Jewish Labour MP Dame Louise Ellman said she won’t quit Labour, after the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) announced it is investigating the party over antisemitism claims.
The Liverpool Riverside MP bemoaned a “very shameful situation” after the EHRC said it was launching a formal probe this week, into whether Labour “unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they are Jewish”.
She made her remarks on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, saying the issue of antisemitism “has been festering for about three years now.
“The Labour Party hasn’t taken proper action against antisemitism within its own ranks and now the EHRC, itself set up by the Labour Party, is investigating the party itself for antisemitism, it’s a very shameful situation to have reached.”
The party, she said, needed to have taken “immediate action”, but had for long a time “denied there was a problem” and there was a “clear campaign where it was alleged that people making allegations of antisemitism were doing so simply to smear the leader of the Labour Party”.
Dame Louise told Today: “The party has simply failed to act, it has responded when there has been public exposure of its failings, but otherwise it hasn’t acted.”
In the wake of the announcement the EHRC was investigating, Labour expelled former spin doctor for Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell.
MP Jess Phillips claimed that Campbell, who was kicked out for voting Liberal Democrat during the EU elections, faced action more quickly than a Holocaust denier in her constituency, who still remains suspended.
Ellman went on to say “there’s quite a contrast there with the speed of action. Alastair Campbell was expelled very quickly indeed, as I understand it without any kind of hearing, whereas the allegations of antisemitism just roll on and very little action is taken.”
People who are found guilty of antisemitism, she said, should be expelled, cases should not be allowed to drag on and there “should not be any interference from people involved in the leader’s office with staff who are looking at cases of antisemitism”.
Dame Louise said she was “struggling with it”, adding: “I don’t want to leave the Labour Party and I’ve decided to campaign on these issues from within.”
She added: “I certainly couldn’t say I will never leave the party, but it is true to say that I find it extremely difficult to leave the party that I’ve been so involved with and represented over so very many years.”
I certainly couldn’t say I will never leave the party, but it is true to say that I find it extremely difficult to leave the party that I’ve been so involved with and represented over so very many years
Following the announcement that the EHRC was investigating, a Labour Party spokesperson said it “is fully committed to the support, defence and celebration of the Jewish community and is implacably opposed to antisemitism in any form.
“We reject any suggestion that the Party does not handle antisemitism complaints fairly and robustly or that the Party has acted unlawfully, and we will continue to cooperate fully with the EHRC.
The Jewish community roundly criticised the “damming” probe, with Ellman’s Liverpool colleague, Luciana Berger, formerly of Labour and who now sits with Change UK – The Independent Group, saying that the fact Labour “even met the evidenciary threshold is damning.”
The Jewish Labour Movemen, alongside communal bodies including the Board of Deputies, Community Security Trust and Jewish Leadership Council condemned the party’s inaction over antisemitism claims.