Outrage after Labour MPs take part in meeting with expelled activists

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Outrage after Labour MPs take part in meeting with expelled activists

Former shadow ministers Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy addressed a Zoom call featuring the likes of Tony Greenstein and Jackie Walker.

Jackie Walker (right) with Tony Greenstein (left) in front of a Momentum banner outside the Labour Party's HQ
Jackie Walker (right) with Tony Greenstein (left) in front of a Momentum banner outside the Labour Party's HQ

The Board of Deputies has called for “swift and decisive action” after Labour MPs tuned into a Zoom call featuring expelled activists Tony Greenstein and Jackie Walker.

Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl said in a statement on Thursday: “As soon as we learnt about this we raised it with [Labour leader] Keir Starmer’s office and with the Labour whips.

“It is completely unacceptable that Labour MPs, and even ordinary members, should be sharing platforms with those that have been expelled from the party.

“Indeed, this breaches the Board of Deputies’ Ten Pledges that Keir and the other Labour leadership contenders signed up to. We would urge Labour to take swift and decisive action to show that this is a new era, rather than a false dawn.”

Former shadow ministers Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy spoke at the virtual meeting on Wednesday, entitled “Labour Leaks: lessons for the left” and organised by the pro-Jeremy Corbyn group Don’t Leave, Organise.

Other speakers were Fire Brigade Union general secretary Matt Wrack and Pamela Fitzpatrick, who contested at the last election the Harrow East seat held by Tory MP Bob Blackman.

Don’t Leave, Organise was formed earlier this month, after the Labour Representative Committee, Jewish Voice for Labour and Red Labour joined forces. The group says it is “aimed at uniting the broad range of groups working to preserve the gains of the Corbyn era and build a robust movement to contest the Tory government.”

Organisers said more than 600 online users tuned into the call, which was billed on social media as an opportunity to discuss a leaked report into alleged antisemitism in the party.

The Facebook description for the event claimed the report, now being investigated by the party, “showed the extent to which the party machinery was stacked against the left leadership and the majority of it’s [ sic] membership”.

A spokesperson for the Labour Party said: “The previous comments made by some of the individuals on this call are completely unacceptable.

“These are not people who support the values of the Labour Party. This is being made clear to the Labour MPs who attended the call in the strongest possible terms and they are being reminded of their responsibilities and obligations.”

A statement from Don’t Leave, Organise, shared on social media on Thursday, addressed some of the criticism. “As anyone familiar with using Zoom will be aware, screengrabs showing random arrangements of Zoom attendees’ pictures are clearly no reflection as to the role in the meeting of individual participants,” it read.

It went on: “The choice of contributors participating in the wider discussion that followed the four speeches was that of the meeting organisers, with no reference to, or agreement from, the platform speakers.

“None of the contributors who spoke from ‘the floor’ were involved in organising the meeting. All comments and contributions were based on the political points under discussion by members of the audience exercising their right to participate in a free discussion at an open meeting.”

Gideon Falter, chief executive of the anti-racism group Campaign Against Antisemitism, criticised Abbott and Ribeiro-Addy for joining the virtual meeting and suggested both MPs should be suspended.

He said: “The participation of Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy in an online conference with Jackie Walker and Tony Greenstein, is a brazen challenge to Sir Keir Starmer. During his leadership campaign, Sir Keir pledged that any MP who provides a platform for Labour members expelled in connection with antisemitism will themselves be suspended from Labour.

“Instead of keeping his promise and immediately suspending both Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy from the Party, Labour has merely ‘reminded them of their responsibilities’.”

A spokesperson for the two MPs said in a statement they “were not aware that any suspended or expelled former members of the Labour Party might contribute as audience members.

“They did not and would not share a platform with them. Both MPs are long-standing anti-racist campaigners and are known for standing up to all forms of bigotry.”

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