Tom Watson: I was going to attack Corbyn's failure to address antisemitism in my Labour conference speech

Exclusive: Party's deputy leader says 'it is not just about being anti-racist, even if you mean it... you will be judged by your actions'


Tom Watson has poured scorn on Jeremy Corbyn's claim to be dealing with the scourge of antisemitism in his party telling the JC: "It's no good just condemning something - it's about actually doing something about it."

Speaking out after his speech as deputy leader was cancelled at Labour's conference following the earlier Supreme Court judgement that means parliament will return on Wednesday, Mr Watson said his party still had "a very long way to go" before restoring "anything near trust with the Jewish community."

He also hit out at the "sickening intimidation" of Jewish delegates and other allies at the entrance to the Brighton conference venue from far-left activists who raised antisemitic cartoons and distributed hate leaflets.

Mr Watson also revealed that he had still be kept in the dark about the party's response to the investigation by equalities watchdog the EHRC into claims it is institutionally antisemitic.

But he revealed that some of his "NEC colleagues" on Labour's ruling body had received notification that they are required to give evidence to the watchdog themselves.

In an interview conducted shortly before Mr Corbyn delivered his leader's speech on Tuesday afternoon, Mr Watson revealed he had planned to attack the leader's insistence he was challenging anti-Jewish racism in his party.

He said: "In my speech I was going to say that it is not just about being anti-racist, even if you mean it.

"It's not just about condemning something - it's actually doing something about it. You will be judged on your actions. 

"We have still got a few long way to go towards rebuilding anything near trust with the Jewish community.

"It saddens me deeply, very deeply. We have got to rebuild that trust with the Jewish community of Britain to show that we are serious about tackling antisemitism."

In his own speech, moved to Tuesday from Wednesday, Mr Corbyn blamed only the far right for “racism, Islamophobia and antisemitism.”

In a sign of the huge sense of distrust between Mr Watson and the Labour leader and his allies, it emerged earlier this year that the deputy leader had not been shown the party's response to the EHRC investigation.

He confirmed to the JC that he "still hadn't seen the party's submission" and nor had he been "kept up to date on the progress of the inquiry."

But Mr Watson said: "What I do know is that some of my NEC colleagues have received notification (from the watchdog) that they are required themselves to give evidence."

Asked if he was aware of any members of Mr Corbyn's own office who had received letters from the EHRC, Mr Watson said he was "unaware."

But he added: "I assume anyone involved in the process is going to be required to give either written or oral evidence."

The West Bromwich MP - who survived a motion to abolish his deputy leader's role tabled by Momentum founder Jon Lansman - was also furious about the deliberate intimidation of Jewish Labour members at the conference.

On Sunday, Sussex Police were forced to act after an antisemitic cartoon was raised outside the main entrance to conference.

A stall by the Labour Against The Witchhunt group, who have defended Labour members expelled over antisemitism, remained positioned on the street through the four day long conference.

And flyers from a group, set up by an activist expelled from the GMB union for antisemitism, which called for the Jewish Labour Movement to be disbanded, were handed out to delegates.

"Those people that come and do this  must know that they are intimidating not just our Jewish delegates, although obviously they feel it the most," Mr Watson said.

"It has an impact on everyone who wants to stand up to racism in all its forms. It is designed to intimidate."

Mr Watson revealed that complaints had been made about the activities those behind the material, many of whom were previously suspended by Labour on antisemitism charges or members of ultra-left groups.

"The difficulty is they are doing it within a public space - it's not within the conference venue," said Mr Watson.

"One of the things about being an opposition party is that you don't have the advantage of a secure zone anymore.

"If this was the case we could have removed people. we complain when we see it, but these are people in the street.

"It is then up to the police to take a decision on whether it constitutes a potential public order offence.

"But regardless of where and why it is outrageous to come to a conference of a democratic party and to intimidate people who are just trying to make the world a better place."

Mr Watson also revealed his own zero tolerance policy towards any allegation of antisemitism within the party.

Over breakfast on Tuesday, the JC had overheard two Labour delegates dismissing suggestions of antisemitism within the party as a "media smear."

One of the pair then said: "What the discussion is really about is the one per cent  - because they are the one's with all the power, aren't they?"

It is is theme that is echoed in Mr Corbyn's leadership speech on Tuesday afternoon as he once again used his claim that 99 per cent of the wealth is owned by the one per cent.

Mr Watson described the breakfast table attempt to deny antisemitism the JC witnessed as "anti-Jewish racism."

He added that he believed the two activists "should be expelled" and added that he "wanted them reported" to the party.

Mr Watson also revealed his frustration at the continued dominance of fringe events at the Labour conference relating to Palestine at which "the language is so harsh".

He lamented the fact that "liberal voices" with the party, including the Labour Friends of Israel group of which he has long been associated with were still "being drowned out."

In a clear dig at the failure of the party's leader's to change the direction of discussion on Israel and Palestine, Mr Watson said he was able to "do little about it."

He added: "It is rather tiring to see a number of these fringe events where the language is so harsh. 

"But it's very hard to control.

"For me it drowns out the voices who would like a good relationship with Israel.

"Labour Friends of Israel has always supported a two-state solution, but delegates don't get to hear this side when those voices are being drowned out."

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