Labour’s Nia Griffith has said that defenders of Rebecca Long-Bailey are guilty of antisemitism while her colleague, Claudia Webbe, has refused to say whether she believes that the conspiracy theory publicised by Ms Long-Bailey was antisemitic or not.
Ms Long-Bailey was sacked from the Shadow Cabinet last week for sharing an article in The Independent in which the actress Maxine Peake promoted an antisemitic conspiracy theory that Israel was somehow to blame for the racist killing of George Floyd. Far-left factions of the Labour Party, including MPs have rallied to Ms Long-Bailey’s defence.
Ms Griffith, the Shadow Welsh Secretary, when asked whether MPs who supported Ms Long-Bailey were themselves guilty of antisemitism, replied: “Well I think they are and I think they’re also in danger of going backwards and going back over old arguments and old mistakes because what we need now is clear, decisive action to make sure that we root out antisemitism in the party.”
Among those defending Ms Long-Bailey are John McDonnell, the former Shadow Chancellor who launched a petition calling for Ms Long-Bailey’s reinstatement, and other MPs such as Claudia Webbe.
Ms Webbe appeared on BBC radio and was asked whether she believed that the conspiracy theory that appeared in the article shared by Ms Long-Bailey was antisemitic but refused to answer. “Was it antisemitic or not?” the host, Emma Barnett, asked at least four times, and Ms Webbe responded that “the leader himself has said that he didn’t fire Rebecca because she did something antisemitic,” an erroneous assertion that was quickly corrected by Ms Barnett. Ms Webbe refused to be drawn on whether the conspiracy theory was antisemitic, saying only “I’ve given you my answer,” “you’re not actually going to get any further from me” and “the conspiracy theory is wrong. Of course it’s wrong…I do know that it is a conspiracy theory absolutely.”
Ken Livingstone, who was suspended from Labour for comments about Hitler and Zionism, has also maintained, even following Ms Long-Bailey’s dismissal, that there is no antisemitism problem in the Party. Ms Webbe used to serve as a full-time advisor to Mr Livingstone.
The Socialist Campaign Group of councillors has also published a statement in support of Ms Long-Bailey, declaring: “It is not racist to criticise the repressive actions of states nor to point out the links between repressive authorities.” Incredibly the signatories have still not grasped why the conspiracy theory is antisemitic, but perhaps that is not surprising given one of their number – Cllr Jo Bird – has joked in the past about “Jew process” and has twice been suspended from the Labour Party. It is understood that senior trade unionists have also expressed support for Ms Long-Bailey.
On 28th May 2019, the Equality and Human Rights Commission launched a full statutory investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party following a formal referral and detailed legal representations from Campaign Against Antisemitism, which is the complainant.
In the first release of its Antisemitism in Political Parties research, Campaign Against Antisemitism showed that Labour Party candidates for Parliament in the 2019 general election accounted for 82 percent of all incidents of antisemitic discourse by parliamentary candidates.
Campaign Against Antisemitism’s Antisemitism Barometer 2019 showed that antisemitism on the far-left of British politics has surpassed that of the far-right.
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.
🎙 "What is your view as an elected member of parliament?"
— BBC Radio 5 Live (@bbc5live) June 29, 2020
"We wish to record our appreciation of the good work which Rebecca Long-Bailey has conducted in her role with Labour’s education brief, including her resistance to the premature and unsafe wider opening of schools." pic.twitter.com/RCQiBnupwJ
— Socialist Campaign Group of Labour Councillors (@SocialistCllrs) June 26, 2020