A prominent Labour activist who caused anger after ranting about Jewish “Trump fanatics” last year, has doubled-down on his remarks in a late-night twitter rant.
Pete Willsman, who retained his place on Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) in September 2018, asked his “empty-headed critics” to provide evidence of claimed antisemitism in the party.
This comes after he was recorded ranting in an NEC meeting about Jews who were “Trump fanatics” and demanding 70 rabbis produce “evidence of widespread antisemitism in the Labour Party”.
This comes after 69 faith leaders, including Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, wrote to the party issuing their grave concerns about “severe and widespread” Jew-hatred in the opposition party.
Following Willsman’s claims, there were calls for him to be removed from the slate for the NEC, while Jeremy Corbyn support group Momentum dropped support for him, even though other left-wing supporters like Chris Williamson MP insisted Willsman had learned his lessons.
The NEC member narrowly avoided losing his spot on the body by saying he’d enlist himself in antisemitism training – which it is not yet known as to whether he attended.
Taking to Twitter at 1:35 AM on Thursday morning, he wrote: “At the NEC I asked for evidence to support the accusation that anti sem[itisim] in the Labour Party is ”widespread and severe”.To ask such a question is not anti sem.Will my empty-headed critics please show me where the evidence is to support this ridiculous assertion.”
Labour activist and former Barnet councillor Adam Langleben responded to Willsman, saying: “the reference to the 68 Rabbis, including my own, as ‘Jewish Trump fanatics’ & accusing them of fabricating what they have been told by their congregants was the serious issue. Your tweet shows ZERO contrition. Have you completed equalities training yet?”
In other tweets sent by Willsman, he says his “normal way of speaking can seem a bit ranting to those who do not know me”.
Simon Johnson, Chief Executive of the Jewish Leadership Council commented: “The Leader of the Labour Party has accepted that there is antisemitism in the Party, as have Senior Officials of the Party and Shadow Ministers. Mr Willsman is a member of the NEC and as such should stop trying to deny what even his Leader has acknowledged. Instead, he should direct his energies to ensure that the Labour Party takes the clear and visible steps to reduce antisemitism in the Party that the Jewish community has been asking for since we met Mr Corbyn in April 2018.”
When Jewish News interviewed shadow chancellor John McDonnell in 2018, he defended Willsman, saying “We’re a democracy, he got re-elected. He’s apologised. I don’t think that goes far enough.” He added that the left-wing NEC member “needs to understand the hurt he’s caused as a result of his statements. And I think what the NEC has talked about for him and others, what should go on, and if he persists in those attitudes I think he should be standing down. But what I’m hoping is that he’s learnt a lesson.”
He added: “When Pete Willsman said that – and I don’t know him that well – I don’t think he even understood what he was saying, or the implications of it. He does now. Maybe he needs to learn the lesson more effectively. But we’re a democracy in our party, he’s been re-elected and we’ll have to deal with that.”