Lord Prescott, former deputy PM, ranted at Jewish journalist that Labour antisemitism was all 'about Israel'

Exclusive: Journalist had to be consoled by colleagues after peer's aggressive tirade about 'dead children.. settlers on someone else’s land'


Lord Prescott, the former Deputy Prime Minister, ranted aggressively at a Jewish journalist that Labour’s antisemitism crisis under Jeremy Corbyn was all “about Israel” and asked her what she would do as a British Jew to change Israel’s behaviour.

After interviewing Lord Prescott, the former MP for Hull East, the journalist – a well-established reporter who wishes to remain anonymous – asked for his opinion on how best to resolve Labour antisemitism.

She told him that she was a British Jew and that she was very concerned by the issue.

Lord Prescott responded: “Is there anything you can do about Israel and its behaviour?”

He continued, in what the journalist and witnesses describe as an aggressive tone: “All of this is about Israel… dead children.. settlers on someone else’s land.”

Shocked and upset by the Labour peer’s comments - which appear to contravene the IHRA definition of antisemitism which prevent Jews being held collectively responsible for the actions of the state of Israel – the journalist left the room at Channel 5’s head office in Camden, north London, and was consoled by colleagues.

Lord Prescott was being interviewed to promote Channel 5’s current series British Made With John Prescott.

The JC understands that two Channel 5 PRs were also in the room while the interview was being conducted.

When the JC asked Lord Prescott about his comments he responded: “F**k off.” Asked why he was using foul language he replied: “Because you are a journalist – F**k off.”

Change UK MP Luciana Berger called for Labour to launch “an immediate investigation” into Lord Prescott’s comments.

The former Labour parliamentarian, who quit the party in February, told the JC: “To hold a Jewish British journalist responsible for the actions of the Israeli government or military is indefensible.

“As the IHRA definition adopted by the Labour Party makes clear, holding Jews collectively responsible for the decisions and activity of the state of Israel is an example of modern day antisemitism.

"Lord Prescott should be ashamed of his conduct directed at a journalist only seeking to do her job.”

Lord Prescott, who was deputy PM under Tony Blair between 1997 until 2007, has repeatedly attempted to play down the extent of Labour’s antisemitism crisis under Mr Corbyn and has regularly defended the party leader against criticism from MPs.

Last August he wrote in a newspaper column: “I refuse to accept Labour is institutionally racist and antisemitic.”

Attacking Dame Margaret Hodge over her claim that Mr Corbyn was an “antisemite”, Lord Prescott added: “I felt compelled to say I utterly rejected her view that Labour is perceived by most Jews, thousands of party members, and millions of members of the public as antisemitic and racist.”

At an earlier PLP meeting last July, Lord Prescott angered many of his own MPs when he said the focus on allegations of anti-Jewish abuse did not chime with his experience of the party or its voters.

The peer added that he did not think it was true that the Jewish community had lost trust in the party.

In an earlier 2014 column for the Sunday Mirror, he compared the Gaza Strip to a concentration camp.

Asked about Lord Prescott’s comments, Dudley North MP Ian Austin added: “This shows the extent of the problem and it shows why the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn isn’t interested in dealing with antisemitism and would be unable to deal with it even if they wanted to.

“They don’t actually believe there is a problem, they think it is all a smear or to prevent criticism of Israel and they are angrier with people who complain about racism than they are with the racists.

“Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has poisoned the Labour Party and this can’t be solved by tinkering with the complaints system or other bureaucratic or procedural measures.

“He is unfit to lead the party and decent MPs and members need to decide how much longer they are going to put up with it.”

Simon Myerson QC told the JC: “If this account is accurate, then it is deeply disturbing. That the journalist was Jewish and a woman, and that Lord Prescott is reported as shouting, simply makes the position worse.

“It is remarkable that an ex-deputy leader could say such a thing.

"Given that neither a failure of political education, nor a failure of intelligence can be credibly blamed for what has happened, it suggests that the attitudes that prevailed during the period in which Labour was regarded as the natural political home of British Jews - and that is the period in which Lord Prescott grew up and was active in the party - have been virtually eliminated.

“It is difficult to know whether that is because Lord Prescott never truly believed in equality, or whether the new tolerance of antisemitism has provided him with new attitudes, or whether a tribal need to circle the wagons has made Jews an enemy.”

Channel 5 declined to comment but sources at the channel said Lord Prescott's comments were "a private exchange" with the journalist, after the interview had been completed and did not represent the views of the channel.

It is understood Labour is seeking witnesses to Lord Prescott’s outbursts so that they can be investigated for any possible breach of rules.

A spokesperson said the party “takes all complaints of antisemitism extremely seriously and we are committed to challenging and campaigning against all its forms.”

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