Labour and NUS still have antisemitism problem, warns MP John Mann

MPs Luciana Berger, Louise Ellman and Ruth Smeeth were described as 'The Maccabees of today' at a packed Jewish Labour Movement party


A top Labour MP has warned his party and the National Union of Students that they still have a problem with antisemitism and claimed that he had been subjected to calls for a “pogrom” against him from within his local party.

But John Mann, the MP for Bassetlaw and, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism, insisted Labour still enjoyed “significant” backing amongst the Jewish community and said the party had a crucial role to play in representing the interests of Britain’s Jews.

In a speech delivered to a packed room at the Jewish Labour Movement’s Chanukah party, Mr Mann said: “For two whole generations it was impossible to get away with any antisemitic rhetoric within the NUS.

“That is not the case at this moment of time – and that is not the case within the Labour Party.”

Mr Mann – who labelled suspended former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone Labour a ‘Nazi apologist’ earlier this year – revealed a member of his party had called for a “pogrom” to be launched against him.

He said: “The person who, very nicely, called for a pogrom against me is still a member of the Labour Party – they remain a member, although that’s unfinished business.

“We don't want that kind of thing, in society, on the left, in the Labour Party.”

The outspoken MP said he believed the drop in support for the Labour Party amongst British Jews, especially since Jeremy Corbyn became leader, was not as steep as polls have repeatedly suggested.

Mr Mann said:” Looking at the voting record as far as we know of the Jewish community in this country, all those adults who have voted, significant numbers have voted Labour.

“And (they) have a vested interest ethically, morally politically philosophically in having a strong rational Labour Party that understands the Jewish community and every other community that is progressive, that has some influence, that might even be in power.”

Mr Mann noted the surge in membership numbers for the JLM in the midst of the party’s antisemitism crisis – with official figures showing over 2000 people have now joined the group.

Membership of the JLM had been far smaller prior to Jeremy Corbyn taken charge of the party.

Mr Mann said:” Everyone here needs to recruit significant numbers of people explaining to them that your influence in the Labour Party is fundamental to the healthy living of the Jewish people in this country - and thereby as history teaches us fundamental to the good and the health of all of us living in this country.”

Jeremy Newmark, national chair of the JLM, spoke of the “political and physical attacks on Jewish identity” which had taken place over the past year.

He highlighted the literal meaning of the word Chanukah which is ‘dedication’ and said: “Dedication to a set of values and principles that have come under sustained attack over the past year.”

Mr Newmark paid tribute to Jewish Labour MP’s Luciana Berger, Louise Ellman and Ruth Smeeth – all of whom faced sustained problems with antisemitic attacks this year – describing the trio as being at the “vanguard of this struggle.”

He added of the three female MPs: “They are the Maccabees of today.”

Ms Berger, Parliamentary Chair of the JLM, also delivered a speech in which she described Tuesday evening’s event as “ a celebration of the best the Labour Party has to offer.

“Bringing together people of all faiths, of secular, of religious backgrounds - we are bound together by our shared values of equality and social justice.

“This room really gives us real hope and inspiration.”

But on a cautionary note Ms Berger added: "It has been a difficult year for many of us – but I hope we can be positive about what comes next.

“Collectively I know that we can continue to make a difference, not only in the Labour Party, but also within our own communities.”

Rabbi David Mason, of Muswell Hill Synagogue also spoke at the event and paid tribute to the JLM under the leadership of Mr Newmark and Ms Berger. He said the group had taken a “greater central position within the Labour Party and with its relationship with the Jewish community.”

The JLM Chanukah event was the first ever to be held at Labour Party HQ in central London, - with the shadow minister for diverse communities Dawn Butler MP and Cat Smith MP, the shadow minister for voter engagement the most senior of Jeremy Corbyn’s team to attend.

Other MPs at the event included Ivan Lewis and Ms Smeeth.

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