Labour suspends Vicki Kirby pending investigation

By Naomi Firsht and Marcus Dysch, March 15, 2016
Vicki Kirby

Vicki Kirby

The Labour Party has suspended Vicki Kirby pending an investigation into alleged antisemitic comments.

Ms Kirby was originally suspended from the party following comments on social media in 2014.

But she was subsequently selected as the vice-chair of Woking Labour Party’s executive committee last month, it was revealed this week.

Ms Kirby had been due to stand for Labour in Woking in the 2015 general election, but was dumped as a candidate after a series of tweets were posted from her account.

One message claimed Hitler might be the “Zionist God”.

Another said: “We invented Israel when saving them from Hitler, who now seems to be their teacher.”

A third tweet read: “I will never forget and I will make sure my kids teach their children how evil Israel is!”

One post from 2011 referred to Jews having "big noses".

Earlier today a Labour Party member, who is running to become a police and crime commissioner, complained to the police about comments made by Ms Kirby.

Kevin McKeever said on Twitter: “Vicki Kirby comments may well breach race relations and public order laws, which is why I've complained to @SurreyPolice.”

Mr McKeever, who is based in Northamptonshire, also tweeted that he had asked Labour to suspend Ms Kirby.

Surrey Police could not confirm that they had received the complaint.

Mr McKeever, who works in public relations, said: “It’s absolutely the right decision [to suspend her]. Any antisemitism should be clamped down on immediately and it’s right she should be suspended by the party pending investigation.

"It appeared to me it could be the basis of hate speech and potentially incitement to violence against Jewish people. Not only does that language have no place in the Labour Party, but has no place in civilised society either.

"She should of course have right to account for herself. But unless she totally disowns the comments she shouldn’t be part of the Labour Party any more. Her comments are not those of someone who shares Labour’s values."

On Monday, Labour had said that "if new evidence comes to light" against Ms Kirby, it would review the evidence.

It is understood the decision to suspend Ms Kirby was taken by Labour general secretary Iain McNicol following a complaint from Jewish party supporter and former local council candidate Tal Ofer.

Labour's Ilford North MP Wes Streeting welcomed the news of Ms Kirby's suspension.

He wrote on Twitter: "Better late than never. Well done to everyone who spoke out and @kevinmckeever for police complaint. Shame it was needed."

Veteran Labour MP Louise Ellman said: "I'm glad to see that Vicki Kirby has been suspended. It's good news and better late than never.

"It's a bad situation and it's time action was taken to root this out.

"The evidence was all there [on Kirby]. I'm surprised she was still a member of the party. It was inexplicable why it has taken so long."

Ms Ellman said she had raised the issue of antisemitism at Monday night's meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP).

She said Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell had given his assurance that he was "strongly against antisemitism", but Ms Ellman said she was now "looking for action".

Labour's Barnsley East MP Michael Dugher, who is a vice-chair of Labour Friends of Israel, said: "I don't doubt Jeremy Corbyn's revulsion at antisemitism, but the party leadership must learn lessons from this.

"Labour will be judged by what we do, not by what we say. We must take these issues incredibly seriously straightaway and act immediately.

"The perception that when it comes to antisemitism, the leadership are painfully slow to act and that they only do so after a public backlash from Labour MPs is regrettable.

"This sorry episode should also put to bed John McDonnell's rather ill-judged idea of closing the party's compliance unit. We need to strengthen our internal procedures, not weaken them."

In a statement, the Jewish Labour Movement said it welcomed the suspension of Ms Kirby.

"We hope that through this process, and through an honest and open debate within the Woking CLP, party members can decide whether or not our party should be a space for these kinds of views," the JLM said.

"To party members who have expressed their support for Jewish Labour activists over the past 48 hours, we say thank you. To those Jewish Labour activists considering leaving the party, we say stay.

"We are not giving up on the party of Barnett, Silkin, Mikado, Freeson, Shinwell, Lever Edelman and other towering figures of the Jewish left."

Last updated: 3:12pm, March 16 2016