John McDonnell rebukes supporter live on air for claiming Labour antisemitism is 'a smear'

The shadow chancellor insisted he had 'seen the evidence', adding: 'Some of it is horrendous… we have to face up to it'


John McDonnell rebuked a Labour supporter who phoned in to a radio show to tell him reports of antisemitism in the party were “smears”, saying he has “seen the evidence” of Jew-hate.

Appearing on LBC on Tuesday evening, the shadow chancellor fielded a call from Oliver, who called for the leadership to “confront this smear campaign on antisemitism”.

Mr McDonnell responded by insisting he had “seen the stuff on social media, in particular”, adding that “some of it is horrendous… we have to face up to it”.

He said: “It isn’t a smear campaign, Oliver. It isn’t. I’ve seen the evidence. I’ve seen the threats that have been made against some of our Jewish members and MPs.

“We’ve got to stamp it out. When you say it’s a smear campaign – that belittles what’s happening in terms of us saying there is a problem here and the action we’re taking against it.

“And having just one antisemite in the Labour Party is not good enough. Having one action by someone who says they support us which is antisemitic is not good enough, and we’ve got to root it out.

“We’ve had threats against our Jewish MPs. We cannot tolerate that. We will not stand for it, and we’ve got to root it out."

Speaking on the abuse suffered by Luciana Berger, specifically, he added: "You look at some of the stuff she’s had to endure in the last couple of years and it’s been horrendous.

"Luciana has a justifiable complaint and we’re dealing with it."

His comments contrasted with those of Labour’s General Secretary Jennie Formby, who told a fractious meeting of Labour MPs twice that it would be impossible to “eradicate antisemitism completely” in the party.

At that meeting, MPs unanimously passed a motion expressing “dismay” at the Labour leadership’s failure to tackle antisemitism, and calling for greater transparency over the party’s disciplinary process.

Mr McDonnell also refuted Oliver’s claim there was a link between the timing of the motion and alleged unsuccessful attempts by MPs to win Jeremy Corbyn’s support for a second referendum.

The shadow chancellor said they were “completely unrelated”.

The Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) welcomed Mr McDonnell’s statement, saying “it is about time that John McDonnell finally and robustly recognised that our Parliamentary Chair Luciana Berger has faced near constant racially motivated harassment for just being a Jewish Labour MP”.



JLM also referred to a claim made by the Labour Representation Committee (LRC), led by the shadow chancellor, that claims of antisemitism were “ruling class propaganda”.

It said: “We hope that he will repeat his statement to a LRC meeting or resign from the organisation in protest of their mockery of racism against Jews.

“We also hope that Chris Williamson and Pete Willsman get the memo too.”

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