Jo Bird, Labour and Co-operative Councillor for the Bromborough Ward on Wirral Council, has had her suspension lifted by the Labour Party according to a report in the Liverpool Echo. The JC has also reported that she has been given a formal warning.
She was reportedly suspended, pending an investigation after the JC revealed that she joked about renaming due process in the Labour Party as “Jew process”. The Liverpool Echo “now understands Cllr Bird’s suspension from the Labour Party has been lifted, although the reasons and exact details remain unclear.” The JC added that: “Her case went to a disciplinary which gave her the formal warning, which would be considered were she investigated for any repeat behaviour. The JC also understands she apologised for her remarks.”
The comments were reportedly made last year at a “Justice4Marc” meeting in support of expelled Labour activist and friend of Jeremy Corbyn, Marc Wadsworth, who was expelled from the Party after a confrontation with a Jewish MP Ruth Smeeth.
According to the recording, Cllr Bird joked that the term “due process” should be dubbed “Jew process”, drawing laughter and applause from the crowd of Labour activists.
Cllr Bird discussed allegations of racism and said that: “Seriously, one of the things that does worry me is the privileging of racism against Jews, over and above — as more worthy of resources than other forms of racism.”
Cllr Bird also came under fire for another part of the recording, in which she adapted the famous “First they came…” poem about the failure of European society to stand up for Jews during the Holocaust by German theologian and Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller. Her distorted version said: “They came for the anti-zionists, and I stood up because I was not a target, I stood up in solidarity. And then they came for the socialists but they couldn’t get us because we were having a party, the Labour Party.”
Rachel Riley, the television star and antisemitism campaigner, tweeted: “Absolutely aghast listening to JVL’s Jo Bird, take a poem about the Holocaust, remove the Jews, to replace them with persecution of anti-racists and anti-Zionists.”
Cllr Bird also said that “privileging” antisemitism was “Bad for the many, as well as bad for the Jews,” a play on the Party’s “For the many, not the few” slogan.
Chris Williamson, who was suspended from Labour two weeks ago, is also heard in the recording.
Cllr Bird struck a similar tone on the issue in a Jewish Voice for Labour blog. She wrote that Mr Wadsworth’s expulsion was “unfair” and said “due process” should be known as “Jew process.” The title of the blog was even called “Jew Process.”
Last week, a Labour source reportedly confirmed that, having been made aware of Cllr Bird’s comments, the Party had suspended her.
Cllr Bird posted an attempt to explain on Facebook, writing: “I am sorry for any offence caused by my play on words — that was not my intention. Here is my full speech, in context. #IStandWithJoBird”.
Campaign Against Antisemitism condemns the Labour Party for this latest decision to ensure that someone repeatedly making outrageous comments about Labour’s antisemitism crisis is rapidly restored to full membership of the Party as though nothing had happened. It shows that the Labour Party cannot be trusted to address the antisemitism within its ranks and outside intervention is required.
That is why we are so pleased that the Equality and Human Rights Commission has begun pre-enforcement proceedings against the Labour Party following a formal referral and detailed legal representations from Campaign Against Antisemitism, which is the complainant. The pre-enforcement proceedings are a precursor to opening a full statutory investigation.
In the past six months, eleven MPs have resigned from the Labour Party over antisemitism.