Labour peer Lord Falconer has said that “there are probably thousands of antisemitics [sic] in the Labour Party” during an interview on LBC.
His assessment followed the announcement yesterday that Chris Williamson’s suspension from the Labour Party was lifted by a three-person National Executive Committee (NEC) disciplinary panel. Mr Williamson was merely issued with a formal warning after being found to have breached the Party’s rules, despite Labour Party staff recommending that he instead be referred to the next stage of the Party’s disciplinary process.
Speaking to Iain Dale, Lord Falconer said that: “There are real question marks over Labour’s commitment to fight off antisemitism and they are very big question marks. And although I am absolutely sure the vast vast vast majority of members of the Labour Party are not antisemitic, there are probably thousands of antisemitics [sic] in the Labour Party.”
He also suggested that there was a “dangerous” factional aspect towards fighting antisemitism in Labour. He said that: “If you are, quote, a moderate, or to the right, you’re in favour of fighting antisemitism and if you’re far to the left, then you’re not in favour of fighting antisemitism.”
Earlier this month, Lord Falconer said that the Labour Party has failed the “acid test” in failing to have dealt with the Pete Willsman antisemitism case promptly, noting by comparison that Alastair Campbell had been expelled within a day of admitting on television that he had voted for the Liberal Democrats.
In an opinion piece in the Jewish News, he wrote that: “I said 14 days ago that it would be an acid test of the Labour Party’s disciplinary process whether it dealt with the Pete Willsman case within 14 days. The 14 days are up today. Apart from suspending him, nothing meaningful has happened.”
In explaining the “test”, Lord Falconer was further reported to have explained: “The Willsman case is an acid test of whether or not the Labour Party can be trusted in relation to antisemitism” and that unless it transpired that Mr Willsman was not in fact the person recorded on the tape, or that the recording had been doctored in some way, “he should definitely be expelled.”
Mr Willsman, a member of Labour’s NEC, was suspended after being recorded claiming that the “Israeli embassy” and an Israeli “agent” are “behind all this antisemitism against Jeremy.”
Mr Willsman had previously caused outrage at an NEC meeting by angrily accusing the sixty-eight leading Rabbis of the UK’s Jewish community of misleading the public in a letter they had co-signed criticising the Labour Party’s failure to adopt the International Definition of Antisemitism, and by saying that members of the Jewish community were “Trump fanatics” who “make up information…without any evidence at all”. Following the release of the recording, no action was taken against Mr Willsman, but the Labour Party general secretary and the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell MP, both pledged that such action would be taken if any such incidents recurred.
The Labour Party’s leaders had controversially considered putting Lord Falconer in charge of another “independent” review of Labour’s handling of disciplinary cases of antisemitism.
In March, Lord Falconer, who served as Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary from 2003 to 2007 and was a flatmate of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, said that he would not conduct a review of Labour’s handling of disciplinary cases of antisemitism after the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) stepped in and begun pre-enforcement proceedings.
On 28th May, the EHRC launched a full statutory investigation following a formal referral and detailed legal representations from Campaign Against Antisemitism, which is the complainant.
Lord Falconer wrote in the op-ed in the Jewish News that the investigation is: “Shaming but necessary and welcome.” He also renewed his offer to step in to look at processes of handling antisemitism complaints and said that: “I stepped back when the EHRC stepped forward. The inevitable and understandable delay before they report makes me feel it is time to renew that offer.”
In recent months, eleven MPs have resigned from the Labour Party over antisemitism, along with a large number of MEPs, councillors and members.
Over 55,000 people have now signed our petition denouncing Jeremy Corbyn as an antisemite and declaring him “unfit to hold any public office.”