Tom Watson has revealed that antisemitism was one of the reasons he did not seek re-election to Parliament last year, but he did not mention it at the time he stood down, instead saying his move was “personal, not political”.
Labour’s former deputy leader, whose differences with Jeremy Corbyn, who was then the Leader of the Party, were well known, stood down at the beginning of the 2019 General Election campaign, having spoken out against antisemitism in his Party in recent years.
Speaking to the ‘Last Call With Sweeney and Weiss’ podcast, he has now disclosed that “vicious and uncompromising antisemitism” in the Labour Party “contributed to my decision to leave politics”. He explained that the Party was “being infested with anti-Jewish racism” but that “people just blindly denied antisemitism in our ranks.”
He observed that too many people who “could not distinguish between the State of Israel and Jewish people and just didn’t like Jewish people. The language they used was racist.” Asked whether he believes Mr Corbyn is an antisemite, Mr Watson said: “It doesn’t matter – these people joined while he was Leader,” and they could have been removed from office and the Party “very easily”.
Labour antisemitism, he said, “had not been near the mainstream of politics for many decades” but that ‘’friends in the Jewish community say it’s always been there – it’s just never been articulated.’’
Mr Watson noted that “there were too many very close friends of mine who were genuinely frightened of Labour coming to power at the last election for me to feel comfortable in the role I was doing.”
To his credit – and in contrast to the hundreds of other Labour parliamentary candidates – Mr Watson did not feel that he could campaign for an antisemite. However, Mr Watson, who has been due to receive a peerage from Mr Corbyn that is now in doubt, did not denounce Labour antisemitism when he retired from politics, which was disappointing to the Jewish community.
Mr Watson said that the investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) into Labour antisemitism is a “great stain on a century-old institution that is going to be very hard to recover from.”
On 28th May 2019, the EHRC 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.