Shadow business secretary: Labour has to win the faith of the Jewish Community
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Shadow business secretary: Labour has to win the faith of the Jewish Community

Rebecca Long-Bailey said the party is starting from a "very, very dark place" over anti-Semitism following the actions of a minority of members

Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey 

Photo credit: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire
Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey Photo credit: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire

Labour is starting from a “very, very dark place” over anti-Semitism as it bids to win the faith of the Jewish community, according to a shadow cabinet member.

Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said the actions of a minority of members combined with the party’s failure to deal with them quickly had led to concerns emerging.

Labour’s governing body, the national executive committee (NEC), did not include within its new code of conduct the full definition of anti-Semitism – including illustrative examples – set out by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

Ms Long-Bailey said the code was intended to reaffirm Labour’s commitment to the the IHRA definition and “adopt and expand” upon the examples.

She recognised concerns about that approach, telling BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show: “We wanted to develop a code that was legally robust and detailed so that we could enforce it quickly in our disciplinary processes.

“But we haven’t won the faith of the Jewish community, and indeed my own parliamentary colleagues have expressed concern.

“The intention was never to omit parts of the IHRA definition.

“The IHRA and examples is a two-sided piece of A4. It’s not very detailed but it’s very clear and straight to the point – and what we wanted to do was to build on that.

“We recognise the concerns and that’s why this week it was right for the NEC to look at the code again and look at consulting with the Jewish community to make sure we get it right because we have to restore faith in the Jewish community.

“We’re starting from a very, very dark place due to the actions of a minority in our party and the failure of us to deal with it quickly.”

Labour’s code explicitly endorses the IHRA’s working definition of anti-Semitism and includes a list of behaviours likely to be regarded as anti-Semitic copied word-for-word from the international organisation’s own document.

But it omits four examples from the IHRA list:

– Accusing Jewish people of being more loyal to Israel than their home country;

– Claiming that Israel‘s existence as a state is a racist endeavour;

– Requiring higher standards of behaviour from Israel than other nations; and

– Comparing contemporary Israeli policies to those of the Nazis.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said Labour needs to “get it right and listen to people” as he urged a swift resolution to the complaint levelled against Dame Margaret Hodge.

Senior Jewish Labour MP Dame Margaret, who lost family members in the Holocaust, last week confronted Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in Parliament over the party’s response to anti-Semitism.

She later said Mr Corbyn was “now perceived by many as an anti-Semite”.

Asked about potential disciplinary action against Dame Margaret, Mr McDonnell told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “My view is let’s just resolve this very, very quickly – almost drop the complaint and move on, or if someone wants their complaint investigated let’s get that done quickly.”

He added Dame Margaret has a “good heart”, noting: “Sometimes you can express anger – I am one of those people who have in the past – and basically you have to accept that.

“You have to accept sometimes people can be quite heated in their expressions – let’s understand that and just move on.”

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