John McDonnell calls Labour 'antisemitic' in live interview slip up

'We are a party that is anti-racist and antisemitic... Sorry, we are against antisemitism'


Shadow chancellor John McDonnell slipped up during a live radio interview and referred to Labour an "antisemitic party" as he tried to define it amid the crisis engulfing the party.

Speaking on BBC Radio Four's Today programme on Wednesday, Mr McDonnell accused Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge of "haranguing" Jeremy Corbyn when she confronted him in the House of Commons last week and having a "complete misunderstanding" of the code of conduct on Jew-hate, which has provoked huge anger among the Jewish community.

In a verbal slipup, he said: "Let me put this message out to anyone. We are a party that is anti-racist and antisemitic."

He then tried to correct himself, saying: "Sorry, we are against antisemitism.”

He said Dame Margaret was acting "out of character" when she called Mr Corbyn "antisemitic and a racist" to his face, after the party's governing body approved the party's antisemitism code of conduct instead of the broader International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of Jew-hate, which sets out how criticism of Israel can be Jew-hate.

The incident triggered the threat of disciplinary action and fuelled Labour's growing standoff with Jewish groups.

He said of her confrontation with Mr Corbyn: “Of course he was upset, I think Margaret was upset as well."

“Jeremy was deeply upset because, when you have someone haranguing you in that way, of course it’s upsetting.

"Those sorts of accusations, when he has worked so hard on the issues of antisemitism and anti-racism, of course he’s upset.”

Labour has sought to claim that its antisemitism code of conduct is tougher than the IHRA definition, despite the fact it specifically omits saying that claiming Israel is a racist endeavour or British Jews are more loyal to Israel can be antisemitic.

Mr McDonnell said Dame Margaret had “a complete misinterpretation of the code", adding: "I can understand why she was so angry if that’s what she believed this code had done... 

“I think it’s a complete misunderstanding and we can resolve this amicably and move on.”

Last week, Dame Margaret defended her confrontation with Mr Corbyn, writing: "I chose to confront Jeremy directly and personally to express my anger and outrage. I stand by my action as well as my words," she writes.

"The party could have adopted the international definition in full and it could have launched an inclusive consultation, involving Palestinians and Jews to add to that definition if further clarification of the right to criticise the Israeli government was needed. Instead it chose to offend Jews."

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