Labour MP describes 'dismay' at seeing Jewish constituents let down by party over antisemitism

Catherine McKinnell says the party's 'rhetoric of zero tolerance doesn’t appear to match up to reality'


A Labour MP has said “personal dismay” at seeing her local Jewish constituents let down by the party in the fight against antisemitism led her to draft the 11-point ultimatum to the leadership that MPs will debate tonight.

Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell revealed that, at a meeting with the local Jewish community last October, she “made a solemn pledge that evening that I would do everything in my power to see this issue properly addressed”.

But after several private meetings at which she was given “repeatedly vague responses”, Ms McKinnell said she had no option but to draft a motion for debate at the meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) on Monday evening, which demanding answers from Jeremy Corbyn over the continued antisemitism crisis.

“I had no choice at that raw – at times painful – but completely open and respectful meeting, other than to level with those who had taken the time to come and meet with me, and to tell them that I shared many of their concerns,” Ms McKinnell wrote in an article for the Jewish News.

"Having been asked in particular about the pledge by the party to provide antisemitism training, I made a commitment to find out how this would work in practice, so I could get back to them on this.

"Most importantly, I made a solemn pledge that evening that I would do everything in my power to see this issue properly addressed.”

She questioned the party's General Secretary Jennie Formby’s claim antisemitism would be her first priority.

“The rhetoric of zero tolerance to antisemitism doesn’t appear to match up to reality," she wrote.

"It would be easy to think that this whole affair is solely about process – the rules we set and how well we do at dealing with members who break them.

"But the problem is surely a much bigger one for a political party established to protect the interests of the marginalised and the minority.

“If we continue to fail to understand and act on the concerns of the Jewish community... what does that say about our ability to understand and act on the concerns of society as a whole?”

She added: "We risk this sorry and destructive state of affairs gradually becoming normalised, potentially slipping into the situation where antisemitism becomes an institutionalised problem."

Labour's Luciana Berger also wrote an article ahead of the Monday meeting.

Writing in The Times, Ms Berger said that if the mounting pile of antisemitism complaints “concerned incidents of racism against black or Asian members, or verbal abuse towards members of the LGBTQ community, or members with disabilities, there would rightly be a huge scandal and calls for heads to roll”.

The Jewish Labour Movement parliamentary chair also said “it feels like we have gone backwards" in the 11 months since the Enough Is Enough demonstrations in Parliament Square over Jew-hate in the party.

She said Monday’s meeting would see Labour MPs “debate whether to pass a motion to put some hard-hitting questions to Labour’s leadership about the intransigence and glacial slowness in tackling antisemitism.

“It is MPs who are members of Labour’s parliamentary committee who are leading the charge and demanding answers.

"And it’s a call I share. I am sick of being tainted by the stain of Labour antisemitism.”

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