New rules on racism to be voted on at Labour conference

New rules on racism to be voted on at Labour conference

Proposed changes would make anti-Semitism as serious an offence as supporting another party

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn

New proposed Labour rules that would make racism and anti-Semitism as serious an offence as support of another party will be voted on at its annual conference next week, Jeremy Corbyn has said.

The Labour leader said the plans put forward by the Jewish Labour Movement to put racial discrimination on an equal footing with disloyalty will come to the floor at the Liverpool conference, which begins on Sunday.

Speaking at a Jewish community leadership hustings held at JW3 by Jewish News, Mr Corbyn said: “Yes it will be going to conference and it follows on from the general anti-racism statement I proposed to the National Executive (Committee) some months ago which was actually unanimously agreed by the NEC.”

He added: “There’s something really sad that we’re the only political party that’s ever had a statement of general anti-racism.”

Mr Corbyn’s leadership rival Owen Smith said he would also back the new rule and suggested it was particularly relevant.

“I think particularly the way in which the rule change has been framed does make a very stark point,” Mr Smith said.

“Really I felt it very sharply that we have previously treated supporting an alternative party as a more serious offence than articulating anti-Semitic or other racist or homophobic, for example, views.

“That cannot be right.”

Labour has been dogged by allegations of anti-Semitism since Mr Corbyn took over as leader, with one row leading to the suspension of former London mayor Ken Livingstone and temporary suspension of MP Naz Shah.

A subsequent review of racism in the party by former Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti, who has since been given a peerage by the Labour leader, was criticised by Jewish leaders and MPs after it found the Labour Party ”is not overrun by anti-Semitism, Islamophobia or other forms of racism”.

The new rules Mr Corbyn said will go to conference will first have to clear the hurdle of a meeting of the NEC on Tuesday, but it would appear a formality given that both candidates back it at least reaching the annual meeting.

The final leadership hustings was held at a Jewish community centre and touched on themes which have been at the centre of scandal in recent months.

Candidates were asked about Zionism, anti-Semitism, faith schools and dwindling Jewish support for the Labour party.

Mr Smith said there had been a “precipitous drop-off” in Jewish support over the last year and that should be “gnawing at our insides”.

Mr Corbyn was heckled for apparently avoiding a question about the sharp decline in Jewish Labour voters.

“Why aren’t Jews supporting Labour?” and “He hasn’t answered,” were shouted from the audience.

Pushed by moderator Lucy Manning, of the BBC, he said some of the issues “pre-dated” his leadership.

He added: “I want everyone to understand this: there is no place in the Labour party for anti-Semitism of any sort.”

Mr Corbyn faced questions about sharing platforms with Muslim extremists, with someone in the audience shouting out “Press TV” – a reference to his appearances on the Iranian state-TV propaganda channel.

He was also pressed on the re-admittance to the party of writer Jackie Walker, and why there had been no apology to victims of abuse at Oxford University Labour club.

When asked why Ken Livingstone had not been banned, Mr Smith said: “I suspect Ken will be let back into the party and I suspect Jeremy didn’t want to suspend him in the first place.”

The event was run by Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish News and hosted at the JW3 community and culture centre in north London.

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