Labour MPs condemn party leaders after admission that just 12 members have been expelled over antisemitism
'It’s not good enough…We are at the point now where we need genuine, real leadership'
Labour MPs have attacked the party leadership's response to antisemitism after senior officials admitted that only 12 of almost 700 reports of alleged anti-Jewish abuse had resulted in members being expelled.
The figures revealed that of 673 cases of members reported for alleged antisemitism between April 2018 and January 2019, almost a third were dropped without further action.
Only 42 were referred to the party’s disciplinary arm, the National Constitutional Committee (NCC).
Of these, 12 resulted in members being expelled, while six people were given other punishments. The rest of the cases have yet to be completed.
A total of 49 people voluntarily left the party after being presented with the evidence against them.
At a heated meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), MPs demanded to know why the published data did not include reports made before April 2018, and queried why so few members had been suspended.
Ilford North MP Wes Streeting told the meeting that the data “just doesn’t pass the smell test” and said it raised legitimate questions, while Bassetlaw MP John Mann criticised what he called a lack of leadership on the issue and said the Labour Party did not deserve to exist unless it tackled antisemitism.
Speaking after the meeting, party grandee Dame Margaret Hodge, who is Jewish, said she had submitted 200 of what she considered to be the most serious cases of antisemitism against her.
Asked about the figures released by Ms Formby, Dame Margaret said: “It’s unbelievable. Trust has broken down. The only people who can put it back are the leadership – it can only come back through the leadership, it can’t come back in any other way. [But] Jeremy wasn’t there last Monday, he failed to put out any message of support to Luciana [Berger] over the weekend, and he chose not to come tonight. That says it all.”
Ms Berger, who also is Jewish and has frequently criticised the Labour leadership's response to antisemitism, had faced two motions of no confidence from activists in her Liverpool Wavertree constituency. They were later withdrawn.
MPs also condemned the Labour leadership for not sending a representative to the PLP meeting to listen to and respond to their concerns.
Stoke-on-Trent North MP Ruth Smeeth, who has also suffered antisemitic abuse, said: “It’s not good enough. We are at the point now where we need genuine, real leadership and we need them to turn up to do it.
“It didn’t matter who from the leadership came tonight – we have a party chair, we have a leader, we have various people who could have come tonight to at least have done a holding statement or to hear how angry and upset people are getting.
“This is not over. I so desperately wish this was over. I think every Jewish MP wishes this was over. Every MP wishes this was over. It is not yet over, and we’re not going to keep quiet until this is better and antisemitism is gone from the Labour Party.”
Ms Formby released the figures after the PLP passed a motion last week demanding more transparency on antisemitism and giving her a week to publish data on disciplinary investigations into party members.
In an email to MPs and peers, she said: “It is clearly of the utmost importance that everyone feels welcome in our party and we must ensure that includes all members of our Jewish communities."
The number of party staff dealing with investigations into members would be increased from five to 11, she said.
A Labour spokesperson said: "Jennie Formby, after obtaining the NEC’s agreement, has published the figures on antisemitism complaints handled by the party and published a report on the work the party has done and is doing to speed up and strengthen our procedures, increasing transparency.
"These figures relate to about 0.1 per cent of our membership, but one antisemite in our party is one too many. We are committed to tackling antisemitism and rooting it out of our party once and for all.”