JLM threatens formal dispute against Labour over claims they endorsed antisemitism definition

The group tells party general secretary she was 'misled' in latest escalation of row


The Jewish Labour Movement has expressed its anger at claims by Labour General Secretary Jennie Formby that the group approved the party's controversial new definition of antisemitism.

In a letter sent to Labour’s national executive committee (NEC), the JLM said it may “bring a formal dispute against the party” over Ms Formby’s assertion that the new code was supported by JLM chair Ivor Caplin after she met him last week.

It is the latest escalation in the row over Labour's refusal to adopt the broader International Holocaust Remembrance Association definition of Jew hate.

The JLM letter states: “It is our understanding that the NEC was informed by the general secretary that the Jewish Labour Movement had approved the three papers on tackling antisemitism that were presented yesterday.

“You were misled. The papers were briefly shown to two JLM representatives over a short informal meeting; there was no pre-sight of the papers or opportunity to read them in full.”

There is also considerable anger among Labour parliamentarians over the leadership’s blindness to the Macpherson principle — adopted in the wake of the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence — which states that it is for the victims to determine whether a term is racist or not.

MP John Mann said: “The Macpherson definition of racism has been accepted until now by every mainstream political party in Parliament. The Labour NEC are the first to refuse to accept it, which has huge consequences.”

A letter written to Ms Formby by Labour’s Redcar MP Anna Turley outlined her “despair” over the code, suggesting it was not for the Labour Party to tell the “Jewish community what antisemitism is”.

Ms Turley added she was “horrified” Labour was not adopting the IHRA definition in full.

There was further controversy over a letter sent out to all Labour MPs on Monday by Ms Formby in which she urged them to support the new antisemitism code.

In the letter, Ms Formby wrongly named Ms Turley and Sir Keir Starmer as having been members of the Home Affairs Select Committee in 2016 “during the relevant period” of that committee’s report into antisemitism. Neither were members at the time.

Chuka Umunna was also named as the author of the report, from which Ms Formby said the party’s new definition drew information.

On Wednesday a party source confirmed to the JC that the “authors of the report are angered by Ms Formby’s misleading statements”.

The Jewish Leadership Council, Board of Deputies and Community Security Trust issued a statement on Tuesday saying the code of conduct was “not fit for purpose” and had provoked “widespread anger” among British Jews.

Writing to Ms Formby, the group’s letter said: “In our meeting with you on April 24, you made it clear you would consult with us moving forward and we in turn made it clear that with respect to the definition of antisemitism, we were against any changes to the IHRA’s working definition.

“Nonetheless, we were not consulted and you will have seen that there is widespread anger in the community at the version that has been presented.”

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