LONDON (Reuters) – British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyns office interfered in independent party discipline processes aimed at rooting out anti-Semitism, the BBC said on Wednesday, a claim that the Labour Party sharply rejected.
FILE PHOTO: Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks at the launch of Labour's European election campaign in Kent, Britain, May 9, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo
A BBC investigation spoke to former Labour officials who said top party figures, including Corbyns communications director Seumas Milne and general secretary Jennie Formby, had minimised complaints of anti-Semitism against party members.
Labour said the accusations were “deliberate and malicious misrepresentations designed to mislead the public”.
Labour has battled accusations of anti-Semitism since 2016 and Corbyn – a veteran campaigner for Palestinian rights – as well as other senior party officials have been criticised for failing to take decisive action to deal with it.
British Jewish groups have accused Labour of becoming institutionally anti-Semitic, and the issue has played a part in Labours failure to take electoral advantage of the Conservative governments turmoil over Brexit.
The BBC quoted an email from Milne telling Labours internal complaints team that “somethings going wrong, and were muddling up political disputes with racism”.
Labour said this misrepresented Milnes email, which referred to a dispute between Jewish Labour members with Zionist and anti-Zionist views. A fuller extract of the email read: “If were more than very occasionally using disciplinary action against Jewish members for anti-Semitism, somethings going wrong, and were muddling up political disputes with racism.”
The BBC investigation also quoted former party members who felt a hostile atmosphere towards Jews within the party in recent years, who were sometimes challenged over Israeli government actions by other party members.
Nine lawmakers quit the party this year, citing the leaderships handling of anti-Semitism as well as its stance on Brexit as reasons for leaving.
British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said the BBC investigation showed that Corbyn was either “wilfully blind to anti-Semitism or anti-Semitic himself”.
Labours deputy leader, Tom Watson, who isRead More