Both local and national politicians continued the debate on Friday over anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and the extent to which it impacted Thursday’s local elections.
Barnet’s Labour leader Barry Rawlings said “inaction” on anti-Semitism by the party had had an effect at the polling station, with the council becoming Conservative from a position of ‘no overall majority,’ despite a push by Labour to win it back.
“Anti-Semitism certainly has had an effect, but it’s had an effect round here for two years, when Ken Livingstone wasn’t dealt with properly at the time,” said Rawlings, in an interview with Sky News.
Describing how 11 of the local party’s 63 candidates were Jewish, including a senior rabbi and a former Major in the IDF, he said of anti-Semitism: “There’s been inaction. It has made a difference. It’s been very bad for us. There are signs that some action has [now] been taken and I have good hope for the future. But there’s been a lot of faffing around. Sometimes you just have to say ‘we’re going to cut this out.’”
In a statement, he later thanked Barnet’s Jews who voted Labour, but said “too many didn’t…It wasn’t because they disagreed with our manifesto, but because they felt Labour had failed to deal with anti-Semitism at a national level. They are right.”
A spokeswoman for Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) said: “For the second time within a year, England has seen the electoral impact of the Labour Party’s problem with anti-Semitism. For the party of anti-racism to lose seats because of anti-Semitism is a sad chapter in our proud history.”
She added that JLM would be meeting the Party’s new General-Secretary, Jennie Formby, next week, after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tasked Formby with prioritising action on anti-Semitism, including resources to speed up the processing of investigations and hearings.
Meanwhile Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth MP rejected claims by Dawn Butler MP that Labour’s former General-Secretary, Iain McNicol, was to blame for the party’s problems with anti-Semitism: Ashworth said: “It’s nothing to do with Iain McNicol. It’s a nonsense.”
Shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne acknowledged the party needed to do more to restore the confidence of the Jewish community.
“We have got a job to do which is to rebuild trust and confidence with the Jewish community,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
“I see it as my job as Labour’s shadow communities secretary to help rebuild that trust with the Jewish community.
“There are so many Jewish people that do share Labour’s values, that do want to see a progressive, left-of-centre government supported by a progressive, left-of-centre group of councillors.
“We have got a job to do. That means that we have to tackle the issue of anti-Semitism.”
At the end of April, union leader and Corbyn backer Len McClusky wrote an article in New Statesman pointing the finger at McNicol, saying it was “his responsibility” to implement the Chakrabarti Report on anti-Semitism, which made recommendations that were not followed through.