Labour has a “much larger” group of members with hardcore antisemitic views than previously thought and must be more proactive in rooting them out, Momentum founder Jon Lansman has said.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Lansman, who is Jewish, said the problem was in part due to the trebling in size of Labour’s membership since Jeremy Corbyn took the helm, with some 300,000 new members.
He said: “I do think we have a major problem and it always seems to me that we underestimate the scale of it. I think it is a widespread problem.
“I think it is now obvious that we have a much larger number of people with hardcore antisemitic opinions which unfortunately is polluting the atmosphere in a lot of constituency parties and in particular online. We have to deal with these people.”
Lansman said he was “extremely upset” by Luciana Berger’s departure, but rejected her claim that the party is “institutionally antisemitic”, adding: “I think any Jewish member of the party leaving the party because of antisemitism is a source of tremendous regret and sadness and some shame.”
His intervention came after Watson announced on Sunday that he was sending a dossier of 50 complaints of antisemitism to Corbyn and calling on him to take a “personal lead” in examining them and recommending action.
Lansman said he welcomed the move, saying: “I think it is a responsibility of everyone in the Labour Party, from the top to the bottom, to report cases.
“I think we should be more proactive in going out and seeking cases, so I welcome that.”
But Lansman was wary of calls for Corbyn to take personal charge.
“Jeremy Corbyn has been an anti-racist campaigner all his life, I have known him for decades and I do absolutely believe in his commitment to eradicate that,” he said.
“I think he is overseeing the party’s battle against antisemitism. I’m not sure about him taking personal responsibility for cases.
“I think if he did that, some people might argue that that would be inappropriate.”
Meanwhile, Labour has declined to comment on reports that Corbyn is to meet former justice secretary Lord Falconer of Thoroton to discuss how the party can tackle the issue of antisemitism.
Corbyn was said to be considering asking the peer, a former flatmate of Tony Blair, to be the party’s antisemitism surveillance commissioner, with full oversight of how it handles complaints and decision-making processes.