Labour MPs defy party leadership, vote to back IHRA definition of antisemitism

One urges party to 'listen to the Jewish community'


Labour MPs have voted overwhelmingly in favour of adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Association definition of antisemitism in full - defying the party leadership. 

At a packed meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party on Monday evening, a string of MPs - including Luciana Berger, Wes Streeting, Chris Bryant, David Lammy and Dame Louise Ellman - attacked moves to adopt a new definition of Jew hate backed by General Secretary Jennie Formby. 

As he left the meeting, Chuka Umunna told the JC it had achieved “the right result”.

In a loudly applauded speech, Mr Streeting called for the party leadership to listen to views of the Board Of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council on the matter. 

He argued that saying the two groups did not represent mainstream Jewish opinion was akin to saying trade unions did not represent majority views of their membership. 

Mr Streeting pleaded with Labour’s left-wing leadership to “listen to the Jewish community” or face the consequences.

Other MPs suggested Labour risked alienating an entire Jewish community if they went ahead with plans to use their own definition of antisemitism.

Alex Sobel, the Leeds North MP, tabled the motion, which was intended to show the level of opposition among MPs to the party's new antisemtism definition. 

The motion was seconded by the parliamentary chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, Luciana Berger.

It stated: “The PLP adopts the full IHRA definition of antisemitism, including all of its accompanying examples, and believes this should be used to define, understand and act against antisemitism in the Labour Party.”

Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) is to meet Tuesday to vote on formally adopting a rewritten Labour version of the IHRA definition, that did not include some formal examples of antisemitism.

These include accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel than their own nations, claiming that the existence of the state of Israel is a racist endeavour and comparing Israeli actions to the Nazis.Labour has argued those examples are already covered in the wider new code of conduct.

After the vote, Ms Berger said: "It sends a strong signal that we adopt the IHRA definition in full, including all the specific examples it includes, and that any attempt to tinker, water down, or otherwise amend it must be resisted."

She added: "The IHRA definition of antisemitism is the internationally-recognised document which defines and explains the ways hatred towards Jews is expressed.

“And yet some within the Labour Party have sought to revisit Labour's historic support for the IHRA definition and all the examples that accompany it, and write their own version.

"Britain's Jewish representative organisations, and the Jewish Labour Movement (the only Jewish affilliate to Labour), are united in opposition to this unnecessary and inflammatory move.

“It is a fundamental anti-racist principle that oppressed groups define their own oppression, not anyone else.

“The Jewish community must be allowed to define the antisemitic hate that is directed towards it, not some members of a Labour Party working group."

Only a handful of MPs present at Monday’s meeting - which lasted over a hour - opposed the motion.

An amendment put forward by renowned Israel critic Richard Burden was also said have received less than 10 votes at the meeting. 

One MP later told the JC: "The PLP has sent a clear message to Jeremy Corbyn and the NEC.

“We have shown ourselves to be on the side of mainstream Jewish opinion. The NEC has the chance to see sense on Tuesday and throw out the new code.

“Or else we risk losing the Jewish vote almost completely going forwards.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and General Secretary Jennie Formby were not present at the PLP meeting. 

But Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell was present for the opening speeches of the debate.

On Monday night, a new letter to the PLP from Ms Formby appeared to rule out the chance of a new consultation over the antisemitism definition. 

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