New Labour leader 'must expel Pete Willsman,' says ex-MP Ian Austin

Chair of Mainstream UK also says party must ban Ken Livingstone and Jackie Walker from ever returning


Labour's new leader must "immediately" expel Pete Willsman and give lifetime bans to Ken Livingstone and Jackie Walker, the chair of anti-extremist campaign group Mainstream UK has demanded.

Launching ten new tests designed to hold Jeremy Corbyn's successor to account, former Labour MP Ian Austin also called for the party to remove the whip from MPs Zarah Sultana and Apsana Begum, pending investigations into their conduct.

Mr Willsman, a longtime activist and ally of Mr Corbyn, was revealed by the JC to have shouted that some "in the Jewish community" were "Trump fanatics and all the rest of it".

Mr Willsman was suspended in July 2019 but has yet to learn his fate after the party launched an investigation into his claims "Israel" was "almost certainly" behind the party's antisemitism crisis.

Former London mayor Mr Livingstone quit the party over a prolonged row about his comments about Hitler "supporting" Zionism while activist Ms Walker was expelled after her comments about Holocaust Memorial Day and antisemitism.

New MPs Ms Sultana and Ms Begum have both faced accusations of antisemitism over their social media before they were elected.

Mr Austin, who left Labour over the party's antisemitism problem, announced on Monday the launch of 'TESTS FOR NEW LABOUR LEADER ON ANTISEMITISM', saying: “Under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, Labour became a safe haven for extremists and the poison of antisemitism was allowed to fester and grow within the party.

"The scourge of extremism and antisemitism within Labour does not disappear with the departure of Jeremy Corbyn next month.

“Mainstream UK is today publishing a series of very specific tests the new Labour leader will have to meet if the party is going to begin the long journey back from the extremes to become a mainstream force in British politics."

Alongside the demand for expulsions, and the further suspensions of former Peterborough MP Lisa Forbes and Scottish councillor Jim Sheridan, Mainstream UK said that immediately after their election the new Labour leader should issue "a full and unequivocal apology to the Jewish community for the disgraceful way the party has behaved in relation to antisemitism."

The group added that the party must withdraw the 2016 Chakrabarti report on Jew-hate in the party, "which was widely seen as an attempt by the Labour party to whitewash and deny the problem and was taken by the antisemites as a green light for their behaviour".

Mainstream also said the party should stop all legal action and complaints against whistleblowers who spoke about and crisis "and issue a full and unequivocal apology to all former Labour MPs and members who suffered abuse, harassment or intimidation for campaigning against the rise of antisemitism within the party or were hounded out."

Calling for the establishment of a new independent complaints system, the group said the new leader "should commit to agreeing a timetable with the representative bodies of the Jewish community to draw up a new independent complaints process and committee to oversee its work together with a new mandatory educational training programme that commands their confidence and support."

All antisemitism complaints, it said, that had been lodged since Mr Corbyn became leader "should be re-run under the new independent complaints process and the current backlog of cases should be cleared".

Meanwhile all Labour canididates fighting elections should be made to sign a "pledge to uphold the IHRA definition."

Mainstream also called for automatic expulsions and suspensions for serious offences, adding those "who have failed to deal properly with the poison of antisemitism should no longer be employed by the Labour Party".

The group called for the new leader to proscribe any organisation that dismisses or denies the issue of antisemitism within the party.

It also urged an action against members who "subject it to double standards, accuse the state of exaggerating or inventing the Holocaust, liken contemporary policy to that of the Nazis, deny Jewish people the right to self-determination or use antisemitic symbols to characterise Israel or Israelis."

Mainstream UK said there was "no other foreign policy issue given anywhere near the amount of attention as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Speaking at a Westminster reception on Monday night, Mr Austin also urged the new Labour leader to offer "more than warm words, a fresh coat of paint on the complaints process and a few cosmetic changes – we will be looking for meaningful action."

He added: “It should start with a heartfelt and profound apology on day one and a promise to try and earn back the trust of the Jewish community and the wider British public who are rightly appalled at the shameful rise of extremism within this once decent, proud and mainstream party.”

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