One of the Labour Party’s most high-profile donors has told the JC he has left the party he first joined 48 years ago, in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to tackle antisemitism.
David Abrahams, a property developer, said he held no ill feeling towards Mr Corbyn himself, but insisted that the Labour leader was now held hostage to the far-left movement within the party that had swept him to power.
Mr Abrahams – who has given over £650 000 to the party he joined as 15-year-old – said that ultimately, responsibility for the current crisis belonged to former leader Ed Miliband, who brought in “disastrous” changes to the membership rules.
“I first spoke to Jeremy Corbyn last year and pleaded with him to do something about the growing problem of antisemitism in the party,” said Newcastle-born Mr Abrahams, a one-time vice-chair of the Jewish Labour Movement.
“I saw Jeremy repeatedly at functions thereafter and I once again asked him what he was doing about the issue.
“Jeremy promised me faithfully that he understood what antisemitism was, and that he would do something about it.
“The problem I think is that he is powerless to actually do anything himself – but he is reliant on the Momentum faction that got him into power in the first place.
“And within that faction is the real problem – a whole load of people who used to belong to political parties far to the left of the Labour Party, and who were full of people who believed in and who circulated classic antisemitic tropes.
“It is the same situation on Europe as well. The party has been dragged towards an anti-European stance by the hard-left brigade. This is out of touch with what the vast majority of Labour voters think.
“But you have the hard left that have been allowed back into the party dictating the policy now.
“And ultimately the blame for all of this goes back to Ed Miliband. He changed the rules – he let all these people who had nothing to do with the moderate social democratic party that I consider Labour to be, into the fold.”
Mr Abrahams, who was a Labour councillor on Tyne and Wear County Council between 1979 to 1983, said he had full solidarity with the Jewish Labour MPs at Monday’s protest against antisemitism which took place in Parliament Square.
“To Luciana [Berger], to MPs like Ruth Smeeth and Louise Ellman I have nothing but respect for,” he said. “They are different than me in that they are Members of Parliament with the people who voted for them to serve.
“All I’ve been is a donor and supporter of the party. I wouldn’t argue that any Jewish Labour MPs should quit the party. “
Mr Abrahams had faced high profile media accusations of secretly donating thousands to Labour through third parties in what became known as the Donorgate scandal.
The then Prime Minister Gordon Brown set up an internal inquiry – but the findings were never published. Mr Abrahams was subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing by the police.
Mr Abrahams said he would no longer provide financial support to Labour in April 2016, in the wake of anti-Zionist remarks made by Ken Livingstone and Naz Shah MP. However, he is believed to have contributed payments to the party in recent months.
He said he ended his 48 year membership of Labour by deciding not to renew the standing order that paid his monthly fees.
“To me, the Labour Party will always be a welcoming, inclusive party, that seeks to improve the lives of everyone in the country,” he said.
“Maybe one day it will get back to being just that and I will consider re-joining. But until that comes around, I’m out.”