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Baroness Chakrabarti condemns Labour members who deny antisemitism in party

The shadow attorney general welcomed the party's rule change on antisemitism, passed at conference

    Baroness Chakrabarti (Credit: Flickr/Southbank Centre)

    Baroness Chakrabarti has said she is proud Labour has passed a rule change cracking down on antisemitism, and condemned party members who expressed opposition to the measure at this week’s conference.

    The Labour peer and Shadow Attorney General, who conducted the party’s inquiry into Jew-hate in its ranks last year, said: “What I’m really proud of is that this rule change was endorsed by the entire Labour National Executive Committee of the Labour party, which has people who are staunchly behind Jeremy Corbyn and people who are clearly not… so they passed that unanimously”, she said.

    “Then on the conference floor it passed by 96 per cent of the delegates."

    The rule change to the party’s constitution, which was proposed by the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), will allow members to be expelled for airing racist, misogynist, homophobic, Islamophobic or antisemitic views.

    Speaking at an event at the London School of Economics on Thursday, Baroness Chakrabarti  said the proposal would have had even greater support had it not been for “a foolish and erroneous speech” heard during the debate on the issue at conference.

     “I believe that we would have got 100 per cent but for one speech that was completely ill-informed as to the effect of the rule, because that one speaker said that ‘this is thought crime’, and it [the amendment] actually wasn’t at all thought crime, it was saying that thoughts and expressions are fine, as long as they’re within the mission of the Labour party.

    “So there was a very, very foolish and erroneous speech that didn’t understand the legal effect of the rule change.”

    The speech in question was given by Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, a long-time member of Jewish antizionist groups and a key part of the Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) group, which was officially launched at conference.

    Ms Wimborne-Idrissi spoke against the proposed rule change, focusing on the language which spoke about the “holding of beliefs” rather than expressing them.

    “Holding them? That’s thought crime, comrades, and we can’t be having it,” she said.

    Speaking to the JC last month, Jenny Manson, chair of the JVL, said that the new group was “not anti-Zionist”, but called it “an alternative voice for Jewish members of Labour” who do not support what she called the JLM’s “profoundly Zionist orientation”.

    Baroness Chakrabarti was herself criticised by some within the Jewish community for her report into Labour antisemitism, with communal groups describing it as a "whitewash", particularly after Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour party nominated her for a peerage shortly afterwards.  

    She also criticised “some people… [who] think they’re being helpful to the party leadership, saying ‘we’ve never had an antisemitism problem, I’ve been in the party for 150 years’.

    On Tuesday, far-left filmmaker and director Ken Loach had given a television interview claiming that he had “been going to Labour Party meetings for over 50 years… trade union meetings… left groups and campaigns.

    “I have never, in that whole time, heard a single antisemitic word or racist word. Now, I’m not saying it doesn’t exist in society.”

    Ken Livingstone, the former Mayor of London, who was suspended by the Labour party for comments about Hitler and Zionism, and Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite the Union, made similar comments in interviews.

    “I disagree with them”, Baroness Chakrabarti said.

    “I did the investigation [into Labour antisemitism] and I consulted lots and lots of people. We have 600,000 members now, of course we’ve got some that have been misbehaving in the party and to pretend that’s not the case is not right and appropriate and helpful to moving forwards.”

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