Tag Archives: Labour whip

Restore the Labour whip to Jeremy Corbyn!

17 Feb

This morning, David Rosenberg and I have sent a letter as Jewish Labour Party members to Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner calling for the immediate restoration of the Labour whip to Jeremy Corbyn. On 18th February 2021 it will be three months since it was withdrawn.

Dear Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner

We are Jewish members of Islington North Constituency Labour Party and we are calling for the whip to be restored to our MP, Jeremy Corbyn. Since we moved into the constituency in 1996, he has continuously represented us as a Labour Member of Parliament, winning overwhelming majorities in every election.

We agreed with the conclusion of the National Executive Committee panel, who decided unanimously and on the basis of legal advice to reinstate Jeremy Corbyn on 17th November 2020 after he had been unjustly suspended less than three weeks earlier. So, like many others, including a substantial number of NEC members, we were dismayed by the injustice of withdrawing the whip immediately after his reinstatement to the Labour Party.

We consider ourselves privileged to be represented by such an exemplary constituency MP. Until the whip was removed, Jeremy Corbyn attended every CLP General Meeting unless there was an absolutely unavoidable reason for his absence, and gave the CLP detailed regular reports on all his work, local, regional, national and international.

Unlike so many other Members of Parliament, he is rooted in and committed to serving the people of his constituency. He knows every corner of Islington North and has built constructive relationships with every community in it. This is an area where many individuals and communities are suffering from poverty, discrimination and fear. Jeremy Corbyn is always accessible to his constituents and is tireless in his support of those who are struggling to sustain themselves and their families, to live decent lives and to fulfil their potential in the face of inequality and injustice.

We are both involved in Mutual Aid – two of thousands in Islington who rushed to volunteer as the pandemic struck, to ensure that everyone in our community is cared for. We are proud to reflect this culture of solidarity and kindness which our MP has been so instrumental in establishing in Islington, and we have had his active and consistent support and appreciation throughout this tragic period.

As Jewish Party members, we sympathise strongly with his critique of the political and media commentary on the EHRC report on the Investigation into Antisemitism in the Labour Party. Many other Jewish and non-Jewish Labour Party members have, like us, privately expressed similar responses to the report in the absurd situation where we are forbidden to discuss within Labour Party meetings a report on the Labour Party. As Jews who have been combatting and educating people about antisemitism over decades (including being educators on trips to Auschwitz for trade unionists, students and antiracist activists), it was clear to us that Jeremy Corbyn’s comments confirmed the facts, which were misused by people with factional political agendas and were misreported by the media.

Here is just one of a number of examples of such misuse and misreporting. In February 2019, Margaret Hodge tweeted about having submitted 200 complaints of antisemitism to the Labour Party. Inevitably, the media headlines unquestioningly reproduced her claims. In fact, as the then General Secretary Jennie Formby clarified, the Party had investigated and found that many of those reports were duplicates and actually referred to 111 individuals (not 200), and of those, only 20 were Labour Party members (The Guardian, 12th Feb 2019 https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/feb/12/formby-denies-labour-leadership-is-ignoring-mps-on-antisemitism). The General Secretary published data on all the complaints of antisemitism the Party had received, the actions that were taken and the outcomes. In response, according to the BBC, “Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge tweeted a warning not to trust the figures.” (11th Feb 2019 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-47203397)

While we believe strongly that allegations of antisemitism must be treated very seriously, unlike some of those making the complaints, we support the legal principle that accusations need to be supported by evidence in order to be proven.

Furthermore, we resent non-Jews queuing up to tell us how Jews feel,  dictating a single prescribed response to the EHRC report and treating the EHRC as infallible. This is especially concerning given two stark criticisms of the EHRC shortly after its publication. Firstly, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights declared: “We find that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has been unable to adequately provide leadership and gain trust in tackling racial inequality in the protection and promotion of human rights.” (p.4 https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/3376/documents/32359/default/. Following this, the EHRC was condemned by women working at the BBC for its report on the Corporation’s gender pay gap (https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/bbc-equal-pay-findings-come-under-fire/). No one in the Labour party has been threatened with suspension for allowing discussion of these reports.

We know that antisemitism in British society is real and growing on the watch of Conservative governments since 2010. This ranges from prejudice, harassment, conspiracy theories and verbal hostility through to violence and desecration of synagogues, cemeteries and other institutions. But like hundreds of other Jews who we know personally or know of, we challenge the claim that Jews are not safe in the Labour Party. We have always felt safe, welcome and valued within our ward and Constituency Party. In this situation, what does make us feel unsafe is the strong sense that antisemitism is being used instrumentally, for political purposes, and not out of concern for the wellbeing of Jewish people. This instrumentalisation creates confusion about actual antisemitism and undermines attempts to challenge it.

The Jewish community, like all other communities and societies, is diverse, pluralist and embodies conflicting experiences, interests and perspectives. There are several bodies in the Jewish community which claim, falsely, to give a unified voice to this diversity, and they have declared their support for the Party’s summary punishment of Jeremy Corbyn. As many Jewish Labour Party members have said repeatedly since the claims of antisemitism against Jeremy Corbyn began (coincidentally, when he was elected as leader of the Party), these institutions do not represent us or our experiences. Indeed, we struggle to understand how they have more right to comment on the internal disciplinary procedures of a Party they neither belong to nor support than Party members like Jeremy Corbyn.

Three months after the the whip was unjustly removed from him, we call for it to be immediately and unconditionally restored. We look forward to continuing to work with our many-times-democratically-elected MP on the crucial issues of human rights and social justice, locally, nationally and globally, to which he has so consistently devoted himself.

Yours sincerely

Julia Bard and David Rosenberg

Members of Islington North CLP