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Jeremy Corbyn just doesn't get it over antisemitism, says former aide

Ex-adviser claims party leader unable to understand accusations of Jew-hatred

    Jeremy Corbyn
    Jeremy Corbyn

    A former close aide to Jeremy Corbyn has claimed that the Labour leader has a crippling blind spot over antisemitism in the party.

    Harry Fletcher, who was Mr Corbyn’s media and strategy adviser from 2015-16, said the Labour leadership had an “inability to understand why they’re perceived as antisemitic”. 

    In a piece written for the Sunday Times, he said: “Jeremy believes he is completely non-discriminatory. He would never be hostile to someone in the street. But he is, if you like, antisemitic along the institutionalised lines of the Metropolitan police in the 1990s, when they messed up the Stephen Lawrence investigation”.

    He added that he had told Mr Corbyn “to say again and again” that he supported the Jewish community.

    But “he just couldn’t see it at all", and became angry when attacked for his failure to deal with the issue.

    Mr Fletcher, a Westminster insider with 25 years' experience, said some party activists believed the criticism of Mr Corbyn over antisemitism was sparked by his views on Israel.

    “But it wasn’t,” the former aide said. “It was about discrimination. Jeremy did have an antipathy towards Israel. But the criticism he received was because of a pattern of behaviour that was perceived by the Jewish community as antisemitic.”

    Mr Fletcher's comments come as Labour is readying itself for the general election campaign that will take place over the next six weeks.

    The former aide first made the claims in an interview with the JC in July 2016, soon after he had finished his 12-month shift assisting Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

    He told the paper then that the Labour leader had repeatedly ignored his calls for a greater effort to improve relations with the Jewish community.

    Mr Corbyn and his advisers had a "deep-seated problem" with Israel which had led to the damaging effect on the relationship with British Jewry, he said.

    Mr Fletcher, whose paternal grandfather was Jewish, stressed that he had repeatedly encouraged Mr Corbyn to engage with the community - either by making speeches on antisemitism or in the Jewish media.

    But his suggestions went unanswered. "I think it's just a reluctance to engage, maybe it's a fear of making mistakes and making matters worse," he said.

    He also painted a picture of shambolic scenes among the leader’s team, with MPs' calls being ignored, media arrangements collapsing amid "crises after crises after crises", and thousands of emails going unanswered.

    Mr Fletcher repeated that claim to the Sunday Times, suggesting Mr Corbyn’s aides were unable to cope with the demands of running a “top-level office” and that the atmosphere around the party leader was “fraught and unhappy”.

    Mike Freer, Conservative MP for Finchley and Golders Green, said: "This is a damning and deeply worrying assessment from a former member of Mr Corbyn's inner circle.

    “It is disturbing that this man could be our Prime Minister in less than seven weeks.

    “For strong and stable leadership as we approach Brexit and beyond it is critical to vote for Theresa May and her Conservative team on June 8. Every vote in this election counts.”

    See all our Election 2017 coverage here

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