Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has accused Jeremy Corbyn of not being “robust enough” when it comes to tackling Labour antisemitism.
Speaking on Sophy Ridge on Sunday on Sky News, Blair said: “We’re supposed to be a progressive political party. How can we say it’s tolerable to have a certain level of antisemitism in the party? Would we say more generally it’s tolerable to have a level of racism in the Labour Party? No. Of course you can’t.”
He added that the party leadership “has not been robust enough on [antisemitism], and the fact that someone like [Liverpool Wavertree MP] Luciana Berger, who’s a smart, capable, active member of Parliament doing a her best for her constituents, the fact that she should even be subject to a confidence motion is shameful for the Labour Party.”
He continued: “Can you imagine when I was leader of the Labour Party having a conversation with me about whether antisemitism was in the Labour Party or not?.
“We wouldn’t even have that conversation and there is, I’m afraid, a nascent alliance between what I would call bits of the sort of Islamist type of politics and the left.”
This was not just in the UK, Blair added, “You can see it across Europe and yes, it gives rise to antisemitism… it’s not your traditional antisemitism of the right-wing nature but it’s every bit as pernicious.”
He said that “parts of the left that do have a problem with antisemitism… You see this in their attitudes to the state of Israel.
“You can make all sorts of criticisms about the state of Israel but with their continual focusing on Israel, all the time over a long period, you’re left with the feeling that they’re in a sense targeting it because it is a Jewish state.”
— Sophy Ridge (@SophyRidgeSky) February 10, 2019
He backed “100 percent” deputy leader Tom Watson’s call for Ms Berger’s Liverpool Wavertree constituency Labour party to be suspended – something that Labour general secretary Jennie Formby has rejected.
Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said Labour must “go further and faster” in tackling antisemitism.
Contradicting the alleged comments of his party’s General Secretary Jennie Formby, he said that it was not “impossible” to eradicate anti-Jewish hatred.
Pressed to respond to Blair’s claims , Ashworth said the issue of Labour antisemitism “breaks my heart”.
He said: “It’s clear we need to go further and faster on dealing with antisemitism in the Labour Party.
“One antisemite in the Labour Party is one too many.”
The frontbencher added: “No, it’s not impossible to eradicate it from the Labour Party, and John McDonnell has said that as well so there’s no disagreement between me and John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn on this.”