Senior Labour MPs back growing rebellion against Jeremy Corbyn over antisemitism

Labour leader will face a motion insisting he adopt full definition of Jew hate


A growing rebellion against the Labour Party’s controversial new code of conduct on antisemitism is backed by some of the party’s most senior MPs, the JC can reveal.

Labour’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson, Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer and former Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna are among those who support a move to force the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to reconsider adopting the new code — which was drawn up without the involvement of leading Jewish communal groups.

On Monday, Alex Sobel, MP for Leeds North, will table a motion at a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) in Westminster aimed at showing the level of opposition to the definition, which has been drawn up with the backing of Jeremy Corbyn.

The motion, which is seconded by Luciana Berger MP, states: “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.”

It also calls for the matter to be referred back to the NEC, which will meet on Tuesday to agree Labour’s new 16-point antisemitism code — along with measures aimed at improving procedures around disciplinary cases.

At Tuesday’s meeting Mr Watson, who organises the so called “moderate block” of MPs who sit on the ruling body, is expected to push for a rethink over the introduction of the antisemitism code.

Other MPs signalling they will back the PLP motion include Stephen Kinnock, who insists his repeated criticism of the Israeli government does not impact on his support for the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism.

Lisa Nandy, who is vice-chair of the Labour Friends of Palestine group but who has also voiced her support for campaigners against antisemitism, also confirmed to the JC: “I believe the party must adopt the IHRA definition.”

Ian Austin, Mike Gapes and Pat McFadden are among the scores of other MPs expected to back the PLP’s motion which, according to one party source is expected to “sail through” a vote on Monday night.

Other MPs supporting the PLP motion are expected to include Wes Streeting, Owen Smith, Liz Kendall, Cat McKinnell, Chris Leslie, Ann Coffey and Ben Bradshaw.

Outspoken Jewish Labour MPs who have been pushing for the motion include Dame Margaret Hodge, Dame Louise Ellman and Ruth Smeeth.

One senior Labour figure said: “There is deep, deep anger over what is in reality an attempt by Jeremy Corbyn’s ultra-left backers on the NEC to enforce Labour’s own version of what constitutes antisemitism as party policy — when in truth the vast majority of our MPs don’t support it.

“It’s an insult to the Jewish community as well as an insult to PLP.”

Ian Austin, Labour MP for Dudley North said: “The leadership of the Labour Party seems to believe it knows more about antisemitism than the Jewish community.

“It really is a depressing low-point for Jeremy Corbyn to reject a definition of antisemitism set by the IHRA.”

Labour MPs have been left infuriated after the new code, unveiled by Labour’s general secretary Jennie Formby last week and passed unanimously by an NEC sub-committee, omitted four of the examples of antisemitism previously contained in the IHRA definition: accusing Jewish people of being more loyal to Israel than the country they live in; suggesting Israel’s existence is racist; holding Israel to a higher standard than other countries; and comparing Israeli polices to those of the Nazis.

Joan Ryan, chair of Labour Friends of Israel, said: “The IHRA definition of antisemitism is the gold-standard.

“The Labour Party must settle for no less than the definition adopted by Britain’s Jewish community.

“Anything else is simply an attempt once again to avoid tackling the party’s antisemitism crisis.”

The Jewish Labour Movement has also expressed its anger at claims by Ms Formby that it approved the new definition.

In a letter sent to Labour’s NEC, the JLM said it may “bring a formal dispute against the party” over Ms Formby’s assertion that the new code was supported by JLM chair Ivor Caplin after she met him last week.

The JLM letter stated: “It is our understanding that the NEC was informed by the general secretary that the Jewish Labour Movement had approved the three papers on tackling antisemitism that were presented yesterday.

“You were misled. The papers were briefly shown to two JLM representatives over a short informal meeting; there was no pre-sight of the papers or opportunity to read them in full.”

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