Silence from Diane Abbott as top Jeremy Corbyn backers dismiss Labour’s anti-Semitism row as a smear
- The Shadow Home Secretary did not intervene at a rally when Ken Loach attacked Jewish MP Dame Margaret Hodge
- She said Jeremy Corbyn has spent his lifetime fighting anti-Semitism
- The MP also stayed silent when Tom Watson was criticised for saying bullying was a problem in the Labour party
Diane Abbott stayed silent when high-profile Jeremy Corbyn supporters used a rally to dismiss Labour anti-Semitism claims as ‘smears’, it emerged yesterday.
The Shadow Home Secretary did not intervene when filmmaker Ken Loach attacked Jewish MP Dame Margaret Hodge and suggested deputy leader Tom Watson was bringing the party into disrepute by saying bullying was a problem.
Another activist at the event on Saturday said critics used accusations of anti-Semitism to ‘smear their opponents’ and Mr Corbyn had been a victim of this.
Diane Abbott spoke at a Labour rally defending leader Jeremy Corbyn amid accusations of anti-Semitism within the party
Miss Abbott told the gathering: ‘I’m proud to say that in my party we have a leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who has also spent his lifetime fighting racism, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia – contrary to the impression that some people might want to give.’
Her words came just days after she was accused of remaining silent when her local constituency party passed a resolution denying Labour had a problem with anti-Semitism.
Jewish members were reportedly in tears when Labour’s Hackney North and Stoke Newington branch voted 45 to 35 in favour of the motion last Thursday.
Saturday night’s ‘No Pasaran’ conference – named after the Spanish for ‘They shall not pass’, which has become an anti-fascist catchphrase – was also attended by a key member of Jewish Voice for Labour, which describes the anti-Semitism crisis as a witch-hunt.
Filmmaker Ken Loach criticised Jewish MP Dame Margaret Hodge and Tom Watson at the rally
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Miss Abbott shared the stage with Walter Wolfgang who called the accusations of anti-Semitism a ‘smear’
Loach talked about the ‘smear’ of anti-Semitism, called for ‘open hearings’, and said evidence should be ‘interrogated’.
He launched a scathing attack on Dame Margaret, describing the incident where she called Mr Corbyn a racist and anti-Semite as a ‘foul-mouthed slander that should have been dealt with’.
The socialist film director also called on Mr Watson to provide evidence of his claims of bullying in Labour. He said: ‘We want open hearings, evidence interrogated and when people are found guilty, absolutely they have to go.’
But he added: ‘When you have an MP describing Jeremy Corbyn in public as an “effing racist and anti-Semite”… that’s a foul-mouthed slander that should have been dealt with. The principle of justice is equality before the law.
‘We must defend the leadership but the leadership must defend the integrity of the party and its members. We know the party is not institutionally racist and the leadership must defend us. It’s a change in the leadership stance.’
Walter Wolfgang, an anti-war campaigner, told the event: ‘Some people have used accusations of racism, xenophobia, islamophobia, and anti-Semitism to smear their opponents. They accuse them of these things when in fact they are totally innocent.’ He went on to say that ‘one of the victims of that has been Britain’s most outstanding anti-racist, the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn’.
Also on the stage with Miss Abbott was activist Weyman Bennett, who suggested in January that Theresa May should shoot herself. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell was also at the rally, but did not criticise the language used in any way.
Last night it emerged that another local Labour branch, Hastings and Rye, said those concerned with anti-Semitism were ‘crying wolf’. The constituency party also called for Corbynite MP Chris Williamson – who was suspended last week after he denied anti-Semitism was a major problem – to be reinstated, and claimed that those concerned about anti-Semitism were running an ‘orchestrated campaign’. Mr Watson is set to meet Mr Corbyn for talks tomorrow to discuss anti-Semitism.
Mr McDonnell yesterday criticised Mr Watson for pledging to monitor the way the party was dealing with anti-Semitism cases, but Tony Blair praised the party’s deputy leader, saying he had ‘shown really great leadership’ on the issue. Mr Watson, an ally of Gordon Brown, helped precipitate Mr Blair’s downfall in 2006 when he called on him to resign.
Miss Abbott’s office did not respond to a request for comment. A Labour spokesman said the leadership had made it clear that anti-Semitism concerns were not smears and should not be dismissed as such.
‘Get in the oven’ death threat for ex-Labour MP
An MP who challenged Jeremy Corbyn over anti-Semitism has received hate mail saying she should burn ‘in the ovens’.
Joan Ryan, who was among nine MPs to leave Labour last month, called police after receiving two death threats.
Joan Ryan has received hate mail after challenging Jeremy Corbyn on anti-Semitism
One was an unstamped handwritten note delivered to her Commons office. It branded the Enfield North MP a ‘****-sucking Jewish **** who defected to Israel’ and said she should be raped and set on fire. Another, sent to her constituency office in north London, said: ‘Stop telling lies about Jeremy Corbyn – he is a decent man, you lying Jew whore. You need to be shoved right back in the ovens.’
Miss Ryan is not Jewish but has been an outspoken critic of Labour’s handling of anti-Semitism. She said: ‘That people can send such disgusting messages is a testament to how low our politics has sunk … the fact that some think they can do so explains why many of us felt we had to quit the Labour Party.’
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