Sadiq Khan: ‘I never imagined racism would be alive and kicking in Labour’

Sadiq Khan: ‘I never imagined racism would be alive and kicking in Labour’

Justin Cohen is the News Editor at the Jewish News

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Sadiq Khan with Rabbi Pinter, speaking to a class at Yesodey HaTorah Girls School in Stamford Hill

by Justin Cohen

Sadiq Khan has said he “never imagined racism would be alive and kicking within Labour” in 2016 and called for those harbouring anti-Semitic views to be permanently kicked out of the party.

The Labour mayoral hopeful was speaking following a string of controversies surrounding some members of the party and their approach to Jews – deepening the tensions between the party and Anglo-Jewry and leading to a number of Jews ending their membership in despair.

“I’m truly disgusted with the growing problems of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party over recent weeks,” he told the Jewish News. “I never imagined racism would be alive and kicking within the party in 2016. I thought we’d kicked these views out in the 1980s. I pledged to take tough action on anti-Semitism in London. We need the same approach to the Labour party.”

Members of the party who are found to harbour anti-Semitic views, he insisted “should be kicked out of our party, no question asked”

Gerry Downing and Vicky Kirby
Gerry Downing and Vicky Kirby

It comes after the Guido Fawkes blog revealed Vicki Kirby – who suggested in a series of social media posts that Hitler might be a “Zionist god”, Jews have “big noses” and asked why Islamic State was not attacking Israel – was vice-chair of Woking Labour. She was suspended by Labour in 2014 but returned with a warning shortly afterwards while Ed Miliband was still leader. She was re-suspended on Tuesday, pending an investigation.

Last week, Gerry Downing was also suspended after tweeting an article whose title referred to the “Jewish question”. The double blow comes as the party continue to investigate claims of intimidation at Oxford University Labour Club.

Khan – who visited Yesodey HaTorah Girls School, Hatzolah and Kol Boniach during an visit to Stamford Hill – said: “Allegations of anti-Semitism, racism, bullying, intimidation, candidate misconduct; there should be no place for any of that in the Labour Party. We should have a zero tolerance approach towards that. The leadership of the party, and that goes right to the top, to Jeremy Corbyn, must be clear that anti-Semitism has no place in the party that he leads.”

He said it was “heartbreaking for me” that some supporters of the party question whether it is on their side but didn’t believe recent controversies would compromise his chances in attracting the support of wavering voters.

Michael Dugher
Michael Dugher

Former shadow culture secretary Michael Dugher said: “I don’t doubt Jeremy Corbyn’s revulsion at anti-Semitism but the party leadership must learn lessons from this. Labour will be judged by what we do, not by what we say. We must take these issues incredibly seriously straightaway and act immediately. The perception that when it comes to anti-Semitism, the leadership are painfully slow to act and that they only do so after a public backlash from Labour MPs is regrettable.”

Ilford North MP Wes Streeting, speaking before Kirby’s suspension, said he felt “ashamed” to be a Labour MP at a major conference on anti-Semitism this week because it had shown itself to be “woeful” in addressing the scourge in its own ranks. Streeting – who has written to Jeremy Corbyn to request a meeting with the All Party Parliamentary Group against anti-Semitism to discuss what more than be done – said: “I have been contacted by Jewish labour members who have resigned. They do not have confidence in our party to tackle anti-Semitism effectively.”

Welcoming Kirby’s suspension. the Jewish Labour Movement posted on Facebook, that they “wrote to the Woking Constituency Labour Party informing them of our intention to affiliate to the CLP … with the specific intention of bringing forward a vote of no confidence in the CLP Vice-Chair at the earliest possible opportunity.

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