A Labour constituency meeting in Jeremy Coryn’s home turf of Islington last night descended into a debate about anti-Semitism in the party, according to those present.
The meeting, which was called to decide whether the constituency should back local MP Corbyn or challenger Owen Smith in next month’s leadership election, took place against a backdrop of ill feeling in the Jewish community, after Shami Chakrabarti was awarded a peerage by Corbyn following her report on anti-Semitism in the party.
Corbyn, who was not at the meeting, has been criticised for not doing enough to combat increasing incidents of anti-Semitism from new party members, and for rewarding Chakrabarti for a report variously described as “a whitewash”.
About 230 member of the Constituency Labour Party attended the Wednesday meeting, with around 150 queuing for a place outside, on a night that saw 266 people vote for Corbyn, while 100 voted for Smith.
Before the vote, however, comments from the floor caused angry shouting, with one audience member alleging that “it is very difficult in this country to get elected without the support of [media tycoon] Rupert Murdoch and the Israeli ambassador”.
Pagraig Reidy, a Jewish News contributor who attended, wrote: “Half the room gasped; the chair visibly cringed, and ordered the speaker to proceed very carefully. The speaker contended that anyone who stood up for Palestinians was ‘smeared’ as an anti-Semite. Everyone was very glad when he sat down.”
Later, when a woman in the audience took issue with these comments, “she found herself barracked by some of the audience for conflating anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism,” said Reidy, while “others responded in support”.