Politics

Labour anti-Semitism row: Don’t attack messengers, says Thornberry


Labour should listen “to the message” rather than “going for the messengers” when it comes to anti-Semitism, the shadow foreign secretary has said.

The party has insisted claims aired by BBC Panorama were inaccurate and made by “disaffected” former staff.

But Emily Thornberry told Andrew Marr “nobody can pretend there isn’t an ongoing problem” within Labour.

Jewish Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge said the party was at “a tipping point” on the issue.

“If the leadership doesn’t start to listen now there will be many more people who will feel so uncomfortable within the Labour Party that they can no longer remain,” she told Sky News.

Dame Margaret also said it was “intolerable and unacceptable” for the party leadership to attack those who went public with concerns.

Labour has been engulfed in a long-running dispute over anti-Semitism within its ranks, which has led nine MPs and three peers to leave the party.

Last week Panorama revealed claims from a number of former party officials that some of Jeremy Corbyn’s closest allies tried to interfere in disciplinary processes involving allegations of anti-Semitism.

Labour’s disputes team is supposed to operate independently from the party’s political structures, including the leader’s office. But a former head of disputes told Panorama of interference in the complaints process by senior Labour figures.

‘Shame and disgrace’

Ms Thornberry said she found the Panorama episode “awful” – both the programme itself and “more importantly the revelations”.

She said she understood the party had concerns about how the investigation was done, but told Andrew Marr: “I think that we shouldn’t be going for the messengers, we should be looking at the message. I think that is what is important.”

She said it was “a shame and a disgrace” that the Equality and Human Rights Commission had been brought in to investigate Labour over anti-Semitism – “but they have and we should welcome it”.

She said the party should be asking the commission: “Can you help us?”.

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Media captionJewish Labour Party members told the BBC’s Panorama about their experiences of anti-Semitism in the party

Labour has rejected claims of interference in its disciplinary processes and described the Panorama programme as “seriously inaccurate” and “politically one-sided”.

In a statement, it said: “Since Jennie Formby became general secretary the rate at which anti-Semitism cases have been dealt with has increased more than fourfold.

“We will build on the improvements to our procedures made under Jennie Formby, and continue to act against this repugnant form of racism.”



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