Labour MPs speak at online meeting with activists expelled over antisemitism

EXCLUSIVE: Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy speak at the meeting


Former Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott and the ex Shadow Immigration Minister Bell Ribeiro-Addy have both addressed a meeting of hard-left activists on the Zoom online platform, which also included many of the most notorious figures from the party's antisemitism crisis.
Tony Greenstein, who was expelled over antisemitism allegations, and Jackie Walker, who was booted out of Labour on gross misconduct charges, both participated in Wednesday evening's meeting of the newly formed 'Don't Leave, Organise' group, who also received the backing of former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.
Both Ms Abbott and Ms Ribeiro-Addy gave speeches in which they offered their responses to the recently leaked report into Labour antisemitism - but rather than addressing anti-Jewish racism, both MPs attacked the anti-Jeremy Corbyn wing of the party, blaming it for December's devastating general election defeat, and claimed anti-black racism was a priority issue.
Both MPs remained connected to the Zoom meeting as speakers including Ms Walker, Wirral councillor Jo Bird, anti-Zionist activist Moshe Machover and Salma Yaqoob, who stood to be Labour's West Midlands Mayoral candidate  - either denied or downplayed antisemitism claims.
At one point a Labour activist named Nushi addressed the meeting, saying: "Ken Livingstone was expelled from the party for saying in truth a historical statement."
Ms Yaqoob claimed the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) had become "weaponised and politicised" and that she was a "victim of right wing smears" over allegations of her own antisemitism. She added that "racism was weaponised by the right."
Ms Bird - who was suspended and the reinstated last year over remarks uncovered by the JC - told the meeting that Labour members had "died" after receiving disciplinary letters in antisemitism cases.
Neither Ms Abbott or Ms Ribeiro-Abby sought to correct Ms Bird over her claim - or over a further claim that antisemitism cases were "over prioritised" while cases against black members were "de-prioritised" when they directly addressed her question during the meeting.
Mr Machover - a member of Hampstead and Kilburn Labour Party - also told the meeting it was a "mistake to accept the tsumani of allegations of antisemtism", adding there should have been "no concession to these allegations."
Meanwhile, Ms Walker said the recently leaked Labour report "was written from a very particular perspective, and the perspective was that antisemitism was a significant problem and that all the people who had been expelled had been properly expelled for being antisemites."
When she delivered her own remarks, Ms Abbott said the leaked document proved "the right wing" of her party "would rather lose a General Election then see it under genuine left wing leadership."
She added that Jeremy Corbyn was attacked by "the right wing of the party with their allies in the media and the NGO world - they simply couldn't tolerate it."
The Hackney MP said the leaked report  showed that "if the roles were reversed and these were left wingers doing equivalent things they would be out the party so quick their feet wouldn't touch the ground. Yet some people named in the report are still walking around the party's headquarters."
Ms Abbott said she had remained in Labour despite facing "32 years of institutional racism."
Ms Ribeiro-Addy, the MP for Streatham, attacked the leadership for failing to suspend people named in the leaked report.
She then added: "I am somebody who personally doesn't believe in centrism. I don't believe centrism wins elections - I think centrism wins mistrust.
"You have got to be firm in what you believe. Sometimes people may not agree with you - but at least they know you are not the type of person that's just wishy-washy."
Both MPs backed the need for "black self-organisation" with the Labour Party.
After they had spoken, along with Fire Brigades Union chief Matt Wrack, the organisers, who included Hampstead and Kilburn CLP chair Pete Firmin, allowed questions to be put to the MPs from the 500 participants.
Questions were by ''spotters'' for the event, who included Naomi Wimbourne-Idrissi, the Jewish Voice For Labour activist.
The first question came from Jo Bird, who said what "struck her" was that "black and asian and ethnic minority members" were struggling to stay in the party.
Ms Bird then suggested the problem was "how their complaints were dealt with."
She added: "I think that's particularly clear in the report, people whose complaints were de-prioriterised when complaints about antisemitism were over prioritised."
The defeated NEC election candidate then said: "There are also people in the report named, people who we know that died with days of receiving their disciplinary letter from the Labour Party. The  party should apologise and make the record straight in those cases.
"My question is, what can we do - I'm a white Jewish person - how can I support black self organisation within our movement?"
Responding, Ms Abbott said: "It is important to try and support black people who do want be active." But she continued that while black people were willing to vote Labour they were put off from attending meetings.
Mr Machover, who was investigated by the party  after quoting Reinhard Heydrich, the architect of the Final Solution, in an article to support the notion that the Nazis supported Zionists before the Holocaust, spoke of getting an expulsion decision overturned. "I, like Jackie, was one of the people actually mentioned in this leaked report," he said. "But I'm the one who got away - thanks to solidarity."
While Mr Greenstein - who was expelled by Labour over his repeated use of language including the word 'Zio' to attack Jewish party members - did not speak at Tuesday's event, he took part in discussions in the online chatroom set up for the event.
Alan Gibbons, the secretary of Walton Labour Party, who did speak, defended Professor John Ashton, the public health expert exposed by the JC over his comments on Zionism and Jews, writing on the online chat space.
At one stage several of those taking part noted the lack of BAME members at the event itself, which was dominated by numerous familiar names from the hard-left circuit over several decades.
A spokesperson for the Labour Party said: "The previous comments made by some of the individuals on this call are completely unacceptable.

"These are not people who support the values of the Labour Party.

"This is being made clear to the Labour MPs who attended the call in the strongest possible terms and they are being reminded of their responsibilities and obligations."

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