on a motion to accept the full IHRA text into its rulebook, Gapes told the Jewish News earlier this week: “I’m going to vote for the full IHRA definition to be in our standing orders. I’m confident there will be overwhelming support but it’ll then be up to the NEC. If they want to have a confrontation with the PLP it would be stupid but it’ll be a seminal moment for the party.

“For me fighting anti-Semitism is part of who I am and I won’t be put in a position where I’m complicit in not fighting it in an effective and principled way.” While the Ilford South MP remains loathed to be driven out of the party he has been a member of for 50 years – “If you cut me open I bleed Labour” – he said he would be forced to “consider my position” if Labour remain unmoved on the issue.

It comes after the Chuka Umunna warned that many of his parliamentary colleagues felt they are being “pushed to breaking point” over the ongoing anti-Semitism scandal engulfing the party.

The party is set for a showdown over the definition when MPs return from the summer recess, with three key unions with representatives on the governing body calling for full adoption to build bridges with Anglo-Jewry. Jewish News revealed two weeks ago that Corbyn was ready to accept three of the four missing examples of possible anti-Semitism but has said he believes the fourth – the allegation that Israel is a ‘racist endeavour’ – could be used to quell legitimate criticism of Israel.

The Guardian today reports that adopting that example “would be contingent on finding a way to navigate free speech issues, such as by adding extra protections to the code of conduct”. The paper said it was hoped the issue could be resolved before the vote by MPs.

After not being consulted before the code’s adoption, the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council have refused to meet Labour as part of its consultation.

Last weekend, Gapes twice tweeted “I agree with Margaret Hodge” after being asked directly on Twitter whether he believes the Labour leader is anti-Semitic, as suggested by the former minister when she clashed with Corbyn in the House of Commons. MPs would have been “incandescent” if the threat of disciplinary action against her had not been dropped, he said, adding: “Fighting anti-Semitism is central to why I’m Labour. I’M certainly not going to pull my punches now.”

He was challenged on social media after posting an article alleging Corbyn paid tribute to terrorists involved in the Munich Olympics massacre, after the Daily Mail published pictures of him holding a wreath close ton the graves of figures from Black September – the group behind the notorious attack in 1972.

Corbyn initially said he was present but didn’t “think” he was involved, insisting he was at the event only to remember the victims of a bombing of a PLO base in Tunis. He has since claimed he did not lay a wreath for those responsible for the Munich atrocity.

“I was shocked to see the photos of that ceremony,” said Gapes, who also pointed to Corbyn’s failure so far to take up an invitation to commemorate victims of the Shoah at Yad Vashem in Israel. He said: “I am sickened by this. He should have made strenuous efforts to deal with this issue. It is now too late for him to change perceptions. The problem is now one for the Labour Party as a whole.”

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