Peter Willsman refers himself for equalities training over anti-Semitism rant
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Peter Willsman refers himself for equalities training over anti-Semitism rant

Veteran Labour figure issues statement after he's recorded talking about 'Jewish Trump fanatics' making up anti-Semitism to destabilise the party

Peter Willsman y
Peter Willsman y

The senior Labour figure under fire for his comments about anti-Semitism in a recent meeting of the party’s senior governing body has issued a statement saying he is referring himself for equalities training.

Pete Willsman, a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee, also backtracked on comments he made at the crunch NEC meeting last week, in which he asked for a show of hands from anyone who had seen anti-Semitism in the party.

In his statement on Tuesday, his second apology in a week, he said he was “of course aware of appalling instances of anti-Semitism in the party,” and that he was “wholly determined to rooting it out of our movement”.

Jewish communal organisations have called for Willsman to be expelled from the party, but in his latest statement, he implied that he had no intention of standing down, saying he had referred himself to receive equalities training “so I can better understand how to approach discussions of such issues in a respectful way”.

Peter Willsman

In an audio recording obtained by the Jewish Chronicle, however, he is heard demanding evidence of widespread anti-Semitism from rabbis, and referring to some Jews as “Trump fanatics,” saying he would “take no lectures” from them.

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He also seemed to suggest that the crisis had been somehow concocted, arguing that social media accounts were easily “falsified,” although the context of that comment cannot be heard.

Expressing contrition, he said: “I am sorry for my behaviour in the last meeting, which I deeply regret… I recognise the offensive nature of my comments and that in diminishing the experiences of those who face anti-Semitism in our party and society I showed a lack of the sensitivity required for discussions around racism.”

He added: “I do not believe anti-Semitism is widespread in the Labour party and that was what my comments were trying to refer to, but we do have a problem which needs stamping out.”

Leading left-wing commentators such as Owen Jones, Matt Zarb-Cousin and Ash Sarkar have also backed away from Willsman in light of the audio being released.

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