The Labour MP for Riverside has denied that Dame Louise Ellman was forced out of the Party over antisemitism.
Dame Louise quit the Labour Party in late 2019 after 22 years as an MP and 55 years as a member, claiming that she made the “agonising” decision because “the Labour Party is no longer a safe place for Jews and Jeremy Corbyn must bear responsibility for this.” She added that “Jewish members have been bullied, abused and driven out. Antisemites have felt comfortable and vile conspiracy theories have been propagated. A party that permits anti-Jewish racism to flourish cannot be called anti-racist.”
However, in a segment on misogyny against Muslim women in the Labour Party on BBC Politics North West yesterday, Kim Johnson MP denied that Dame Louise had quit over antisemitism.
In a dispute with the Conservative MP, Chris Green, Ms Johnson said that “The Labour Party acknowledges where we have failed. We did have an issue with antisemitism. We do have an Action Plan. We have improved our position on that. However, Baroness Warsi, who has called Islamophobia out in the Tory Party, nothing has happened there. So at least we acknowledge and deal with the issues within our Party.”
Mr Green reacted by recounting instances of alleged discrimination against women in the Labour Party, concluding with Dame Louise: “You look at Liverpool and the clearing out of Louise Ellman and other Jewish Labour members.”
Ms Johnson interjected, saying, “That’s ridiculous,” before Mr Green continued: “Labour is the only party to join the British National Party to be found guilty of racism by the Equality and Human Rights Council [sic]”. Mr Green was referring to the report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) that found that the Labour Party had unlawfully discriminated against Jewish people. Campaign Against Antisemitism was the complainant in the EHRC’s investigation. The only party to have been probed by the EHRC before Labour was the BNP, but unlike in the case of the Labour Party, the previous probe was not a full statutory investigation.
However, Ms Johnson then insisted: “Louise Ellman was not forced out. She took a decision to resign from the Party after 22 years as an MP.”
Ms Johnson succeeded Dame Louise as MP for Riverside, where there was a vacancy after Dame Louise resigned from the Party after suffering antisemitic abuse in the local Constituency Labour Party. Dame Louise later recounted: “The change in Liverpool Riverside, then my constituency, was speedy and traumatic. Membership increased from 500 to 2,700. The atmosphere in the regular meetings became deeply unpleasant. It was made clear that I was the target and I was to be removed. My crime was that I was a ‘Zionist’.”
Dame Louise has reacted to Ms Johnson’s claim, saying: “I am appalled by this statement. Keir Starmer has already apologised to me for the antisemitism that drove me out of the party.” She also accused her successor of gaslighting her, saying: “I’m appalled tha 4th current MP denies what I experienced. This is gaslighting.”
This incident comes just a month after Jeremy Corbyn made a similar claim about Luciana Berger in an interview at the Cambridge Union. When asked about Ms Berger being “hounded out” of the Labour Party due to antisemitism, Mr Corbyn insisted that “Luciana was not hounded out of the Party; she unfortunately decided to resign from the Party”. Ms Berger was among a number of MPs who quit the Labour Party in protest at its institutional antisemitism.
Sir Keir Starmer has previously declared that anyone who thinks that accusations of antisemitism in the Labour Party are “exaggerated or a factional attack…are part of the problem” and “should be nowhere near the Labour Party”.
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “The tradition of downplaying antisemitism in the Labour Party clearly endures. First, Jeremy Corbyn denies that Luciana Berger was hounded out of the Party, and now Kim Johnson, who only became an MP because of the vacancy left by Dame Louise Ellman’s resignation over antisemitism, denies that Dame Louise was forced out of the Party. Sir Keir Starmer has previously declared that anyone who thinks that accusations of antisemitism in the Labour Party are exaggerated are part of the problem and should be nowhere near the Labour Party. What will he now do about a member of his own Parliamentary Party who apparently thinks such things?”
The Labour Party was found by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to have engaged in unlawful discrimination and harassment of Jews. The report followed the EHRC’s investigation of the Labour Party in which Campaign Against Antisemitism was the complainant, submitting hundreds of pages of evidence and legal argument. Sir Keir Starmer called the publication of the report a “day of shame” for the Labour Party.
Campaign Against Antisemitism advocates for zero tolerance of antisemitism in public life. To that end we monitor all political parties and strive to ensure that any cases of concern are properly addressed.