Former Labour MP Ruth Smeeth tore into deputy leadership hopefuls at a hustings event in Manchester, claiming some standing had dismissed her concerns over antisemitism and shouted at her in her office when she raised them.
The former Stoke-On-Trent North politician confronted the four contenders to succeed Tom Watson, accusing them of being “silent” on the issue, asking them why Jewish women “have to lead this fight by themselves”.
Sat in the front row of the hustings, pictured in footage posted on Twitter, she called out hopefuls including Dawn Butler and Richard Burgon, who refused to sign up to the Board of Deputies ten pledges on antisemitism. Other candidates included Rosena Allin-Khan, Ian Murray and Angela Rayner.
She confronted them, saying: “You know that I stood up at every Parliamentary Labour Party meeting and called out antisemitism and asked for help, and I didn’t get any.
“In fact, there have been times where I was dismissed, where colleagues, including some of the people standing for election, shouted at me for raising those issues, shouted at me in my office for raising those issues.
“And the idea that it should be Jewish women that have to lead this fight by themselves – because that’s what happened, with notable exceptions – is simply a disgrace.
“So I’m very interested in knowing where people were. I’m very interested in knowing why you were silent.”
She was lauded on Twitter for her bravery, with Luisa Attfield, co—youth and ytudents officer of Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) saying she is an an “absolute hero” for “calling out those who left Jewish women to fight alone”. The organisation’s national organiser, Rebecca Filer, said the clip was a reminder that Smeeth is “one of the bravest people in the Labour Party”.
— Luisa Attfield (@l_attfield) February 11, 2020
The politician lost her seat at the 2019 General Election, placing full blame for the “disaster” on outgoing leader Jeremy Corbyn for his failure to properly tackle antisemitism concerns and his Brexit stance.
Following her election defeat, she urged “everyone in the Jewish community to join the Jewish Labour Movement in the coming days, to have a voice in the leadership election”, which would be vital to “change the culture” on fighting Jew-hatred.
In the height of the antisemitism crisis in the party, she was forced to carry a panic button to stay safe in wake of death threats.
While she was parliamentary chair of Jewish Labour Movement, which hosted the hustings, the organisation said it would only campaign for individual candidates in “exceptional circumstances” at the 2019 election, including for Smeeth’s unsuccessful bid.