Labour MPs attack Jennie Formby over antisemitism data report

Labour MPs attack Jennie Formby over antisemitism data report

MPs write to Corbyn demanding a vote on antisemitism motion at Shadow Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. Wes Streeting says Formby report "did not pass the smell test"

Joe Millis is a journalist

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn laughs next to Jennie Formby at last year's conference in Brighton.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn laughs next to Jennie Formby at last year's conference in Brighton.

Labour MP Catherine McKinnell this week attacked as “unacceptable” that party general secretary Jennie Formby or anyone else from the leadership failed to attend Monday’s parliamentary meeting to discuss antisemitism.

The Newcastle upon Tyne North MP had put forward a motion to the parliamentary group last week as “far too many cases of anti-Semitism remain unsolved”.

And MPs Luciana Berger, Ruth Smeeth, Wes Streeting, Margaret Hodge, John Mann, Louise Ellman and McKinnell have written to Jeremy Corbyn, accusing leadership of failing to comply with Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) antisemitism motion and calling for a vote on it at Shadow Cabinet tomorrow (Tuesday).

The MPs also want a reply in writing to their letter, by Wednesday 13 February, where Corbyn will address “in full” the 11 issues raised in the PLP motion.

The heated meeting, on Monday night, came hours after Formby revealed in an email to MPs that a mere 12 out of hundreds of cases of Labour antisemitism had led to the member being expelled.

Catherine McKinnell MP

However, MPs at Monday’s meeting said that there were “thousands” of outstanding cases, which had been omitted from the figures Formby released.

Formby also said she had “seen hard evidence” of antisemitism in the Party under her watch.

In the email, Formby also has had “private meetings with individuals from several Jewish community organisations” to explore how to implement the Party’s code of conduct on antisemitism.

This would include the adoption of the IHRA definition of Jew-hate with all its examples.

She wrote: “Following the NEC adoption of the IHRA definition and the 11 associated examples, I contacted the Board of Deputies, CST, JLC and JLM to ask whether they now felt able to re-engage with us to continue consultation on our Code of Conduct.”

A Labour spokesperson explained that no one from leadership attended Monday’s meeting due to its nature, describing it as a “business meeting”.

The spokesperson stressed that Formby was not “running scared”, but would answer MPs’ questions at a later date.

Wes Streeting said that the data provided by Formby “did not pass the smell test”, while Luciana Berger said: “It is absolutely disgraceful that no one from the leadership can show their face.”

Louise Ellman (left), Lilian Greenwood, Wes Streeting and John Mann (second from right)

Speaking after the meeting, Dame Margaret Hodge said: “We don’t know if the data is complete. Trust has broken down, so they’ve got to be much more open.”

Ruth Smeeth said: “The PLP is united on this issue and the leadership aren’t providing what we need. The data is unrealistic. It only starts in April 2018, but we know of thousands of complaints that were submitted before then.

Ruth Smeeth (left) and Luciana Berger

“But these people are not going to hound me out of the Labour party – we’re going to stay and fix this.

“We need genuine leadership and we need them to turn up to provide it. I wish this was over, every Jewish MP wishes this was over, but it’s not over and we’re not going to keep quiet until antisemitism has gone from the Labour party.”

Berger herself read out vile antisemitic messages and images she had been sent by a Labour member, who had still not been kicked out.

There was also an angry contribution from John Mann MP, who has been at the forefront of the fight against Labour antisemitism.

In an angry speech, Mann spoke of the vicious hatred directed at him and his family by individuals he said were “Labour members”.

He said he felt the viciousness of antisemitic hate even though he was not Jewish himself. Mann also praised the courage of Jewish MPs who faced even worse hate.

Former general secretary Iain McNicol angrily attacked Formby’s “plainly wrong” claim that accurate date on the issue was not available under his term in office.

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